Scratch Day at IBM Hursley

Scratch is a visual programming language and drag-and-drop coding platform for children.

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Scratch Day is an annual world-wide network of events where kids come together to make things in Scratch.

Their logo sums it up beautifully:

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Kids of different ages come together and meet each other. They share their experiences of coding – finding out the differences between what they each learn about coding in their different schools.

They try and make something. It’s basically a hack day for kids – where the kids are encouraged to use Scratch to make their hacks.

Most importantly, they share their experiences. They talk about the things they tried, the challenges they faced, and the things they learned along the way. And they demo the things that worked.

On May 12th that happened around the world, in close to a thousand venues, big and small.

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One of them was IBM Hursley. We invited local families to the lab to take part in a small local Scratch Day.

We provided a venue, and a bunch of laptops with Scratch ready to go.

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Grace was with me to help out for the day. To start with, that meant manning the registration desk. Together with the giant TJBot, she welcomed the 45 kids and their parents to Hursley.

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I kicked off the event by explaining the idea of Scratch Day.

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And then we let the kids get started.

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The variety of projects that the kids created was inspiring. We saw games, quizzes, puzzles, cartoons, musical creations, artistic creations and so much more.

It was lovely to see parents and kids working together on the projects. In a few cases, it looked like the kids were teaching their parents about Scratch, and sharing what they learn about with Scratch at schools.

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There are so many people I should thank. Tracy Gardner was a huge help. Apart from supporting and advising and mentoring kids and parents throughout the day with their projects, she also brought along things like Makey Makeys and a Kinect, so some of the children could make Scratch projects with a physical hardware component. The Scratch / Makey Makey piano was awesome.

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Thanks to Mark for bringing along a 3D printer. I know a lot of the kids found it fascinating to see it running and creating things in front of them.

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And the Scratch-themed keyrings that he printed for the kids through the day made for a lovely souvenir for them to take home.

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I said this on the day, but I am also hugely grateful to Andy, Stefan, Jashu, Simon and Nick.

They helped out with planning and preparing the event. And they also did a huge amount on the day itself. It was a massive amount of work to set up and clear up the venue, as well as supporting and helping kids with their Scratch creations throughout the day.

How did it happen?

Finally, I wanted to say something briefly about how this all happened, because I’m still a bit amazed that it did.

It started with a tweet. It was the evening of March 14th, and I was flicking through twitter on my phone when I happened to see a retweet of this.

I’d not heard of Scratch Day before, but this sounded very cool. I had a quick look on the website to see where the nearest Scratch Day was that I could take my kids to. But there wasn’t one.

We have an active Slack community at work, and I have Slack on my mobile, so I mentioned it on our site channel saying that I thought this looked fun, and that it’d be cool if we hosted one.

It was after 8pm on a Wednesday evening, but I still got a few replies from people who thought it was a good idea. And more the next morning.

The next morning, I created a #hursley-scratch-day channel where we could discuss what would be involved without spamming the rest of the site. A couple of dozen people joined, and I quickly got lots of ideas and volunteers.

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The day after that, I went to chat to our Lab Manager. I was all ready to sell why it would be a good thing for us to do, but he was already convinced before I even started.

At that point, less than 48 hours after first hearing about Scratch Day, it had accidentally gone from a random idle “it might be fun if we did this” thought to an actual event I’d volunteered to run, with the support of the Lab.

From there, I got a load of help from across the site. I ordered dozens and dozens of computers from our IT department so there would be enough for all the kids who came. We printed certificates, worksheets, and signs using our Reprographics department. Our Security team did stuff like sort out the Health & Safety forms and under-16 clearances needed to bring kids on-site. Our Community team, who have a ton of experience at running events for kids, helped make sure that I had everything I needed and didn’t forget to do things like get parental permission to take photos.

And lots more that I’m probably forgetting.

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My point is, it was a million times easier than it could’ve been. I love that I work at a place where I can just put a random idea out there and with almost no effort get a ton of support to make it happen. I love that I can use the resources of the Lab to do things like this. I’ve done this sort of thing before, and it’s great to be able to invite kids to the office and share our enthusiasm for tech with them.

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