YouthCode: A Free Coding Class for Youth

On Saturday March 25th the Desmond Tutu Center partnered with Coderdojo46038 to present the first iteration of “YouthCode”. YouthCode is a free coding class that teaches young people the building blocks of coding so they are empowered to create their own programs and applications to change the world. The event was facilitated by Javeria Masood, an Information Technology Consultant with Netlogx and the lead champion for CoderDojo46038. Coderdojo is a program created by the Techpoint Foundation for Youth, which works to ensure youth in underserved areas of the state of Indiana are inspired to explore STEM field topics and consider STEM fields for future careers. As part of the mission Coderdojo focuses on teaching kids the building blocks of computer coding, believing “that an understanding of programming languages is increasingly important in the modern world, that it’s both better and easier to learn these skills early, and that nobody should be denied the opportunity to do so.”

The coding session began with a warm introduction by the Coderdojo46038 team, including Javeria and her team of volunteers who explained the purpose of the event. As they explained, everything begins with coding; emails, hacking, mathematics, games, anything we see on the screens of our phones and computers is all made possible by coding languages and coding programs. The Coderdojo team also talked with the children who had come to this first lesson to find out what made them excited to learn about coding. Many of the kids spoke of an excitement playing with their parents’ computers or Ipads, and the game Minecraft was frequently brought up by the children as a computer program that inspired them to build and share their own digital creations.

Once everyone, including the parents and grandparents who had brought their children to the lesson, had a chance to share their love of technology it was time to begin with the first lesson on coding. This began as the children were given instructions on how to download the simple software necessary for the coding program Python. Once the programs were downloaded everyone was shown the basics of coding in this language, starting with learning how to do simple math equations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Building upon those first lessons the kids were taught how to bring those simple commands together to build a fully functioning calculator program in Python. Starting from stringing together a few combinations of numbers and words in the course of an hour the children had learned how to create something with coding that they could all use in their everyday lives. It became clear from this exercise how integral coding and technological skills have become to our everyday lives. To end the lesson the Coderdojo team let everyone know further resources they could access to learn more about coding before the next lesson. If the reactions of joy and excitement from the children to their own calculator creations is any indication, this first experience with coding was one they will not soon forget, nor will it be their last one.
By: Andrew Weller

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