Last weekend I was at Womad festival, helping kids fire exploding cows from catapults in Minecraft. Not my usual line of work as CTO, or typical festival experience for that matter!
I was volunteering with Devoxx4Kids who organise events worldwide where children can develop computer games, program robots and also have an introduction to electronics. CERN had invited Devoxx4Kids to take part in the workshops happening at the Physics Pavilion.
We ran 3 packed out workshops across the weekend, with children ranging from about aged 6 to 13. While there was a whole range of knowledge levels, almost everyone was familiar with Scratch — and they most definitely knew far more about Minecraft than me!
The workshops involved writing some Java using Minecraft Forge and Eclipse in order to introduce a catapult into the Minecraft world, understand the impact of angles on how far the catapult could fire, and ultimately throw some surprisingly explosive animals!
As volunteers, we were split around 50:50 between those that had a technical background or not — it wasn’t about showing off our own technical knowledge — more asking questions and helping the children stay on track with the activity. A particular shout out to Cesar and Dan, whose hard work meant the rest of us could just turn up on the day!
— Cesar Tron-Lozai (@cesarTronLozai) July 28, 2017
It was humbling to see how well our attendees all tackled the challenge — their thoughtfulness on variable names for their animal of choice, and somewhat more destructively, delight at changing how big an explosion to create when it landed!
While it was only a small taster, hopefully it reinforced the realisation (for both parents and children!) that by coding they can actively change the world they experience in these games, and perhaps continue to grow an interest in technology.