Coder Dojo is an international program, within which young people learn how to code.
Radu Ticiu, initiator of CoderDojo in Timisoara, Romania: Initially I’ve just found on Twitter an article about this Irish concept. It was really appealing. I was used to work with kids from high schools specialized in informatics. CoderDojo inspired me because it is easy to expand to various locations. After 3-4 months of planning, in January 2013, together with my Timisoara Startup Hub team, we inaugurated the first local implementation. Since then, we really grew to a metropolitan network of autonomous dojos - there are 21 of them today, about 400 - 450 kids participate each weekend in our coding activities.
Some of the meetings are held in the city, in the best office buildings, other in rural areas or social centres for kids from marginalized families. They learn how to code, but not only.
Radu: We are also encouraging kids to give attention to other skills like project thinking, communication, public speaking or entrepreneurship. We encourage them to apply their knowledge in commercial types of projects. We are trying to connect them with the wider tech community in Timisoara. Every time they have some interesting project they are invited to present it during technology meetups, they get feedback and encouragement from the best tech people around.
Projects created by CoderDojo participants are of the most assorted kinds. During the weekly meeting they find inspiration, team and skills to help them move forward.
Sebastian, CoderDojo participant: We created a website, a crowdsourcing-based platform. You can announce here that you look for a particular service, professionals bid and you choose the one who will do the job. It can be cleaning, repairing... those kinds of things. It’s like ebay, but for services. Technically it is done, now we need more skills on the business and marketing sides to make it work. We started the project in Dojo, it’s really nice to be here. It’s not only because you learn programming, it’s networking, you meet people. They will teach you stuff, tell you about projects, grants, contests. You make friends with whom you can make projects together.
With time they also become teachers, sharing their knowledge with newcomers.
Radu: We use peer to peer learning. You can see from time to time a 12-14 years old kid mentoring some participants that are 15 or 16, but beginners in the topic. The age is not important. We are not grouping kids according to age but on the interest in a specific technology. We are also open for kids with physical and psychological issues, we have people with autism spectrum or on wheelchair.
And you can do it without any money involved.
Radu: Mentors are volunteers. All the venues are offered for free by their owners or administrators. Kids come without paying. You can really do it without spending any money. CoderDojo is a multilayered concept. It’s a network, using a wide set of resources that are already here. It’s an excellent way to develop some organizational skills of younger people. You can give back to your school if you are a student in technology. You can support younger kids in their development. It’s pretty spectacular what they can achieve in a not that long term. We are aware that not all of them will become programmers. But they can have a better structured thinking and approach to whatever they do. And it’s quite interesting to see dozens of kids in a room making no noise. It’s unbelievable how focused and relax they become here.
More about Coder Dojo: coderdojo.com