Once upon a time, you wanted to be an astronaut. Maybe you had spaceman sheets and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Or, back when Pluto was still a planet, did you spend hours making a painted solar system for school, dreaming all the while of walking on Mars?
These days, of course, space is much more than a child’s fantasy. People all over the world are involved in the space industry, 179 000 in the US alone in professions ranging from satellite telecommunications and remote-sensing applications to the development and manufacture of new launchers and spacecraft.
The one thing that connects it all is code. So it makes sense that Space Exploration is the theme of this year’s Code Cyprus 2020. Originally launched in 2014 as a vehicle for projects that would benefit society, and especially the generations of the future, the seventh iteration takes place on Saturday at UCLan campus in Pyla, a vehicle for “inspiring high school students to take an interest in coding.”
“This fun code festival goes to space in 2020, to inspire more teenagers to take an interest in programming!” say organisers. “Have you ever dreamed of going into space?” they ask. “Have you wondered how the International Space Station works or ever asked yourself how a robotic rover on Mars – more than 50 million kilometres away – is remote-controlled from Earth?”
Perhaps you haven’t. Your space dreams may be a thing of the past but there’s a youngster somewhere in your family who is, right now, asking these very questions. And you owe it to the next generation to introduce them to this year’s Code Cyprus, and a bright future…
A full-day event packed with workshops (and a digital Treasure Hunt!), Code Cyprus is a jumping off point for kids aged 12 to 19 who are interested in tech, code, programming and – yes – space. “During the keynote speech and workshops, we’ll show how code is at the centre of all space exploration efforts,” say organisers. “From handling the robotic arm on the ISS, to computing the orbits for interplanetary travel, and remote-controlling a rover there’s a workshop you’ll love.”
Running in parallel (sadly, kids can only select one, so make it count!) these morning workshops include a Build Your Own Star Wars Game with Dr Josephina Antoniou which, aimed at absolute beginners, teaches simple coding principles and guides participants through a multimedia-rich experience; an intermediate workshop on Programming a Robotic Arm with Drs Marios Raspopoulos and Stelios Ioannou, which teaches the programming of a robotic arm in the performance of simple tasks; and Programming A Mini Satellite with Dr Maria Terzi, who will explain to more advanced learners how programming enables the control of hardware, guiding participant in the assembly of their own mini satellite to measure brightness and send it as a message back to Earth.
We also have the much-touted Drive Your Own Rover On Mars workshop, courtesy of Nicos Kasenides, in which intermediate learners will discover how coding telecontrols a robotic vehicle on Mars, and learn “through a graphical programming language and your own creativity to send code to a real robot and watch it as it explores the unknown landscape on Mars.” And lastly, there’s Harnessing The Power Of Data Analytics with Dr Panayiotis Andreou in which the more advanced will be introduced to Python for data analysis, gaining an overview of the main techniques in data analytics and learn how these can be used to discover and analyse raw data (such as on-site soil samples collected by the Mars Curiosity Rover).
Co-organised by UCLan and INSPIRE (the Interdisciplinary Science Promotion & Innovative Research Exploration), and sponsored by the US Embassy and the Youth Board of Cyprus among others, Code Cyprus 2020 is set to be youngsters’ path into the future. And, possibly, space.
“The technology related to the space industry is ever-expanding,” explains Dr Nearchos Paspallis, Associate Professor in Computing at UCLan. “By choosing this as our theme for Code Cyprus 2020, we’re giving context to the value of coding as a future profession. An ever-increasing sector, the field of information technology has more jobs than people for the most part,” he adds. “There’s a definite shortage in the supply of those who can work in the field, people who know how to code, and the number of jobs in this sphere is only going to grow as we move into the future. Even those who don’t work directly in the IT industry can benefit from learning to code,” he continues. “Working with a computer, browsing the internet – that’s like knowing how to read. But by learning to code, you’re also teaching yourself how to write: coding generates the content which makes up digital life.”
While this global trend means the tech teens of today will be the job-secure adults of tomorrow, there’s a very specific need in Cyprus, Nearchos adds. “Those of us in the information technology industry see, every day, just how high is the demand for professional coders. Cyprus is already a tech hub, and we’re noting a real need for this profession here on the island: tech companies are relocating to the island and they’re looking for competent employees. At the same time,” he adds, “there’s the remote work trend. More and more people on the island are working in IT for multinationals abroad. As a coder, you’re not limiting yourself to mere physical opportunities.”
Work for NASA but live in the Med? Well yes please! Alright, for those of us over a certain age, our astronaut dreams may never become reality. But nothing’s stopping your kids from coding their way into a fascinating (and secure) career. We’re not promising you’ve a Picard in the family, but Code Cyprus 2020 may just be the catalyst that has your children engaging with a future among the stars.
Code Cyprus 2020
For students aged 12 to 19. March 7 at the UCLan campus in Pyla. Tickets are free but spaces are limited. Visit https://codecyprus.org/2020 for more information