A 12-Year Old’s Perspective on Coding and Design Thinking
October 27, 2017
Who are the Saturday Kids?
In the last few years, our team here at Saturday Kids have been inspired by many of our students who have joined our coding classes, and then took it to greater heights beyond the classroom, each exemplifying what Saturday Kids stand for – Curious, Inventive, Resourceful. In this series of conversations with our students, we look at each of their individual journeys and also hear what they have to say about their learning experience so far.
XAVIER PAN, 12 YEARS OLD
One of our kids from Day 1, Xavier has been coding since he was 8 years old, and is a regular at our classes as well as presenting at events such as Maker Faire. Quite the Saturday Kid, he shares with us his coding journey, his recent Direct School Admission (DSA) to the school of his choice, and the importance of incorporating design thinking in his projects.
“What drives him and keeps him going is his curiosity and what he inspires me with is his resilience, and his proactive approach to keep trying to find answers” – Angelia (Xavier’s Mum)
Saturday Kids: How do you spend your time outside of school, Xavier?
Xavier: In my free time, I code, play computer games, and generally like spending time with technology. I also enjoy dismantling stuff and figuring out how stuff works. Sports wise, I like to play basketball and to go cycling.
Saturday Kids: Do you still remember your first coding class?
Xavier: That was awhile ago, probably when Saturday Kids first started! My first class was Scratch. Normally you’d play games, but not make games, so it was interesting for me to be able to create my own games and animations. Back then as an 8-year old, while I was already exposed to using the computer, I remember I had to spend time learning things like how to type and how to use the mouse properly. With Scratch, I like that it’s quite social. You create an account (online), you can follow others, discover other people’s projects, and learn from them. I’d attend the class and then go home and practice on my own, and I learnt a lot by doing this and discovering what others did.
“In my Direct School Admission submission which I did under Innovation, I included all the projects that I created at Saturday Kids, the events that I took part in such as Maker Faire, as well as all my Saturday Kids certifications.”
Saturday Kids: This is a big year for you (with your PSLE examinations). We heard about your recent Direct School Admission (DSA) to the school of your choice, and are super happy for you. Tell us more about it?
Xavier: In my DSA submission which I did under Innovation, I included all the projects that I created at Saturday Kids, the events that I took part in such as Maker Faire, as well as all my Saturday Kids certifications. I was very happy that I got accepted and could use these as supporting documents for my submission. I have a lot to thank Saturday Kids for this for giving me the opportunity to take part in these events and for all the guidance throughout the years.
Saturday Kids: Is there one course that you find particularly challenging?
Xavier: Probably Python. Back then I didn’t want to join the class, until I saw a robotic car, and learnt that it was programmed by Python. I was quite amused and wanted to learn more. With Python though, unlike Scratch (which is largely drag and drop), there is more emphasis on things such as punctuation, spacing, so while I like it, it is also a lot more challenging.
Saturday Kids: And your most memorable class?
Xavier: Definitely the recent Micro:bit class that I did in June. I attended with 2 of my friends, and it was the first time I was doing Micro:bit. We could make the car, program it, all while having fun with my friends.
“When I come to Saturday Kids, I’ll meet other kids, we help to solve each other’s problem, and work with each other. It’s just more personal and we are able to get more immediate feedback with the teachers who understands our problems and are around to guide.”
Saturday Kids: Why do you keep coming back for more classes when there are so many online resources and courses available?
Xavier: Yes there are a lot of resources online. But when I come to Saturday Kids, I’ll meet other kids, we help to solve each other’s problem, and work with each other. It’s just more personal and we are able to get more immediate feedback with the teachers who understands our problems and are around to guide.
Saturday Kids: Through learning how to code, what are some of the other skills you think you’ve picked up?
Xavier: Apart from the actual coding skills, we also need to tap on math, science, logical thinking and design thinking concepts. For example, in scratch, sequencing is very important, and in life as well, similar to priorities. It also reinforces to me that before I do things, I need to have a plan.
“We need to think about how we help people, to understand the reason behind why we’re making it, whether the design is logical, and whether it will be able to benefit others better.
Saturday Kids: You mentioned Design Thinking. Tell us more about it from your perspective?
Xavier: When we make things, we need to have a design. We need to think about how we help people, to understand the reason behind why we’re making it, whether the design is logical, and whether it will be able to benefit others better. I used to just do stuff without planning, such as coding without an aim. But slowly after taking some classes here, I realised the importance of design thinking and try to incorporate that in the way I approach my projects.
Saturday Kids: How about for inspiration?
Xavier: I like checking out the Saturday Kids website now and then to see what the various classes are and whether there’s any new offerings. Last week I saw a different class, on creating an app. It’s by MIT too and is a continuation of Scratch, and I’m quite keen to explore that. I also get my inspiration from everyday life, in fact one of my projects was inspired by a visit to the ATM with my mum.
Saturday Kids: Can you share a bit more about that project?
Xavier: That was for this year’s Maker Faire. I created an “ATM” using Lego Wedo. If you put notes in front of this Lego Wedo machine, the motor will start turning, and it’ll count the notes. I also created a coin sorter to sort the different types of coins, and each time a coin drops in, it will light up. The coin sorter is by Little Bits, but is more of a prototype for now.
And for last year’s Maker Faire, I created something very similar. Instead of letting the notes in, it lets tickets out. It works with two wheels being put together, and when you put something in between, the gears will turn, and dispense the tickets. When I learnt about this mechanism and learnt how it works, I started experimenting and making many things with this.
Saturday Kids: What kind of support do you wish to have more of?
Xavier: Perhaps more of a Saturday Kids community to tap on on an ongoing basis? There are many students who have done the programs, and then they go back, and continue practicing. But when we meet with problems, or need inspirations, it’ll be nice if we can have our own Saturday Kids community to tap on and to keep in touch after the course has ended. Even if we don’t have a question, we can help to address other kids’ questions, and share our experience.
“Outside of acquiring coding knowledge, it also helps academically, as well as expose us to areas such as design thinking and logical thinking.”
Saturday Kids: That’s a great idea. And finally, do you have any advice for parents and kids who are looking to learn coding?
Xavier: I’d tell them that coding is a useful skill, and outside of acquiring coding knowledge, it also helps academically, as well as expose us to areas such as design thinking and logical thinking. And of course, it’s always fun to come to Saturday Kids and make new friends.
At Saturday Kids, our students don’t just learn to code. They code to learn. If you have a story to share with us, we’ll be happy to hear from you! Please get in touch at [email protected].