Give children the power to code and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results. As technology brings our world closer towards a digital age, this will be a powerful skill in the future. To ensure that children have a basic understanding of coding to prepare for this future is the purpose of the Kids Can Code initiative.

Scenes from the first Kids Can Code session at Dev Day 2016 (Image credits: TIQRI)
Scenes from the first Kids Can Code session at Dev Day 2016 (Image credits: TIQRI)

It was initiated by TIQRI in partnership with SLASSCOM and ICT Norway. As such, the first Kids Can Code club was born at the DevDay 2016 conference. Today, it continues conducts frequent coding sessions inside the Tiqri premises. These sessions are based on the principle of getting children to code with the support of their parents and volunteers. And they have four clear objectives which are: encourage children to think logically, promote a passion for coding, eliminate their fear of failing, and encouraging teamwork.

How do these sessions work?

Recently, we were able to witness one of the sessions conducted by the Kids Can Code club. Attending this particular session were 45 children. These children were between 7 and 14 years old. Of these 45 children, 30 of them were newcomers who had joined the club as its second batch. The sessions of the Kids Can Code club consist of four activities.

The first of these activities was an icebreaker to promote teamwork.

This icebreaker was in the form of a game where the children were divided into teams. The room was then divided into a 5×5 grid using masking tape. Obstacles were placed in a few selected cells. Meanwhile, the treasure was placed in a distant cell.

Volunteer with the robot for the first activity
Volunteer with the robot for the first activity

At the starting cell was a robot figure, which the children had to direct to the treasure. To direct the robot to the treasure, the children were given a series of printed arrows and hand symbols to collect the treasure. With these arrows, the children had to create a sequence.

This sequence would tell the robot the path it should follow to get the treasure. Once the path was laid out, a volunteer with the help of the children would move the robot based on the sequence. The winning teams were the ones that led the robot to the treasure.

Following this was a coding and disassembling a computer

The coding activity introduced children to actual computer coding. This was done through the use of the exercises on code.org. The children were divided into teams of two with an instructor assigned to assist them. Whenever they faced a problem, they were first encouraged to speak to each other before seeking help from the instructor.

Children working with their instructor during the coding activity
Children working with their instructor during the coding activity

Afterwards, another activity introduced them to the components found inside a typical computer. This session was conducted by a systems engineer from TIQRI. The systems engineer first explained the purpose of each component. Afterwards, they were encouraged to ask questions about each component to get a better understanding.

An introduction to the micro:bit

The next activity utilized the micro:bit computer. In case you’re lost, the micro:bit is a tiny computer that’s half the size of a credit card. It was originally created by the BBC as a means of encouraging children to explore computer science. Click here if you want to know more about how the micro:bit is introducing children in Sri Lanka to coding. This was utilized by the Kids Can Code club for one of its sessions. This session encouraged them to develop a game with the micro:bit.

The BBC Micro:bit
The BBC Micro:bit (Image credits: Techradar)

The final treasure hunt

The final activity of the Kids Can Code club was similar to the first one. Once again, a 5×10 grid was made on the floor. Obstacles were once again placed inside the grid. But this time, there were two treasure chests located at two opposite ends outside the grid.

The children were then divided into two teams. Each team consisted of six groups of two children playing the role of a pirate captain and pirate ship. Both members were placed at opposite ends of the grid. This time, they too had to collect the treasure avoiding the obstacles. But this time, they had to use the micro:bit computer.

A team during the final Kids Can Code activity
A team during the final Kids Can Code activity

As such, children in groups were given micro:bit computers, which were paired. The child playing the role of the captain used the micro:bit to send instructions. The child playing the role of the ship would then receive these with their micro:bit and then move accordingly inside the grid. Thus, the first team to reach the opposite end of the grid would win the game and receive the treasure.

The future of Kids Can Code

At the moment, there is only one Kids Can Code club, which is the one at TIQRI. But this initiative isn’t meant to remain inside one company. This is why the team at TIQRI has conducted a few “Train the Trainer” sessions for other companies eager to set up their own Kids Can Code clubs. But this isn’t an initiative merely meant for tech companies. It’s also open to non-tech companies because it’s end goal is to reach as many children as possible and prepare them for the future.

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