Tynker Summer Code Jam is underway! It’s the hottest coding competition of the year, with a whopping $10,000 in weekly and grand prizes! In fact, Week 1’s winners have already been announced and Week 2’s will be announced LIVE on YouTube on Wednesday, July 1st at 2:30 Eastern! We were so impressed with each of the over 4000 submissions we got for the first two weeks, that we’ve really got to applaud the winners. The decisions weren’t easy. You might be left wondering, though, how exactly do you win Code Jam?
Each week, the Code Jam submissions are judged by a panel of experts from the Tynker Dev team, who then choose the winners. What are they looking for in a winning project? It comes down to four categories, and the finalists are graded on each:
- Use of Code
- Weekly Theme
Since we want to give all of our thousands of Code Jam submitters a chance to win, we sat down with the Tynker Dev team to gain some insights into what exactly they’re looking for in each category when choosing the winners.
Originality speaks to not just submitting your own original project (and not remixing someone else’s) but also showcasing your own unique personality. Those little small flourishes can count for a lot. “I look for the small unique things that aren’t in other projects,” one judge told us. “When you look at so many submissions, you start to see a lot of the same things, but one random detail that a kid will add can really make it stick out.”
“Originality is important, even when sticking to the theme,” said another judge, “Think outside the box within the theme. [In Week 1] there was a project with music notes, with a little guy dancing, that to me was very unique.”
The judges all agreed that whatever that week’s theme may be, it’s good to try to put your own unique spin on it. Create something surprising and delightful – a project that is really you, that only you would think to do. Here are some other projects that got high marks for originality.
The Tynker Summer Code Jam is a chance for kids to shine by showcasing their artistic, storytelling and even musical talents. That’s where this next category, creativity, comes in!
Everyone agreed, it’s not always just about the code, it can be how it’s drawn. That starts with building things from scratch and not just using Tynker’s assets or images that you’ve gathered from elsewhere. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using Tynker’s assets (that’s what they’re there for!) but it just shows a little something special when you create the characters yourselves.
For example, Week 2’s challenge was to tell a story about Codey, and the judges were impressed by those coders who took the time to draw Codey themselves rather than just using the existing Codey asset.
“When kids make projects using hand-drawn costumes and characters that fit in with the backgrounds and the other objects, that really stands out,” one of the members of the Dev team told us. “A lot of the hand-drawn stuff is a different style, so I get really excited when they draw it in a way where it looks like it’s from Tynker.”
Here are some winners that received high marks for creativity!
Use of Code
Though the grades in each of the four categories are each worth 25% of the total score, many judges felt that if any of the categories were most important, it would be the use of coding. Creativity is important, but you can create beautiful drawings using a lot of tools. Connecting the art to code is what makes it Tynker. After all, coding’s what we’re all about!
“I think it’s cool to see creations that couldn’t be done without code,” one judge told us. “I’ve seen some really cool animations, but if I see something that also incorporates code in a way that creates something that couldn’t be done otherwise? I think that’s really cool!”
“It’s great that a lot of stuff is frame-based,” another judge told us, “But I like to see something that they’re trying to recreate in code. The moose [Week 1’s top winner] was so good because they were faking joint movement using code, I thought that was cool.”
The judge continued, “I’m also a sucker for procedural generation. I think that’s a good bonus. If every time you press it that’s a little different. That’s kind of advanced.”
Here are some of our winners that earned high marks in use of code.
The last (but certainly not least) category our Tynker Dev team judges the Code Jam submissions on is adherence to the weekly theme. In fact, one of the judges stressed this mattered a lot to her. “There’s a lot to be said for following the prompt,” she told us. “We had a number we saw that we appreciated for complexity and ingenuity, but weren’t really following the prompt, so we felt it was unfair to put them high on the list.”
Creativity is great, but an important skill for kids to learn is to be able to harness their creativity in ways that fit the confines of what they’re working on. “We don’t want to discourage kids from doing what they want,” the judge continued. “But if it’s not in the line with the prompt, it might be better to save those projects for something else.”
Another judge agreed that a coherent theme is key. “A lot are very random, which we love, but it makes it harder to judge,” he said. “I like to see something unique in the code which is relevant to the theme.”
Here are some projects that really impressed the judges when it came to following the theme.
So, if your project wasn’t chosen as a winner for Week 1, don’t be discouraged! There’s still six weeks to go. At the end of the day, there’s no magic formula to guarantee a victory in the Tynker Summer Code Jam, but keeping the advice of the judges and the specifics of these four categories in mind can definitely work to your advantage! We can’t wait to see what you’ll create next. Happy coding!