Exploring Coolest Projects Milano 2018

By Nicola Lyons

Last month, our Italian community warmly welcomed me to the second annual edition of Coolest Projects Milano, held on the campus of Politecnico di Milano. More than 80 young people from Dojos all across Northern Italy exhibited projects for nearly 2000 event attendees, and the creativity on display blew me away.

And what impressed me even more was the enthusiasm and excitement that each participant (and their proud parents) demonstrated as they explained their projects to me with big smiles — and in English!

Inspiration, from 3D printing to pasta

As well as the project showcase, Coolest Projects Milano had wonderful talks, workshops, and an “inspiring area” full of robots, games, 3D printing demonstrations, and more.

I felt very grateful to be asked to give the event’s opening talk, and to be able to welcome everyone to Coolest Projects and update our Italian community on what the CoderDojo Foundation has been working on this year.

In the workshop areas, there were fourteen workshops dedicated to teachers and mentors, and ten workshops specifically for young people. Without a doubt my favourite workshop was the “WikiPasta Laboratory”, where we learned about typographic formatting through the medium of pasta. Bellisima!

There was so much going on, and I wish I could have seen every talk and workshop in addition to how I spent most of my day: getting to know our community of volunteers and exploring the participants’ projects.

Exhibiting projects

Chiara from Sesto Calende won the App category for her project, the wonderful Digital Backpack app, which removes the need for carrying heavy books to school. She had spent a few weeks working on it, and it included everything from school timetables and a note-taking tool, to a very handy Google search function. I would have loved to have had an app like this when I was in school!

Another winning project that I learned a lot from was S.I.M.A.G., built by a brother-and-sister team, Ilaria and Alessio, from Ladispoli. Ilaria told me that she was shocked to learn about the situation in Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific: in a few years, Kiribati’s islands will be completely submerged due to rising sea levels. So she and Alessio built a robotic project to show how plastic waste could be repurposed to slow down climate change and reinforce island homes, in order to ensure that the people of Kiribati can continue living on their home islands. Ilaria and Alessio won the Hardware category for their project.

A project that I had great fun trying out was the Karate Girl game by Valentina from Milano. Valentina combined her two favourite hobbies — karate and coding — to create an impressive seven-level Scratch game full of different karate challenges. She won a Girls Who Code book for her project!

Off to Coolest Projects International!

All in all, Coolest Projects Milano had eleven project winners at Coolest Projects Milano, and they all received bursaries to attend Coolest Projects International in Dublin in May.

There were also nine winners of a subscription to Focus magazine, and seven girls won a copy of Reshma Saujani’s book Girls in Tech.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in or volunteered their time to put together such a fantastic event! And thank you again to everyone who made me feel so welcome to Milan and shared their stories with me. Grazie a tutti!