According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 million computer programming jobs will go unfilled in the United States the year 2020. That’s only five years away and 1 million is an astounding figure considering the sluggish job growth that has been affecting the country since the recession. Under the same study this year, the University of Washington was only able to accommodate a quarter of the students that applied for their Computer Science program. Fortunately, the rules of supply and demand work in favor of those who find themselves unable to get their virtual foot in the door through higher education. Many of the industry’s top technology companies today will hire self-taught talent. Whether your child has the opportunity to enter a four-year program or the ambition to go the self-taught route, one way to give him or her a distinct advantage in his or her future career is to raise awareness of the importance of computer code in everything we do. Regardless of their chosen profession, chances are, code will be involved in some way.
Recently, my family and I had the pleasure of attending a Bamboo Solutions hosted Hour of Code event at our corporate office. This was in recognition of Computer Science Education week from December 8-14. Our Engineering Director, Muhammad Piracha, was kind enough to take time out of his weekend to provide coding lessons to anyone in the company, and their children too. Over the last month, he offered two similar Introduction to Coding lessons to employees during the regular work week. I attended both of the sessions and knew that not providing my kids with the opportunity to learn from an experienced professional in this field, would be a mistake. I also heard that there would be donuts. When not a man in constant pursuit of knowledge, I’m a man with a sweet tooth!
As smart as my kids are, they are still kids, so getting them to do something that requires an hour of their undivided attention can be somewhat of a challenge. It was for this reason that I sold the event to them as an hour of “making your own video game”. Which was technically true-ish. Hopefully, you can appreciate how this would pique their interest more than asking them if they wanted to learn about building functions and writing conditional statements. That kind of talk makes my eyelids heavy — and I like coding. So with bright eyes, curious ears, and powdered sugar on their fingers, they started the journey into the world of code.
The introductory Angry Birds tutorial was the perfect start. What better way to get fresh minds interested in a new concept than to make them feel at home with something familiar? Instead of diving right into lines of code and syntax, the tutorial cleverly used a drag and drop system that taught the kids how to apply logic to simple problems. In the Angry Birds lesson, we discovered that our feathery friends have an unquenchable thirst for revenge against the silly green pig. The problem: how many times do they need to move their bird left or right to land on the evil swine’s head? As we progressed through the lesson, I looked around the room and saw everyone laughing and getting excited as they made their choices and, in essence, wrote their first computer program.
Before we knew it, they were using loops and if / else statements as the problems they were trying to solve were getting increasingly complex. Some kids reached the point where they were actually writing out the code line line instead of just dragging and dropping the icons. We all learn at different paces and it was just nice to see a group of kids so genuinely interested in programming. I honestly did not expect this level of enthusiasm. At the end of the session, students received a certificate of completion — and a free ride home. When we got home, one of my kids spent another couple of hours on the computer trying to complete the lesson he had started earlier before we left the event.
It was truly a positive experience and I hope more events like this one will be held in the future. Kudos to Bamboo for hosting this kid-friendly event and providing the resources internally to help employees learn and grow in their careers.
For more information about Hour of Code and to find the tutorials that we covered during the session, visit code.org/learn.