The learning shouldn’t stop after kids are done with class – we’re strong believers in developing kids as self-directed learners who can steer their own learning journeys, and we’re excited for any opportunities that give kids that extra spark to apply what they’ve learned in creative and fun ways. That’s why we were psyched to partner up with Google and The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation to host Code in the Community (CITC) Python graduates for the first-ever VEX Robotics Kid Powered workshop in December, which aims to create a more inclusive robotics community, and also marked the first time many of our superstar coders from CITC got to work on actual robots!
Over the 3-day workshop, we got to speak to budding roboticists – Yi Kai and Sanjit – who at 11 and 10 years old respectively, were 2 of the youngest participants at the workshop. Find out what they have to share about learning to code and tinkering with robots.
Hey boys! How was your experience learning to code with Python at Code in the Community?
Sanjit: “I learnt the basics, like how to draw pixels, how to write the program and how to use the console. It was very fun! The teachers were also kind.”
Yi Kai: “I enjoyed the class because when we learnt how to draw things, we could be creative and draw whatever we wanted. When we started to learn to use the console, we could interact with it and make it say funny things.”
After learning basic Python at Code in the Community, they continued to code at home.
Sanjit: “I made a calculator and a tic tac toe game. I’m also trying to make a social media app, like a messaging app. It works, but it’s only basic.”
Yi Kai: “I tried to code things I learnt in school. So I coded this factor tree where the numbers are on top and the programme would draw the factors. I also made a hangman game with interactive prizes.”
How are you finding the Kid-Powered Robotics Workshop so far?
Sanjit: “I like that there is a competition. Some other competitions that I’ve been to were more like a science fair, which I didn’t like. Also, I went to other competitions previously and didn’t have good ideas and I lost. So I feel like I have to win this competition.
The mentors from ACSI also helped us so that we have enough support.”
Yi Kai: “This program has taught me how to build robots and how to interact with the robot to make it better. There weren’t many materials in the set, so we had to improvise.
I like that this programme lets me use real robots. In my school, we seldom use real robots and use computer programs instead.”
During the workshop, they also faced some challenges. They had to brainstorm ideas to solve the problems they faced.
Yi Kai: “We are a team of 4. So sometimes we all have different opinions and ideas. We don’t know which ideas to choose and we always want to choose our own ideas. So we have to learn to work things out.”
Sanjit: “Also controlling the robot is hard. When you try to pick up the blocks, it tends to fall down.”
What have you learned from this programme?
Sanjit: “You have to listen to others. You can’t only stick to your own opinions forever. You have to consider other people’s opinions because they may be better. For example, this morning, we couldn’t decide who wanted to do the challenge. But in the end, we managed to work it out.”
Yi Kai: “When you do things solo, you won’t have much progress. But if you do it with a partner or a group, the robot will be better because you have more ideas to share.”
Do you know what you want to do in the future?
Sanjit: “I want to do something related to coding!”
Yi Kai: “I want to do something to earn a lot of money so that I can support my family.”
What advice would you give fellow kid coders?
Yi Kai: “I’d advise the kids to just try out whatever blocks they can. You can take someone else’s program and see how it works. You remove a few blocks and try to figure out what will happen after that.”
Sanjit: “Don’t give up after the lessons. Continue at home, do a Google search for ideas. There are also some library books that are useful. A very good author for this is Carol Vorderman. Her books taught me how to code in even before I joined Code in the Community.”
. . .
The Kid-Powered Workshop culminated in matches between the teams’ robots. The competition was fierce, with robots pushing and shoving each other while teams cheered their friends on. While there might have only been one winning team in the strictest sense of the word, seeing the kids cheer each other on and help each other out was what made us, as hosts, feel like this was a success.
Thanks to Google Singapore, VEX Robotics, and the REC Foundation who made this robotics workshop possible and enabled our Python grads to learn about a different side of coding and tech. We believe that it’s important to continue providing opportunities to students beyond the classroom – if you’re keen to support more initiatives like this to level the playing field for under-privileged children, drop us an email at [email protected] or sign up to volunteer for Code in the Community, our multi-level programme providing free coding classes in Scratch and Python to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds
This interview is the first in a 3-part series of articles covering the first ever VEX Kid-Powered Workshop in Asia, authored by Jay-Lynn and Bia – interns from Saturday Kids by way of the Raffles Girls School Work Experience Programme. Through these posts, they’ll be sharing our fieldnotes from the event and exploring the impact bringing opportunities in STEM education has on kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.