I am ending my day totally exhausted but happy. Today we organised Red Hat 4 Kids in the Red Hat France office.
Every year at Red Hat, we organise a Red Hat Week to celebrate our culture. And in good open source community way, each local office expresses how it pleases this event. This year, I proposed to do a Devoxx4Kids for the children of French Red Hatters.
Red Hat 4 Kids (aka a copy paste of Devoxx 4 Kids) initiates children from 6 to 12+ to the notion of programming. Sharing our knowledge to teach them what daddy or mummy does. Sounds cool.
I knew it was doable since the awesome Devoxx4Kids team has successfully declined these events around the world. But my engineering spider-senses told me it would be quite a humongous task. I was right but it’s one of those projects where you need to jump first and think later.
For the 6 to 10 years old boys and girls, we have done a Scratch workshop. Scratch is awesome, it has all the basics of programming: blocks, loops, conditions, events, event sharing, etc… Here, not need to prepare much, explain the basics and let the kids go (see below).
For the 10+ kids, we have done the Arduino workshop: programming electronics for the win :) We have reused the Devoxx4Kids one verbatim.
- You need to prepare everything material wise
We installed a fresh Fedora 22 on all laptops to get everything set up the same: this really helped as we did not have to fight different environments. To be safe, we used ethernet and not WiFi: some WiFi routers don’t enjoy too many laptops at once.
- Don’t go too long
For the 6-10 years old, they started to slowly drift after one hour. Don’t go over 1h30 per workshops and do breaks between them. For the 10+, they actullally went beyond our 1h30 and chose coding over cakes: success!
- Limit the introduction and slides as much as possible
Developers don’t like slides. It turns out kids disregard them after 4 mins top. I had to cut the presentation quickly and instead…
- Do customized assistance
Show them by pair-kid-programming how to do the basic things and let them do what they want: help them achieve their goal: story, adventure, games etc… One grown up for one to two laptops, two kids per laptops. Max. They will be much more engaged.
It’s quite a special feeling to see a good chunk of the kids being that engaged, asking tougher and tougher questions over time and preferring coding to cakes.
I have many people to thank for this project. Hopefully I won’t forget too many of them:
the Devoxx4Kids team for putting their workshop in open source
Audrey and Arun from Devoxx4Kids for giving me customized advice and reassuring me along the way
the Red Hat French facilities team for saying yes to this project and putting up with all the material challenges (room size, power outlets, laptop hunt, mouse chasing, etc.)
the local Red Hat techies for gathering the hardware, installing the machines, testing everything and helping out during the workshops
last be not least, the Aldebaran team for being part of the fun
Don’t think, do it. Go to http://devoxx4kids.org and start from their workshops.