This week is Netsuite's Week of Impact, and we have the fortunate opportunity to share some of our programming knowledge with the next generation of coders. We are doing this with the help of the great folks at Year of Code Waterloo Region, who were super helpful in hooking us up with 6 teachers in the area who were willing to let some wild code-monkeys loose in their classroom for a couple of hours.
For our course material, we decided to teach an Introduction to Arduino class. The arduino is a little open source microcontroller that can be used for the brains of a robot, to run a sensor pack or an internet of things appliance, or all sorts of other uses. This is usually pretty exciting for the kids, since, rather than writing code that only affects what happens on a screen, the kids are writing an interface to the real world, checking light sensors, turning motors, reacting to buttons and knobs. It's easy to learn, and easy to see how the basic skills can be applied to building something much more ambitious. Our first class of the week was with a mix of kids in Grades 1, 2, and 3, and although they didn't get all the underlying concepts, they were very excited to be writing real code, and most of them got all the tasks done.
For our week of coding, we were lucky to be able to borrow a class set of laptops from the Diyode Makers Club in nearby Guelph. Diyode is the group that designed the Codeshield that we used, and wrote the curriculum for it. It's an add-on board for the arduino designed to make teaching code to kids easier and more fun. Netsuite generously donated an number of arduinos and Codeshields that we were able to leave with each class, so the kids could keep playing and learning after we left. (It should also be said that Netsuite supports the employees that went into the schools by providing each of us with 16 hours of Volunteer Time off, that we can use for projects such as these that benefit our community.) We went into the classrooms in team of 3 or 4, typically with one person leading the class, and the others hovering around, helping kids with syntax errors and missed brackets.
Overall, it was a great experience. We all had an opportunity to learn the curriculum in a series of Lunch and Learns in the office in the weeks leading up the event. Even so, it was a bit nerve wracking getting up in front of a group of thirty kids, and taking command of the class for two hours. Definitely outside my comfort zone. The classes range anywhere from grade 1 to grade 6, and the kids themselves ranged from extremely technologically literate to fairly uncomfortable with basic typing (Strangely, they all knew how to use their phones). Very few of the kids had even heard of the Arduino before, so it was exciting to introduce them to that.
I can't wait to see what we get to do next.
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