Who are you?
Luke Doyle, Director of SwopBots (CodeMe Creator)
What do you do?
We try to make coding and game design accessible for younger children, or for students who have learning difficulties. We do this through games and game-based exercises and activities. SwopBots is our original product, and we are currently working on a new version of it, called CodeMe Creator.
The initial product was designed for children aged 7+ years, but we were told by a special school we collaborate with that it worked better with students aged 13 and over. This meant that they needed something different for the younger students, who found SwopBots too challenging, and needed to create their own games using coding in a more accessible way.
We were in Cohort 6 and are a recipient of the Evidence-Aware EdWard.
What educational challenge are you seeking to address?
There has been a push on coding in schools, and in this particular school they used different coding applications. But they weren’t doing what the teachers wanted and they weren’t happy with them. This is why they wanted pupils to try out SwopBots.
So, we’ve been spending time in the school and observing how they use it. What we’re trying to develop isn’t high end coding, but it allows them to explore the principles of logical reasoning and what happens when you try different approaches.
What impact did the EDUCATE programme have on your product and company?
When I started on the programme I thought I had a product that the school would help me to test. But my mentor got me thinking about collaborative design and instead of going to a school with a finished product, I decided to have a blank page and to find out first what it was that students wanted. I would never have done this without being on the programme and may have wasted loads of time. Instead, with the new product, each stage of development was achieved knowing that it was going to work.
What impact has achieving an EdWard had on you personally, and on your company or product?
It is really recognition of the hard work, and an acknowledgement that we’ve worked on this product to make it the best it can be. It was a challenge, though, because my mentor kept coming back to me to refine the research, so I had to persevere. But it feels like it means something to have this recognition, because it took such a lot of hard work.
It also helped in the development of the product because it totally changed what I thought the product was going to be in the first instance.
Having an EdWard has added a certain credibility to the company, and the product.
What advice would you give to prospective EDUCATE participants?
I would strongly recommend any start-up participates in the EDUCATE programme. Doing so changed my whole approach, which become more collaborative and open to altering our company’s original plan. Anyone joining should be responsive and flexible to what they learn and how this might affect their work, and not be caught in a rigid mindset. But it depends on what stage you are at in your development. If you’re product is 90% complete, then that might not be practical. For us, and a product that was half-way there, it changes our way of thinking.