Discussing Moonhack 2022 With Code Club Australia’s Kaye North
Moonhack is a global coding challenge, this year focussing on satellites. We chatted to Kaye North, who designed this year's Moonhack projects, about the challenge, her inspiration, and the benefits of participating.
Moonhack is once again running in 2022, this year during World Space Week. Moonhack is a global coding challenge that encourages young people to learn coding through fun projects that use real-world data to solve problems or tell stories.
In 2021, there were over 25,000 registrations for Moonhack, and since its inception, there have been over 150,000 participants.
Registrations opened on August 23rd for this year's Moonhack, and are still open until the program begins. Moonhack 2022 will run from October 10 to October 23 to coincide with World Space Week.
There are six brand new projects for Moonhack 2022 and you can read about them here.
Kaye North, a former teacher, and now Community and Engagement Manager at Code Club Australia is leading Moonhack’s Mission Control. Kaye came up with this year's theme and the six projects that participants choose from. We had a chat with Kaye about all things Moonhack - from how she came up with the projects to what participants will get out of Moonhack and more!
“Code Club Australia is really proud of our annual Moonhack challenge that has seen over 150,000 kids participate since it started 7 years ago. Telstra Foundation powers Moonhack each year to enable young people to thrive in our connected world,” said Kaye North.
To start with, what are the benefits for young people of participating in Moonhack?
Where do I start? Being part of Moonhack means being part of a global event that celebrates space and technology. When we work globally we are exposed to different ideas, different ways of working and the sharing of innovative thinking from everyone involved. This year we have 6 projects that will suit all levels of coders from beginners to more experienced, and the projects cover a broad range of content so there will be a project to suit everyone. While working through any of the 6 projects kids and adults are learning new coding skills, and at the same time developing skills such as computational thinking, design, persistence, resilience, innovation and creativity. And this year participating in Moonhack also means learning from some of our collaborators, Dr Brad Tucker from Australian National University and students at Tagai State College.
How can young people take the skills learned in these projects, and apply them in the real world?
Regardless of what we do in life, computational, innovative and design thinking are skills that we will always use. Coding uses each of these skills to work through a project from start to finish. It also brings about life skills such as persistence, resilience and my favourite debugging; finding something that is stopping the program from working and designing a solution. These skills carry into all areas of learning and can help young people make connections in other subject areas they are studying. Computational thinking in coding has a direct correlation to mathematics and problem-solving. Projects such as Light (Python project) also showcase the role that data plays in our world and how we can use data for purpose, to design solutions, in this case creating a more energy-efficient home. For this year's Moonhack in particular, young people will be able to take what they learn and have a more direct understanding of the important role of satellites in our everyday life, how they work, and what they do and someone may come up with more innovative ways to use this technology.
What’s the benefit of learning about space and coding simultaneously?
Coding can't be learnt on its own. It needs to sit within a context. Space is something that is loved by kids and adults worldwide so linking it to coding is an easy match. Further, though, space is where so much innovation has come from. Our world has so many inventions because of space exploration, and we want to inspire our kids to think big and think outside the box, but with purpose behind it. Our projects showcase the innovation of using space to further our sustainable practices - just imagine what kids will design from this!
This year Moonhack is focussing on satellites. Why do we want young people to know that satellites are so important in this day and age?
This year's project aims to develop an understanding of satellites, both natural and human-made, and the role that they play in developing a more sustainable world. When we talk about satellites most people only know about those that humans have put into space but moons and planets can also be called satellites as they are an object that orbits another! It is important for people to understand what a vital role man made satellites play in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Out of the 169 targets set out by the UN, 63 of these use satellite technology. Moonhack's projects showcase some of these targets in a way that kids can relate their everyday life to. This makes the learning from the projects relevant and purposeful and hopefully will spark some innovative thinking for the future!
What are the differences between the coding languages you offer for this year’s Moonhack projects?
Moonhack this year features 3 different coding platforms. 4 of the projects use Scratch coding which is block-based and uses colour to visually link types of blocks to particular actions. Scratch is a great platform for people who have never coded before to more experienced coders. Our projects range in ability and each project also has 3 challenges which can be an option at the end of the project to extend their learning, ideas and the digital solution they are creating. 1 of the projects uses Micro:Bits. Micro:Bits use block-based coding and the code can be tested using virtual Micro:Bits on the screen. Our project uses the multi editor to have 2 Micro:Bits coded to communicate with each other. Those who have their own physical Micro:Bits can extend their solution to creating a prototype for their solution as well as testing it in real life. The final project uses Python which is text based coding. This is aimed more at early high school coders who have moved beyond block coding. It showcases using large data sets as part of the program to draw information that is used to inform the end result.
How do you come up with projects that combine Western science, Indigenous science, games, and coding? It’s a lot of topics to cover!
Inspiration is all around us. I have been a teacher for over 20 years, and a learner for my whole life. Deciding on the theme of Moonhack led me to make links to life experiences, conversations with colleagues, connecting with people on social media, reaching out to experts, connecting with kids in code clubs and schools, and reading everything I could about satellites. All of this sparked ideas, sometimes far too many, and then the projects started to form. It was exciting to see them take shape and grow into coding projects that people around the world will use. In designing projects I wanted to ensure that there was something for everyone while also learning some new coding skills. This year we have incorporated the pen extension in Scratch which is a tool that isn't used very much. I was also keen to develop a clicker game as I have noticed that these are really popular with kids. And most importantly, I wanted at least one project to have an aspect of storytelling. Coding is not always about creating games and is a powerful tool for sharing information and stories so the Tagai project grew from this. I have been a teacher in Torres Strait and it has always held a special place in my heart, so being able to share the story of the Tagai constellation in collaboration with staff and students from Thursday Island has been a real honour.
How many participants are you expecting this year?
I had set a goal of 25,000. This would match the participation in 2021. As of today we already have 29,103 registrations and there are still 3 weeks until the event starts.
What can young people do to stay coding throughout the rest of the year?
Coding is everywhere around us so it's all about finding opportunities to explore it. All schools in Australia now teach coding as part of the curriculum so I'm encouraging classrooms to become their own coding clubs and to bring coding into all subject areas. Outside of the classroom, I would also suggest finding a local Code Club or help to set one up at your school or public library. Code Club Australia is a resource available to everyone to establish a Code Club. We provide over 140 coding projects, resources, posters, certificates, training and support to help get Code Clubs running for kids. Our website can also be used to find Code Clubs that are already established. I also suggest keeping an eye out for other challenges throughout the year such as Coolest Projects. In 2023 Code Club Australia is releasing an Australian first challenge called Code of Origin. Each term there will be new coding projects released that showcase what makes 2 states unique and there will be a vote to see which state has the best project. In term 1 we will start with Queensland versus New South Wales.
SpaceAustralia.com is proud to collaborate with Code Club Australia on the Moonhack program as part of our InspiringNextGen campaign. We hope you found this interview with Kaye as inspiring as we did! If you feel encouraged to participate in Moonhack yourself or get any young people you know participating in Moonhack 2022 click here.