Startups start with talent, and the talent, as we all know, seems to get younger every year. But it wouldn’t happen if children themselves were not introduced to the word of technology and engineering early, and shown that it can be a fun, creative environment. For the last 6 years, a pioneer of this in the UK has been Young Rewired State, a non-profit founded by Emma Mulqueeny, which runs regular year-round events and hackathons for young people, and, annually, the Festival of Code, which attracts an international crowd. The project was spun out of the parent company, Rewired State, which works with public sector and private organisations to bring a hacker/maker to their challenges.
Attending the Festival of Code (this year in Birmingham, England) is a little like attending a sort of music festival with laptops. Children and young teens — bent over screens and things like Raspberry Pies — get together from all round the world to showcase their projects and go into competition for awards. It has a number of commercial and public partners who work with kids and then brings the best to the event.
Ever year the event seems to turn out more and more finished products, some of which could almost pass for full-blown startups if you didn’t know the teams behind them were usually somewhere between 8 and 16 years old, and sometimes even younger. In fact, some might even be investible (assuming their parents were involved!).
Here’s a run-down of the winners from this year, and TechCrunch’s pick of “the ones to watch”. We’ll have some video for you to watch in the next day or so.
Winner of “Code a better country”: Buoy (Monmouth school)
This is a small, autonomous, Raspberry Pi-powered boat that records and posts data about a river of ocean, including temperature, humidity and UV readings, with live PiCam feed from the boat, to a web and mobile app client and represents these readings in charts, graphs and maps. Packed into a large rubber duck, it looked pretty good!
Winner of “Should exist” category – Pedal Plan (Pedal Plan)
Pedal Plan tries to find the safest possible route for your UK journey by bike. Their algorithm takes into account historic accident, weather and live traffic congestion data to try and find the route with the fewest risks without compromising on journey time. Try it out here.
Winner of “Best Code” category – Festable (Knowle West)
This is both a web app and an iOS app for users to discover and travel to upcoming festivals. This app uses SongKick’s Open Data to get upcoming events and their artist lineups. It then matches people with other users with the same music tastes by allowing people to enter what bands they like or festivals they are going to. It even checks what the weather will be like on the day.
Winner of “Best design” – Arduduck (Remote centre)
The ArduDuck is a lightweight USB keyboard emulator, designed as a personal accessibility device. By inserting it into a PC you need to use, the ArduDuck instantly changes the accessibility settings so that a disabled person can more easily use the machine from the word go. Check it out here.
Winner of “Best in show” category – PUMPS (via the national Museum of Computing Bletchley Park)
Pumps uses arduino and image recognition to turn on and off petrol pumps via a website depending on what fuel your car uses. In theory it could be installed in gas stations, and as the car drives up, it does image recognition on the car’s license plate and looks up which type of gas it uses. It would then switch off the pumps not required so that the owner didn’t put the wrong type of fuel in the car.
And he’s our run-down of the ‘ones to watch’:
Kollect – Ko-llect connects surplus food with people who have the means to get it to those in need. It uses Google Maps and our own data.
Loci – “Loci allows users to set and share data based on a physical location. It turns the idea of geotagging into a social network that our users share among themselves, similar to a sneakernet, using only a phone, a compatible smartwatch and a physical action e.g. a fistbump.”
Emby – “This is a project which amalgamates a range of data sources to make a free Music Playing Chrome Extension (in theory Firefox and Safari as well) . Unlike competing extensions, this will source the music legally and not violate the TOS’s of various sites inc. YouTube in the process.”
Smart Scrawl – “Our project allows you to use your phone to draw on any screen that has a web browser. Our vision for the future is to allow people to graffiti in a virtual world rather than destroying peoples property.”
Refresh – “Refresh is a website that uses advanced algorithms in order to help the user learn any subject he or she wishes to.”
LINES – “LINES is a fast-paced scrolling puzzle game, which uses open data from RANDOM.ORG to generate a sequence of tiles which map the paths of five lines. The object of the game is to track one of these lines through as many stages as possible, using your keyboard to display its route. Built using Python.”
Clinical Calculator – “Our project combines multiple health calculators into one simple, intuitive webpage. The calculators allow you to calculate BMI, the risk of developing DVT and also places a child’s height in a centile graph, however it can and will be extended.”
On the way to an A – “On The Way To An A is a website to help GCSE and A Level students revise. It is often said that “the best way to revise is by doing past papers” and this website takes advantage of that. On The Way To An A allows you to take advantage of all the resources published by exam boards: the question, mark scheme and examiner report with out having to open another tab.”
Train Trip – “TrainTrip is a web application with the sole purpose of making your commute more interesting. Too many times have people been left bored out of their minds onboard Britain’s trains, to this we say no more.”
Live Listener – “Listener is an app that is designed to transcribe conversations and TV shows for the hearing impaired and people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Saves the text, and can be used as reference for the future. The app allows for real time speech to text and saves it.”
Intelligent Elephant Alarm Clock – “The Intelligent Elephant that never forgets to wake you up in time Features Brings Weather information (Open Data – Temperature – more data sources to be added)”