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Greytown kids help ‘hack the moon’

Keiran Downs giving the thumbs-up to new robot technology funded by Greytown Trust Lands Trust. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Children at the Greytown Coding Club are hoping they have helped to break a world record in a coding event involving children from all over the globe this week.

To commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing yesterday, Code Club Australia set up a free worldwide event called Moonhack, which aims to get as many children as possible coding on one day.

Coding involves writing programmes for computers.

In 2016, 10,207 Australian children participated, but the world record was broken last year when the event went global, with 28,575 children coding.

Code club leader and Greytown resident Julian Downs said taking part in the event shows children how fun, easy and exciting coding can be.

He said although coding taught children computer programming, they learned other valuable skills along the way.

“It’s a really cool, fun way of getting kids to learn about technology and coding but also about science.

“It opens them up to what else is out there.”

The club meets at Greytown Primary School and is made up of around 15 pupils aged from eight to 12,

Downs was approached to become a Coding Club volunteer due to his experience working in the technology team at Westpac bank in Wellington.

He needed somewhere to host the club, which is where Greytown School came in.

“I went to Patrice [O’Connor, principal] and said I wanted to run a coding club at the school and she said, ‘Hell yes’.”

The club meets weekly and Downs was happy for primary-aged pupils from any school to come along, as coding was a fundamental skill these days.

“I’m sharing the technology knowledge I have and getting them excited about it.”

The club secured extra funding from Greytown Trust Lands Trust this year, which meant they could purchase robots and drones, and have fun programming them to fly around.

He said taking part in the Moonhack event meant children got to experience space-themed coding activities, such as a game where they had to guide a moon lander.

“They got the landing [worked out] in about 10 to 15 minutes,” he said.

They also used their drones as ‘Mars landers’, which got them thinking about the scientific side.

“It got them asking, ‘What’s the gravitational force on Mars versus the moon?’, and ‘How would I change my code to get it to land on Mars instead?’.”

Downs is now looking to diversify the programme to get more girls enthusiastic about joining the club.

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