March is one of our most anticipated months of the year, because – you’ve guessed it – March holidays are coming! And just because we can’t go overseas doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything exciting going on. From creating your own Star Wars character to exploring digital exhibitions from the comfort of your home, there certainly is March to do.

Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition

Since 1997, Star Wars has occupied the imaginations of science-fiction fans, going on to become one of the most iconic movie franchises ever! Inspiring many futuristic technologies, you now get the chance to see spacecrafts and holograms up close. With close to 200 original props, costumes, models and artwork from the film, head over to the ArtScience Museum to immerse yourself in the Star Wars world. May the Force be with you!

Exhibition is ongoing, lasts till 13 June 2021
Location: ArtsScience Museum
Prices: From $20
*Can use SingaporeRediscover vouchers
To register or for more information, click here.

Aliwal Tracks

Are you feeling a little lazy? Want to do something from the comfort of your couch? Aliwal Tracks is the perfect virtual exhibition for you! Wander the streets of Kampung Gelam (Kampong Glam) with this web series of digital performances, behind-the-scenes footage and explore hidden street art!

Price: Free
Location: Online
Date: Till 5 March
For more information, click here.

Got To Move

Here’s a riddle for you: What do Augmented Reality, dance and Instagram have in common? Well, this year’s Got To Move (GTM) event has really outdone itself! GTM is a nationwide dance movement that celebrates the diversity of dance in Singapore. In its sixth edition, it’s getting bigger and going digital, from creating Instagram dance filters, to putting up live performances on AR app, XITY!

Location: Online
Date: Ongoing till 28 March 2021
The AR app XITY is downloadable on both Android and Apple devices.
To find out more, click here.

March Holiday Camp

March into our exciting holiday camps and have tons of fun learning how to code! We’ve got a wide variety of classes (38, to be exact!) specially designed to build a strong programming foundation for ages 4 to 18. 😉⁣⁣

15 March – 9 April 2021
Parkway Parade, Bukit Timah (KAP Mall) and Online
To find out more, click here.

If you haven’t seen our previous techtivity recommendations, check out our February #TechtivitiesOfTheMonth, which includes more cool tech-related attractions that you can visit!

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Today, we get to know our educator, Edmund! He is a common sight in many of our Python classes, and it’s hard to miss his hearty laughter when you’re on our campus. Armed with a Masters in Mathematics, Edmund is always jovial and ready to lend a helping hand to his students.

Hi Edmund, what was your first encounter with coding like?

Edmund Feature 2
Edmund, always cheerful!

I would say that my very first experience with coding was during my tertiary days when I went to find out how to create a game similar to MapleStory with added features like PVP (player versus player) to play with my friends.

Cool! Did this inspire you to take Mathematics in university?

Since young, I have always loved solving challenging problems and I wanted to know more behind mathematical concepts. I competed frequently in Primary and Secondary school at the Australian Mathematics Competition (AMC), International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) as well as the National Mathematical Olympiad of Singapore ( NMO∑) where I scored Distinctions and won various awards for my school. Thus, it was only natural that I went on to complete a Masters programme in Mathematics. My Math background led to a strong understanding of Computer Science as I was exposed to programming languages such as MATLAB and R. The training I underwent enabled me to fully understand the reasoning and process of mathematical concepts. With that, I am able to explain to my students exactly what we are coding when I teach.

Wow! Okay, so are there any differences or similarities between the studies of Mathematics and Computer Science?

Coding is very similar to Mathematics where we make use of our problem-solving and logical skills. The thinking processes for both are very similar. The thinking and algorithmic logic is more important than which programming language we choose to use when coding (there are many that go in and out of fashion). Also, coding problems often require the usage of math. For instance, to code up a function that calculates x and y coordinates of a point might require mathematical concepts such as the Pythagoras Theorem. Many students we put up for the National Olympiad in Informatics also have very strong background in Math Olympiad. The two are indeed deeply connected.

So how did you go from Mathematics to teaching coding?

I always enjoyed teaching and instructing. During my National Service, I was an instructor for the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC). I taught my recruits lifesaving skills, brought them through foot drills and exposed them to outdoor adventure activities. It was a great motivation to see my cadets’ faces light up with joy and pride when they graduated from a course or successfully completed an activity. Even before my National Service, I was an assistant teacher for an enrichment programme provider which held quality programmes and holiday camps for preschools to secondary levels. So, I guess it was quite natural for me to move towards a career in teaching.

I heard that you taught yourself Python, which is pretty impressive! Could you take us through what that was like?

Photo of ACS Class
Edmund with his curious Advanced Computer Scientists students

Before I joined Coding Lab, I learnt Python with the help of online platforms like YouTube! I was interested to know more about programming languages and researched online. I found out that Python was one of the most widely used languages. Then, I spent many hours watching tutorials, some videos were even 13 – 17 hours long, where I had to watch them at 2x speed. 🙂

When I became an Educator, it greatly helped that Coding Lab has very comprehensive teaching materials for Educators to grasp, practice and stay abreast of the latest curriculum and the community we build with other fellow tutors and students is a warm, close-knit one. I’m glad that I could easily depend on my teammates to help out if I needed anything!

Coding excites me, especially when I have spent a long time trying to debug a program and it finally works. This satisfaction is what I seek to inspire in my students for them to excel in coding!

What do you like best about teaching coding?

The best part about teaching coding is that I am able to continue learning even while I am teaching. You will be amazed at how creative and innovative the students can be with their ideas and the way they code. Some of them even have ideas that I would never have thought of!

I always try my best to make my lesson fun and enjoyable. For instance, I’ll relate the lesson to topics that the students are into, making it more interactive. Sometimes I even use terms and references from games they play, or popular and trending videos they are likely to watch!

I personally think that kids should learn how to code as technology is always advancing. Understanding how computers work and learning to code helps them appreciate how things work and the ability to solve problems is a life skill that will stay with them!

GIF of our Young Computer Scientists doing some deskercise - with grandpa joining in the fun!
Edmund and our Young Computer Scientists doing some deskercise – with grandpa joining in the fun!

We all know that motivating children can be tough, so how do you do it?

I believe that encouragement motivates people. A little goes a long way and every small encouragement will make the student feel more motivated to continue coding. I set goals for my students and support them in meeting those goals and even challenge them to go even further.

What is your most memorable teaching experience thus far?

My best teaching experience at Coding Lab so far would be one class where my students were all fans of the online comedian character, Uncle Roger, who makes parodies of cooking shows. We had programs done by the students under humorous names like “Egg Fried Rice”. They even compared me, “Uncle Edmund”, to “Uncle Roger”! It was a lot of fun and laughter while still being able to teach the skills and know-how of Python.

Do you intend to continue teaching coding in the future?

Definitely! In fact, ever since I started coding and teaching it, I have a slight regret of not taking more modules in Computer Science during my Masters. I’m glad to be at Coding Lab, where I have the opportunity to pick up as much coding as I want and even impart this to many others. Coding excites me, especially when I have spent a long time trying to debug a program and it finally works. This satisfaction is what I seek to inspire in my students for them to excel in coding!

Finally, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am still a volunteer with the NCDCC. It was through this organisation that I had the opportunities to learn so many skills (lifesaving, rescue, outdoor adventure, etc). I’ve had many memorable experiences in the Corps. I once mentored a cadet who almost went astray due to family issues and bad company. He felt unappreciated back home and felt that he was being forced to attend the course that he had no interest in. I told him that if he wants others to appreciate him, he should first learn to appreciate himself. “Don’t try to change others, change yourself,” I said. When he graduated from secondary school, he even came back as a Cadet Lieutenant volunteer. On the day of his passing out parade, he asked me to be the one to help put his rank on for him. The moment I buttoned his rank on, I was overjoyed! NCDCC is my way of giving back to the society, by teaching, training and being a role model for the future generation 🙂

Thank you, Edmund, for taking the time to share your journey with us. We know you will continue to inspire our future generation of coders and be the role model that you already are, as a teacher, mentor, and more!

(Written by Nicole Loo)

Happy Lunar 牛 (‘niu’ pronounced as ‘new’, it means cow/ox) Year! For all of our Chinese friends, this year is the Year of the Ox, and 12th February 2021 marks the start of the Chinese New Year on the traditional lunar calendar – which lasts for 15 days. In line with this event, did you know that there are ox and cow -related programming languages?

This year’s festivities are a little different as we spend our long weekend at home staying safe. We share some fun (programming) facts related to the Year of the Ox to keep you occupied, and perhaps to inspire you to code your next program! Here they are:

1. Cow Programming Language

Considered one of the Top 5 Hardest Programming Languages in the world, it has 12 instructions that vary on the capitalisations of “moo”, such as “Moo” and “mOo” and with the exceptions of MMM, OOO, oom and OOM. Created in 2003 by Sean Heber, it is an esoteric programming language (often shortened to “esolang”) – this means that it is a programming language built as a joke and to explore the theory of computation, not for solving computational, practical problems.

You’ll see what we mean with this example, which translates to “Hello” in Cow programming language:

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Cow Programming Language
We’re not joking!

2. Ox Programming Language

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Ox Programming Language

This object-oriented matrix programming language is used academically in econometrics and statistics (it is also available for non-academic use!). Developed by Jurgen Doornik, it has a comprehensive mathematical and statistical function library and syntax similar to C++, which has resulted in faster and more efficient programs that are easier to maintain.

Get a glimpse of the OxMetrics interface

Ox programming language uses OxMetrics to produce graphics and reports, which assists in econometrics and statistical modelling, as well as financial analysis. It is a powerful tool that enables users to write their own programs, plot graphs, and so much more – and is great for people with basic programming language too!

3. Cows and Bulls

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Bulls and Cows

Even if you’ve never heard of this, the concept behind this game will definitely be familiar! Remember the game Mastermind? You create a secret 4-digit code, and the other player tries to guess it within a number of tries. You get a bull point if you get the correct digit and correct position, and a cow point if you get the correct digit, but in the wrong position. This feedback helps in logically guessing the secret code.

The game Mastermind

One of the first computer implementations for this game was created in 1970 – a program simply called “moo” – written by J.M. Grochow at MIT for the Multics operating system. Today, you can play this Cows and Bulls (also known as Bulls and Cows) game against computers too!

For all coders out there, you can even try programming this yourself too. Find the tasks here, and solve it in your preferred programming language. This may not be programming-related, but it sure is code-breaking!

Bonus: The Great Race of the Zodiac Animals

In the festivities of Chinese New Year, what would this post be without a fun fact of the zodiac year? Did you know that the Ox is second among the 12 Chinese zodiac animals – after the rat? Legend has it that there was a Great Race to cross the river to derive at this sequence. The Rat jumped on the Ox as it made its way across the river, then the Rat proceeded to jump across the finish line to win, while the Ox ranked second place.

The remaining animals placed in the following order: Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, then Pig.

Coding Lab wishes you a Happy Lunar Niu/New Year!

The Coding Lab team wishes everyone a prosperous Lunar New Year! 🙂

You now know some cool fun facts and learnt a little more about programming too. We hope that we’ve also inspired your next coding program, and don’t forget to share these facts with your friends!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

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The Straits Times Feature: Addressing the Gender Gap in the STEM Sector

We’re proud to be featured in The Straits Times today! In Singapore’s English flagship newspaper, we shared our experience and thoughts on bridging the gender gap in the area of STEM.

“Given the right environment, girls can realise their potential,” our Director, Candice Wang, says. She is also a proud mother in the STEM field whose daughter attends weekly classes at Coding Lab.

The Straits Times feature - Gender gap in Stem sector: Support from parents is crucial to help girls excel
A snippet of our feature on The Straits Times (9 February 2021, Monday, LIFE)

“Given the right environment, girls can realise their potential,”

Candice Wang, Director of Coding Lab

Read the full article here.

Did you know that at Coding Lab, we ensure a gender-neutral environment to encourage students of all genders and ages to code? Some examples of how we do so include:

  • Showcasing a good mix of projects by girls and boys
  • Building programs, games and animations around students’ favourite cartoons and topics (eg. Disney shows and princesses)
  • Gender-neutral questions and exercises

Read our previous features: We’re on The Straits Times!

Our superstar coder and University of Texas (Austin) scholarship recipient, Sarah Go, is also featured! She talks about her experience as a female in STEM and how her parents and environment has helped her to excel. Read her blog features here and here.

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

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