Photo © Margaret Nicosia, 2016 – Used with Permission
Understanding why learning computer programming helps kids develop skills for success requires understanding the complexity involved in teaching a robot to make a sandwich.
The first step is NOT to tell it to get two slices of bread. The first step is asking questions to establish the robot’s environment, abilities, and the standardization of both the ingredients and their locations. Teaching a robot to make a sandwich in your kitchen is WAY different than teaching it to make one in a factory. If the robot has to find the cheese wherever you shoved it in the back of your refrigerator, you have to program it to look for and find the cheese.
Learning computer programming is learning to break up a large task into smaller tasks. Learning computer programming is learning to recognize when things that look simple actually have a lot of variables to account for. Learning computer programming is learning to ask “will the cheese always be in the same place.”
Computer Science Education Week runs from December 4 through December 10. And for the 5th year in a row, the heroes over at Code.org have recruited teachers and volunteers to run “Hour of Code” events, delivering an hour of Computer Science education to millions of kids around the U.S. and the world. I’m proud to be organizing a 5th annual Hour of Code event at Amazon this December.
Personally, I don’t care whether these kids become engineers. I believe they should follow their passions. But whatever they do in their future, they’ll have to use a computer to get at least part of it done. Knowing how that computer works will help them, whether they become an engineer or not.
There are 652 events registered for Washington at the time of this writing. Some will be big, some small. The one I’m organizing at Amazon will have room for a few hundred kids. We’ll have a mini STEM toy expo and a temporary tattoo application table in the foyer, and some of those toys will be given out in a door prize drawing. The event will be open to the public, though registration is required. Get your tickets at the SeattleCoderdojo.com site.
Whether you join my event or you join one of the many, many other events, taking your child or volunteering to help at an event will help keep Seattle’s tech community and the NewTech community growing and vibrant for the decades to come. Help a kid learn to code, and maybe you’ll have a robot rooting around in the back of your fridge to find the cheese sooner than you think.