Check us out – we are featured in today’s issue of Lianhe Zaobao, the largest Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper!
Click on image above for full article (PDF)
Translation in English:
The Ministry of Education is pushing for holistic education among the students in recent years. Students are not only expected to grasp the academic knowledge from their school curriculum but also master the 21st Century Competencies which include critical thinking, communication skills and the spirit of teamwork.
Lianhe Zaobao observed that there is an increasing trend in education service providers targeting these skills through debate and coding courses to nurture students’ soft skills. For example, The Global Citizen, which was established in 2015, aims to provide students with experimental learning and varied extra-curricular activities. The company helps the students grow through different activities like Debate, Model United Nations, Public Speaking, Global Citizenship education and leadership training.
Founders Jared Yeo and Walter Yeo feel that learning should nurture students’ worldview and critical thinking, and not just be confined to books. They observed that most young people today lack the ability to understand the importance of their role in the society and the world. Hence, the company wishes to stimulate the students’ interest in local and international development topics and affairs, in order to be a responsible global citizen.
Coding Labnurtures and develops students in their computational thinking. During the interview, the founder, Foo Yong Ning, talked about the four pillars of computational thinking – problem decomposition, abstraction, algorithm and pattern recognition. Lessons at Coding Lab cater to students from four years old to 18 years old. Coding Lab has collaborated with the National Library Board (NLB) to organise workshops for pre-schoolers, groomed primary school students to gain tech-know-hows with Scratch, and allowed secondary school students and tertiary students to combine Mathematics knowledge with Python.
When discussing how the company’s classes can help students grasp the 21st century competencies, founders of The Global Citizen used debate as an example and pointed out that debate helps students to improve their communication and expression skills, training them to think logically, observe their surroundings and analyze the problem before expressing their own views.
For Coding Lab, Yong Ning talked about how students are able to apply computational thinking to solve problems. He elaborated, “Our students are interacting with apps every day so when we teach them how to create games and apps, we are providing them with tools for them to tackle the future.”
An administrative executive, 38, who is a mother of two, places her two sons at Coding Lab to learn to code. During the interview, she said that the coding lessons can stimulate the children’s creative thinking and encourages them to think out of the box. She added, “Attending coding classes can allow children to relax because they do not need to worry about tests or examinations and can express their creativity freely.”
One of the sons from Wellington Primary School started to attend coding lessons this year and has already mastered the creation of games such as Flappy Bird. He said, “Through the coding classes, I understand the mechanics of programming like how to move and interact and broadcast messages.”
Our team had the opportunity to catch up with our talented student, Josephine, 14. A member of her school’s Infocomm club, she started with Coding Lab in 2017, where she was first introduced to Python programming. She has since progressed upward and can now count programming in C++ as another skill under her belt. This humble and intelligent student shares with us her journey in programming and why she enjoys the challenge it poses for her.
Hi Josephine! Could you share with us how you got started on coding?
I started coding at the end of 2017, mostly due to school’s influence because I am in the Infocomm club. I like computers so I thought I might as well try coding and see if my interest lies there. So that is how I started researching on coding – lessons and which ones I can join.
How was the learning experience and what did you like about it?
I started with Python and it was very fun! Honestly! It was new and it was fun. It was something other than school work so it was great. I guess afterward I became more and more interested so I kept continuing the lessons. And I think another part of Python that I really enjoyed was Python Perfect which was basically coding challenges. I would work on different challenges each week, to devise a solution to the problems. I really enjoyed it and that kept my interest sustained.
I started with Python and it was very fun! I really enjoyed Python Perfect which was basically coding challenges.
I know you are preparing for the NOI competition. How does it differ from your previous Python lessons?
NOI is a completely different language – which is C++. Initially, the first day was quite hard to convert over to C++ because the syntax is quite different. But right now I find it quite fun.
How does C++ compare to Python?
I think it’s the same. Both require logical thinking and designing algorithms. But C++, because it is an NOI lesson – the challenges are really hard. Harder than the Python ones. So they are quite hard to deal with and I feel like my brain is exploding sometimes (laughs) but it is still fun!
How does it help you in school? Do you think it is an essential skill to learn?
When I code in school, I do see some of my friends getting interested in it. They will ask me about it. I told my CCA teacher that I am taking Python lessons outside of infocomm because Infocomm doesn’t do any Python lessons. I enjoy thinking – especially the application of school mathematics to Python. I get really excited when I see lines and lines of code (yes, really!).
I enjoy thinking – especially the application of school mathematics to Python.
What career would you like to pursue in the future?
I cannot very confidently say I would like to code for the rest of my life (laughs). But definitely more towards the area of Science. I think it is an extremely important skill to have because society is fast-paced now.
Technology is getting more and more advanced so in the future, it will be hard to survive in the world when you have absolutely no idea what is happening behind the computers, the AI, and the robots.
Josephine, 14, is a student at Raffles Girls’ School. She started off with our basic Python course and recently attended our NOI preparation class this summer. The National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) is organized by NUS School of Computing annually to spur interest within the school community and to create more awareness among the students and teachers on the finer points of programming, which involves useful algorithmic techniques and problem-solving skills.
Innovfest unbound: The anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations; a week-long series of events that showcase Asia’s most innovative developments. It is a platform for entrepreneurs, brands, corporates, investors and tech start-ups from all around the world to meet and share ideas, build partnerships and celebrate digital disruption.
Our intern had the opportunity to gain first-class insights into innovfest unbound, and here she lists 5 things that you absolutely have to know if you missed the highlight event:
Number 1: Tencent may take over the world (literally)
We all know what WeChat is but fewer of us know that WeChat’s parent company is actually Tencent. WeChat is but Tencent’s latest success. Steven Chang, the CVP of Tencent introduced the concept of building an ecosystem that targets at what a consumer does daily in order to meet their needs. This requires intensive studying of the consumer. This is also how WeChat, which started off as just a social media platform, is now an app that people cannot live without in China. Steven also revealed the next big thing for Tencent is ABC. A for AI, B for Big Data and C for Cloud. They have already started their initiatives such as the building of smart cities, revamping retail to be smarter and AI in the medical field. Learn the fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence right here and now!
Number 2: It’s all about the Consumer, the Customers, and the Market
The common theme that keeps coming up in the talks by successful businesses is their focal point on their consumers or customers. LINE music talked about understanding of the Japanese consumers to discover what they like and implement that function. Netflix talked about the importance of listening to the market in order to adapt to changes. Consumer power is rapidly growing in our digital era and they hold great importance to how businesses dictate their direction today. It is about crafting that experience for customers in order to grow and sustain the business.
Number 3: Optimization. Automation. Machine Learning. What now?
The venture capitalist judges of the Unilever Pitch Challenge pose a critical question for the pitcher and the floor. “Yes, you have optimized and automated this process. So what differentiates you from the rest of the pitchers who have said similar things?” In a few years’ time, I reckon that automation and optimisation are going to be the next must-haves for businesses and that they will no longer be unique selling points. So how do businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors and be different? This brings us to our next point:
Number 4: Brand Storytelling
Coca Cola, Intel and Circles.Life shared about the essential point of storytelling and that is what brands are built upon. Every brand has its own story and building it requires 3 ‘C’s: Context, Content, and Creativity. It is to showcase your point-of-view but more importantly, for consumers to interact and resonate with. This intangible aspect may be hard to quantify in a business. However, decisions are made with emotions, no matter how much logic we put into them. Hence, businesses need to create timely and creative content to deliver to their customers.
Number 5: Don’t be a Doctor, Be a Computer Scientist
The world has grown to become one that cannot function without technology. Lai Chang Wen, founder of Ninja Van joked about future careers for Asian parents to nag their children about; instead of being a doctor, be a computer scientist instead. This shows the equivalence in prestige and demand that a computer scientist has with a doctor, in the Asian context. Kickstart your journey to be a Computer Scientist with the versatile Python language.
Final Takeaway: We need to rise up as a generation that utilises technology to aid our daily lives and solve world problems. The importance of programming and coding is irrefutable. We must aim to be at the forefront of this technological era.
Today, we have our Lead Educator, Ms Mona Tan, with us to share why coding is the new literacy and why it is critical for parents to start their children on it. Mona is an experienced educator who caters the class according to the needs of her students.
Q. Tell us about yourself!
I graduated from NUS Science with a major in Statistics and a minor in Computer Science. But really, I spent way more time in the School of Computing as opposed to the Faculty of Science.
Q. What are your hobbies?
I play computer games. A lot of computer games. In fact that’s mostly why I like computers.
Mona the tinkerer working her magic on the school’s laptop
Q. How did you get started, teaching kids coding?
I first started teaching robotics and math, during my pre-university days. I later got an internship to teach coding at an education startup, and from then on I fell in love with teaching coding to kids.
Q. What keeps you going? Why do you enjoy teaching kids?
Teaching, in my opinion is one of the most important jobs around. Why? Because we nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level. Nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing that students look up to me as a role model.
“We nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level.”
Q. Why do you think kids should learn coding?
We live in a complicated world. Being able to understand how computers works helps kids to understand complexity and learn how to manage it. Coding does not just apply to computers, the logic that goes on behind it can be applied to many situations in life.
Q. If a child is talented and passionate in programming, how will this help him in his everyday life, school, or future career?
Programming is an essential skill in today’s society. Everything we do is largely driven by technology. From the social media apps we use, to work efficiency tools, every aspect of our life is intertwined with technology. Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.
“Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.”
Q. Tell us about how a typical coding class would look like.
There’s no one-size-fits-all “typical” coding class, it all depends on the students and their learning needs. Given a small class size, each class differs depending on the students that are in it. It is important that every student feels comfortable in class so that they can get the most out of each lesson.
Putting on their thinking caps
Q. If I walked into your classroom during a lesson, what would I see and hear?
A whole lot of learning, interaction, laughter and fun.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most important takeaway for kids from Coding class?
The most important takeaway is learning how to manage complexity.
Q. Describe a bit more about what you teach. If I had 2 kids, one 8 and one 14, what would they learn and how would it be age-appropriate?
For the 8 year old, I would recommend Scratch if the kid has never done programming before. Scratch is a user-friendly interface that teaches kids how to think like a computer without the messy syntax that goes on behind the scenes.
For the 14 year old, I would recommend Python as it’s a powerful real world computer language and it will enable the kid to go deeper into computing concepts to understand more complex algorithms.
Bright smiles after completing the class with Ms Mona
Mona is our lead educator who delights in translating her passion and talent for coding into the bright young minds of children.
Our team had the opportunity to catch up with our cute student, Jun Min, and his mum over the weekend. An avid coder whose top hobby is also coding (no surprises there!), Jun Min started coding with us when he was barely 7, and has since progressed from being a #Scratcher to coding in Python. This talented little boy is now almost 9 – he shares with us more on his journey in coding and how he applies his talent in coding to his daily activities.
Q: Hi Jun Min! Why do you like coding so much? Jun Min: Coding is so interesting, and very tricky at the same time. I like this because I love challenges. I like being able to see the end result of my own creation/ code. Along the way, I get to edit my code just the way I like it, and do add-ons to make it better. This makes me feel like I have accomplished something all by myself.
Jun Min’s Mum: We started out just wanting him to try something new and to spend his school holidays productively, so we enrolled him in the Scratch 1 holiday course. But after that, he was so interested that he began to continue Scratch on his own accord! He showed such enthusiasm in learning coding that we decided to continue on to the Gifted Coders program when he was invited.
“Coding is so interesting, and very tricky at the same time. I like this because I love challenges”
Q: How has the experience been for you so far?
Jun Min: My experience has been really fun. Being in the Gifted Coders program also brings me to the higher stages of difficulty in coding, so this challenges me even more! My teachers at Coding Lab have been very nice and patient as well. I always look forward to coding class.
“Coding is a fun way for me to practice old and new concepts in Maths and Science.”
Q: That’s really cool. How do you find the time to code on top of your schoolwork? Do you think what you learn in Coding class has helped you at school? Jun Min: My favourite subjects are Mathematics and Science. Coding involves Maths and Science as well and requires a lot of mathematical skills. So coding is a fun way for me to practice old and new concepts in Maths and Science.
Jun Min’s Mum: I believe it has helped him express himself better and helped him to foster and develop his creative juices. It has also increased his proficiency in using the computer, which is very useful, as schoolwork involves online work and projects nowadays.
“It has also taught him perseverance, as well as improved his ability to troubleshoot and solve problems on his own.”
Q: Apart from coding, what else do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Jun Min: My hobby is coding! I love creating new games. I also love playing computer games. Other than that, I also enjoy cycling, swimming and drawing, and even designing games on paper. I hope to become a game designer one day.
Jun Min’s Mum: Coding has increased his confidence in his own abilities, and encouraged him to take pride in his own work. It has also taught him perseverance, as well as improved his ability to troubleshoot and solve problems on his own. He is always excited to ‘present’ his code or new design to us, and it has been really heartening to see him so passionate about something.
Q: Share with us something interesting about Jun Min: Jun Min’s Mum: Jun Min loves mathematics and started doing mental sums on his own at a very young age. He has come up with a few mathematical equations and taught us as well.
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for other parents out there regarding STEM education? Jun Min’s Mum: STEM education is increasingly important and will soon be an intrinsic part of our lives, hence early exposure is useful.
Jun Min is a Primary 3 student at Henry Park Primary School. He is currently attending Coding Lab’s Gifted Coders weekly programme and was one of the participants at the 2017 Inter-Primary Robotics Competition.
#Girl Power: Meet Sarah, our talented young coder. Starting from ground zero, she has come a long way – after all, she clinched an Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) in March 2018, in just less than six months of learning to code. How did she do it? Read more from our plucky student as she shares with us her journey with coding and how it has impacted her life.
Q: Tell us how you got started with coding. What do you like most about it? Sarah: It was Coding Lab that sparked my interest in coding. In the past, I’d never imagined using a computer for anything more than a Google search. But after a few lessons at Coding Lab, as I began to take my first steps into the Python programming language, I fell head over heels in love with coding. My interest surprised even myself! My teacher Mr. Foo is truly inspirational. As I started with no coding experience, he guided me with infinite patience and would be more than happy to fill the board with diagrams and explanations just to make sure that I completely understood a concept. His enthusiasm really got me into coding- passion for coding is contagious! I started out with the Python meets Math course and I think it’s a great course for easing complete beginners like me into computers and coding. After you complete the course, you’ll have enough programming knowledge to read and understand code, pick up new languages and, most importantly, explore things through coding.
Sarah, with her family, trekking in the USA
Q: It took you less than six months to participate in your first coding competition. How did you manage that? Sarah: Well, The one thing I like most about coding is the freedom and possibility it presents. The fundamentals of coding are quite simple, but there’s so much that you can do just using variables, functions, and loops! I understood this when I was learning Python, but only truly appreciated it when I began learning algorithms and C++ to take part in the NOI. Mr. Foo started teaching me sorting algorithms about halfway through my December break, and I still remember my delight when I realized that I was beginning to explore coding at deeper and very relevant level. That’s why I decided to try out the NOI as a personal challenge. It was tough, but fun!
“After learning about graphs and data structures, I saw how coding can be used for modelling and organizing real-world information- just thinking about it makes me excited!”
Q: That’s really impressive! Not many would dare to compete so quickly! How did you feel about it? Sarah: Well, I think I just felt that there was nothing to lose! I was definitely a little nervous before the competition, but I always saw it as just another stepping stone to an even better understanding of coding. I faced a steep learning curve while preparing for the competition, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Sarah, receiving her award at the NOI competition in March 2018
Q: Now that the competition is over, what else do you think you want to do with coding? Sarah: I’ve really just brushed the surface of computer science. Coding is really a language, and just like someone learning a second spoken language, I’m still learning how to express myself and get my ideas down in clean (and readable!) code. I know that this only comes with practice and experience, so in the meantime, I plan to continue my journey into the awesome world of algorithms. I really want to be able to understand algorithms on a high level so that I can comfortably modify them and use them to solve complex problems. I hope that someday I can even design sophisticated algorithms myself! Apart from that, I also want to explore coding for modelling and simulations. That also makes me very excited.
Q: Designing algorithms – that’s fantastic. Could you share with us why you think learning to code is so important? Sarah: Coding is an important skill to have not just because people with a coding background earn higher salaries- more than that, coding gives you power over the technology that will only play an increasingly significant role in your life. Speaking from a teenager’s perspective, there’s never a day when I don’t use my phone or computer. Coding also opens your mind to a different way of thinking.
“I find myself applying the logic and analytical skills I’ve picked up in coding both in school and in everyday life.”
Q: Apart from coding, what else do you like to do in your spare time? What’s a typical day for you like; how do you unwind at home after school? Sarah: Well, to be honest, coding has slowly become the hobby I really enjoy- but I still love baking! When I’m not studying or coding, I’m usually in the kitchen covered in flour or busy scouring blogs for recipes. I’m also learning tai chi fan, which I find a fun and challenging exercise. And yes! fishkeeping is one of my hobbies and I rear Discus fish at home.
Q: Coding, baking, fishkeeping – way cool! so what do you think you will end up doing when you grow up? Sarah: I’m still rather tentative when it comes to my career aspirations, but I really want to study math and computer science in college. And I honestly can’t imagine myself in a job unrelated to either of these fields- so maybe I’ll end up as a coder, who knows!
Q: We hope so too! Lastly, in the current field of STEM, there is sometimes the mistaken impression that it is ‘only for boys’. How do you think girls can be encouraged to pursue their passion in Math, Science and coding? Do you have any tips for young girls who want to code? Sarah: To all girls who are thinking about getting into coding, my advice is to not be afraid and try it out! It’s never too late to begin coding, and everyone- even experienced coders- has been a newbie at some point in time. If you find that you really like coding, then go ahead and explore at your own pace, and don’t forget to enjoy every moment! Starting to learn how to code is the hardest part.
“You’ll definitely encounter problems and get frustrated at times, but with patience, there’s nothing that you can’t achieve. There’s no one who can’t or shouldn’t learn how to code.”
Also- speaking from experience, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troves of information online. Don’t let this get the better of you. Just take things step by step. Break down a hard concept into bite-sized chunks. If you need a couple days to process something, that’s perfectly fine! Coding is a lifelong journey. Personally, even though I’ve learned a lot in the past few months I only feel that the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know.
“It’s weird but true- so just be sure take the time to appreciate what you’re learning, and don’t be intimidated by the vastness of coding, because that’s where all the possibility lies, and that’s what makes coding beautiful!”
Sarah is currently a JC1 student at Hwa Chong International. She attended Python Meets Math class from 2017 – 2018 and received an honourable mention at the 2018 NOI competition, in less than six months after she picked up coding.
You’ve probably heard her lovely vocals either on television or at landmarks all over Singapore where she has performed as a soloist. Meet Lauren, the child music prodigy who, at the age of 9, sang at Carnegie Hall after winning 1st place at the American Protégé International Voice Competition in New York. Also a self-confessed Science nerd, and a member of her school Science Club and MENSA, Lauren is living proof that arts and science can go together.
Here’s a peek at Lauren’s beautiful vocals with “Bring Him Home” – Les Miserables
We caught up with our talented young student regarding her school life, the importance of persistence and hard work, and why she thinks coding is fun.
Q: Tell us how you got started with coding. What challenges did you face when you first started?
Lauren: I am a member of my school’s Infocomm club where we get to learn about coding. The first few times I ran my code, there were always some errors somewhere. I had to keep correcting and fixing my code until it worked. It was frustrating, and I would say it feels kinda like you are getting through a tough Math problem. But I felt so relieved and happy when I got my code to work. I just feel so good when I see that it works.
So this holiday, no matter how busy I was, I wanted to take some lessons because I really enjoy coding.
“I made my own quadratic equation solver that literally spews out all the answers to my Math homework.”
Q:What do you like most about coding?
Lauren: To me, coding is like talking with the computer. I also like that I can start with a blank canvas and I am free to create anything I want with it. Do you like video games? You could create your own games from Scratch. Do you like art? You could draw and create all sorts of pictures and tessellations with the computer. Coding could also be a platform to express your creativity. For me, I made my own quadratic equation solver that literally spews out all the answers to my Math homework.
Lauren, with her quadratic equation solver
I have to be really persistent, and I thank my coding tutor (Mona) for being so encouraging to me. Sometimes when I run my code, an error comes up. When I try to fix the problem, it opens up another problem. So I have to keep fixing and trying, over and over again until I finally get it right. In that way, coding tests my patience but coding is still super cool!
9-year-old Lauren, singing “Music of the Night” at the Esplanade
“Coding is a skill that will always be relevant to anyone.”
Q: How does it help you at school? Do you think it’s a good skill to have? Lauren: Technology is getting more and more important. Even if you don’t want to do something in the field of STEM in the future, practically every company has a technological component to it. So to me, coding is a skill that will always be relevant to anyone.
For example, If I am trying to solve or accomplish a certain outcome with my code, I have to logically break down my thinking process, analyze it and then start writing my code. More often than not, the first time you run it, there will be an error somewhere. I will usually have to scan through my lines of code, detect the problems and then try to troubleshoot from there. This has trained me to solve problems creatively. Coding can also be used to help us in our everyday activities. I love to eat Oreos, so making my very own Oreo shopping cart to keep track of all the different types of Oreos I hope to buy was an amazing experience.
Lauren is currently in Year 3 at Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), as a candidate for the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. She is also a member of MENSA. Lauren attended the Python Meets Math class in 2017.
Our Founder, Mr Foo was recently featured in the Nov/Dec’17 issue of Parents’ World Magazine. In it, he shares the importance of building your child’s confidence in problem-solving, and how learning computational thinking early helps them along. Also, get some insights and tips on managing screen time wisely with your child.
And this concludes the Inter-Primary Robotics Competition, brought to you in collaboration with BRAND’S SG! More than 30 schools participated in the selection round, and only 5 finalists were chosen. Each team was scored based on their algorithm, speed, as well as creative dress-up of the mbot. It was heartening to see the teamwork and great effort of all the teams.
Our top finalists got to walk away with Brands Essence of chicken Alphamynd and surprise gadgets from Coding Lab!
Congratulations to all our fabulous prize winners!