Devoxx for Kids at Fluent

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Devoxx for Kids at Fluent

27 Mar 2014 | TheServerSide.com

Arun Gupta, the prolific blogger, popular conference speaker and author of the book Java EE 7 Essentials, was at the O'Reilly Fluent conference in San Francisco, but he wasn't wearing his Red Hat, representing the popular open source company as their director for development advocacy. Instead, Arun was floating around the exhibition floor showing a somewhat rudimentary video game that starred Minions from Despicable Me, a game which just happened to be written by his five-year-old son. "I'm here are Fluent Con to promote a nonprofit organization that I founded called Devoxx for Kids," said Gupta, talking about the organization that states its primary goal is to "allow children to be more creative with computers and teach them computer programming while having fun."

So how old should kids be before they start compiling and de-compiling code? "I built a game with my son, who is five years old. I helped him a lot, but he could build it," said Gupta. Of course, his five-year-old isn't doing pointer manipulations with C++. "I don't want to throw a language syntax at kids and lose them in that process. Start teaching them basic constructs like loops." Which language has the best syntax for introducing these concepts? Given the fact that Java's verbosity has scared many adults into using Scala and Groovy, surely its strict syntax would terrorize kids. "I always encourage kids to start with Scratch, because it has a visual look and feel. Then jump onto Greenfoot, and slowly introduce programming languages like Java, JavaScript or Ruby."

With older kids, the demystification really happens when they can see how pieces of code they write and manipulate can be incorporated right inside of the applications they use every day and the games they absolutely love to play. "Kids who love playing Minecraft; the moment you mention that they can build a mod, they get super excited." And once a child's mind becomes aware of how the code they write can impact the games they play, the possibilities are endless.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Devoxx for Kids is really taking off, with seminars growing from six kids in Gupta's living room, to 140 kids hacking out code at Oracle headquarters. "One lady I met said she wanted to do a Minecraft modding birthday party." But of course, Gupta is only one man, and because he'd like to see the program expanding to other parts of the country, he's hoping others will join his organization and bring it to cities all over North America and beyond. If you're interested in taking part, Gupta's Twitter handle is @arungupta, or you can contact the organization through their new website, devoxx4kids.org.