Coding club kids games showcased

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Ashburton Public Library coding club members Alexia Nassif, 11, Meja Besande, 10, and Linken Binstead, 11, with Ashburton Museum archivist Connor Lysaght, at rear.

Budding programmers, from Ashburton Public Library’s microbytes and megabytes coding clubs, have taken their after-school learning to a new level.

They have created computer games for anyone to access.

Around 30 coders from two, once-a-week microbyte and megabyte sessions, led by children’s librarian Jonathan Nixon, came together at the Ashburton Museum (prior to lockdown), to showcase their gaming work creations to family, friends.

There were also staff present from the Ashburton District Council communications team and the museum.

The young coders had been learning how to program their own games using Microsoft Makecode Arcade, a free online program which worked with the computer hardware at the library.

Most had experience with block-based visual programming language and the Scratch website, but some were new to coding.

The showcase at the museum was the final session in their current learning and gave them a chance to hear from adults; Alex Tomov (council) and Connor Lysaght (museum), working in careers where coding was used.

They also got to play the games created by their coding club peers.

The games, put on to mobile kitronic arcade systems, had titles such as Fire Ball Platformer, Good at Games, Puzzle, Fire Bone, Dino Attack, Shark vs Dog.

They will all be available for play at the library on a cleverly crafted Pi box – put together by Mr Nixon and his team – and viewed on a big screen television. And also available for any library user through the Ashburton District Council website, under the Ashburton Public Library section, Mr Nixon said.

Next term the groups will start at a level playing field with a new component of learning in the planning stages.

Connor, who has made 2D and 3D games using the similar drag and drop code being explored by club members, started using Game Maker 7 when he was a similar age as club members; he is now in his early 20s, but still remembers the demon blobs and blue jewel collectors he created in one of his first games.

He has used Blender game software and Unity game engine to develop 2D and 3D games.

His skills have progressed and he made his Hakatere Hack game using Unity for an Ashburton Museum exhibition three years ago.

It uses gaming graphics mixed with real historical photographs taking a multi-choice question and answer tour around the Mid Canterbury district.

It can still be found on Google Play.