Dancing Darth Vaders And Talking To Astronauts: Liam Cookson talks MozFest 2017

Liam Cookson: he's happy

Liam Cookson: he’s happy

So I got to talking to Liam Cookson of Cheshire West and Chester libraries a few weeks ago at a meeting. He was enthusing the room about MozFest, which I had only vaguely heard of. It all sounded great but too complicated for me to take in then and there. So he kindly agreed to do this blog post. Enjoy.

Mozfest: with that many people it looks like a Mosh-fest

Mozfest: with that many people it looks like a Mosh-fest

“I was the lucky recipient of a bursary from SCL to attend MozFest 2017. MozFest, or MozillaFest, is an internet festival organised by the people who you probably know as the creators of the Firefox web browser. An incredible number of talks, workshops and demos happen all through the weekend, from youth and family techie workshops to ultra-specific talks on innovation, data, privacy and more. There was not enough time to get to everything that tickled my fancy – in fact there was so much choice that I had multiple clashes at any one time period. But the difficult decision of which to sacrifice was lessened with the other #mozlibs public librarians who were on hand to share the learning all around.

As MozFest is not a libraries-exclusive festival, it was great to see the kind of interdisciplinary projects and achievements that have been made in technology and internet without the usual boundaries we can face. While the weekend and the experience as a whole was extraordinarily inspiring, motivating and illuminating, I have chosen some particular highlights that I have brought back to my service and put to good use, that I thought could help other public library staff.

Astro Pi: your library's chance to talk to space

Astro Pi: your library’s chance to talk to space

The Raspberry Pi foundation were at the Youth Zone showcasing a really cool project on the credit card-sized computer called Astro Pi, a super cool initiative that sends your code to the International Space Station. I immediately took the Astro Pi Mission Zero challenge back to my code club, who all loved it. Using the Sense HAT on a Raspberry Pi, (or the simulator on any computer) you can code your own message using Python that is guaranteed to go into space. Although it’s closed for this year now, you can keep your eyes peeled for it opening next year and check out the progress of the current mission here.

I immediately took the Astro Pi Mission Zero challenge back to my code club, who all loved it.”

Another addition to my code club was thanks to the MozFest Monster workshop. Led by Elsie of Girls2Geeks, a young person with lots of impressive knowledge and experience to share, we were shown Processing, a graphics based language that I had never heard of. Think of it like a visual programming language – using x and y coordinates to plot points that create images. Not only is it a great language for young people to get started with, it’s also great at teaching maths skills. While my monster was not the most impressive one by a long shot, it inspired me to research and play with Processing more to discover its potential beyond making funny faces and weird-looking monsters.

I found out about a nifty green screen app in a talk by See Think Make , who told us about a creative takeover of a local school that resulted in students receiving Arts Award qualifications. Green screen by Do Ink (iOS, Android, £2.99) is a very simple green screen app for homemade movies and a fantastic way to make stop motion and digital storytelling even more magical. While the app does have many free competitors, I found they generally offer in-app upgrades to gain full usability and end up costing more or the same. I made an amateurish Darth Vader dancing on the O2 Arena during the session, but later in Lego club we made some super cool videos Lego mini-movies.

 fantastic way to make stop motion and digital storytelling even more magical”

I’m really thankful for the opportunity to go, as it was so incredibly useful it’s beyond words, and I can’t wait to go back next year.”


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