Plymouth University this week finds itself at the centre of a hacking campaign with vital Government data being accessed and opened up for hundreds of watching eyes right across the UK. Hackers in the UK’s Ocean City are swiftly searching through the data and identifying clever new ways of thinking and working which could change the way the Government operates in the future.
Panic over however. The first sentence of this release is completely true but the five people at the centre of this ‘scandal’ are aged just 16-18 and they are happily hacking away with the enthusiastic coaching and mentoring of Plymouth University’s acclaimed i-DAT department and team.
The sharp, youthful programmers are part of the innovative Young Rewired State 2013 team and are joined right across the UK by others in 50 cities and towns. Young Rewired State is a network of software developers and designers aged 18 and under with a clear focus to its find and foster the young children and teenagers who are driven to teaching themselves how to code, how to programme the world around them. The overall aim is to create a worldwide, independent, mentored network of young programmers supported and supporting through peer-to-peer learning. Ultimately solving real-world challenges.
This entire week specifically aims to make powerful, important public data available to imaginative young developers – such as those working away in Plymouth University. At the end of that, the developers should have improved their skills while showing government and the older programming community some fresh new ideas sourced from their own time on laptops, most likely in their bedrooms. All of the Plymouth-based young people will then make their way to join their hacking and programming colleagues at The Custard Factory in Birmingham this weekend where they will get access to globally renowned speakers and spend the weekend sharing their optimum work and learning from everyone else around them. Last year the Plymouth contingent was shortlisted for the ultimate winning award, and it is hoped that this year’s crack team will go all the way.
In the South West, Young Rewired State has hooked-up with i-DAT, Plymouth University’s catalyst lab for playful experimentation with data, and the i-DAT team is leading the local coders in their exciting week and resultant learning and work. i-DAT at Plymouth University is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.
Plymouth University is no stranger to innovation in this sector however. For the past 20 years the Digital Arts & Technology (DAT) course within Plymouth University has been producing global leaders in the field and a number of pioneering digital and media companies have been fostered within the university walls as a result.
i-DAT Director of Operations, B Aga, says, “We’re all about encouraging these local young people to ‘hack’ and code and to showcase their own, mostly self-taught, skills whilst experimenting and learning alongside their clever peers. The coding and programming sectors are obviously huge growth sectors yet very little of this vital teaching is being done in schools. We want to find these coders of the future now and start integrating them into the opportunities that we have here at Plymouth University and with i-DAT.”
B continues, “This type of swift and clever programming changes and evolves from day-to-day as new technology moves and develops and its natural that these young people are right ahead of the curve and often creating the curve. Young Rewired State takes all this energy and sharp thinking and puts it in one room with open source Government data. We’re amazed by what this Plymouth crew has come up with so far and we can’t wait to see what morphs out in the next few days.”
Chris Hunt, a graduate of the DAT course at Plymouth University and now a member of the team at i-DAT is leading this year’s team on the ground. Chris says, “Every year I’ve mentored and hosted Plymouth’s Young Rewired State, I never cease to be amazed by the breadth of talent on show at their age. These guys have the drive to keep building and exploring. It gives me faith in the future of the technology industry in the South West.”