The day after our historic referendum finds me parking my car outside a count centre here in Dublin at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am. As the tension builds and media gather, however, I walk past it’s doors to the building beside it in the RDS complex. Inside, I meet the hardy bunch of enthusiastic volunteers who have gathered to welcome more than 1,000 young people from all over Ireland and indeed the world to the Coder Dojo coolest projects 2018.
Coder Dojo currently teaches over 58,000 young people to code in over 100 countries through a network of 12,000 volunteers. It is an organisation that I have long admired and I was delighted to don my green tee shirt to volunteer for their annual ‘Coolest Projects’ event.
After an induction in the main hall, I was assigned to the registration team and quickly landed myself at a desk to take up my position as the first face of the day to greet entrants with surnames starting D-K. If there is more fun to be had before 9am, I am not sure what that entails. As a queue formed well before our start time of 8am, I could literally feel the excitement of these talented youngsters. Soon, I was busy dishing out tee-shirts and lanyards to excited squeals of ‘I get a tee-shirt?’ to ‘Oh wow, a lanyard’. It would defy anyone to not get caught up in the fun. In my bunch were entrants from France, Cork and Dublin. There were nervous parents and kids weighed down with boxes containing their work. We had been told how essential it was to the running of the day to get everyone registered as soon as possible. We soon worked out a very efficient system and anyone who had finished on their table helped others. Sometime after 9:30 after a flurry of activity, the team lead thanked everyone and we set about moving our tables back into a nearby tent.
Inside, the place was buzzing with areas set up for competitors, talks and demonstrations. I was assigned to helping the judges by being a runner between the judges on the floor and those upstairs collating the scores. Each judge talked to the competitors about their projects and then gave marks on a score sheet. As I walked around my areas, I was astounded by the amount of creativity and talent around me. There were what looked liked 12 year olds building models to arbitrage cyrptocurriencies and 8 year olds explaining apps they had built. The atmosphere was electric as parents looked on, as proud as proverbial punch and kids showed each other their robots, while drones flew nearby.
It is a pity I don’t wear a fit bit, as my steps that day would have been off the charts. This volunteering opportunity gave me a phenomenal insight into the future of this country and I have to say, if these excited and passionate people are what is coming through our nation’s ranks, I think we will be in safe hands.