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Make It Creative once again teamed up with Microsoft Japan for a third consecutive year of YouthSpark Live workshops, part of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative which serves to increase access for all youth to learn computer science, and empower them to achieve more for themselves, their families and their communities.

This unique one-day workshop was designed to kick-off the next phase of community development within the iLEAP alumni community, by cultivating strong interpersonal relationships through a series of team challenges.

30 alumni who had previously participated in the iLEAP program in Seattle between 2014 and 2016, gathered at the Microsoft Japan headquarters to explore the future potential of their community.

They engaged in a rich discussion on how their shared experiences in Seattle could lead to the development of a powerful, supportive community here in Japan, that could help them as both individuals and as a group realize their full potential to create positive social impact.

As a part of this process of exploration, the participants created a group manifesto that summed up their shared ethos.

In tandem with this, the workshop introduced core coding principles, and taught essential programming skills through a robot coding competition and website creation project.

About iLEAP

iLEAP is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire and renew social leaders and global citizens through integrated leadership programs that ignite hope and transformation in the world.

About the TOMODACHI-Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program

A program designed to cultivate a new generation of Japanese social entrepreneurs and community leaders (ages 18-25) who are prepared to make a positive difference in Japan, the United States, and around the world.

Each year when designing our YouthSpark Live workshops, of which coding is always a core component, we have started from scratch and re-considered what the best approach to introducing programming is. In 2014 we based it on app creation, whilst in 2015 we introduced Arduino-based IoT devices with sensors and actuators.

Having seen rapid growth in the educational-robot market, for our 2016 workshops we decided to embrace the concept of controlling physical objects through programming. With our time being limited to a single day for each workshop, it was crucial that the participants be able to get up and running in a very short space of time – that is, we couldn’t afford to have technology get in the way of learning. It was for this reason that we chose to use the Sphero, a bluetooth enabled educational robot that can be programmed through a mobile app with a drag-and-drop interface.

Check out the video from our earlier YouthSpark Live Robot Challenge in Kamaishi

Teams were tasked with designing their own robot race courses, to which they could add as many obstacles as they liked, with each obstacle successfully navigated adding points to their score. Additional points were awarded for use of loops and variables.

This 90-minute session started with learning basic navigation, and culminated in a competition in which each team raced their robots around their courses, picking up points along the way. between teams, with teams showing immense creativity and perseverance in order to successfully complete the challenge within the allotted time.

With the majority of participants having not programmed before, this activity gave them not only a hands-on experience of using code to move physical objects, but also instilled within them the confidence to simply give it a go; they understood that with modern tools and a can-do attitude programming can be accessible to all, and has a myriad of uses.

For the afternoon session we introduced a design thinking process that served to get to the core of the participants’ ideas, dreams and goals for their alumni community. Based on the popular Holstee Manifesto, the iLEAP Alumni manifesto (the draft of which you see above) was a distillation of the many ideas and beliefs to have emerged through the previous discussion on the potential of the Alumni group, that is, it brought together shared values and beliefs as expressed by the community, providing them with a common set of values around which to unite.

The manifesto also provided us with the material to introduce a second coding session, this time focused on coding for communication, through the creation of a mini-website.

Using the Windows Surface computers provided, the manifesto was posted on a WordPress site set up for the workshop, with participants marking it up using HTML & CSS.

A second website activity tasked cross-cohort pairs with interviewing one another, and then using the information gleaned to create profile pages in WordPress for their partners.

Whilst the website was not made for public use, it served three important purposes: providing hands-on experience of online content creation and coding; allowing the community members to get to know one another through profile interviews; gathering core content / data that can now be used on a new Alumni Yammer portal site that the community are planning to create soon.

This is just the beginning

This workshop was just a starting point, giving the iLEAP Alumni community the opportunity to think, discuss and debate the path ahead that they will take together, to realize their full potential as social leaders and global citizens.

By creating an initial draft of their communal manifesto, and through creating rich cross-cohort relationships, the team are now in a strong position to proceed with creating their own online Alumni Portal, with Yammer as their chosen platform, and benefiting from the continued support of Microsoft.
This will help facilitate deeper cross-team relationships & collaboration.

Make It Creative looks forward to continuing to develop the relationship with the iLEAP community, playing a small role in the growth of this empowered group of individuals who are set on a course for positive social change.

“It was such a pleasure seeing how our graduates are working together to create something new and creative! Particularly it was very exciting for me to see that they’re actively thinking about what they’d like to do for their community.

Thank you so much for all the support and making this special opportunity happen!”

Kei Eriksen
Senior Program Manager, iLEAP