Team Elstree with trophies
Cyber-Duck

Award-winning teenagers show how the web could revive ailing high streets

A talented and aspiring group of teenagers - with the help of Cyber-Duck - have won a prestigious award with their plan to revitalise the High Street by harnessing the power of the internet.

Online retailers are often blamed for causing the decline of traditional shopping areas. But five young computer programmers, aged just 13-17 devised a website which would help new businesses use empty shops, creating a vibrant economic environment.

Their inventive and original concept for the website ‘Establish.Me’ won the ‘Code a Better Country’ category in the national Festival of Code compe tition. The team will be awarded prizes at a special celebration to mark their success

The contest is the biggest youth computer programming event in the UK, and is organised annually by Young Rewired State (YRS), to encourage and support young programmers under 18.

Cyber-Duck, one of the UK’s leading independent digital agencies, mentored the five coders aged 13-17 over a whole week, at its high-tech Elstree office.

They are:

Luke Ashford, 13, from Watford,

Roberto Lau-Soto, 14, from Southgate

Alexander Christie, 17, from Totteridge

Nasir Al Jabbouri, 16, from Edgeware

Mikhail Datoo, 14, from Northwood, Middlesex

Young Rewired State (YRS) supplied two mentors Tom Payne, who works at IBM, and Dharmesh Tailor, who is about to start a degree course in Maths and Computing at Imperial College, University of London.

Cyber-Duck offered their facilities, along with help and advice from highly-skilled members of staff, particularly Benjamin Maugain, a senior programmer.

Benjamin accompanied four members of Team Elstree to the finale of the competition at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. (Mikhail was unable to attend.)

The team were among almost a thousand young programmers from centres across the UK, who spent the weekend finish ing their projects before presenting their work to a panel of judges.

Prizes were given for the best proposals in five categories: ‘Best Example of Code’, ‘Best Example of Design’, ‘Best in Show’, ‘Code a Better Country’ and ‘Should Exist’.

One of the reasons why Team Elstree’s ‘Establish.Me’ was so acclaimed, was because the website was designed to enable local councils and the community to invigorate business in the high street by reducing rent and rates on the empty shops.

Members of the local community would be able to offer donations to local independent businesses to help them become established in the area.

The shops would have reduced rates and a set rental term, for example £1000 a month for three months. Members of the local community would be able to log onto the website and make a donation toward the rent and other costs for their favourite businesses.

This would help high streets to be busy and boost the local economy. It would also give local people a voice in their community, effectively voting for their favourite business ideas.

Danny Bluestone, Managing Director of Cyber-Duck says: “We see the value in events such as the YRS Festival of Code as they help to nurture and produce new talent and shape the future of the digital industry.

“The Cyber-Duck team were very involved with the young coders, offering them technical advice regarding user experience (UX), design and development points of views.

“We are continuously looking to get involved with initiatives that seek to spread technology to the wider community.”

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