They came …they kicked ass


… and boy did they kick ass!! The Coder Dojo Conference 2013 took place in Drogheda and Slane Castle last weekend and what a whirlwind it was. Friday night in the Brú Bistro in Drogheda was a great kickstarter for the conference.  People shared their experiences and highlights from Coderdojos across the world with MC for the night Stephen Howell keeping it all moving smoothly.  It was great to get a chance to meet people and start the sharing of ideas in such a relaxed environment.

Saturday morning saw the conference move to Slane Castle and I have to say, from the minute I drove into the castle I was blown away! 

Slane Castle

Slane Castle

I think I spent most of the day looking up

Above my head!

Above my head!

The juxtaposition of old and new was commented on by many on the day


They say the devil is in the detail and at DojoCon this was so true.  I loved the details like the polystyrene hashtags …

photo (10)

the lanyards which incorporated the conference programme …

photo (9)

and so much more.   Hats off to all in CoderDojo Drogheda and anyone else who was involved in putting together such a great event 🙂

Úna Fox was an inspired choice as MC for the day, her relaxed and witty style was perfect.  Rumour has it she has her eye on the Late Late so watch this space!


The conference kicked off with James Whelton, CoderDojo co-founder, followed by entrepreneur, Jerry Kennelly from  It was great to hear James speak about how CoderDojo has developed and the plans for the future.  Jerry gave a thought provoking presentation reminding us of the many strengths us Irish possess, something we seem to have forgotten along the way!


Before lunch Bill Liao, CoderDojo co-founder, was interviewed by Úna.  During the interview Bill spoke about social inclusion and put forward the idea of a handshake rather than a hand out or a hand up.  With a handshake all parties in the transaction benefit which is so much more powerful.


Running throughout the day there were sessions in the Education, Technology and Running a Dojo streams.  In the first session I went to the ‘Girls Initiative’ session with Rebecca Garcia and Karen O’Connell. It’s good to hear about these initiatives to connect with teenage girls, and encourage them into the STEM areas.  Slides on the session can be found here.  In the second session I went to the ‘Just Code’ panel with Catherine Cronin, Jake Enget and Bernard Kirk.


Next up was Mags Amond’s ‘Putting the children first’ session and as always Mags reminded us of the simple things like clarity of message and that there is much to learn in failing.


failbetterIn the next session I attended David Cuartielles’ session on ‘Hacking Secondary School. The Hardware Way’.  David is a co-founder of the Arduino platform.  We have some Arduino kits in Limerick and my lot are really enjoying working with them so I was interested to hear some more and David didn’t disappoint.  My son would have been delighted with this


… so maybe it’s best he wasn’t there 🙂

I sat on a panel with John Looney and Carina Girvan on ‘Re-Inventing Education’ in the final breakout session of the day.  It was an interesting session and one which has really got me thinking so watch this space for a blog post on some of my thoughts.

I really enjoyed the sessions I went to and from what I heard the other sessions were equally enjoyable.

And so we come to the closing keynote and for this I’ll finish as I started.  Kimberley Bryant delivered the closing keynote.  She came … she kicked ass … and boy did she kick ass!!  It’s not easy to take the floor at 6pm after a long and hectic day.  It’s not easy to take the floor after Lord Henry Mountcharles has regaled your audience with tales of his ancestors. It’s not easy to take the floor after Julie Feeney sang ‘Impossibly Beautiful’ in honour of Úna Fox’s birthday.  But that’s exactly what Kimberley did and in her understated, powerful way she blew us all away!  I connected with Kimberley as she spoke about her motivation to  start Black Girls code, she’s a mother who wanted to give her daughter an opportunity to connect with technology in a meaningful way.


My children were the catalyst for my initial interaction with CoderDojo.  We heard Kimberly talk about the ethos of Black Girls Code



This mirrors so much of what is good about CoderDojo.  I’ll leave you with Kimberley’s closing thoughts and hope they provide as much food for thought for you as they did for me.

high tide

african proverb


4 responses to “They came …they kicked ass

  1. Heading into Kinvara for today’s registration for new Coder Dojo Kinvara with @catherinecronin and many others – This is a great inspiring read and I’m armed with lots of great quotes – love the one “Teach one girl to code and she will teach five more” – I’m seeing incredible evidence of that as we use Scratch in the classroom – difference is I’m the girl being taught by the pupils!! Looking forward to meeting in May

    • Thanks Máire,
      I love that you are being taught by the pupils and also that you are open to that. Best of luck with CoderDojo Kinvara. I look forward to talking about this and so much more in May 🙂

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