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Hour of code: Helping Philly kids visualize a career in computers

photo of Brendan McKeown helping student code

“Hmm. Can I use a callback function to explode this zombie?”

Earlier this month, three of our Thinkers—TJ Nicolaides, Brendan McKeown, and myself—arrived at Dr. Ethel Allen School in Strawberry Mansion to participate in CS4Philly‘s Hour of Code, along with other members of the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies and Philly CoderDojo.

Senior UI Developer Brendan McKeown and a student at Dr. Ethel Allen School explore callback functions
Think Company Senior UI Developer Brendan McKeown and a student at Dr. Ethel Allen School explore callback functions… to explode zombies!

What did we have to offer to the kids?

Well, they certainly didn’t need us to teach them how to code! Kids are natural coders. Put them in front of a Chromebook, give them access to a great programming environment, and give them some Minecraft Challenges to solve, and they immediately start using iterators, control structures, and conditionals. That’s exactly the mission of Hour of Code.

So a big part of our role is not to teach, but rather to cheer the students on and offer encouragement while they learn.

And—very importantly—our presence there is to show them that there are all kinds of jobs in computer science, and to show the students what kind of (normal) folks hold those jobs.

We also did a little bit of work with them on the exact same issues you’d get in a grown-up development team.

“Do you know how to get the creeper over to the wall before it explodes?” said one sixth-grader bent over her Chromebook. “No!” she said, as her colleague reached over from her own laptop and started re-ordering the control structure. “I didn’t ask you to do it, I asked if you knew how to do it!”

Think company senior developer Brendan McKeown helps students sort out the fine points of pair programming
Spoken like any developer in the middle of a complicated pull request.

We were pleased and proud to take part in the Hour of Code, and we look forward to doing it again!

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