Saturday 24th March saw 2 teams from LIT Tipperary travel to UCC for the ACM Irish Collegiate Programming Competition. “ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, delivers resources that advance computing as a science and a profession. ACM provides the computing field’s premier Digital Library and serves its members and the computing profession with leading-edge publications, conferences, and career resources.” (
) I saw a link to the event a couple of months ago (probably on Twitter) and decided it would be worthwhile for some of our students to get involved. Teams of up to 3 undergraduate students can enter the competition and on the day teams are given 8 programming problems which they must write code to implement within a four hour timeline. This year there were approximately 30 teams from Dublin Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, University college Cork, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and Limerick Institute of Technology. We didn’t feature in the prizes but both teams came out smiling after the 4 hours and seemed to enjoy the competition. Now that we know what’s involved I’m looking forward to going back next year. For more details check out
The Annual Games Fleadh took place on the Thurles Campus of LIT during the week and what a great couple of days it was for the college. The place was hoppping for the couple of days with Games studios, college students from 15 different colleges across Ireland and second level and primary students. The Fleadh kicked off on Wednesday with the competitions for the colleges. There were 3 competitions – Robocode specifically for 1st year college students and the XNA and Direct X competitions which are open to all. This year we had 11 colleges for the Robocode competition from the length and breadth of the country. The competition was won by Dundalk Institute of Technology for the second year running, the only college to have retained their title. Queens University Belfast won the XNA Challenge and LIT Tipperary won the Direct X Challenge. You can check the other results here. Wednesday afternoon saw the Games Pro talks with a full schedule of presenters from studios such as Bioware, Havok, Pop Cap, Open Emotion etc. Wednesday night saw the inaugural Irish Games Awards with Ninjamurai from Open Emotion Studios taking the Best Game Award. More award winners here.
On Thursday the focus shifted from competition to Expo with second level students coming in to hear career talks from speakers such as James Sadlier, from NeverMind Games, and James Whelton, co-founder of the CoderDojo movement. They also got a chance to have a look at some of the entries for the XNA and Direct X competitions from the previous day. I even got a couple of extra students in my Maths class on Thursday when a couple of girls stumbled across my class. We were working through differentiation of Trigonometric functions and I invited the girls to come and join us. There then followed a half an hour of talking about sine and cosine waves, amplitude, frequency and how the derivative shows how the functions are changing.
The Games Fleadh was nicely rounded off this year with the launch of the Thurles Coder Dojo. 4 o’clock saw James Whelton welcome the more than 100 teens and pre teens who had come along to learn how to code. The group was split into those who wanted to learn how to create websites using HTML and those who wanted to learn how to make their own games and animations using Scratch. It was great to see so many come along to learn how to create their own content.
This is the 9th year of the Games Fleadh in Thurles and I think it was the best yet. Over the couple of days it was great to see our students, and those from other colleges, getting an opportunity to talk to the people who work in or have set up their own games studios, to showcase the games that they have worked on and to just generally be a part of such a great event. It was also heartening to see so many second level students attending the Expo this year, as this will go some way towards helping them to make a more informed choice when it comes to their college course choice for the CAO. Of course we were also delighted to have so many come along for the first Thurles Coder Dojo. I’ve heard back from a few people that the kids who came along seem to have enjoyed it, so here’s hoping we’ll have a good crew at the second Dojo this Thursday. You can book your place here.
I come from a beautiful village in Tipperary called Silvermines. The village nestles at the base of the Silvermines mountains and is worth a trip for the scenery.
As with many such villages the school is a very important part of village life. Over the past few years there has been talk of the building of a new school – the topic would come up every now and then but it didn’t seem to be progressing. Then last year, my niece, who goes to the school, came home and said that the new school was going ahead. The old school was to be knocked and a new school was to be built in its place. While it was great to see the green light for the new school, I must admit I had a lump in my throat as the reality of the old school being knocked began to hit home. As far as I can gather, the old school was around 125 years old. Generations of children in my family have gone to that school – my grandmother, my father, me, my nieces and nephews. Now it would be no more.
When we were younger a lot of our play happened around the school which was only over the road from where I lived. We made cubbies in the wood and played on the ‘height’ behind the school. To young eyes the woods seemed to have lots of trees (in reality there were only a few) and the ‘height’ seemed to tower above us (in reality it was a low sized pile of earth that was probably a leftover from the digging of a nearby mineshaft). Then of course there was the school itself – for me my schooldays in Silvermines were mostly happy ones. Seeing the school on my trips home over the years, often triggered memories of school such as: playing rounders with my friends and often being on the losing team (sports were never my thing!) , getting caught going up to the castle (really a mining engine house) in junior or senior infants and facing the wrath of the Master (which was a terrifying prospect for a child of any age!) , walking up the hill to the viewing point on beautiful sunny days (our school tours back in those days ).
When the school was finally knocked it seemed strange to see the void where the school used to be. Then the new school started to take shape and it looked great. It is a beautiful building that already seems to fit into the landscape. It seems to make the most of the beautiful setting that it finds itself in, in a way that the old school never did.
Last Friday we got a look inside the school as it was the day that the teachers and children got into their lovely new school. The classrooms are spacious, bright and airy with some of the most beautiful scenery outside the window. There’s even an outside classroom so here’s hoping for some nice weather In chatting to people on our wander through the classes, people were reminiscing about their days in the old school as they marvelled at the new school. So even though the old school is gone the memories remain.
In the words of Alanis Morissette “isn’t it ironic” that someone like me has become an advocate for CoderDojo – a coding club for kids. At the CESI conference last week the question was asked – ‘What was your first computer?’ Many tweets were sent in response but none from me. In reality my first personal computer was only bought 12 years ago. I was never the kind of person who tinkered with computers for pleasure. My introduction to computing came as I studied for my undergraduate Applied Maths degree in University of Limerick and it’s fair to say that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight!! I can still picture my 18 year old self sitting in the lecture theater completely bewildered as John Kinsella introduced us to the joys of Pascal programming For me it was never about programming – it was always about the Maths.
This view changed when I began my first work placement as part of my college course. My job involved writing computer programs for real. I worked for the Local Government Computer Services Board, an organisation that develops ICT services for local authorities. The first system I worked on involved the system for car registration numbers. The system we currently use for car registration numbers was introduced in 1987 and my task involved validating the different components of the registration number – 2 digit year, 1 or 2 character county/city identifier and a 6 digit number. Finally I got what it was all about. Having my code ‘go live’ gave me a real sense of achievement – my code was being used across the country.
I have to say that my view of programming and computing in general changed as a result but I still didn’t really embrace it. I see many people waiting patiently for the next update of an Operating System, or for new a tool to be launched, like children at Christmas. That will never be me but I’m ok with that. So while I’m not what could be considered a techie my approach to technology has definitely changed in the last few years. For me, it’s about seeing interesting things, that I can use in what I do, or that I can pass on to others. A few years ago I discovered Scratch - a programming environment that allows you to create games and animations. What I love about Scratch is that it introduces students to the basics of computer programming and lets them create their own games. That’s also what has drawn me in to Coderdojo – the club where kids can come to learn how to code and create their own content.