Beginners welcome: Sister-and-brother duo dominate coding competition


Think you’re too young to make games? Think again. Sister and brother Connie (12) and Jonathan Renton (15), both from Scotland, crushed the 2015 Break into Code competition and placed in both of their age groups. The contest was an entry-level challenge to make a brick-breaker game using Microsoft Research’s TouchDevelop.

Connie placed first in the 9-13 age group with her game, “Rainbow Breaker.” She started coding at age 10 using Microsoft Research’s Kodu Game Lab and later moved onto TouchDevelop. According to Connie: “The coding is more difficult than Kodu, but because it is more advanced…it gives me more control over the games, making my games better.”

Control and creativity are themselves like siblings when it comes to game-making. But coding isn’t the only creativity that Connie brings to her games. She created all the artwork and other creative touches for the game, including the acrylic painting for the background and the music and sound effects that she recorded on her phone and remixed for the game.

In addition to the honor of winning first place, Connie says that the coding challenge was fun. “I really enjoyed participating in Break Into Code. This has inspired me to continue programming and take up computing as a future job.”

Connie’s brother, Jonathan, took third place in the 14-18 age group. Like Connie, Jonathan also started coding about two years ago. He first learned to code using Scratch before moving on to Visual Basic and Touch Develop. “I find coding fun to do, especially the way I can customize my games without being held back by limitations of how much can be done, because with coding you can make anything you want.”

 

Making the boss battle for the end of Jonathan’s third-place game, “Dragon Smash,” was especially challenging—and fun. “I just kept adding things to it,” like the code to have the end-boss follow the player’s paddle for an extra challenge. “It was fun to make as well.”

Jonathan says that taking third place in the older age group was a huge surprise for him. “Winning was a huge honor…competing against 18-year-olds worldwide—I was just amazed. It really is an inspiration.”

We have so many opportunities for students like Jonathan and Connie (and you!) to enter coding competitions that are fun and low stress. For instance, this year, Microsoft is teaming up with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to see what games, stories, and simulations students like you can create with code in the Imagine Cup Earth contest.

The competition is open to everyone ages 6-18. Contestants can enter either of two skill brackets. The beginner group requires no previous coding experience and uses free, learn-to-code tools like Kodu and Touch Develop. More advanced contestants can create web apps for the intermediate group using HTML5/CSS/Javascript, Python, or other web language of their choice.

So whatever your skill level, come share your creativity and bring your ideas to life. Register for Imagine Cup Earth today!

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