Two siblings from Paisley Scotland have become winners of Break into Code, beating hundreds of students from around the world, as far as Brazil and India. Connie Renton aged 12 won the 9-13 age category with her game Rainbow Breaker, and her brother Jonathan, aged 15 came in third place in the 13 – 18 age category with his game Dragon Smash.
Break in Code is a beginner level coding challenge and part of the Imagine Cup. Based on Microsoft Research's TouchDevelop, the competition gets students of all ages started with an easy to follow tutorial on coding a brick breaker game, and from this blank canvas, students can customize their game and make it their own.
Connie herself is an experienced coder. She placed third in the Scottish KoduKup when she was 11, and participated in the Hour of Code, using Touch Develop. She wrote a blog herself about how she created her winning game, which she describes as her greatest achievement thus far.
'I am very creative and I like that I can turn my ideas into a reality using TouchDevelop. It is more advanced, which gives me more control over the games I can make. Touch develop allows me to express my creativity I can import my own graphics and music. I created acrylic paintings for the artwork of the game and created the music by playing my piano and other instruments and then editing them on an app on my smartphone.'
Jonathan Renton, creator of Dragon Smash described how Break into Code was one of the biggest challenges that he has faced:
'Break into code was like a whole new frontier to me as it was my most challenging project I have ever taken on.'
To be one of the winners was an amazing honour. Like his sister, Jonathan really enjoys using Touch Develop as it allows you to customise games with no limitations' and make your characters do whatever they want. However, Jonathan found that this project has brought new, challenging aspects to coding and as a result, he has developed valuable soft skills such as working to a deadline and advanced problem solving skills.
This was the first time both students have entered Break into Code, and this is only the start for them in terms of competitive coding.
Jonathan encourages everyone to try coding as he describes it as 'very easy to learn' and he even plans to continue this within his studies. His advice is to start from the basics and gradually build up your knowledge and taking on different projects such as Break into Code, will really test you and push you further.
Similarly, Connie encourages children her age to join a programming club at school as collaborations with other students and teachers can help improve your understanding.