Author: Victoria

100 Years of Finland, 100 Days of CodeBus

Finland became an independent state on 6 December 1917. The year 2017 marks a century of independence for the land of a thousand lakes and home of Santa Claus. In addition to being a chance to look back at the nation’s history, the centenary year is also a time to contemplate the future and what Finland can still become.

But what would a jubilee such as this be without a party or a few? Nothing, which is why various forms of celebration are taking place – in fact, over 2,000 events and projects are organized to commemorate the year. From a huge New Years’ event featuring crazy cool special effects and top artists that shut down the main street of Helsinki to more prolonged projects both within and without the physical borders of Finland, all festivities aim to realize the Finnish values of equality and democracy. The official Finland 100 programme covers a wide array of themes, including arts and culture, children and youth, corporate cooperation, sports and exercise, and science, research and education. Fusing education, programming, youth empowerment, creativity, and international community cooperation, CodeBus Africa fits into several of these.

CodeBus is led by Aalto University and organized in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, NokiaMehackit and over 15 local African innovators. By bringing together African and Finnish knowledge and innovation, the project respects the centenary values and concretely realizes the core theme of a 100-year-old Finland: “together”. Furthermore, the 100-day mission advocates equal opportunities in technology by targeting especially girls and marginalized youth. CodeBus is not only fun and funky, but an initiative that aims to benefit our societies as a whole.

Don’t forget to follow the journey on Facebook, or Twitter/Instagram @codebus_africa!

Mid-Tour Recap

Last week marked the halfway point of CodeBus’ tour, when Uganda beautifully wrapped up an intensive streak of five countries. We cannot wait to jam with the remaining five countries, and we are more determined than ever to advance our mission of inspiring youth to discover and make use of technology in their lives!

On Thursday evening, the Aalto instructors’ bunch came together to hear stories from those that had returned, ease the nerves of those yet to go and just share the love. The vibrance of positive energy of the stories could almost be felt! Here are snippets of some memorable moments:

In Ghana, a DJ playing the youth’s own songs and local hits each day, and the awesome dance sessions that followed,

In Nigeria, inspirational women in tech giving motivational speeches to further encourage girls to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics,

In Ethiopia, using just Sonic Pi to teach basic computer skills to children who had never touched one before, and in just 3 hours, them advancing to writing their first line of code,

In Kenya, 300 Kiberan children gathering to listen to the Sonic Pi songs created the same day, and local rapper Slavey taking the role of an M.C. to get everybody super pumped up,

In Uganda, successfully overcoming the challenge of language barriers thanks to the wonderful local instructors.

The instructors described the workshops as dynamic and diverse, each group often consisting of students from various different schools. In one instance, a 9- and a 19-year-old formed an unlikely, yet truly synergistic, pair. Anssi, who had just landed back in Finland the previous day, said he feels grateful to have been part of an important project and to have witnessed the joy of discovery strongly present at the workshops. There was a general consensus that one of the best parts about being an instructor was seeing the children take leadership by co-teaching and sharing their knowledge with others.

This week kicks off a set of workshops in Tanzania. Today, our Aalto instructors met their amazing local colleagues, and now they cannot wait to meet the youth next!

Aleksi’s Pre-Trip Thoughts

Hi! I’m Aleksi, and tomorrow, I will be landing in Dar es Salaam, which is Tanzania’s and, in fact, the entire Eastern Africa’s most populous city. On the scale of the whole project, my trip is just the short leg of a long journey, but it sure feels huge to me. I have never been to Tanzania or to Africa at all, for that matter. I am approaching the trip with a curious mix of excitement, confusion and uncertainty – a familiar concoction that has accompanied me since day one of this creative adventure called CodeBus. I have a faint clue of what to expect: awesome people, sweltering heat and unforgettable experiences. Apart from that, I am probably in for something wonderfully unforeseeable, which, of course, is part of the charm.

But this project is not just about me, which has become very clear during the last few months. Our Aalto University instructors’ group is a wonderful bunch of interesting personalities, and the amount of people involved in the project altogether is astounding. From the core CodeBus team, mehackit, Finnish embassies and companies to African tech hubs, universities and instructors, the list seems never-ending. Oh, and not to mention all the super cool kids we are going to make music with! The size of the project just blows my mind, and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Speaking of making music, one aspect I have been pretty interested in is Sonic Pi, the Ruby-based coding environment we use to teach the youth to code, make music and think programmatically. I feel like Sonic Pi makes both music-making and programming a breeze, and the Finnish students we have held our first workshops for have said the same. Despite its simple user interface, Sonic Pi really packs a punch. Don’t believe me? Check out Sonic Pi’s creator Sam Aaron (who gave a shout-out to CodeBus on Twitter) giving 2 hour live gigs using only Sonic Pi. I myself gave two 20 minute ones for an audience not too long ago, something I definitely had not imagined doing any time soon.

So, all in all: life is full of surprises and it is very interesting to see what lies ahead. For now, I just have to wrap up all my pre-travel preparations before I get to unlock the next chapter of this exciting journey!

– Aleksi
Aalto University instructor for CodeBus Africa

A Successful Press Day in Helsinki

With our kick-off right around the corner, the travel preparations are in full swing on Helsinki’s side. An important part of prepping has been sharing our story with the public, and yesterday we had the pleasure of doing so for the first time with Finnish media.

Last morning, intrigued journalists from the main national publications arrived at Aalto University’s Töölö campus to learn what CodeBus is all about. We offered the press insight into the project from the multiple perspectives of all our key Finnish partners: representatives from Aalto, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the project’s main sponsor Nokia and corporate partner Mehackit took turns on the stage to speak about their roles, goals and motivations for being part of CodeBus.

Tommi Toivonen, the father of the Sonic Pi music programming curriculum at Mehackit, used the opportunity to also demo the workshop software for the audience’s delight. There is hardly a better way to grasp the ease and immediate feedback of Sonic Pi than seeing a line of text produce a sound at the press of the Enter key – unless, of course, you are typing the commands yourself. This is what the guests were able to try out at the end of the session, assisted by our newly trained instructors from Aalto University.

We would like to express thanks to all the media present, and we look forward to updating you as our tour soon commences in Ghana!

See CodeBus featured on Helsingin Sanomat and Tivi (articles in Finnish).

– Vilma
Communications Lead for CodeBus Africa