The Lab: CodeCards - the game that could help find the British Bill Gates

Rob Waugh

A card game which makes computer coding as simple as assembling a jigsaw could be the key to finding the British Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

CodeCards are the brainchild of 18-year-old Joe Dytrych - and are shown off in The Lab, a weekly video series made by Yahoo! and Sky that explores the ideas of Britain’s brightest young inventors.

By turning computer coding into a game, Dytrych hopes to tempt youngsters to learn a skill that he thinks will be essential in the near future.

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“To be able to compete in the coming years, you’re going to have to be able to code,” says Dytrych, who lives in Brighton. “Even now there are virtually no industries which don’t involve software.”

The current curriculum in Britain’s schools has been criticized for focusing too heavily on office skills - and too little on programming. From 2014, a revamped version will focus more on coding. Dytrych’s CodeCards could help children to have an “early start”.

The cards contain simple commands - such as “move” - and fit together like puzzle pieces. Underneath each one is a square code which a webcam can “read”.

By playing the simple jigsaw-style game on a glass table, youngsters learn how to “fit together” commands.

“When you place the card on the table, the computer looks for the squares and then interprets the code to find the number, and then “reads” it as a command,” Dytrych says. Using the cards to “control” a computer offers a basic introduction to programming.

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Julie Meyer,  Managing Partner of Ariadne Capital Entrepreneurs Fund, was impressed by Dytrych’s ideas and energy, “If you look at the Bill Gates and the Mark Zuckerbergs, these young men are the ones who create the biggest opportunities in the market - their brains haven’t absorbed the fact that you usually try and don’t succeed.”

Eidos life president Ian Livingstone CBE said earlier this year that children’s programming skills are key to Britain’s future. “Coding doesn't just affect the game industry - it's all the creative and digital industries. Whether it's fighting cybercrime, helping build a jet propulsion engine or writing financial services packages, code is core to everything in the digital world that children live in today.”