Amy’s Game of Life

Amy Mather is thirteen years old. She made a presentation at last week’s Raspberry Jamboree in Manchester, where she explains how she got into programming and why she loves it: “I wanted to make it do what I wanted it to do, not what the people working at Apple or Android wanted it to do”. Amy walks us through Conway’s Game of Life, which she ends up building…well, I won’t spoil it for you. Watch this one all the way through; it’s worth it.

In the week since the Jamboree, I think I’ve had more emails about Amy’s presentation than about anything else – people have wanted to know when the video will be ready (word about this excellent presentation spread very fast on Twitter), and to congratulate Amy.

I’m very struck by the number of different organisations that have been supporting Amy; Codecademy, Young Rewired State, the Raspberry Jams and Manchester Girl Geeks have all helped her on her journey. If you want to see more kids like Amy, there’s something you can do: support these organisations by volunteering or donating. We can’t expect schools to do it all for us; the wider engineering community has, we believe, a responsibility to give kids like Amy all the opportunities to learn she can get her crocodile clips on. The Raspberry Pi is all about putting opportunities in the way of kids, so they have a chance to discover, like Amy, something new that they can quickly become skilled at, and that they love doing.

Alan O’Donohoe, who organises the Jams with the energy of a toddler with a coffee machine, has blogged more about the day on the Raspberry Jams site. Well done Amy – and thanks Alan!


Mark Symons avatar

Liz, Eben,

You guys (et al should be very proud of what you have done with bringing the Raspberry Pi to life. This is what it is really all about – inspiring children (young and not so young ;-). Amy, your project is fantastic. You are / will be an inspiration to other children. Keep it up (as I have no doubt you will).


Homer hazel avatar

This was very well presented. Amy should feel very proud of herself. Both for her programming skills as well as her presentation skills.

Very excellent job, Amy. Congratulations.

Michael Horne avatar

Amy’s just a superstar. I’ve seen grown-ups fall apart during presentations, but hers was so slick it was scary. Well done, Amy!

John Knight avatar

Blimey, I get the distinct impression I’m watching a genius here. When Amy’s hailed as a visionary in fifteen years’ time, I just wanna say… I called it!

Glenn Morse avatar

Very well done :) It’s pretty amazing what kids can do when given the proper tools and encouragement. I help run a LEGO Mindstorms group at our elementary school, and I’m hoping to bring a bunch of Pi’s in next year to help them move to “real” computers.

Alan O'Donohoe avatar

I have nothing but praise for Amy. Showcasing her work here and at our Jamboree will undoubtedly shine a spotlight on her and her achievements.

However, I genuinely hope that many who watch her talk will quickly realise that there are millions more potential Amys in the UK and beyond. If we do not spot their potential, then nurture and develop it – the sad fact is that Amy will remain an isolated example.

So, look for the Amys in your community and use the power of Pi to help inspire and ignite in them a passion for using technology to create not just consume. Spot and encourage their talent and curiosity, so that Amys legacy lives on.

Ben Nuttall avatar

Amy really is something special. There are concepts I find difficult to explain to adults who work in professional software development, but she picks them up with minimal explanation. You know she’s not just nodding along too, by the intelligent questions she asks and remarks she makes.

The Game of Life Project started by accident. As she said in the talk, I’d just been at the Code Retreat (a coding day for adults to practise programming skills) the day before the Jam and so when she asked if we could do some Python I thought we could try that as an exercise. By the end of the afternoon we had a fully implemented ASCII terminal based one.

She came back the next month saying she’d plugged it in to pygame and got it drawing circles instead of just printing characters. I was suitably impressed. A couple of us helped her convert RGB to HSV when she wanted to have it cycle through colours smoothly, and when she came back the following month she had it sending a signal to an LED matrix display via an Arduino. Seriously cool.

Leo avatar

Now there’s a young lady with an interesting career ahead of her. Amy you should be proud of yourself. I’m really impressed with how articulate and confident your presentation was, not to mention your coding abilities. I have no doubt that you will be an inspiration to many more.

RobV avatar

interesting that ‘Conways Game of Life’ has come to notice again. I have plans for a variant. maybe i should hire Amy as a consultant?

Tim Giles avatar

Gosh, this is what its all about. Well done Amy, keep up the hard work and I hope Universities are watching! Future super star in the making.

exartemarte avatar

I wonder where she’ll be in twenty years time? Maybe opening her address to an audience of engineers, scientists or academics with “When I was young, someone invented something called a Raspberry Pi …”

This kind of thing must make Eben a happy man.

Rob C avatar

An excellent presentation… i think Amy will get an A+ at GSCE! etc. (Maybe she is that good she could apply now. Seriously!)

Just shows how the Raspberry Pi is helping to nurture the new and future coders/technologists (and getting us old computer geeks alive n kicking again! We have now, new competition. Watch out!)

For a long time there has been a vaccum. Long gone is the days of the ZX81 (my era) and the Spectrum 48k, ST, and Amiga. I think this is now a kickstart for a new generation. And God did we need it… consoles/lifestyle have a lot to blame! (numbing the mind!).

Rob C

bz avatar

Good job Amy etc…

But why is their an apple computer on the podium? Can’t a rpi be used to drive the presentation?

CPslashM avatar


Brings back memories of writing a game of life program on a Beeb Micro using a single array instead of two in Basic with a 10-second refresh rate.

And I was only twice her age….

spyke logan avatar

Wow this is one intellegent young lady. I’m 26 and just getting into programming. And I do hope to understand just how she done that some day.

markit avatar

Maybe the organizers should provide a GNU/Linux pc for the presentation, having a Apple PC, one of the most powerful firm against user’s freedom and independence, is really negative. Good promotion for Apple though ;P

clive avatar

What’s really negative is people using the comments of an inspiring, uplifitng presentation to bang their own sociopolitical drum. Amy’s laptop. Amy’s choice.

liz avatar

Have you ever been to an open source conference or gathering, @markit? You’ll see more Macs there than any other machine. Unix, you see…

Mark Symons avatar

@liz, @clive – Hurrah! ditto!

Stewart Watkiss avatar

Great project, great presentation and hopefully an inspiration to other young people of what can be achieved. As soon as I saw the video I showed it to my daughter, who is taking her first steps in learning programming with the Raspberry Pi.

Well done Amy!

On the other comments, whilst I’m an advocate of Linux and open source, I don’t think this is really the place to criticize other operating systems that individuals use. It’s great that the Pi runs an open source operating system, but we shouldn’t be adding barriers to potential learners or judging anyone on their personal choice.

Arivazhagan avatar

Amy you inspired me. Will thanks. Your awesome.

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