This post and giveaway is sponsored by Let’s Start Coding
There’s no doubt that there’s a need for today’s generation of kids to develop confidence in and mastery of STEM skills as we look towards the kinds of jobs that will be a part of their future but one challenge that many parents face is getting their kids interested in coding. There’s an abundance of STEM-related courses and products that can spark an interest thanks to hands on learning but it’s also important to continue the learning at home.
But what do you do if you don’t know how to code to teach your kids the relevant skills they desperately want to learn?
Earlier this year I was introduced to Let’s Start Coding. This tackle-box like kit is full of items that your child needs to start writing real code. It contains components and sequenced coding lessons that challenge kids to improve their coding skills. Despite the many coding kits that I’ve looked at through the years, Let’s Start Coding stood out because it allows kids the opportunity to play and experiment with real code (not that drag and drop stuff) through with step-by-step lessons that allow them to build knowledge that will empower them to create customized code projects.
Wanting to know more about the company, I had the opportunity to interview Weston Hagan from Let’s Start Coding. Weston doesn’t have a background in computer science, but working at technology companies made him realize how many amazing things could be created with computer code, so he set out to learn some. He admits it wasn’t easy or fun, especially after spending lots of time reading through endless forums and searching on Google. After hundreds of dollars, he found himself more frustrated than knowledgeable about code and sought out to create Let’s Start Coding to solve that very problem.
I love how Let’s Start Coding makes learning real coding skills fun and engaging. Its products are focused more on absolute beginners than on tech wizardy so that coders who want to learn some valuable skills and build something cool have a great experience. Read my interview with Weston to learn more about the company and enter to win a Base Kit and Code Car Kit ($80 value) courtesy of Let’s Start Coding.
Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mama: I’ve seen a lot of STEM products and was impressed with your Base Kit. I love how it is like a coding toolbox for kids! You say Let’s Start Coding’s products are focused on more on absolute beginners than on tech wizardy, so that coders who want to learn some valuable skills and build something cool have a great experience. Tell me how Let’s Start Coding started.
Weston Hagan, Let’s Start Coding: At our core has always been the goal to make it easier and more fun for beginners to learn real code. We started out by listing the things that we saw as challenges to learning code and potential solutions for those challenges. Then, we started prototyping those solutions and testing them by teaching free classes in our community, talking to parents, engineers, coders and anyone who could give us some insight into the process of learning coding.
We pretty quickly decided that having something hands-on was a good approach. It makes the code more ‘concrete’ for the learner- if you write code to blink a light and the light in your hand is blinking, your code worked!
We also discovered that there are some underlying concepts that almost every coding language uses, so the choice of ‘which language to teach’ wasn’t as important as it may seem. If we focused on the foundation, different coding languages wouldn’t be hard to pick up.
Lastly, we realized that many engineers learned initially by taking things apart, whether that was a home phone, their first car, or a toy they owned. We mimicked that process by providing working example code for learners to start with that could be ‘taken apart’, rather than showing a blank screen and saying “OK, now you can start coding!”
Tech Savvy Mama: There is such a focus on STEM classes and products. What are some things that parents can introduce their kids to at a young age to get them interested in coding?
Weston Hagan: Rather than recommend a specific product or resource, I would recommend that parents look for something relevant to their child’s interests and age. Code is everywhere, so if your child loves baking, you could talk about how the oven timer uses a little computer to count down, then sound an alarm when the baking is complete. If you’re using one of our kits, you could then follow the lessons for making the “Cookie Countdown Timer” project and make your own timer!
I have also observed lots of kids who can move faster and do more than their parents or teachers expected at that age. That’s great! So I definitely recommend putting kids in front of real, typed code at a pretty early age- it removes the limits on their creativity and you may be surprised how much they can pick up!
Tech Savvy Mama: I love that! I agree that it’s important to capitalize on your child’s interests as a foundation for learning but especially when it comes to learning code. Let’s Start Coding offers two different Circuit Kits – the Base Kit ($50) and the Ultimate Kit ($100)- and now the Code Car ($30). What should my readers know about Code Car?
Weston Hagan: Code Car is a new take on our same mission. It’s a car shaped computer whose features can be controlled with computer code. A beginner would plug it into the USB port of a Mac, Windows, or Chromebook computer and within 10 minutes be manipulating code to turn on the lights, honk the horn, sound the siren, etc.
We wanted to create something that was immediately relevant to the kids- updating the features of their own little car. We also found that with the excitement of play and sharing, it’s easier to have the electronic components all attached directly to the board, so there is no way they can wiggle free, get lost, or break.
I also want to point out that at Let’s Start Coding, our product is much more than just the items in the box you purchase. When you’re using Let’s Start Coding kits, you’re also getting free, sequenced coding lessons through our software, challenges to improve your coding, definitions and concepts, walkthrough videos, and quizzes to test your skills. We’re really out to provide a great experience learning to code.
Tech Savvy Mama: Should parents think about Let’s Start Coding kits as a ‘pipeline’ of products or as 3 distinctly different products?
Weston Hagan: Each Let’s Start Coding kit is for a different type of learner, but they could definitely be combined into a ‘pipeline.’ Code Car is the starting place- it’s the least expensive, simplest, kit that will get you up and running in no time.
The Base Kit allows more flexibility because you control the electronics and how they’re used in projects. We still have step-by-step lessons, but you can go further and more easily add craft materials and customizations to your code projects.
Ultimate Kit takes things a step further with sensors, an LCD screen, and a flexible strip of LED lights. Once you’re using these things, your code can completely interact with the environment. For example, a temperature sensor could print degrees Fahrenheit to the LCD screen, then sound an alarm if it gets too warm. These are projects that are closer to gadgets you’d actually find in your home and are designed for that learner who is loving coding and wants to go further.
Tech Savvy Mama: What advice do you have for parents who don’t know how to code but want their kids to learn?
Weston Hagan: First, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Coding is often portrayed as an indecipherable, super-human skill. It’s not- it can be learned just like reading, math, or a foreign language.
Second, I would encourage parents to seek out typed coding opportunities for their kids. If you know nothing about coding, know this: code in work environments is created on keyboards, using typed coding languages. There aren’t any professional block-coders or drag-and-drop specialists. That’s an important distinction for parents to be making as they are looking for ways to get their kids started.
Finally, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier- try to find something that engages your child’s interest. Not every single kid will grow up to be a coder, but they will grow up interacting and eventually working with code, directly or indirectly. If your kid is playing with real code and experimenting with it, they’re benefitting from it and learning useful skills!
Tech Savvy Mama: Can you give us a hint of what is coming next for Let’s Start Coding? Anything on the horizon for the holidays?
Weston Hagan: We’re very excited to hear from parents and kids once they get Code Car in their hands. We’re spending time with our customers this fall to see what we can add to the Code Car to make it even better for them. You can also expect a fun software project from us this year that will ‘pair’ with Code Car- I’ll leave it at that 🙂
Let’s Start Coding Giveaway
Weston and Let’s Start Coding don’t ever want you or your kids to be more frustrated than knowledgeable about code so they’re providing a Base Kit and Code Car Kit (valued at $80) as a giveaway. Enter to win using the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!
For more information about Let’s Start Coding, visit:
Huge thanks to Let’s Start Coding for providing me with products for review and sponsoring this post and giveaway. All opinions are my own. Images courtesy of Let’s Start Coding.