Hour of Code @ PayPal


On Dec 12th, as part of the Hour Of Code initiative, I taught programming to a room full of 5-11 year old children of PayPal employees.
I have to say, I’m completely blown away by them.

I thought I’d have to do a lot of teaching. However, once I showed them how the basic structures work and how to put a program together, they took off!

I taught them about concurrent programming and debugging, disguised as a session on doing a dance animation. We started with post-it notes and a whiteboard to show them that computers are really dumb, and they only know how to follow the instructions that we give . The purpose here was to show that *we* write the instructions, and the computer just runs it.



(Special thanks to our programmable robots Aanan and Pavani)

Programmable RobotsOnce they got comfortable with these concepts, we then moved to the laptops.  We used Scratch, a visual programming language,  to create a dance animation. The kids got to choose the backdrop, the sprites, the dance steps.  Finally, they got to set the order in which to execute them, as well as creating loops in the sequences and adding sounds and events to the animation (e.g.: onClick do XYZ).

Again, I was  impressed with how quickly they took to it and the number of diverse ideas and creativity displayed!
Our youngest coder Risha, pictured below, was 5 years old!


At the end of the session I shared a bit about my story of how I got into software development at a young age. A few participants got to show their work to the rest of the class. Their pride in craftsmanship was obvious.  They glowed when they got to show the class and their parents what they’d created!


Overhearing so many kids telling their parents that they wanted to continue playing with this project at home makes me extremely proud.

These are my key takeaways from teaching this class:

  •  Programming shouldn’t be seen as a big scary thing. It’s not, and these kids prove it.
  • *All* kids should be exposed to programming (even if disguised as a game) from an early age. They get it, and this is the new literacy for this generation.
  • A bit obvious, but worth stating, gender and age were completely irrelevant. All kids did great!

There is a lot of demand or these types of classes / introductory sessions. Mine filled to capacity within 24 hours of the announcement. As technologists and proud craftspeople, we should all be making and effort to educate others. Education is the best way to contribute back to society, and while we —especially in the Valley– might take programming as a given, there really aren’t that many people who can teach young minds about it. I really do encourage other folks to host their own HourOfCode session!


Lenny Markus

I’m a problem solver at heart and passionate about tech education. I’ve spent the last five years at PayPal working on a variety of interesting challenges, trying to find elegant solutions that make life easier for others. Currently leading the Data Collection Frameworks Team.