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24 August 2009, 13:10

Community Live – The Young Rewired State

A report on the Rewired State event for 15 to 18 year olds that took place on the 22nd and 23rd of August at Google HQ London, Victoria

By Wendy M. Grossman

"Digital natives," the over 40s like to call today's teens. So that was this weekend's challenge: if you got a load of 15 to 18-year-olds together and gave them some mentors and a place to code, what would they produce?

Young Rewired
Like its adult predecessor back in March, Young Rewired State challenged the gathered coders to hack together whatever they could in two days with no money – and embarrass the government's giant IT edifice. Like their adult predecessors, the young hackers succeeded.

"There were a lot of tough messages for people like me in government who control information and data and APIs," said Mark O'Neill, the chief information office for the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport and one of the award judges.

"Is it possible to fund 16-year-olds?" another judge, Daniel Heath from the Channel 4 digital media fund, wanted to know. "These are exactly the types of things we would be looking to fund."


The best in show award went to School Routr 2.0 beta. The idea: match mapping and crime statistics to show parents where crimes have taken place along the routes their kids take to school. This project searched newspaper articles for crimes and geocoded them. It won out over the rather similar Safe Steps project, which used real crime data but didn't get as far along toward showing the quickest and safest routes to school. The judges award Best in Show to School Routr 2.0.
Zoom The judges award Best in Show to School Routr 2.0.
The Google award for the application or service mostly likely to be bought by Google was TFHell, a project to scrape real-time departure boards for London buses, which are already tracked by radio and GPS. The idea is that when you want to get a bus you can look up when it will actually get to the bus stop – no more waiting in the rain looking at your watch. The system has been built – but the data to make it live is copyright and not released. Only one line of code needs to be changed when the data is available.

Harry Metcalfe, managing director of The Dextrous Web and an award winner at the last Rewired State, said the "I wish I'd thought of that" award was intended to go to "a project that's such a blindingly good idea we're amazed it's not already there and think should just be there straight away." The winner: Will Work for Peanuts, put together by Daniel Kershaw, Shyam Thakrar, Vivan Jayant, Bryant Tan, and Chris Parsons-Giles, which aims to close the experience gap. It's the old saw: you can't get a job without experience, and you can't get experience without a job. Will Work for Peanuts has an ultra-simple interface: two search boxes. One is for coders looking for stuff to do; the other is for people looking for coders to do stuff, who can't pay, but can give coders experience to put on a CV to land them their first job.

The award for the service most likely to antagonise the CIO council went to How's My Train, a project to monitor train punctuality that relies on querying the TFL API. The difficulty there was that although the data is available it expires two minutes after a train arrives. So the project wrote an algorithm to query constantly and store the results.

Winners were given their choice of iTunes vouchers or mentoring.

Next: Special Mentions

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