UK child coders triumph in European contest

Kodu Kup winners Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption The three winners pictured with a fellow pupil who came along to film the event

Three young coding enthusiasts from the UK have beaten off European competition to win a gaming contest organised by Microsoft.

The Kodu Kup challenges children to create their own game using Kodu, Microsoft's visual programming language.

The winning game was a futuristic one in which players compete to defeat an evil robot.

The competition is part of a huge push to get children doing more coding.

Dragons' Den

Alfie Finch-Critchley, aged 14, and 12-year-old team mates Joseph Banerjee and Jonathan Haley are from Uppingham Community College in the East Midlands.

Their futuristic game, Confined - which was inspired by Valve's title Portal - won the 12-16 age category.

They competed against teams from Portugal, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Lithuania and Estonia in the final, in which they had to complete a Dragons'-Den style pitch to a jury of MEPs, education and gaming experts.

"Computational thinking helps our young people to understand and play an active role in the world that surrounds them," commented Simon Peyton-Jones, chair of the Computing at School campaign

"The Kodu Kup provides an opportunity for children to creatively engage with computing, whilst also teaching them the coding skills which will help them to secure the jobs of the future."

Team work

Speaking about the process, Alfie said: "Apart from the event itself, the best part of participating in the Kodu Kup for me was the teamwork. We worked together and we were able to take our individual talents and combine them to get the best result possible.

"Kids don't always need to be told what to do to understand things, through computational thinking and perseverance you can find out for yourself, and if you can get a grasp of computers and computer science you can understand the world around us."

Judge Kelly Smith, head of television and games at BAFTA, said that the standard of the competition "blew me away".

The winners were chosen for their presentation, the details they had put into their game and the way they had worked as a team.

"They had really thought about the design, usability and where their product would be placed in the market, which is remarkable for a group of 12- to 14-year-olds," she said.

The competition is part of EU Code Week, an initiative aimed at getting more children interested in coding.

Microsoft, together with Facebook, Rovio, SAP and Liberty Global, have formed a coalition to launch a pan-European online platform to drive participation in coding.

In September, coding in English schools was made mandatory for all children aged five to 16.

The BBC is a partner in a UK-based coding initiative dubbed Year of Code, which aims, among other things, to crowdsource funding to help parents, pupils and educational organisations get involved in coding.

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