Ritvik home screen Ultimate Tower OffenceTrinity School in Croydon starts taking in boys from Year 6. So when its new Head of Digital Literacy, Sacha van Straten, arrived last September, he was looking for a way to get younger students excited about coding. He says, ‘Kodu offered the perfect combination of simplicity, engaging graphics, and fast results. Before I knew it students were crowding into the IT rooms every lunchtime, to code and play each other’s games. Pretty soon older students saw what the Year 6 boys were doing and asked if they could try it in lessons too. The response was incredible.’

Kodu became so popular that in December one of the Year 6 pupils, Ezra Jeyamugunthan, approached Sacha with the idea for a Kodu Cup. Interestingly, he didn’t know about the national William Albuquerque Fall of Olympus 2competition, but was keen to have a Junior school event in which boys from years 6 to 8 pitted their coding skills against each other. Ezra had produced a PowerPoint presentation explaining his idea and made a poster in Publisher. He says, ‘I saw everybody was interested in Kodu, so I thought it would be good to have a competition to boost their enthusiasm. I’m delighted with how it’s gone. I’m hoping to carry on and get more people into programming.’

Over twenty completed games were submitted, with the eventual winner being Year 7 student William Albuquerque. His multi-level entry, Fall of Olympus, contained a training section and increasingly hard challenges. He says, ‘I was reading a couple of fiction books containing Greek myths so I thought, why not make a game about that? It took about two hours to code the game. Getting a smooth tutorial that was neither boring nor too difficult was challenging, and getting the next level command to work took some practice. I like coding games and hope to make lots more.’

William Albuquerque Fall of OlympusThe winning entries displayed a wide range of approaches to gaming. Second placed Charlie Short, a Year 8 student, went for a fast and frantic single shooter. ‘I knew I wanted something with platforms and shooting. I thought it would be good to have cannons shooting at you, like 3D space invaders. Coding in Kodu was a lot easier than I thought it would be.’

Third placed winner William Perry, also in Year 8, used colour and terrain to produce a fiendishly tricky game, involving an apple hunt while under constant attack. He describes his thinking, ‘I started trying out different elements and levels. Eventually, I thought it would be more interesting if I linked levels together. I decided to add a red apple in a red landscape. The game goes through a series of harder challenges. The last level was really hard and there’s only one way to complete it. I hid the apples behind walls and used the terrain to make the game more difficult. I also use Dream Spark at home and like building virtual machines. At the moment I’m running Windows Server on a virtual machine using Hyper V. I’m planning to be a Disney Imagineer.’

A special prize was awarded to Year 7 pupil Ritvik Rathore for his topsy turvy take on the classic tower defence game. ‘ItWilliam Perry level 1 started like a tower defence game. I find them challenging and felt it would be good to make an addictive game in Kodu.’ he says. ‘When I started to plan my game I wanted to make it unique so I flipped it around and made it a tower offense game. It gives a good twist to the type of game I play normally.’

The other recipient of a special prize was Year 6 pupil Yaadhavan Thevathas, who produced a lightning speed racing game. ‘I like cars a lot so I decided to make a car game. Most people were doing obstacle games and I wanted to be different. I want to inspire people to make more car games as they’re interesting and offer lots of challenges.’ he says excitedly.

Yaadhavan My Kodu TruthSo what happens next? The school is exploring the possible use of Windows 8 tablets and currently owns a couple of Surface Pro 2 devices. With the launch of Project Spark Sacha is hoping to put a team together to enter the national competition in May. ‘There’s a lot of talent and enthusiasm amongst the boys at Trinity that I want to channel into more advanced coding and game design. Project Spark will add another dimension to that and the pupils who have seen the Beta version can’t wait to get stuck in! Although we use Scratch, Python, and other tools for coding,

Kodu has proved the one with universal appeal. It’s the best way I’ve found to get students excited about the potential of coding.’

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