Teaching 60k Students to Code 💻
CodeDay Executive Director on making coding more accessible
Happy holidays! 🎄⛄
Today’s Delta X newsletter is all about paradigm shifts in CS/tech education, mindset to build, and otherworldly creations:
💻 What’s wrong with tech education
💭 Learning on one’s own terms
🎨 Creative thinking (+Tyler’s own favorite projects)
🎙 Δx podcast
Executive Director of CodeDay, Tyler Menezes, got into tech after stumbling across a programming book for slot machines. 🎰 Since then, Tyler has been helping thousands of other students find that moment.
There’s a place in tech for everyone. 💜
After dropping out of university to found a tech startup in Silicon Valley and going through the startup accelerator Y Combinator, Tyler joined CodeDay, a nonprofit providing opportunities for under-served students to explore a future in tech. 🚀💻 They have helped nearly 60,000 students in 50 cities around the world to create their own projects in tech.
We talk getting-into-tech stories, dropping out of university, PVC pipe organs, and more! 👆
💎 Δx takeaways
A lot of Tyler’s journey was learning out of school settings and on one’s own terms. 🛣
I dropped out of university with a few other friends and moved down to Silicon Valley and started a tech startup, and that was the first time for me when I felt "This is really what I want to do" where I'd never felt that way about school. 🏫
The goal for school is to teach you the foundations 🎯, but most of the excitement from learning comes from a curiosity to explore more and pursue your creativity. 💭 The problem is that schools are great at the former (teaching) but not so much on the latter (getting you excited to learn 💥).
But very few people have focused on how to actually get students to be motivated to want to learn things. 🤔 From my experience personally and from a lot of the students I've worked with, when people are motivated to learn something and really want to learn it, they just absorb the information a lot more, and it doesn't even matter if you have someone who is teaching the well because if not, they'll go out and do the research themselves. 🌐
One thing I found interesting about CodeDay’s philosophy is that the main goal isn’t what students take out of the events, but for students to continue to learn. ➡ In other words, inverting the situation in traditional schooling: prioritizing excitement over information / test-taking knowledge. ❌
(A tangentially related article by Paul Graham about ideas such as the purpose of school.)
CodeDay tackles another big challenge of building: getting people to express their ideas freely. 🗣
The most difficult parts of it is reversing that programming from school and making them feel comfortable to express their ideas and brainstorm and be creative.
When asked what mentors look for in students or people they work with, Tyler answered that mentors don’t care about technical skills as much as being:
1) unafraid to share ideas, and
2) not waiting for permission to act/execute.
School trains you to meet deadlines and complete assignments, but gradually we must move past that mindset in having people tell you exactly what to do.
The key to building on your own is to pick a project you want to do and just start on it, preferably with a community to help you (see previous newsletter on Hack Club, actually founded by an alum of CodeDay!). Communities are also great sounding boards for bouncing off cool (and spontaneous) ideas through hanging around other creative people. 💡
Some of Tyler’s favorite past creations he’s built:
Twitter controlled door lock (tweet a door and it would open) 🚪
The 1st robotically controlled pipe organ and PVC pipe organ 🎹
Automating parts of his apartment 🏠
Hearing about this stuff gets me excited about building things — just for the sake of having fun and working with other cool people.
📰 Δx change
Since we’re on the topic of building/creating new things with tech, here’s some recent technologies on the cusp of change:
🥊 Meta’s haptic gloves: Meta’s sci-fi haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets. At a simplified level, Meta’s haptics prototype is a glove lined with around 15 ridged and inflatable plastic pads known as actuators. The back features small white markers that let cameras track how the fingers move through space, and it’s got internal sensors that capture how the wearer’s fingers are bending.
🎥 New holographic camera that can see through walls: Northwestern University researchers have invented a new high-resolution camera that can see the unseen—including around corners and through scattering media, such as skin, fog or potentially even the human skull. Called synthetic wavelength holography, the new method works by indirectly scattering coherent light onto hidden objects, which then scatters again and travels back to a camera.
🤖 World’s first living robots can now reproduce: The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce -- and in a way not seen in plants and animals. Formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which it takes its name, xenobots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. The tiny blobs were first unveiled in 2020 after experiments showed that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading all the way to the end — catch you next time in… 2022? 😮
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