Galway’s Young Coders use Digital Skills to Protect the World’s Oceans

(l-r): Gavin Duffy, Director RealSim Ltd; Ciara Heanue from Ballyconneely, Co. Galway, winner of the Irish Junior Award; and Dr Veronica McCauley from NUI Galway’s School of Education.
Aug 24 2016 Posted: 10:58 IST

Thirteen young Irish people were honoured for their work in creating digital games and stories on the theme of the health of the oceans at the inaugural European Sea Change Coderdojo Challenge which was held in NUI Galway during the summer.

Ciara Heanue from Ballyconneely, Co. Galway, won the Irish Junior Award category for designing a game entitled ‘Wildlife Awareness’. Ciara received a prize of €300 and her game will be included in an iBook about cold-water corals that will be presented as a teaching resource to secondary schools.

Conor Salmon and Liam Forde for ‘Gully’s Clean-up’, and Adam Gallagher, Evan Thornton and Daniel Bradley Coyne for ‘Flappy Fish’ were joint winners in the Irish Senior Award category and shared a prize of €500.

Due to the high standard at Junior level, three other Irish Junior Merit Awards were awarded to: Sean Connolly, Ruan O’Dowd and Diarmuid O’Donoghue for their ‘Save My Sea game; Paul Schuler, Michael Salmon and Liam Ferrie for ‘SOS - Save Our Seas!’; and Sean Kerr for ‘Animal Saver’.

Attending the challenge were Deputy Mayor of Galway City, Councillor John Walsh; Chairman of Coderdojo Galway City, Dr Karl Sweeney; and Co-founder of Galway Coderdojo Brendan Smith, who commend the young Galway game designers for using their coding skills to highlight an issue that is of such global concern.

The Sea Change Game Design Challenge was launched in February this year and invited entries from CoderDojo members aged 7-18yrs entrants from Galway. The initiative was also piloted in Lund, Sweden with the possibility of rolling it out across Europe over the next two years. Single and team entrants were encouraged to use their CoderDojos and mentors to develop their games over the three months

The challenge is organised by NUI Galway as part of their contribution to a European project called “Sea Change” which aims to establish a fundamental change in the way European citizens view their relationship with the sea. 

Dr Anthony Grehan, Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway and co-organiser of the event, said: “The challenge is to use the fun and popularity of designing and playing tech games to raise awareness of marine issues like the need to protect cold-water coral reefs, how we can begin to address the scourge of micro-plastics, and how we can maintain healthy oceans and seas, for ourselves, for the animals that live in them, and ultimately for the planet.”

“There was a surge of interest with 32 entrants from Galway alone, revealing a strong and enthusiastic coding community, which is particularly relevant from an informal learning perspective, considering the recent Digital Strategy for Schools, 2015-2020 and its promotion of coding and programming at both primary and secondary level”, said Dr Veronica McCauley from NUI Galway’s School of Education and co-organiser of the event.

The game design was reviewed by a panel of experts including Alan Duggan of, Gavin Duffy, RealSim Ltd., and Triona Mac Giolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategy, and judged on ‘best concept’ and ‘ease of use’. 

Brendan Smith, Education Outreach Officer at INSIGHT, NUI Galway and Co-Founder of Coderdojo Galway, said: “The aesthetic and technical merit of the project submissions has been highly commended by the judges. And as such, we are delighted to hear that one of the winning games will be included within a soon to be published iBook about cold water corals that will be presented as a teaching resource to secondary schools.”

Irish Finalist games are available online at Other marine related resources are available on the project website at


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