Congratulations to all our ninjas who received belts in Summer 2017!

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On 27 May 2017, at our final CoderDojo Athenry session of the 2016-17 year, we awarded a total of 93 belts to our ninjas for their great individual achievements in acquiring and demonstrating coding and computing skills. And then we had a party with pizza!

Here is a link to our presentation from the day: CoderDojo Athenry Belts Day 2017

We are very grateful to Clarin College Athenry and the principal, Ciaran Folan, for their enabling CoderDojo Athenry by making the school and its wifi available to us.

We are also very grateful for the sponsorship and support we have received this year:

  • Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board, who provide us with an annual Youth Club Grant
  • Medtronic, employer of our mentor Declan Fox, who provide us with a grant to match Declan’s excellent volunteering
  • HP Enterprise, employer of our mentor Mark Davis, who provide loaner laptops that we make great use of
  • Boston Scientific, employer of our mentor Kevin Madden, who provided us with a set of 3D printers this year, which allowed a great new learning experience

Because of these supports, no child or parent/guardian ever has to pay to participate in CoderDojo Athenry.

This year also, mentor Martha Fahy introduced a new idea, “Java Dojo”, where parents can buy a cup of tea/coffee, providing additional funds. With these, we have been able to buy a speaker system, electronics needed by some of our groups, and our own 3D printer! Thank you, our CoderDojo ninja sidekicks!

And of course we must thank our mentors, who volunteer their time and expertise entirely without charge week after week, to make CoderDojo Athenry the success that it is.

Here is the full list of belts we awarded:

  • Explorers:    44     (39 Yellow & 5 White)
  • Advancers:  18
  • Bodgers:     17
  • Hackers:      8
  • Creators:     5
  • Black Belt:   1

Special mention must go to Eoin Clarke, who received our first ever black belt award. Eoin has been in CoderDojo Athenry for several years, working his way up through the groups, and this year took on the role of Mentor. Well done, Eoin!

Above are some photos of the belts awarded. You can find more on our Facebook page:

CoderDojo Athenry is now closed for the summer. See you all in September!

The GEEC at CoderDojo Athenry

We were fortunate to be visited on 8 April 2017 by Ciara and Connor, two engineering students from NUI Galway who are part of the Geec team, building the Galway Energy Efficient Car – this is an electric car that a group of students have built from scratch, that is capable driving very long distances. For example, they estimate that it could cover the distance from Galway to Dublin for 14 cents worth of electricity!

Ciara and Connor both explained their roles in the project and answered many questions from enthusiastic members of CoderDojo Athenry. The CoderDOjo members found the Geec and its underlying technologies very interesting. It was fascinating to see that skills that many of them are learning (such as Arduino programming, soldering, and App Inventor) can be put to such great use.

The Geec

A team, a project and a car. The Galway energy-efficient car (better known as the Geec) is an eco-car designed and built by engineering students from NUI Galway. In May 2015, we competed with 196 other teams at Shell Eco-marathon Europe, where every car was challenged to drive 16 km on a closed street circuit in Rotterdam using the least amount of fuel or energy. The Geec represented Ireland’s first ever attempt in this definitive global ultra-efficiency event. We finished in the top half of the leaderboard in prototype battery-electric class, with a score of 287 km/kWh – roughly equivalent to 8,000 miles per gallon for a petrol or diesel car.

The talk covered the basics of how the car has been designed, built and tested, with the main focus on the electronics and software involved in the car.

Ciara Finan

Ciara is a final year Electronic and Computing Engineering student in NUIG. Her role on the Geec team is to implement the Data Acquisition and Display system. The system collects data from sensors on the car and then has to accurately display them in real-time to the driver. All the data is used to write out driving strategies for the marathon. It entails designing, testing and building a circuit with various sensors, an Android app to display the data to the driver and a logging system to save the data for further analysis.

Connor Duignan

Connor is a final year student studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering in NUIG. His role on the GEEC team is designing the power electronics system, which delivers power from the battery to the motor. This involves both software and hardware, with an Arduino being used as the interface between the electrical and virtual sides of the system.

Congratulations to Alaidh Fox and Roy Flaherty on their BT Young Scientist Projects!

Huge congratulations to members of CoderDojo Athenry who participated in the BT Young Scientists Exhibition 2017 recently!

Alaidh Fox, a junior mentor at CoderDojo Athenry, and her friend Deirdre Hughes entered The Hox Project – Using RFID technology to advance medicine, which supports elderly and visually impaired people to take medication safely, with an audio device that can read labels and a separate wristband containing a patient’s entire medical history.

Roy Flaherty from CoderDojo Athenry, with his friend Gavin McGinley, entered the Arcade Cabinet project that brings new life to classic video games through the use of the Raspberry Pi and an Arduino-driven joystick.

If anybody else was also there, please let us know and send me a photo so we can post it.

These two teams did exceptionally well:

  • Roy and Gavin won First Place in the Junior Technology category
  • Alaidh and Deirdre won First Place place Intermediate Technology category and also won of the HPRA (Health Products Regulatory Authority) Award

Well done! We are all very proud of you at CoderDojo Athenry!

Dick Baldwin’s Little Sailboats


We had a great presentation by 3 people last Saturday in our first-ever transatlantic link-up, with 140 people in attendance at CoderDojo Athenry:

  • Dick Baldwin, live via Skype from Maine USA, telling us about his Little Sailboats project, Educational Passages, in which they have released about 70 5-foot-long sailboats onto the open seas, to get picked up across the world
  • Meabh who found one of the boats in Connemara, with her mom Neasa
  • Margaret Rae from the Marine Institute in Galway, who will be helping to re-launch the boat in the Spring.

Here are some more links that you might find interesting:

Thanks to Margaret from the Marine Institute and Ariadne from Educational Passages for the links!

CoderDojo Athenry at Minevention


Well done to everybody at CoderDojo Athenry who participated in Minevention 2016 in the Radisson Hotel Galway on 26 and 27 November.

Our stand looked great, with the Pi-based games console, a TV showing the Athenry Castle Minecraft model, the Oculus Rift demoing a Unity game, one of the Bodger’s robots, members with their laptops demoing Scratch programs and Minecraft modding, and a 3D printer on the first day.

We were very proud of our ninjas who are fantastic ambassadors for CoderDojo! Thank you for all of your great work!

In addition, thanks very much to Lisa O’Brien and the Minevention team for allowing us to participate, and for inviting me to give a presentation about CoderDojo.

Special Event on 3 December: Dick Baldwin’s Little Sailboats

We will have what should be a very interesting set of speakers at CoderDojo Athenry on 3 December for the second half of the session (starting around 1pm).

Dick Baldwin, a sailor based in Maine, USA, sends 5 foot long unmanned, GPS monitored sailboats out into the sea. Recently, one of the little sail boats, Lancer, arrived in Ireland and was picked up by 8 year old primary schoolgirl Méabh in Leitir Móir, Connemara. Her school hopes to relaunch it next year, with the help of The Marine Institute.

We will have interactive presentations via Skype from Dick Baldwin and Ariadne Dimoulas of the Educational Passages project, and Méabh will come along in person to tell us about finding the boat. In addition, Dr Margaret Rae of the Marine Institute (who is a CoderDojo Athenry mom!) will be on hand to explain more about the project and maybe answer your questions about what the Marine Institute does and how important technology is for its research.

Below is a summary of the presentation. It should be really interesting! Thanks a million to Margaret and the Marine Institute for setting this up.

One never knows what’s going to happen when a small boat goes to sea. This presentation is about sending 5foot unmanned, GPS monitored sailboats out into the sea where every voyage is different and the learning opportunities are great. These little sailboats follow the winds and currents and will sail for months & months often crossing oceans and reporting its position and scientific data along the way. 

A group like yours could equip a boat with an array of scientific sensors to monitor atmospheric and ocean data. You could also include a solar panel and maybe a camera or possibly even add steering capabilities to your boat. Think of the data you could collect and what it would be like when your boat comes ashore in far- away lands. Will you be able to communicate with them and what would you ask them to do with our boat?  Let’s explore the possibilities.

Hackers – Disassembling Stuff!

A great way to figure out how things work is to take them apart. In the Hackers group, we unscrewed, hammered, de-soldered and detached the parts from the insides of an old living-room DVD player, a computer CD player, and a speaker from a stereo, to see what we could find.

Group members de-soldered components such as switches and capacitors that we will use in new projects, extracted and examined motors from the CD/DVD players, and got a working speaker from its housing. They powered up the motors with DC batteries to see how they work, and hooked up the speaker to a phone headphone jack (whch worked but would need amplification).

CDs and DVDs are great because they include different high-quality motors for spinning the disc, moving the laser read head forward/backward, and ejecting the tray.

Hackers – Soldering!

At Hackers this week, we learned how to solder. Group members stripped wires and then soldered them together. Next time, we will try soldering components such as resistors on to a circuit board.

There are plenty of videos on YouTube  to demonstrate soldering technique. Here is one by Emer Cahill of GMIT, which is part of their series of CanSat training videos:

Hackers – Arduino Basics


On 15 Oct, we spent the session figuring out the basics of programming and electronics with an Arduino micro-controller. We had a couple of Arduino Unos (pictured above) and a Genuino 101.

We downloaded the Arduino IDE (integrated development environment) software here:

We then built a simple circuit to turn on an LED, using a breadboard:


After connecting the 5V side of the circuit to Digital pin 2 on the Arduino, we started experimenting with writing code to control it, using the C-based language of the Arduino IDE:


After that, group members started experimenting with more complex programs and hardware, such as pressure and temperature sensors, which they had working by the end of the 2-hour session. I was very impressed with the speed with which they made progress!