Congratulations to our students for achieving the Best Coding Award at the Microsoft National Minecraft Cup 2019 in Tokyo, Japan! Their winning project CodeTropolis, was selected out of more than 130 participating entries.
The transnational team consisted of students from Coding Lab Japan and Coding Lab Singapore, with classes conducted by Coding Lab Japan’s Director of Education, who taught Singapore students via a series of webcam sessions – harnessing the marvels of today’s technology.
Our students in Singapore have showcased tremendous growth —coding skills, teamwork, creativity— over the course of our transnational Preparatory Classes with so many takeaways including a broader horizon, as well as the friendships formed with their teammates from Coding Lab Japan.
What a great result for all the hard work put in by the students, tutors and everyone from the team, shining bright on the global stage!
“You can do anything you set your mind to.” – Benjamin Franklin
About the Minecraft Cup 2019 National Tournament
Children living in the 21st century need to acquire the skills necessary to live in uncertain times, such as problem-solving skills and collaboration. In Japan, programming education has become compulsory at elementary schools since 2020. This competition aims to foster programming thinking through programming experiences, and an attitude to create better society by utilising the work of computers and software to find and solve familiar problems.
The theme is “I and my town with sports facilities”, which aligns with Japan hosting international sports events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 the Tokyo Olympic Paralympic Games.
The competition is jointly organised by the secretariat ICT CONNECT 21, Universal Awareness Center, and Microsoft Japan.
The competition consists of 2 rounds of data analysis problems designed by Shopee tech teams. Participants must analyse the dataset, draw insightful conclusions and solve the problems in a specified amount of time.
Not only will participants get a chance to code to generate insights that solve real industry problems, this competition will also provide them with an opportunity to test their coding skills and understand the importance of data analytics skills required in Shopee.
A huge round of applause to our Champions, Leah, Ziv and Aahan, for winning 1st Place at the CodeXtremeApps (CXA) 2019 Junior Category, triumphing more than 30 other teams — We couldn’t be more proud!
Aahan and Leah on stage (Not in photo: Ziv)
“I feel ecstatic winning the top prize in this competition. The training from my classes at Coding Lab has prepared me well for the competition. It has guided me on how to solve the problems creatively.” said Ziv, still in awe from the results. The 12-year old was appointed as the group’s team leader due to his impressive performance shown at his weekly classes at Coding Lab. He has been attending Coding Lab classes for more than a year now, and consistently worked hard to refine and improve his code, which put him in good stead for the competition.
“He’s really good at coding.” quotes his tutor. “The games he creates in class are really exciting.”
But of course, teamwork makes the dream work. Without the combined strengths of all three teammates — the team would have not been as formidable.
“I feel like the training I got in my classes at Coding Lab helped me a lot in the CXA competition and feel very happy, privileged and grateful to have taken part,” said Leah. Leah often brings fresh and exciting concepts to the table for discussion.
Leah presenting their winning project
Last but not least, their winning project could not have been as polished without Aahan, who has been attending Coding Lab classes since the tender age of 7, and would skip going to birthday parties just so he could attend coding class every week without fail, which he has done for the past 2 years. The team’s youngest member contributed his knowledge gained from our Young Computer Scientists classes and was a critical part of the team.
It’s so rewarding seeing how far they’ve come since joining our introductory courses, all 3 started from our Scratch 1 course and progressed through our curriculum roadmap with regular classes; consistent practice makes perfect!— these students have displayed immense potential with quick progression and regular practice through our courses of varying difficulty. Keep it up, young talents!
Group photo with other Junior Category contestants
The Code::XtremeApps:: (CXA) hackathon is organised annually by IMDA to challenge minds and inspire innovative solutions for current issues that affect us. The theme this year was “Digital Transformation for a Better World”, and the focus was on improving the sustainability of the world we live in with new innovative and transformative digital solutions.
Participants addressed real-world challenges related to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Singapore’s largest tech fair, Digital Wonderland, is back again but bigger and better, and Coding Lab is exhilarated to have been invited again by IMDA this year! Held at the Suntec Convention Centre last weekend (17-18 May), the exhibition hall was decorated with eye-catching LED installations on the ceiling and packed with exciting free activities ranging from VR games, coding competitions and esports challenges to interactive workshops. And of course, booths and booths of free food — Chicken waffles, yogurt, and pizza?!
Did you catch us last weekend? If you have not, sit tight and we’ll fill you in real quick.
On Saturday, we held our Robot shooter workshop where students were taught to make their own game app through the MIT App Inventor 2. Before you think, what? Workshop in the middle of a noisy, bustling exhibition? Be amazed as the workshop harnessed the marvels of technology to carry out a peaceful class, with the instructors’ microphone linked to the students’ headphones directly. Talk about learning in the 21st century!
On the second day, Sunday, we carried out our parent-child Quiz app workshop, where we taught participants how to use the Thunkable platform to design their own fully functional apps, launchable onto both Android and iOs app store.
While the workshops went on, along with a myriad of other exciting activities, the rest of our Coding Lab Team had loads of fun entertaining a steady stream of crowd at our booth. We zhng-edup (modified) some of our students’ Scratch games by connecting a micro:bit as a controller. Kids were seen motivated to beat their high scores and bypass the various challenges faced, especially the game Maze. Never estimate the brains of an 11 year old child!
Besides the snaking queues behind our monitor for the Scratch games, we had children try out our mobile app games (such as Robot Shooter and Bumper Car), also created by our very own students. And last but not least, many of the little ones were seen exhilarated by our friendly robot Photon, as they tried to program the robot to move to and fro.
Besides all the games and fun at our booth, our friendly team members had a very good chat answering queries of all interested parents and spreading the joys of coding.
We can’t wait to see you guys again at our next fair! We’ll be back as soon as you know it.
Meet Dylan, 11, who is already programming in Python. An avid learner, this young, driven boy has written solutions to problems that students typically encounter at the Pre-U level. Our team speaks with him to find out what motivates him:
Coding Lab: Hi Dylan! Tell us about yourself. How did you get started with Coding?
Dylan: My mum noticed my interest in solving maths problems and suggested that I learn coding as it is similar in nature as it uses logic to solve problems. She also bought some books for me to read for a start, to see if I have interest to learn coding.
Dylan’s parents: As parents, we always want the best for our children. Programming/coding seems to be an area of growth & career opportunity for the future; hence we want Dylan to be well-equipped with the right skill set to succeed in his life/career. Of course, he needs to have an interest in order to be able to do well. Fortunately, his interest in Math since young has helped him pick up coding quickly, and he liked it from the onset.
Coding Lab: How is your experience learning Coding so far?
Dylan: I enjoy Coding Lab lessons a lot. The small class size allows me to ask questions freely and interact with the teacher. This is especially useful because I am able to tackle the mental obstacles quickly when I am coding.
Coding Lab: What do you like most about coding?
Dylan: I find coding very systematic in approach and very challenging to the mind. In a way, it is similar to solving math problems. I find that it does in some ways help me in solving math problems at school.
Dylan’s Parents: It could be too early to tell if coding helps in his daily life, but it definitely helps train his mind to be more systematic in thinking. This mental training does help him in solving difficult Maths problems.
The process of building the code is fun because it makes me think & approach the problem systemically and to apply logic to the process.
Dylan’s Coin Sum Program
Coding Lab: Tell us about a favourite program you have written.
Dylan: I wrote a “Coins-sum” program. When I input a figure into the program, it will generate the number of ways that the figure can be divided by, based on our Singapore dollar denomination. I like it because it is useful. Creating the program requires me to put an if-loop within a while-loop. The process of building the code is fun because it makes me think & approach the problem systemically & to apply logic to the process.
Coding Lab: Do you think that learning to Code has helped you at school?
Dylan: My favourite subject at school is Maths. I find that Coding helps train the mind to be logical & systematic, both traits are useful in the application of Maths.
Coding Lab: What else do you do in your spare time (apart from coding!)?
Dylan: My hobbies are playing computer games & reading books on history & war. I also like to play Badminton & Carom.
Dylan, 11, studied at River Valley Primary School. He started off with Python 1 (S101) in 2018 and had completed Python 2 S111 at the time this article was written. He will be enrolling in NUS High in 2020.
Introducing Silver Plus, an app for the elderly created by our very own Ian, 14. The idea which was conceived and designed entirely by Ian, was to enable our elderly to engage with each other, make new friends, and even play games across their mobile phones. Let’s take a deeper look at the process:
Hi Ian! Could you share with us What gave you the idea for this app?
I came up with the idea on my own. I came up with the idea for an app to engage the elderly as the suggested theme for school projects this year was on giving back to the community. I wanted to match this theme with my love for technology. I ran the idea by both my school mentor as well as Teacher Yong Ning and they pointed me to what was technically feasible.
I came up with the idea for an app to engage the elderly as the suggested theme for school projects this year was on giving back to the community. I wanted to match this theme with my love for technology.
What were some considerations you had to factor in when making this app?
The considerations were 1) skill sets needed to code the app; 2) actual usefulness and 3) whether it will be better than those currently available.
What were some challenges you faced when developing the app?
I needed to learn Django and some of the app functions, such as checking for contact details, needed database skills. I also had only a short period of time to learn all the skills I needed as there was a dateline for the project. I supplemented what I had learned in coding class with googling online for specific information to make my app.
How did your Coding Lab mentors guide you for this project?
Not only were my mentors at Coding Lab very helpful in giving me feedback on my ideas during the design stage, but they also helped me to focus on learning the core programming languages needed for this project. Also, Teacher Ranald patiently advised me when I ran into difficulties debugging my codes and shared some of his expert knowledge on chat interface programming with me.
What advice would you give to young coders who are new to coding?
Take time to plan your design and ask for other people’s opinions on the design. When coding, make sure you do your documentation so that you will not get confused and lost as the number of lines of code increases.
Ian, 14, is a student at Hwa Chong Institution. He started off with our basic Python (S101) course in 2017 and has since progressed to S121 and C++ programming.
We sent our intern to Japan to teach over the summer holidays. He shares his 4 key takeaways on how children learn.
Monday, 1400H: The plane touched down at Haneda airport. It was my second time in Tokyo, but it certainly felt different from my first. As I breathed in the cool air and looked around me, I felt a sense of excitement as to what would await me the next day, when I would first step into the Coding Lab Japan campus and have my first interaction with the students and teaching team.
Tuesday, 0800H: Finally! After a quick ride on the efficient subway, I was about to take my first step into the Coding Lab campus – easily identifiable with the Signature Coding Lab emblem visible on the glass door. My time in Coding Lab Japan was about to begin.
I stepped through the glass doors, and here’s what I learnt:
Entertain their curiosities
In Japan, I had a very young student who was very nervous and afraid in class. But I soon found out that she loved to play the piano. She was fascinated when I introduced the different musical instruments in Scratch, and we had great fun creating music related projects together. I realised just how important it was to pay attention to the children’s curiosities and interests, as that would be what gives them their intrinsic motivation to learn. We need to ensure that we discover the topic that the child is interested in, and engage them by combining it with programming concepts to build a fun project.
Moral of the story:Children will be curious, no matter which country they are from. They are always fascinated about how things work, and more often than not, there will be a mischievous student in class figuring out how to take it apart. Taking note of what they are curious about is a good way to find out more about the child’s interests, and these are going to be your best allies in grabbing and holding that child’s attention.
Understand how they Learn
Although many of the students in Japan do not take English as their first language, communication was no issue as I was able to help them understand key concepts by switching between different methods of teaching. I alternated between drawing it out, to using real-life examples (acting it out sometimes!), and most importantly, encouraging them to try it out by themselves. The satisfaction when they finally got it and were able to write their lines of code brought a huge smile to my face.
Moral of the story:Children learn and develop at different rates. It is important to understand how they learn, and adjust our teaching methods accordingly. The process of figuring out the child’s learning style will require time, observations, and trial and error. At the end of the day, it is completely worth it, just to make a difference in the child’s life.
Explore through Play
Whether in Japan or Singapore, students are always excited about playing with their own games after they have created them. They often get absorbed in experimenting with their projects, oftentimes changing a value here and there which makes a huge difference to the difficulty and gameplay of their games.
Encouraging students to experiment with the games they have learnt to create reinforces what they have learnt and also helps to build confidence in their own abilities. Sometimes the results of their experiments can surprise you!
A student in Japan was playing with one of the tech toys at Coding Lab – an Airblock drone – during his break time and he could program the drone without much help even though he has not done it before, as it was similar to what he had learnt in Scratch.
Moral of the story:Children love to play! Play is one of the main ways in which children learn. Give the children some time to play and experiment on their own; you’ll be surprised by their concentration, and what they can achieve.
Challenge them at the Right Level
Whenever any of the students got stuck writing their code, I would ask them to take a quick break if they needed to, and challenge them to solve the problem when they return. More often than not, they quickly got into solving the problem, as solving a challenge given by a teacher gives them a great sense of accomplishment.
However, it is important to take note of the abilities of the children, and challenge them at the right level. Giving them a challenge that is not within their capabilities will discourage them, doing more harm than good. It is important to observe the capabilities of the children, and create challenges that are slightly outside of their comfort zone.
In the Coding Lab curriculum, there are many different problems and challenges available, designed for different levels of abilities to bring out the best in your child.
Moral of the story:Challenges and competitions are a great (and fun) way to get the children involved and motivated. This way, you can push the child to achieve more, and build their confidence.
Wednesday, 1630: As I boarded the flight back to Singapore, I couldn’t help but review the memories of my experience in Japan. All in all, it was amazing and I really enjoyed the chance to make an impact in the students’ lives during my time in Coding Lab Japan. On top of that, I experienced the wonderful culture of Japan and visited many beautiful places.
I have truly learned a lot from the teams in both Japan and Singapore and the experience has been invaluable.
Coding Lab was privileged to be a part the Parents’ Learning Festival 2018. Our founder, Mr Foo Yong Ning was an invited panelist where he addressed issues on S.T.E.A.M. Learning in this digital Age.
Key issues debated included the way learning has changed in the 21st Century (where students are now taught to think and apply what they have learned, rather than rote memorisation of notes), as well as the implications of this in countries all over the world, comparing the technology adoption rate of Singapore with other countries such as China and India (Eg. Cashless Payment and mobile apps).
Our co-founder, Candice also gave a talk on Coding: The Language of the Future, where she shared more on how coding is not a separate subject, but rather, a language or a skill that can be applied to all disciplines, including Math and Science.
Whilst the parents were busy with their talks, students also had lots fun with their first foray into coding at our class conducted during the festival.
We are featured in the August – October 2018 issue of Little Magazine! Read on to discover what our Founder, Yong Ning and our Curriculum Advisor, Julius have to share on why Coding is so important for the children of today’s digital age.
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.
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