Chapter Spotlight: CoderDojo Silicon Valley

littleBits Workshops in Campbell, California

August 12, 2015

 

CODERDOJO SILICON VALLEY
@JOEDEAN

 

Where are you based?
San Jose, CA

 

Tell us more about your organization/space.
The space is provided by my company, On-Site.com, to support my personal passion of teaching kids how to code. I started teaching my own kids how to program about seven years ago and really enjoyed seeing them get excited about creating instead of consuming the technology. About five years ago I decided to start teaching other kids besides my own because I feel that learning how to program a computer is as important as learning how to read, for the next generation. Being a professional software engineer with no teaching experience other than coaching my kids sports teams, I decided to teach programming to underprivileged kids at a local school in downtown San Jose. This turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life and continued teaching kids at schools. A couple years later I joined the CoderDojo movement and became a strong believer in the messages of code.org. The CoderDojo Silicon Valley chapter was created in Mountain View, CA about a year before I joined. I was able to start the San Jose division primarily to keep it closer to my home and provide coding sessions for kids in the San Jose area. The organization is open to all kids between the ages of 8-17. We hold programming session at least once a month teaching kids many different types of programming languages like Scratch, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Lua, etc.

 

What inspired to start a Global Chapter? 
I have been trying to incorporate programming hardware into my CoderDojo sessions for the past year. I want to teach the kids that programming is not limited to web pages and gaming. The application of computer programming is limitless especially when you show them what they can do with robotics and hardware programming. I heard about littleBits on a podcast that I listen to and decided to give it a try. I was shocked to notice that San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, the birth place of so many great computer science inventions, did not have a Chapter. With the help of On-Site.com, who donated the Workshop Set, I was able to start the Silicon Valley San Jose Chapter for littleBits and incorporate these littleBits into my CoderDojo programming sessions.

 

How are you re-inventing your makerspace/ learning space with littleBits?
I am planning to show the kids how to bring programming to life by programming hardware components via littleBits.

 

Tell us more about your last event.
We had 186 kids request seats for the event, but unfortunately we only had room for 25 and accepted 27 kids. About 20 kids showed up for the event. They sat around different tables that had the littleBits laid out for them to experiment with. Right when they sat down they were playing with the bits and creating cool circuits. By the time I started explaining the littleBits they were already familiar with them and I was able to quickly go through an explanation of each bit so they could get started with creating the fishing game. I was glad they got more time with the fishing game because once they started creating the game and playing the game they were having so much fun that the time just flew by and I had to ask for parent help me get the kids to put the bits away and end the session. The kids could have stayed playing for at least another hour on top of the hour and a half session. See the Global Chapters Flickr pictures for visual details. The event was so popular that it is going to be published in the local newspaper, next week! 🙂

 

What were some of the projects that came out of your event?
1. We started with a basic flashlight (introducing the power and bright LED bits).
2. We then upgraded the flashlight with an input bit of choice (dimmer or button).

 

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3. Next, we got familiar with adjusting the pulse bit with a screw driver to turn the flash light into a strobe light.

 

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4. Lastly, half the kids built fishing ponds….

 

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… and the other half built fishing poles.

 

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Then the fishing poles went to the fishing ponds and tried to catch fish!

 

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What did you learn from hosting this event?
I learned that their is a high demand for these type of events.  I also learned that the kids really enjoyed creating different parts of a game and then bringing them together to play.

 

Who else in your community inspires you?
I’m inspired by the kids ability to quickly learn different technologies and innovate to create something impressive.  For example, I was struggling to come up with a mount for the fishing pole and decided to just let the kids use their hand to hold the pole like you would a real fishing pole. But, as shown in the attached picture one of the kids used one of the provided cups and rubber bands to create a fishing pole mount.

 

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Whatʼs next for your chapter?
Integrating the programming with littleBits via the Arduino bit.

 

Whatʼs been your favorite thing about being a Chapter leader? Why should others join?
My favorite part about being a Chapter leader is the monthly hour Community Call. It’s awesome to talk to other chapter leads via Google Hangouts from across the world and share ideas. The flow of community knowledge in this type of meeting environment is brilliant!

Others should join because it feels good to provide a space and the opportunity for others in your community to learn how to create fun and useful littleBits circuits.