Talking Computer Programming with kids.


My wife is a preschool teacher in our town. She and the other teacher asked me to give a talk about my job, but I can’t really explain how I use Amazon ECS and Docker and Node.JS to 3 and 4 year olds. I decided to take a high level approach and talk about computer programming in general and show some demos.

I was so excited, this was going to be my first talk in 2017. I had a couple of weeks to prepare so I made a slideshow to present and organize my thoughts. Yes I made a slide show for 3-4 year olds and it worked great. The slideshow helped focus and provide visuals for the kids. Tried to give them the basic who/what/why of computer programming. They can’t read yet but they know a funny squirrel picture when they see one.

Here are the demos I did for the kids. It’s important to remember that kids are kids, they get excited by seeing things, interacting with them.

1) Adafruit NeoPixel Lights!

About 2 years ago my daughter started getting afraid of the dark. We tried night lights but they just didn’t seem to work. I had a great idea to hook up some NeoPixel lights to her bed and it worked like a charm. We would turn them on and she loved it. She was so excited. For her 6th birthday though we had to get her a new bed, but I hadn’t hooked up the lights yet so remember how well she liked them I thought, maybe the kids would at the preschool. Oh boy was I right.

2) The Robot Demo

Well I had bought all the parts to build a robot but a couple days before the presentation it stopped working. I was pretty bummed because I knew the kids would love this but my wife and daughter made a ninja turtle valentines day box and I had hooked up an arduino powered arm to move Donetellos staff. So I brought that instead and that was enough for them to see how you can program. The kids loved it also. Even with just the arm moving it was great to see them get so excited. I wish I had a video of this one.

3) Scratch Programming

Every talk needs a live programming example right? So I decided I would build a really simple app that moved the cat and even meowed. I think this was the best part for them. The entire class was meowing every time they heard him. It was pretty hilarious.

Here is a link to the scratch program we made. It didn’t do very much but we had him moving and bouncing off the edges.

You can see it here on the scratch website. https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/145584957/

The night before the presentation I found an example of a scratch program with two people dancing. I asked my wife and the teacher for some funny pictures of them and photoshopped their heads on to two dancers. I even added a background of the classroom.

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/144917626/

They all thought this was hilarious!

Conclusion

If you ever get the opportunity to teach kids about programming, do it. You won’t regret it. The best part for me was seeing the looks on their faces when the NeoPixels turned on and changed colors. It really takes you back to that place when you first started programming and how exciting it was.

So thank you very much Discovery Time Preschool for having me talk to the class. I will always remember it.

DiscoveryTimePreschool

I uploaded the slideshow to slideshare.net and if you want to see it.

Computer Programming for Preschoolers from willywos