Rapid Router winter scene

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, Rapid Router is a free, open source game developed by Ocado Technology and ICT teachers that helps Key Stage 1 (KS1) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) pupils understand programming basics and introduces them to the Python programming language.

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.

The Santa-powered Rapid Router is available for free now. Have fun!

Get involved

Rapid Router is developed by Code for Life, an initiative started by Ocado to get every child interested in coding. As the world’s largest online-only supermarket, Ocado understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of computer scientists. Just as we have used technology to revolutionise the way people buy groceries, Code for Life will help equip students with the skills needed to revolutionise the industries of tomorrow.

If you’re a teacher, make sure you register on our website now for free access to complete teaching materials, lesson plans and more. Also follow us on Twitter (@CodeForLifeUK) and like us on Facebook (Code for Life) for the latest news and announcements from the Code for Life team!

If you’re developer looking to contribute, check out our Code for Life GitHub portal and Rapid Router GitHub page where you can find more resources and the full source code for Rapid Router, respectively.

Celine Boudier, Code For Life Team Leader

December 14th, 2016

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Party bus

We are very excited to announce that Ocado Technology is now a 16-BIT Community Sponsor for Skills Matter. Over the past decade, Skills Matter has grown into Europe’s largest community of coders and developers, gaining momentum in London’s thriving tech scene.

We are delighted we can count Ocado Technology as one of our sponsors and supporters, and are very much looking forward to working with everyone in Ocado’s brilliant engineering team to see if and how we can organise opportunities to share some of the expertise and skills gained in creating the amazing solutions built for this innovative UK business. We know many members in our community are really looking forward to learning and sharing more with you! If your team has cracked a complex engineering challenge and discovered new technologies or approaches whilst doing so, please contact the Skills Matter team with any ideas for a talk and we’ll support you all the way, from proposing your talk to getting on stage. – Wendy Devolder, founder and CEO of Skills Matter

Ocado Technology and Skills Matter have a common vision of innovation-based software engineering that brings smart and creative developers together to learn, share and develop new ideas and ways of working.

Many of my colleagues have attended Skills Matter conferences, meetups and courses in the past and have been very impressed by the passion, experience and engagement that defines their community. Below are two recent examples where Ocado Technology and Skills Matter have worked closely together for the benefit of the software community:

droidcon London 2016

droidcon is one of the best places to meet members of the Android community, listen to expert speakers, find out about all the latest Android advances and see fantastic new technologies. This year Ocado Technology sponsored the droidcon London 2016 party, and Andrew Lord gave a lightning talk on ‘Lambda expressions – An overview for Android developers’.

Droidcon Crowd

Crowd closeup

Droidcon party

Other speakers included Chris Banes (Designing the design support library), Huyen Tue Dao (A New View: Layout Editor + Constraint Layout) and Chet Haase (Really important things about the business of technology).

All the talks are now available online – simply go to the event programme and log in.

µCon 2016

µCon is a UK-based microservices expo and conference. The event took place on 7th – 8th November 2016 at CodeNode in London. Three hundred engineers and teams gathered under one roof to talk about serverless architecture, protocols, data science and deep learning, kafka, microservices integration, TDD and API, security, AWS, Zipnik, Spring, Lagom… and much more! There were also keynotes from Sam Newman, Adrian Colyer, Russ Miles and Anne Currie.

Mucon

Clayton Wells, software engineering team lead at Ocado Technology, presented ‘The asynchronous uncoordinated continuous delivery of 35+ microservices’. He detailed the e-commerce element of the new Ocado Smart Platform and explained how we’re building a resilient architecture that is designed to scale based on different customer requirements.

Alex Voica, Technology Communications Manager

December 7th, 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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Group of interns

New to tech? You’ve heard the experiences of our interns and apprentices before on this blog. Now for someone who hasn’t even started his career yet.

Secondary school student, Tiger, did his work experience here recently. In a Q&A with Tiger and one of his mentors, Diego, we found out what it was like and what he learnt.

Q Tiger, what did you expect before you came here?

T To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate. I suppose I envisioned cubicles, unfamiliar faces, maybe a few water coolers, and multi-monitor set-ups for all the developers. I was only correct in the last regard – I was put at ease by the open-plan offices, warm reception from everyone, and the very relaxed atmosphere.

Q What projects did you work on?

T I spent five days here on a variety of projects, including a system for unloading pallets, research on industrial robots, and the analytics and management platform.

D On the day Tiger worked with me, the project I gave him was to create a data visualisation, given certain information about temperature sensors. I tried to focus the experience on building software following all the industrial-level processes normally used to guarantee a good final product (test-driven development, versioning and branches, Maven, build server, code reviews).

I wanted to give Tiger a taste of the difference between developing software for yourself as a side project, and working as a team to develop software that’s high quality and reliable.

Q Were there any important lessons you came away with?

T I would say I learnt two lessons. The first would be how to approach a new workplace, people and challenges, which will certainly help calm the inevitable nerves when I start employment in the future.

The second, and I would say more important, is that there is always more to learn. I was continuously shown new programming languages, terminology, concepts and, as was the case in Robotics, advanced mathematics.

D On his day with me he developed in Java, which is not a language he was familiar with but he picked it up rather quickly. He was able to adapt to the new process of building software pretty rapidly – I was impressed with his attitude.

T I’d also add the importance of testing code. My hands-on with Java programming tasks would have been harder and more prolonged without testing to verify the code’s accuracy.

Q You obviously learnt a lot, but what were the hardest challenges?

T The first thing that comes to mind – and I guess it ties into what I was saying about important lessons – is paired programming. Whether it was writing string manipulation and number sorting algorithms, or using processing-cum-Java to manipulate and graphically display data, I was having to think on the spot about things I hadn’t done before.

I’d never given proper thought to the algorithms behind the convenient libraries or done graphical work, so coding on the spot was a real challenge. It was much less difficult with ample guidance, though.

Q Diego, on the flip side, how was the experience as a mentor?

D I have a background in education, so it’s nice to get experience of what students know, how they’re taught etc nowadays.

Also, it’s helpful to understand what concepts are less familiar or harder to explain to a neophyte, as it helps you foster the effectiveness of your own communications with non-technical people – such as your users might be.

Q So what’s next? What are your plans for the future?

T Nothing’s certain yet, but I hope to go to university and study for a degree related to computer science and physics. My goal is to go into artificial intelligence, since the existence of a sentient machine bent on destroying humanity helping science is an enticing prospect!

D I’d advise Tiger to keep building software and making it public on Github (as he’s already doing). Aside from guaranteeing experience and a portfolio once he’s finished studying, it’s crucial for any developer to keep their skills sharp. This can only be done by following the ABC of coding: Always Be Coding.

Also, keep on experimenting with with new tech and in different contexts. Don’t get stuck in a niche – keep your mind open and receptive.

Q Can you finish with a few words of advice for others doing work experience?

T

  1. As Diego said, enter with an open mind and be receptive to new knowledge and ideas.
  2. Don’t be nervous or prepare too much – it’s not an interview after all.
  3. Know the route and when to arrive, and set off early. This saved me the embarrassment of arriving an hour late.

July 14th, 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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