The awards were created in 2012 to deliver and support the following principles:

  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • The introduction and showcasing of different aspects of STEM education through
    coding.

The Coolest Projects awards are unique in Europe and were established on a voluntary basis by a number of industry professionals as both a competition and exhibition to support and inspire a generation of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs aged from 7 to 17. The awards, which are now in their fourth year, create a unique platform for young people to develop a broad set of digital abilities by offering them the opportunity to showcase the skills they have learned at CoderDojo.

These digital skills are vital if Ireland, and indeed Europe, is to address the coding skills shortage which has led to in excess of 500,000 open job postings across the continent in 2015.

Coolest Projects has seen young people deliver projects across the latest technologies, from Cloud, to Internet of Things (IoT) to Virtual Reality and has the potential to drive vital digital skills across a European platform.

This year’s Coolest Projects awards featured more than 500 entries from young people across Ireland and beyond and attracted more than 5,000 spectators to witness demonstrations of this year’s submissions. And we estimate that we will have over 800 entries to the 2016 awards and up to 10,000 attendees.

Although the showcase event is held in Ballsbridge, the awards are a Europe-wide event, with participants from the UK, Poland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Romania and Turkey. CoderDojo currently operates in 16 European countries and by 2017 our target is to have Coolest Projects from every European country with a CoderDojo involved.

Coolest Projects awards is an eight-month-long event and this month local centres around the country will begin to engage with the event and support project development in their weekly sessions.

These will result in projects such as Recharge My Car, an app which shows real-time information on charging points for electric cars, allowing you to find your nearest free point. This was written by 12-year-old Niamh Scanlon.

And 11-year-old Lauren Boyle created the Cool Kids Studio online platform and mobile app to teach life, technology, art and maths skills to the world around her and was named the Young EU Digital Girl of the Year 2014.

Inspired by an aunt with cerebral palsy, Conor Begley (17) created a communication device for the physically disabled. And Harvey Brezina Conniffe (14) created a safety device to provide parents and local authorities with greater protection in local parks, using bluetooth and Intel’s Edison boards.

These are a small sample of the many projects over the last four years that have been truly inspiring and have made significant impact. These young people are innovating at such a level that it is imperative we continue to drive and support them. The results have exceeded the initial hopes of the industry experts who established the awards in 2012. At the time, we identified the skills that CoderDojo participants would need to develop to support the requirements of STEM industries.

Teaching a subject is one aspect of education. We believe that by encouraging and supporting innovators to enhance their education though creative thinking, a far greater impact and significance to what is being taught is achieved.

A host of skills are required to be a successful innovator, including product development, design, communication, presentation, launch and analytic skills. We encourage innovation by teaching the skills necessary to deliver products to market through a series of workshops. Coderdojo2015-780

The impact of not being able to match supply with this level of demand is a significant threat for our STEM industries.  Our challenge in Coolest Projects is not whether it will grow exponentially – our experience has given us the answer already.

The Awards take place annually in Dublin and Silicon Valley.