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ON TARGET: Company-X senior analyst developer Marcel van de Steeg tweaks his voice-activated selfie-authenticating double-barrelled ping-pong ball firing turret cannon.

Top developer shows kids technology can be fun.

Teaching aids don’t come any cooler than a voice-activated selfie-authenticating double-barrelled ping-pong ball firing turret cannon.

Clever Company-X developer Marcel van de Steeg built the teaching aid from scratch after he was asked to help Hamilton Scouts be prepared to work with technology.

Van de Steeg’s brief was to inspire around 40 Scouts, from St Columba’s and St Peter’s Scout Groups in Frankton, to do their best to obtain the computer badge.

As soon as he was asked for help van de Steeg immediately went online and ordered parts for the turret cannon which he built in his shed at home. Van de Steeg also wrote the software that runs the cannon.

The cannon activates with the flick of a switch. Once online, the cannon uses a webcam to compare the operator with a database of photographs stored online. If the face matches a photograph the cannon allows the operator to open fire with a barrage of ping-pong balls by pressing the letter F on a connected keyboard.

The personal challenge badge requires Scouts to briefly describe computer types and how they differ, explain the difference between software and hardware, be able to set up a basic computer and printer configuration, describe the differences between printer types, proficiently use the internet and outline some of its dangers and use a computer to produce a resume, story or greeting card or something similar.

“Rather than walk the Scouts through the badge, I thought I would do a demonstration of what’s possible with a modest budget and a bit of know-how,” van de Steeg said.

Van de Steeg demonstrated the concept of the Internet of Things, the ever-growing network of internet-connected objects, using microchipped lightsaber toys to access a virtual space ship shown on a computer screen. Luke Skywalker’s and Rey’s lightsaber were granted access, but Darth Vader’s was not.

Bluetooth technology was used to track the location of a stormtrooper mask-wearing Scout on a computer screen.

The number of Bluetooth connected devices in the vicinity were also tracked.

The Scouts were also shown how to program Star Wars ‘droid BB-8 and a robotic dinosaur.

Senior Scout Thomas Gardner, 12, said van de Steeg had inspired him to do his computer badge.

“Seeing Marcel demonstrate the voice-activated turret canon made me want to learn more about hardware and writing software to be able to do it myself,” he said.

“Marcel has challenged me to think about technology and imagine all the possibilities.”

Thomas would like to join a coding camp that van de Steeg is planning as he would like to learn more.

“Marcel is passionate about teaching technological skills to the next generation of software developers,” said Company-X director David Hallett. “We like to encourage him in that role as much as we can.”

Company-X is two years into the three-year Smart Waikato’s Secondary School Employer Partnership (SSEP) led by the Smart Waikato Education Business Network which enabled van de Steeg to spend several hours, over several weeks, teaching technology faculty students at Hamilton Boys High School how to write their own game, publish it and market it.