Ocean View library cracks the code

The five members of the Ocean View library coding team with their medals, from left, are Grace Frank, Shakeer Geldenhuys, Orlando Baker, Craig Titus and Aaron Smith, with Leva Foundation CEO Ryan le Roux, back left, and librarian and coding coach Ulfah Davids, second from right, and portfolio committee chairperson for community services and health Ronel Viljoen

Five teenagers representing Ocean View library emerged victorious in a Mandela Day coding tournament.

Teams from 26 City libraries and six schools participated in the Library Coding Network’s Coding4Mandela tournament on Tuesday July 18 at the Old Children’s Library, at the City Hall.

The tournament saw the young coders work in teams of five racing their way through a 35-level digital game designed to teach them basic coding.

The teams received puzzle pieces with fragments of code on them and a device with the gaming app. The objective was to catch a poacher by moving a ranger across the grid to his location, arranging the physical puzzle pieces correctly and scanning the resultant code into the app.

The game became more challenging as teams moved on to the next level.

The Ocean View library team won the competition, Excelsior High School in Belhar took second place and Valhalla Park library’s second team came third.

Ulfah Davids, the assistant librarian at Ocean View library, helped to prepare the young coders. She attended a one-day workshop on the benefits of coding and how to play the game before introducing the game, in mid-June, to children in the library’s coding club.

“The kids in the coding club are so talented. From the minute I introduced the game, they easily understood all concepts, and they kept getting better with each session held. They are eager to challenge their minds and cannot wait for the next sessions to try and find better ways to solve levels – this also shows how excited they are to spend their afternoon coding! I have seen real growth, and their passion and dedication is something I am extremely proud of,” Ms Davids said.

The tournament was organised by Tangible Africa, a joint project of the Nelson Mandela University computing sciences department and the Leva Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to make coding concepts more accessible to children.

The City’s library and information services partnered with the university and the foundation to host the tournament.

According to the Leva Foundation’s website, the concept for Tangible originated from a Tanks game app developed by 21-year-old student Byron Batteson for his honours project in 2017. Professor Jean Greyling, head of the computing sciences department at NMU, identified the potential and expanded the concept.

From the original Tanks, two more game apps, Rangers and Boats have been developed.

The Echo spoke with some of the children during a coding session at the library. Grace Frank, 15, said Ms Davids had suggested the coding club to her, when she was at the library. She was selected as one of the five participants for the competition and found it fun and exciting.

Aaron Smith, 15, joined the programme after seeing the other children playing the game at the library, and he said he had enjoyed the tournament.

Shakeer Geldenhuys, 18, said he had found the competition easy and was enjoying the weekly sessions at the library.

Ms Davids said the programme had exposed the participants to other worthwhile activities at the library.

“It has also opened up new passions for some of them as they have now joined our chess classes and art classes that are offered at the library, and it has encouraged them to borrow books and to read. It is a brilliant initiative, and all children and youth in the community should be joining in,” she said.

Coding sessions are held every Wednesday at 3pm at Ocean View library.

Participants in the library coding programme, back, from left, are Shakeer Geldenhuys, Grace Frank, Akeelah Williams and Meah Jacobs with librarian Marlene Davids and assistant librarian and coding coach Ulfah Davids. In front, are programme participants Craig Titus and Aaron Smith.