Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Young Coder Tutorial Helps Daughter, Father Get Into Python

PyCon 2013’s “Change the Future” theme was a nod to Python’s growing use in education, and to devices like the Raspberry Pi and their targeted child audience. Before 2,500 attendees descended upon the Friday through Sunday conference, which gave each of them a Raspberry Pi, kids filled a lab for two days of free tutorials on the tiny computer that taught them the basics of Python. They, too, took home a Raspberry Pi.

Not only did the “Young Coder: Let’s Learn Python” tutorials lay the foundation for many children to go on and learn to program, they sent at least one father down that same path.

9-year-old Havana Wilson of Denver, Colo., made the trip to PyCon with her father, Bruce. After she showed interest in building video games, dad looked around the web for how to get her involved. “It was my job to turn her desire into action, so I did research on the most intuitive programming language that has the ability to produce games but also could be a wonderful gateway into programming,” he said. A friend lead Bruce to Python, and he later found PyCon.

Havana did her own investigation. “She had seen Full Sail University ads online and wanted a bachelors degree in game design at 8 years old. How could I refuse,” asked Bruce.

While it’s a bit too early for college, the Young Coder tutorial would be perfect for her, and the conference’s financial aid program would make the trip a possibility. Dad booked the trip and they were on their way.

“She is very quiet about her reactions when adults ask her, but we had some good conversations about it afterwards,” he said. After getting home, Bruce stocked up on Raspberry Pi parts to prepare for future hacking. “She is excited to continue this journey.”

“The kids day she totally loved, thanks in part to Richard,” he continued, speaking of Richard Jones. Richard assisted Katie Cunningham and Barbara Shaurette on the first day of Young Coders, then taught the “Introduction to pygame” tutorial the next day. Although the material would be over her head, Richard was happy to have Havana join the pygame tutorial.

“I am excited to help her move forward,” said Bruce of his plan to keep working on games while building up her general programming skills. There’s more to it than that, though.

“I was only going to PyCon to help my daughter, but came away from the experience seriously motivated to dive into programming,” said Bruce. He came into this with minimal HTML experience, but he caught the programming bug like his daughter and is as excited about learning more.

“I am happy to dive into helping Havana progress, but I think it will be more than that for me,” he said. While he currently works in the service industry, his newfound liking of Python could make for a change in direction. “I just never thought it was my thing,” he said of programming, “but I do love Python. I get it.”

“For me it was what I had hoped it would be,” he said of the whole trip. After the tutorials, they made their way around the area to Sunnyvale and down to Santa Cruz, where Bruce spent time in the past. They visited with some old friends, including a few working in the technology world, and got good ideas for how Havana, and Bruce, could progress.

“She will never forget the trip, and she has solid benchmarks to meet when practicing at home,” said Bruce. Havana has referred to her experience several times, proclaiming, “we did that at PyCon, Daddy!”

As for what’s next, Bruce’s hardware purchases have them setup for some fun learning together. “I’m looking forward to geeking out with Havana on hardware/software integration sans GUIs,” he exclaimed. He’s also getting help from some friends who work as electricians for fun ways to use the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO board.

The two are even looking to get a group started in Denver to help build the next generation of programmers. With PyCon 2016-17 looking for a home, maybe they’ll pull together a bid? Bruce had such a positive experience at the conference that he’s interested in making it happen.

Best of luck learning Python, Havana and Bruce. You took our “Change the Future” theme all the way!

1 comment:

Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn said...

Hey! I'm in Boulder, CO (which is next door to Denver), and my 12 yo and 8 yo are learning Python! Maybe we could meet up. mailto:zookog@gmail.com .