Supporter Spotlight: John Walsh, Pinnacle Project Partners & champion of Newtown Kildare CoderDojo

Tell us about yourself.

My name is John Walsh. I graduated with a BSc in Computer Applications from Dublin City University in 1992. When I left college I first worked with Accenture and for the past 9 years I’ve worked with Pinnacle Project Partners in Dublin on various projects. At Pinnacle, I’ve helped our clients deliver complex projects and programmes of change, primarily in Financial Services. The majority of the initiatives we work on with our clients have a significant technology component. Our approach is to deliver lasting results through our experience and outcome oriented approach. I’m married to Patricia and we have 3 children aged 7, 10 and 12 – Paul, David and Conor. The majority of my ‘spare’ time is spent with my children, whether it’s helping mentor one of the local underage GAA teams or providing a lift to the basketball match. I’m also champion of Newtown Kildare CoderDojo in north Kildare.

  1. What got you interested in CoderDojo?

I heard about CoderDojo a number of years ago when I found out by chance that the children of a friend were attending CoderDojo in Celbridge. At the time I didn’t know what CoderDojo meant or what it was so had to do some research to find out what it was all about. Once I began to understand the objectives of the CoderDojo movement and the approach CoderDojo took, I felt that it was important that the children in the local area where we live, including my own children, should have the same opportunities to learn more about technology and coding. I and some other parents from the locality set up Newtown Kildare CoderDojo with the help of the principal of Newtown national school. We use the computing room in the school to host our CoderDojo. So far we’ve had approx. 50 children participate in our Dojo with 20 attending on a regular basis. We celebrated our first anniversary in January.

  1. Why did Pinnacle Project Partners decide to support the Coolest Projects Awards?

I had attended the Coolest Projects awards in 2014 in DCU and was struck by the enthusiasm and energy of the children in attendance. Not to mention the quality of the technology and coding initiatives that was on display. It was a great day and my 3 children and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At Pinnacle Project Partners, every day we see the value technology delivers to our clients and the importance of having some knowledge about technology and computing. We also see how technology and computing are shaping the world of the future and we view our support of the Coolest Projects as an investment in future generations and through them in the economy of the future. The Coolest Project Awards are special in giving each and every child the opportunity to showcase what they have accomplished as they’ve learned to code. It does this in a way that puts the children at the centre of the event.

  1. What advice would you give to young people who want to learn more about tech and coding?

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are so many coding tools and there is so much coding help available online it only really takes an enquiring mind and some persistence to find what you need to be able to develop some pretty cool games and applications. Also, be prepared to start small and build incrementally and gradually. As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. There can be a great natural desire to learn as much as possible as fast as possible which can lead to frustration if expectations aren’t met. Don’t forget to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments, big and small, along the way and the incremental steps that ultimately lead to success. This is exactly what the Coolest Projects awards is designed to do.

  1. Do you think coding should be included in the curriculum?

I’ve heard lots of ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ on this. My own personal view is that there are a number of advantages to learning coding in the classroom. Writing a computer program requires logical thinking while at the same time every program is essentially a work of art – there certainly aren’t many computer programs that haven’t required the ability of the programmer to imagine how the program should work and to create the resulting computer program. Computer programming also brings together a number of skills which are essential in other areas of the curriculum such as problem solving, mathematics, critical thinking, etc.

Secondly, in professional settings, delivering successful computer programs requires collaboration across a wide range of individuals with varying skills and abilities. Coding in schools provides children with an ideal and safe setting in which to experience working on coding projects together and to experience both the excitement and sometimes the frustrations of working together in a team. Coding in these settings is essentially a social activity requiring individuals to work together to achieve a common goal. And last but not least, coding is a heck of a lot of fun. I’d take double Computer Coding over double History any day!