New festival to showcase Sheffield's digital talent launches

Jack Underwood.
Jack Underwood.

Sheffield’s first annual festival to celebrate the city’s next generation of digital talent launched this week.

Sheffield Digifest aims to showcase careers opportunities in the digital sector where there are skills shortages and opportunities for industry growth.

Primary and secondary pupils from 15 schools attended the event at Sheffield Hallam University’s new Hertha Ayrton STEM Centre on Howard Street on Tuesday, July 4.

Pupils took part in interactive activities, demonstrations and taster sessions including animation, coding, computing, digital media production, Lego robots, mobile apps development, Minecraft, Raspberry Pi and Vex Robotics, and an employer fair.

An awards presentation also took place to celebrate the winners of the Code Make Win competition that nurtures Sheffield’s up and coming young digital talent.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council, said: “Sheffield has a thriving digital sector, with capacity for growth, and Sheffield Digifest wants to build on those exciting opportunities."

Jack Underwood, aged 13, from Westfield School, was named as the overall winner of the Code Make Win competition, which attracted more than 100 entries.

He clinched £400 in prizes for winning his age category for games, the games category overall, and the competition overall.

Jack was praised for his online role play game called World of Creatures. Players have to raise their own creature, battle demons and make tough decisions along the way.

He said: “It was really exciting to find out that I had won the competition, and a complete surprise! In future, I’d definitely like to go into a career in games development.”

There was also a range of guest speakers, including Professor Roger Eccleston, pro vice-chancellor for global engagement and dean of faculty of arts, computing, engineering and sciences at Sheffield Hallam University, Oliver Quinlan, research manager at Raspberry Pi and Mel Kanarek, of Sheffield Digital.

The festival comes after the release of a report called 'A Snapshot of the Creative Digital Scene in Sheffield' which found that digital companies in the city are experiencing fast growth, with turnover increasing at 47 per cent and the vast majority of companies expecting to recruit more workers over the next year.