To fill the skill gap in the technology sector and develop a do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude among children, Mumbai schools and tech experts have come together to teach kids programming and coding at an early stage.
Several schools in Mumbai are taking part in boot camps organised recently by Consilience, a global innovation consultancy, to teach kids how to build working models using embedded systems, robotics and programming.
Students from Gandhi Bal Mandir High School, Kurla, also took part in a five-day boot camp conducted in December at American School of Bombay Elementary School, Kurla. Working with electronic circuits, sensors and LEDs, they built innovative prototypes: a robot machine that mops the floor and a blind man’s cane that detects obstructions among others.
The 14-year-olds said the experience motivated them to consider careers in engineering. “This was the first time that we were able to apply concepts learnt in school such as magnetism, electricity, radio frequencies. It felt great to actually create a gadget with our own hands,” said Shubham Powar, studying in Class 10.
There is more to this than jobs, though. Educators argue that learning programming skills will benefit children in different ways, whatever their ultimate career may be. This is similar to letting children learn to play a musical instrument or a foreign language. “We hope that after learning the core competencies, students can create projects that may provide solutions to various social and environmental problems, like waste management or better healthcare,” said Shabbi Luthra, CEO and founder, Consilience.
At primary level, programming or coding helps children to be articulate and think analytically. They start breaking down tasks into a logical sequence of smaller steps, discard unnecessary elements, diagnose errors and invent new approaches when the first fails. "It’s about looking around you almost like an engineer at how things are constructed,” said Francis Joseph, co-founder, School Leaders Network and spokesperson, Aquinas International School, which will teach coding to kids from the upcoming academic year.
Adding that coding can be taught in simpler steps right from kindergarten, Joseph, said, “You don’t need a computer to teach coding.” For instance, children can create their own codes to logically create their own path to reach the canteen from their classroom. “They learn to take decisions on whether to turn right or left to reach the destination. They learn to use loops to avoid repetitive steps,” said Joseph.
Jesus Lall, chairman of Universal Schools in Andheri, Tardeo and Malad, which have integrated programming into their curriculum for classes 1 to 8, said it prepares students for the future. “It is my belief that in the next five to 10 years, everyone will need to possess at least a basic knowledge of programming to run their own business or any other field,” said Lall. “So we are preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Be creators, not just consumers
A ‘maker’ movement is gaining ground in Mumbai schools, which encourages kids to design, think and create and not just be consumers. The emphasis is on do-it-yourself (DIY) learning, giving children hands-on experience. Here’s how some schools teach kids to code and programme:
Preparing working models through boot camps
Consilience, a global innovation consultancy, organised camps for school students to empower them to solve problems with technology. In the camps conducted in December, students learnt about embedded systems, robotics, and programming, which is technology used in mobiles, television sets, cars etc. More camps will be held in February covering various other topics. The idea is to develop a maker mindset among the children, encouraging them to design, think and use technology to find solutions.
Integrating into school curriculum
Universal Schools in Andheri, Tardeo and Malad, have integrated scratch programming and Rasberry Pi into their information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum from Classes 1 to 8. Scratch programmes teach kids to create animation and video games in an easy manner, while Raspberry Pi, is a device loaded with Python, programming language, which lets you connect your project to the real world.
3D printing exhibition
Students from 10 Podar International Schools will display models created by them using 3D printers, introduced in the schools last year. Students design objects using softwares such as CAD or Google SketchUp. Students are able to take out three-dimensional prints of their objects in rubber, hard plastic, opaque or transparent material or any material of their choice.
From the coming academic year, Sacred Heart School, Kalyan will introduce industrial scale labs equipped with 3D printers, laser-fabricators and robots for students from Classes 5 to 10. The school has spent Rs2.5 crore on the equipment. The idea is to allow children to show their creativity using modern methods of manufacturing.