Ray Chambers, (@lanky_boi_ray) Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and award winning teacher, describes how and why he got his students involved in Kodu Kup UK. Ray shares his thoughts on this year great event.

Last year saw the launch of the Kodu Kup UK and it was amazing to see all of the entries and the hard work being put into each of the entry. This year I launched the Kodu Kup in my school, Uppingham College in Northampton, in a big way and went into a few assemblies and told the students about the opportunities. When I mentioned that the students had the opportunity to go to the Microsoft HQ in Reading, their eyes lit up.

In year 7/8 we have been doing a lot of programming over the last 2 years. We decided to get a head start on the new curriculum and have been using Kodu as a way in for our students. They connect with it and they relate to it. Our students use Xbox controllers to program their games, but you can use alternatives such as the keyboard and mouse.

This year the brief had changed slightly and the students were allowed to make a game on whatever they wanted! They had to come up with a concept, studio name and all of the background information for their game. We had a number of entries from Uppingham Community College but were really shocked when we were shortlisted. It was such an honour to get just a nod to say congrats on your hard work.

clip_image001This meant that the team ‘MADD HATT GAMES’ were invited to Reading on the 17th of July to present their game concept. The interesting thing is that it’s a bit of a fairy tail this story. When I told the students we all realised that the date of the competition was the date we were all due to go France on a trip. The students weren’t sure whether they would be able to cancel their places on the trip. They went home and spoke to parents and decided that they would cancel and give their place up for another student. What a choice to make, particularly when it’s a whole year group residential.

The students in this team were Joe Banerjee, Alfie Finch-Crichley and Jonathan Haley. They were a group made up from year 7 and year 8 and had been working on their Kodu game at home through the use of Skype. They would share their levels and collaborate in order to make sure their game was effective.

We arrived at the train station in the morning and the students had so much ‘kit’ with them. It was interesting to see all the work they had put in. They had brought a guitar, monopoly board, key chains and even loom bands! These guys meant business. After a 2-3 journey on trains and bus’s we arrived at the Microsoft HQ to be greeted by lots of lovely people. The students were very humbled by many of the people who struck up conversation but you could see they were really nervous.

The first half of the morning brought excitement. There were many schools who stood out for me. A primary school ‘Exmoor Federation School’ had a team of 7 year olds who went by the name of ‘Gryphon Games’. These guys were so on point. There was a young lad called ‘Guy’ who knew the game inside out and had a lot of charisma. I really enjoyed their presentation and it was great to see some of their merchandise they had produced. They did a fantastic job.

Another group who stood out were a group of young women who were encouraging women to get into technology. They had a great campaign behind them ‘#likeagirl’. The idea being that many people stereotype and say things like ‘you do it like a girl’. They were proud to be girls and they wanted to show that they like things just like any other person. It was a great message and I can see big things on the horizon for them.

clip_image002We broke for lunch (the important bit) and it was interesting to see what MADD HATT GAMES were tweeting. They were clearly loving the lunch provided by Microsoft. I have to say, I love the mini cheeseburgers.

It was after the lunch break that it was time for MADDHATTGAMES to present their game. They started off by talking about the team and explaining where they were from. They took some pride in coming from the smallest county in England ‘Rutland’ and they made a point of this which made me chuckle. They told jokes and then the merchandise game out. They had talked about some of it on the train but their presentation really showed how much they wanted it.

 

clip_image003They had included onesie’s, flip flops and even went as far to talk about making games consoles! I was impressed! They then presented the audience with Kodu Loom bands and even some key chains. They had put together a business plan! Things were only just getting started, the next minute they pull out their guitar and perform a song in front of the whole audience. This takes guts, I couldn’t do this and I commend them for doing this. They finished their presentation and you could see the relief on their face. The hard work was done.

A few more schools presented but they were all just as good. In the second half, the school that really stood out for me was ‘Marsden Primary School’. They Had a lovely group of students but they had presented a little puppet show to show the concept and they also had a lot of fun with it. When they invited a judge up for a live demo of their game, another judge chuckled. At this point, the little girl invited the other judge up saying that it was rude to point. They were lovely and had the whole room laughing for the right reasons.

We all had to leave the room next while they made their decisions! I remember having to make decisions like this in the past and it is not easy! There was so much talent in their room and so much drive from each student that they all wanted it. Microsoft were nice and gave us Ice Cream while we waited and it was a great opportunity for the students to talk to each other and to other people.

 

clip_image004When it came to the secondary school award, you could feel the tension with my students, they were all looking at each other like ‘who could it be’. Then they announced that they were the winner of the secondary school category. Their faces were priceless, they were in shock as they stood on the stage with their mouths open. That wasn’t it yet though! They had to announce the overall winner of the Kodu Kup. This would be the person who goes on to represent the UK in Belgium! The judges spoke to each other just to confirm they all had the right person and this just added to the tension. You could see all of them on the stage wondering who it could be. It was lovely that the girls from Afon Taf came to present the award to the rest of the groups so that they could pass it on to the new Kodu Kup champions. They calmed people down and explained how difficult it was to be in the situation last time and then announced the over all winner.

“MADD HATT GAMES!!!!”

If you thought their faces were shocked before… you should have seen it now. It didn’t really sink in. They were all looking at each other and I don’t think they believed their ears. Teachers get disgruntled from time to time about changes being made to teaching etc… but this is what it is all about! Seeing your students succeed and being so thankful about it. They came back off the stage and were like Oh ‘SIR! We Won!’ it was just such a great feeling for them. I could see the amount of hours on top of homework and school work that had gone into that presentation and I was so happy to see them rewarded for it. They’re all very excited and have already started planning their game on different platforms ready for the final. I wish them the best of luck and I hope they’re having a fantastic summer.

Thanks again to all the schools that made this year’s Kodu Kup such a great event. We will let you know how Madd Hatt Games get on in Kodu Kup Europe in October.