Originally written on DEC 12, 2015 via Codepen here.
Do you remember the first time you were introduced to programming or design on the computer?
For me, it was when I was about 7. I was having fun creating trivial business cards on a flyer/card design software at my parent’s travel agency business. I was playing computer games like Reader Rabbit and Treasure Mountain on the computer, which was around the time America Online popped up. I remember it being rare for anyone to own a computer at the time. When it came time that my class would learn computers back when floppy disks were used, I was already typing fast on the PC without looking at the keyboard that my teachers and classmates were asking me how that was even possible! I was in 3rd grade at the time and though I wasn’t introduced to programming until my mid twenties, design was always something I did for fun.
As this week was Computer Science Education week, I volunteered at different workshops in the Las Vegas community during the Hour of Code (HoC). According to the official website, “Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.” The workshops I went to were mainly geared towards 5 – 17 year olds, but there were parents and some young adults that also attended. It was a wonderful experience to facilitate the learning process to kids who have never had the chance to program or understand the problem solving side to coding.
The workshops were two hours long and were split into two activities: a cup stack drill that introduced the concept of algorithms and playing Scratch-inspired games on Code.org that simulated coding. They could choose from games like Star Wars, Frozen, and Minecraft! I also gave a 2-3 minute talk on how I got started within programming and design, and some words of encouragement and inspiration. I couldn’t help but think how lucky these kids are to be living in an age that resources and tutorials are abundant to learn coding/design. I remember teaching myself how to use Adobe Photoshop back in high-school and going to book stores like Barnes & Noble just to find design inspiration and tutorials. These were things I mentioned to the kids and hoped they understood that they have a lot of opportunity ahead of them if programming is something they enjoy doing.
The Hour of Code workshops were held at different venues and neighborhoods around Las Vegas. The first workshop was at a library in Henderson, then the next day it was at the Las Vegas History Museum, and the final day I attended was at the Iron Yard in Downtown (which is the only bootcamp school in Vegas, currently). I met different volunteers there who were also active within the tech community and have a diverse background in programming that they were able to share with the kids! The events ended with a raffle prize ranging from gift cards to Kindle Fires!
Overall, it was a fantastic, fun experience, and I’m looking to attend one last workshop next week at another library. I’m hoping to see these kind of annual events grow and continue even outside of Computer Science Education week. If you’re at all interested in seeing how you can volunteer in your local community at HoC events, you can learn more on the official Code.org website here. I know that if I had the chance to attend an event like this when I was still a 7 year old kid, I would have jumped into the world of coding in a heartbeat! I always knew I wanted to help people in solving problems, just never knew what medium or profession that would take form in. At the end of the day, we create software to help people, not computers. And we design with user experience and user interfaces in mind to empathize with users and create a seamless process for them.