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Festival of Code 2015I recently helped out a team in the Young Rewired State Festival of Code as a mentor. I worked with three young people aged between 9 and 13 who were already accomplished hackers (in the positive sense of the word!) and quite probably future developers, to build a demo version of an app that connects businesses with an abundance of food - and hence waste - and food banks.

I offered assistance by quickly brushing up on Python - the language that we were all most comfortable with - and helped put together a server providing an open API linked up to MongoDB and helped to make a frontend interface for that in JavaScript. The result of much work by the participants was Ko-lect.

It has the potential to solve a real social problem. Companies spend huge amounts on disposing of food waste, but more importantly there are record numbers of people in this country who are in poverty and require the assistance of food banks, which are run as charities and are deeply linked to the local community.

There is precedent for a Internet-based solution being workable here: Feeding Forward have had success in the US. Bringing it to the UK is definitely workable.

Ko-lect reached the Festival of Code finals - in the category "Code a Better Country" - and won the Clockwork SMS challenge award.

There is of course the chance that this project will suffer the hackathon curse and never quite take off. But at the very least we hope to offer some inspiration with a great idea, and to put together a good open-source project that anyone can work with or carry on.

At the very least, I got to work with some very inspiring young people and helped them build something to be proud of. As an industry and profession, we need to let more young people try out coding and encourage and motivate those who have an interest. We need more developers, better developers, and these skills are becoming rapidly more important even for those who don't code for a living in our increasingly digital world. Until recently education has been lacking, making this sort of event much more necessary. I'd previously been a participant in the FoC and it provided much inspiration and confidence towards me becoming a developer.

Not only that; tech fields are in need of more diversity, and YRS has an excellent track record of attracting a more diverse group of participants every year: 32% of this year's participants were female. 

I would happily contribute as a mentor again - it's not only fun but can really help others - and I would recommend that anyone who is interested get involved.

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