Children playing Rapid Router

Welcome to the Ocado Technology Webinars, where you can hear from the people building the ground-breaking, game-changing technology that powers Ocado, the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer.

In this webinar Celine Boudier, Code for Life team leader, talks about how a group of volunteers at Ocado Technology are creating an educational platform to inspire the next generation of technologists.

 

Key Takeaways

 

  • Education is one of the four core values of the Ocado Group, alongside promoting entrepreneurship, protecting the environment, and encouraging people to eat well
  • Teaching children to program is not just about nurturing future software engineers but also providing everyone with a meta-skill that has a transformative potential in our increasingly digital world
  • Many educators find teaching their students the basic skills and thinking required for programming much more difficult than explaining the syntax of a programming language
  • Rapid Router is an educational game from Code for Life that focuses on developing the logical thinking skills required for programming in primary school children
  • The Rapid Router package includes many other resources for teachers looking to teach computing, including full lessons plans, code examples, classroom activities and more

 

0:15: Code for Life is an initiative aiming to address the challenges faced by educators teaching computing in primary schools

1:12: The project is mostly volunteer-based but also includes a robust full-time team made up of software interns and a UX expert from Ocado Technology

1:34: Understanding the fundamentals of programming is a life skill for many children growing up in an increasingly online world

3:30: Code for Life has been designed to help teachers help students interested in computing

4:40: Rapid Router is the first educational game created by Code for Life, teaching algorithms and computing skills through Blockly and Python

6:13: How Rapid Router helps children migrate progressively from Blockly to Python

6:44: Alongside the actual game, teachers have access to a portal where they can create virtual classrooms and register new students

7:05: The design of the Code for Life portal and Rapid Router game is based on different teacher personas created after extensive user research and interviews

9:30: Code for Life also focuses on bridging the gap between gaining basic computing skills and being competent at programming

10:25: The next big educational game from Code for Life will target secondary schools and will teach the basics of AI and Python

11:12: The Code for Life team is also working on creating a mobile app version of Rapid Router using C# and the Unity game engine, and translating the games into other languages

12:24: An overview of the technology stack currently in use for Rapid Router and future games

14:00: Ways to learn more and contribute to the project, including our GitHub profiles for Code for Life, Rapid Router and our upcoming AI game, social media channels (Twitter, Facebook) and translation website.

More about our webinars

You can keep up to date with the webinars by subscribing to our YouTube channel. This article provides clickable links that take you directly to the highlighted part of the video clip.

March 22nd, 2017

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You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Ocado has employed the services of Santa and the world’s most famous red-nosed reindeer to help students improve their coding skills.

Used by over 1,400 schools and more than 70,000 individual users worldwide, Rapid Router is a free, open source game developed by Ocado Technology and ICT teachers that helps 5-16 year old pupils understand programming basics and introduces them to the Python programming language. The Code for Life

Introducing Rapid Rudolph

A massive snowstorm has just fallen over the Rapid Router world. Everything is now covered in snowflakes and the ponds are frozen, but Santa is determined as ever to navigate his sled on the windy roads of Rapid Router.

But with Christmas fast approaching, lots of new orders have arrived and the sled is overwhelmed. It’s up to you to save the day and guide Santa and Rudolph to their many destinations using Blockly and Python.

We’re very excited to announce this winter-themed, special edition of Rapid Router. In only two years, our Code for Life initiative has grown from a single idea to a network of 70,000 users worldwide. With Rapid Router, anyone can go online and teach themselves to code – you don’t have to be taught in school. Our game is optimised for the classroom and coding clubs but it works for a home schooling audience and self-learners; we definitely see adults regularly using our site too. – Celine Boudier, product owner and Code for Life team leader at Ocado Technology

The Santa-powered Rapid Router game is available for free now at https://www.codeforlife.education/rapidrouter/


For more details and a video demonstration of the game, please visit our blog.

About Code for Life
The Code for Life initiative has been created by Ocado Technology to get every child coding. As the world’s largest online-only supermarket, Ocado understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of computer scientists. Just as Ocado’s technology has revolutionized the way people buy groceries, Code for Life will help equip pupils with the skills needed to revolutionize the industries of tomorrow. For more information about Code for Life, visit http://codeforlife.education

About Ocado
Established in 2000, Ocado is a UK-based company admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange (OCDO), and is the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer, operating its own grocery and general merchandise retail businesses under the Ocado.com and other specialist shop banners. For more information about the Ocado Group, visit www.ocadogroup.com

December 14th, 2016

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BBC Microbit

The BBC micro:bit is finally out! Last week I headed over to the University of Hertfordshire to have some fun programming it.

Mike Platt, from the university’s School of Education, was very welcoming and lent us some of the precious micro:bits to play with. There were around 10 teachers from nearby schools, teaching mostly Key Stages 3 to 5, who were very motivated to know more about the possibilities of the computing curriculum, Python, and the micro:bit itself.

Two developers (check André’s github here) were there to help them get started with Python.

The workshop was mostly around how to program a micro:bit with MicroPython, a subset of Python 3 specifically designed for microcontrollers.

The tutorials were quite clear (even if the MicroPython editor on the micro:bit wouldn’t install from Windows…) and the organisers were eager to gather feedback so they could improve them.

I programmed a game selector using the two buttons you can see on the Skull display picture, and two games.

Game 1 was a Sleepy/Wakey game: when the LEDs display a heart, you have to wake it by shaking it. There is an API to help you do this easily:

http://microbit-micropython.readthedocs.org/en/latest/accelerometer.html

When the LEDs display a sleepy face, you have to make the micro:bit face down, all within a given time of course… Mwahahaha! It’s not easy!

Game 2 was a Guitar Hero-like game using the pins. You can attach stuff to the pins, like a speaker. But here I just used those metal pins you can see in the video to manually create a contact. You have to follow the series of numbers appearing on the micro:bit by touching the appropriate pin in time.

Mike and the teachers liked the games and were interested to see how I programmed them, but given the time it was a bit, erm, sketchy!

MicroPython is a subset of Python, there are things that you can’t do but some which are optimised for microcontrollers. However the micro:bit tutorials were around the microbit module and as far as I could find yesterday, easily program event management/callbacks was difficult – you had to create an infinite loop to check for inputs…

The editor lacked autocompletion feature. However, it was really simple to install programs on the micro:bit and then it ran them automatically. You can really program things in a few minutes and see the results on the micro:bit quickly. This is very rewarding.

The ending discussion with the teachers was really interesting as they could voice their concerns over the computing curriculum in general.

They talked about the gaps to bridge simple concepts such as Blockly (you can also program Micro:bit with microsoft block editor by the way!) and full languages such as Python as well as hardware components like the BBC Micro:bit.

They felt teaching students how to think algorithmically was the real challenge, not so much teaching a specific syntax such as Python. They and Mike Platt talked about “tech fads”: a few years ago, people wanted to teach kids JavaScript and now everything is about Python. But thinking logically and algorithmically is a core concept that pupils need to learn and that will help them master pretty much any programming language.

However, most tutorials aiming at helping teachers create lesson plans around computing are more “syntax” oriented: how to display an image, how to write a Hello World on the LEDs, what is the API… Teachers find it more difficult to teach the algorithmics concepts such as loops, if/then/else statements, and to engage students in the long term with these learning goals.

They also wished they had better resources, like kits, to get started on some pieces of tech. For the moment they feel they have to gather all the resources, details and techs themselves to be able to teach, but they don’t have the time.

I talked about Code for Life (our free education initiative) – Mike Platt was already very enthusiastic – and how we had teaching packs, ways to easily bridge the gap between Blockly and Python, and incremental levels to teach algorithmic thinking. I hope some of them will try it!

Celine, Code for Life Team Lead

March 1st, 2016

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Anne Marie Neatham

One of the fantastic consequences of our Code for Life initiative is the interest we attract from STEM and educational charities looking to collaborate. Here’s the lowdown on our visit to the Stemettes.

We celebrated Code for Life’s first anniversary on 1st September, and we’re continuing to develop new strands to the initiative. Our user numbers have reached 30,500 and continue to grow, which means we’re attracting a lot of interest from social enterprises looking to engage on mutual topics.

One such social enterprise is the Stemettes.

Founded by Anne-Marie Imafidon in 2013, the Stemettes were set up to inspire the next generation of girls into technology careers. In just two years, they’ve reached 3,000 young women around the UK via public events, workshops and industry schemes.

In the last week of July, the Stemettes launched their Outbox Incubator, a six week program providing funding and support for 45 young women aged 11-22 who want to start Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) businesses.

Over the course of the six week program, these inspiring young women live and learn together under one roof in the incubator in South London. There they’re joined by women in industry to help them develop skills in running a business, developing a product, getting funding to take their ideas to market, and to work on their personal development.

The two of us went along to speak to this next generation of industry leaders about all the considerations and decisions that need to be made to reach their goals.

We discussed how, in 2,000, 95% of major organisations were located in highly developed economies, but over half will be in emerging economies by 2025. That in 1980 200 million people travelled over a border – that number is now 5 times as much and growing.

The world is changing, and technology will be the big disruptor. Even with all of the changes so far, what is obvious is that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, the truly big technologies haven’t even been thought of yet.

So what does that mean for the young women at Outbox Incubator and thousands like them?

The world is their oyster.

In order to take advantage of the opportunities ahead they need to really think about who they are and where they want to go. What do they love doing? What do they find difficult? Who inspires them? Why?

In our talks, we stressed that you must always keep learning: even when you’re 90 you won’t have all the answers. That’s fine. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, it’s also the norm. Embrace it.

We asked each of them to think about what they want to do over the next few years and what they need to do to get there. To think about who can help them, or if there’s training available.

Many of the attendees felt uncomfortable with public speaking. Well, pitching for startup funding is like competing in the Olympics – you have to practise!

It was great to meet the young women who’ve taken a bold first step into the world of technology. Their awareness and dedication was an inspiration in itself, and a reminder that the next generation will have some very impressive women at the helm.

A big thanks to the Stemettes for having us, and good luck to all their graduates!

Anne Marie, Ocado Technology COO, and Bree, Code for Life Product Owner

September 3rd, 2015

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Dee the robot character

I’m proud to announce the latest update to our Code for Life teaching resource: your pupils can now learn to code in Python using the Rapid Router game.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar, Python is a proper coding language used by companies such as Google and NASA. It’s also simple to write and debug, so it’s perfect as a first language to learn.

Our volunteers have created over 50 new levels to the game, which start by translating concepts from Blockly to Python, and then get more challenging to really put your pupil’s skills to the test.

They’ll not just pick up the language itself but also the importance of correct syntax – something that will give your students a great foundation for studying future languages and continuing with Python.

Log in to Code for Life now to check out the teaching pack and have a go on the new Rapid Router levels.

If you have any questions, as always just drop us an email: codeforlife@ocado.com

Paul Heideman, Technology Development Manager

February 3rd, 2015

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