PiWars, Ada Awards and Text Adventures

Once again, it’s been a busy few months both at work and outside of work. Sometimes I take a look at the last 12 months and wonder how so much could’ve happened in such a short amount of time. This time last year, I was excited about travelling to Glasgow and Belfast, now I’ve been to the US three times and to Argentina and Brazil, with the next Brazil trip all set for next month. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

So, what have I been up to? As simple as it may sound, one of the most exciting things I’ve been doing over the last few months has been working with some of my pi-top colleagues to build a robot to take part in PiWars. Last year, I attended the event as a judge and was struck by how much of a wonderful community event it was and how it really brought out the best of the pi community and so this year I was determined to get involved myself and was surprised to find that some of the guys here were equally keen to get involved. After several meetings, our team is still 8 people strong and we’re really exciting about building our robot (once we finally decide on the design).

Take a look at our first blog post about the members of our team here on the pi-top website. Sometimes I’m reminded that I work with a really great bunch of people!

In the middle of November, I received notification that I’d been shortlisted for European Digital Woman of the year at the Ada Awards. While I didn’t win the award, it was a great honour to have been shortlisted and they made it clear that they had received a lot of entries from women across the EU, so to be in the final three was an incredible achievement, especially as I got to fly to Brussels and spend the day with some of the young nominees, including Aoibheann Mangan, daughter of Iseult Mangan (also an incredible maker and educator) and Helena Staple, daughter of roboteer Danny Staple. Both young ladies (and their parents) made my trip to Brussels really exciting and I loved spending time with them (and eating far too much chocolate with them)!

Finally, as part of my outreach work for Crossover Solutions, I’ve been working for a half day every two weeks in a school in Wandsworth where I’ve been looking at Text Adventures with the Year 6 pupils. You may remember that I first looked at Active Lit way back in 2014 and I’m still a big fan because, while it doesn’t necessarily teach a specific coding language, it really does teach some computational thinking skills. It’s really difficult for students to understand the level of decomposition needed to create a single room in a text game – they have to think about each individual item of the room as an object and then decide whether it is an object that can be opened, taken, hidden etc. I made a couple of presentations to go with the lessons this time which can be found here and here, as well as a worksheet to help define items in the first room. It’s still a very tough interface to explain to children and I found myself running around a lot to help support them – I’d love to hear about how other teachers have gotten on with using it as I really feel as though there is a lot of scope to teach some transferable skills here and the students really enjoy working through and creating their own text adventures.

Anyway, that’s it for my brief update – expect more soon!

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