ParkTour – an open air playful-creative entry into programming

by Nico Grienauer Codeweek Ambassador Austria, Andrea Mayr-Stalder Codeweek Ambassador. Proofreading/Translation:Nausikaa Matzenauer

 

 

The core goal of the ParkTour is to make coding, robotics and related activities and workshops available to children who usually do not have access to them due to a low socioeconomic status and/or immigration background. By going to the spaces where these children spend their afternoons we wanted to reach them regardless of the opportunities which are available to them in school or at home.

Given the large number of participants and positive feedback received from them and their youth workers, teachers, and parents, we believe that we achieved this goal. At the same time it is clear that a two hour exposure to topics such as coding and robotics can at best pique or enforce an interest in them.

 

 

CodeWeek ParkTour took place during CodeWeek 2017 and 2018 in multiple parks in different districts of Vienna. Its program consisted of activities by four to five different organizations per day (from a pool of seven organizations) which covered topics from programming over robotics to privacy. The target audience were children between the ages of 7 to 17 years old. Across the ParkTours we attracted an estimated of 1000. About 45% of the Teenagers who participated in one or more of the activities were female.

Across multiple locations, different organizations offered different activities.

 

 

Some of the activities from the companies/associations were:

  • A1 “Internet für Alle”
    • Offline Coding, Ozobot robots and coding with Lightbot App
  • Chaos macht Schule
    • Theoretical computer basics and privacy considerations
  • CoderDojo Vienna
    • Scratch development and development with micro:bit
  • DaVinciLab
    • Coding with Minecraft
  • Logiscool
    • Various code.org activities
  • OEG3D
    • Experience the production of the future by designing jewelry on the computer and 3D printing it.
  • Robo Wunderkind
    • Building and coding real robots through tactile hardware and intuitive software
  • Spielend Programmieren
    • Game programming with Python
  • TechnikBasteln
    • Learning about hardware by taking apart a laptop
  • Wiener Bildungsserver
    • Blue Bot learning robots, solve tricky tasks and get to know Vienna better
  • Wunderwuzzi
    • Building a DIY toothbrush robot

Some of the activities were more suited for shorter participation, whereas others (e.g. CoderDojo Wien, Logiscool) required more focused attention for 45~60 minute intervals.

 

 

During the activities our trainers also focused on the inclusion of the staff of the youth centers we collaborated with. Demonstrating creative and easy-to-use coding tools and telling the youth workers how to use them regularly was one of our main intentions for enabling participants to continue being engaged with coding. We also provided printed handouts with information and links to follow-up activities and freely available online content.

Our Challenges

We significantly underestimated the time and effort required for dealing with the bureaucracy and legal requirements around organizing these outdoor events in public spaces, e.g. obtaining the necessary permissions from the various departments of the City of Vienna, organizing access to adequate electricity sources in these parks or reviewing and submitting legal agreements and documentation.

Our Successes

We certainly never expected to attract as many children as we did.

The surprisingly good and warm autumn weather certainly contributed to this success, as our backup plan called for indoor workshops with our youth work partner organizations and this approach would have reached fewer children.

We were very lucky and the weather was great – Just remember to have a backup plan 🙂

 

 

Qualitatively we also received positive feedback from participants as well as adults, e.g. some youth organizations extended an open invitation to offer coding activities in their facilities or during local events in their respective districts. We also received more media coverage than expected (two segments in a local radio station, one newspaper article in a local daily newspaper, event announcements in multiple online and offline publications). We were also pleasantly surprised by the increased free support provided by many partners and trainers upon our announcement in mid-July that we had failed to secure the original budget of ~€12,500. Last but not least, the visit of Vienna’s City Councillor for Education, Integration, and Youth, Jürgen Czernohorszky was also a success, as he spent more than an hour observing the activities and discussing them with the children and workshop trainers.

 

Copying of the ParkTour format is desired 🙂

Mainly responsible for this format and achievement are Mag.ª Andrea Mayr-Stalder and Christoph Derndorfer. Without their engagement and all the helping hands and sponsors, it would not have been such a success!