Our non-profit Tiny Thinkers initiative began as a bold Final-Year Project for a team of Nanyang Technological University undergraduates, which has been well received and reached out to many under their leadership. As they graduate, they pass the baton on to five other undergraduates – who, although all happen to be from the National University of Singapore, are diverse and bring their own unique set of strengths to the table. 

Let’s meet the fresh new team powering the second year of Tiny Thinkers.

Chairperson: Candice Wang

“It’s heartening to see the number of hours put in by the core team and their amazing passion and enthusiasm, which rubs off on all of our volunteers.”

Candice, with a Computational Thinking Kit, at the NLB Volunteers Training
Candice, with a Computational Thinking Kit, at the NLB Volunteers Training

As a mother of two and Director of Coding Lab, Candice understands parents and oversees the operations and community engagement sectors. She admits that it is no easy feat to be a part of Tiny Thinkers for the second year running, organising activities and packing kits. But with a new team, she says, “It’s exciting to have many interested young talents who bring their unique interests, personalities and know-how to make things happen. It’s heartening to see the number of hours put in by the core team and their amazing passion and enthusiasm, which rubs off on all of our volunteers.”

With 2020 ahead, she is excited that Tiny Thinkers will be able to impact more than 7,000 young lives across many preschools and libraries in Singapore with the Junior Computational Thinking (CT) kit, which covers all 4 pillars of CT (Abstraction, Algorithm, Decomposition and Pattern Recognition). “This kit has been heavily oversubscribed and we still have a long waitlist of preschools asking for it,” she said. “Our volunteers are working hard to pack kits so it can promptly reach preschools and libraries across Singapore. We are very proud of this kit, developed in conjunction with our partners (IMDA, Skool4kids and Nexus), which infuses Total Defense values into CT and most importantly, encourages parent-child bonding.”

President: Thinzar Htet

“While it is tiring, I enjoy interacting with children during events and workshops which reminds me of why I became a part of Tiny Thinkers in the first place.”

Thinzar manning the Tiny Thinkers booth at the National Library Board's kidsREAD 15th anniversary carnival
Thinzar manning the Tiny Thinkers booth at the National Library Board’s kidsREAD 15th anniversary carnival

The former intern at Coding Lab initially helped out with Tiny Thinkers activities and was inspired to keep the flame burning after her internship ended. Thinzar recalls her experiences during Tiny Thinkers workshops, where she shared the joy of coding with parents and witnessed children enjoying themselves. “When parents hear the aim of Tiny Thinkers, they inquire and remark that it is an interesting and great thing that we are doing. These instances make me feel proud of what I have done and want to continue, despite the difficulties.” 

The second-year Sociology student was always interested in education and working with children, “So I thought that it was fitting to be a part of something meaningful like Tiny Thinkers, which equips children with the valuable skill of Computational Thinking. While it is tiring,” she admits, “I enjoy interacting with children during events and workshops which reminds me of why I became a part of Tiny Thinkers in the first place.”

Head of Talent Acquisition: Shravya Murali

“I want to create a positive difference and to spark joy in the lives of others and myself.”

Shravya (on the right) at the Mendaki Learning Festival
Shravya (on the right) at the Mendaki Learning Festival

A firm believer that every child should have access to education – specifically, computational education – regardless of their background, Shravya is on a journey to make her life more meaningful. “I want to create a positive difference and to spark joy in the lives of others and myself,” the second-year Life Sciences student said. This led to her joining the Tiny Thinkers team. “I had chances to converse with parents at the Tiny Thinkers booth during the Smart Nation & U event, and they seemed impressed and appreciated what Tiny Thinkers was doing.” 

Just like Thinzar, this motivated Shravya to continue her work with Tiny Thinkers, knowing that it benefits others. She also spent her December holidays as an intern educator with Coding Lab, gaining more experience in teaching children while also interacting with parents. When asked about what she’s anticipating for in 2020, the avid volunteer said: “I am excited for more Tiny Thinkers events to come!”

Head of Training and Development: Jeffrey Tan

“I have been looking out for an avenue to give back through mentoring for a while now, so this came at the right time … I feel that I can make a difference in someone’s life here.”

Head of Training and Development, Jeffrey
Jeffrey giving a talk about computational thinking at the Smart Nation & U event

During one of his volunteer stints, Jeffrey was observed to have been working excellently with kids and was approached by Shravya to be a part of Tiny Thinkers. “I have been looking out for an avenue to give back through mentoring for a while now, so this came at the right time,” the third-year Computational Biology student enthused, citing the aims of Tiny Thinkers as the inspiration for joining. “They are very clear, achievable and most importantly, meaningful. I feel that I can make a difference in someone’s life here. I am able to multiply my value through training volunteers and subsequently gather feedback to improve the materials.” 

On Tiny Thinkers activities, Jeffrey mentions that it is heartwarming how parents are also involved. “It’s always nice to witness the parent-child physical connection especially in today’s increasingly digitalised society,” he remarked. “While the background of a family often plays a part in a child’s education, we strive to put everyone on the same starting line as we welcome the digital age.” 

Head of Marketing: Lakshmi Suresh

“I believe in devoting myself to a greater purpose, which involves helping others.”

Lakshmi giving a talk at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Conference
Lakshmi giving a talk at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Conference

The bubbly second-year Business student was a former intern educator at Coding Lab, where she also helped out with marketing activities. Lakshmi’s interest in entrepreneurship and social service was what led her to be a part of the team. “I believe in devoting myself to a greater purpose, which involves helping others,” she said. “Once I heard about Tiny Thinkers and their vision, I felt immediately drawn to helping the team out by tapping on my personal strengths.” 

In managing media channels and disseminating messages, her dedication is further spurred on by the effects of what she does. “I really love it when the publicity successfully attracts people to attend our events and to see parents and children have fun warms my heart,” she gushed. “I hope that Tiny Thinkers can be understood as an organisation that is out to make a difference, and that we can get more volunteers and participants to make our vision a reality!”

Head of Logistics: Senthamaraiselvan Pooja

“Being involved in something as meaningful as Tiny Thinkers has really made my university life more exciting as there are many exciting events going on to help spread computational thinking to young children.”

Pooja (on the right) at the ECDA Conference
Pooja (on the right) at the ECDA Conference

The second-year Biomedical Engineering student is in charge of ensuring that the materials and kits are delivered to the right place and at the right time. “I wish that I received more exposure to computational thinking at a young age,” Pooja confessed. “But by joining the Tiny Thinkers team, I find great delight in being part of a team that equips today’s children with this skill. This is especially critical now as Singapore is moving towards becoming a Smart Nation, so computational thinking would definitely be highly relevant in many future jobs.” 

When asked how she manages to juggle school and studies, Pooja mentioned that just being focused on studying can make life dull. “Being involved in something as meaningful as Tiny Thinkers has really made my university life more exciting as there are many exciting events going on to help spread computational thinking to young children,” she said.

 

The Tiny Thinkers team. Back row (from left): Jeffrey and Shravya Front row (from left): Lakshmi, Thinzar and Pooja
The Tiny Thinkers team. Back row (from left): Jeffrey and Shravya
Front row (from left): Lakshmi, Thinzar and Pooja

What’s next for Tiny Thinkers?

  • Conducting sessions for various preschools about the Tiny Thinkers Junior Computational Thinking kit
  • Working with National Library Board’s kidsREAD programme to distribute 3,500 computational thinking kits to beneficiaries
  • More workshops to empower more kids and achieve the target of 7000 kits to be given out!
The recent Tiny Thinkers training of around 100 NLB Volunteers with guests Ms Low Tze Hui from IMDA and NLB KidsRead Manager Ms Pearle Chua.
The recent Tiny Thinkers training with close to 100 NLB Volunteers. Ms Low Tze Hui from IMDA and NLB KidsRead Manager Ms Pearle Chua and her NLB team posing with the Tiny Thinkers Team.

About Tiny Thinkers:

A non-profit campaign by Coding Lab that aims to empower and educate parents to kickstart their little one’s journey in Computational Thinking. For more information, please click here. Tiny Thinkers is also featured on IMDA’s website here.

You can also join the Tiny Thinkers team as a volunteer or work with them as a corporate volunteer by filling up this form: https://forms.gle/ezNGx38Q6EYnZgWR6. You can also keep up to date with them on Facebook or Instagram.

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.
 
IMG_2646
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. 

 

IMG_0441 (2)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.

 

IMG_0460Bright 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. 

S.M. Computational Engineering, MIT
B.Eng. Elec. Engineering (First-Class), NUS
Director (Asia-Pacific), Danaher
Six-Sigma Black Belt, Caterpillar
R2 Technologies (Hologic), Silicon Valley


Yong Ning graduated with a Masters in Computation for Design and Optimisation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under a full scholarship and spent a year working in a technology startup in Silicon Valley prior to returning to Singapore, where he was born and grew up in.

Rapidly rising through the ranks and previously a Regional (Asia-Pacific) Director with a US multinational, he realised how big a part his coding knowledge helped in advancing his career. He continues to do programming in his free time as a hobby and founded Coding Lab®.

He is a highly sought-after expert and is on the expert panel of several educational publications in Singapore. His work on coding with children has been featured in various National media, including The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao. He has also been called upon as a consultant with various parenting magazines and is regularly invited to share his views at parenting talks and seminars.

M.A. Fine Arts in Creative Writing and English, University of Massachusetts
B.S. Computer Science, University of Massachusetts
Microsoft (Japan)


Brian was a software engineer at Microsoft for 10 years. He has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, a minor in Mathematics, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and English from the University of Massachusetts.

He taught for 3 years at the University of Massachusetts and has shipped numerous software projects at Microsoft ranging from operating systems, desktop applications, and mobile applications.

He now combines his passion for coding, technology, and teaching to help young kids discover the joys of coding.

M.S. Computational Finance, Carnegie Mellon
B.Sc. Computer Science (First-Class), NUS
VP, Credit Suisse, New York (USA)
Developer, EllieMae (Silicon Valley)


Li Jia had his first encounter with coding on an Apple II at the age of 5 and the rest, as they say, is History.

Moving on to Secondary school where he had loads of fun writing programs to solve various math problems, he credits his early brush with coding to having led him to where he is today, as a VP with one of the world’s leading investment banks, with more than 10 years of experience in the development of stocks and options trading software.

His hobbies revolve around coding and hardware, many of which are adapted into our coding classes for kids. His latest coding hobby (on top of his intensely game-changing work projects) involves building his home surveillance system – using Raspberry Pi.

Currently based in New York, Li Jia holds a Master of Science in Computational Finance from Carnegie Mellon University.

B.Comp. Computer Engineering (Hons), NUS
Microsoft (Japan)

LinkedIn (Silicon Valley)


With his extensive experience in agile software, web and game development platforms, Julius has been developing and shipping software for Microsoft Office, Kinect and Hololens for the last 10 years.

As a native speaker of English and Mandarin and being professionally fluent in Japanese, he has worked with teams across different parts of the world, including Singapore, Redmond, Seattle and Tokyo.

Currently based in Japan as a Senior Software Engineer with Microsoft, his recent activities include the development of Docs.com and Office Lens, as well as Microsoft’s next generation presentation platform, Sway.com.

Julius’ passion lies in bringing the frontier of innovation to young children, with the aim of demystifying today’s technology to enable them to become inventors of tomorrow’s reality.

B.Sc. Life Sciences (Biomedical), NUS
Sanofi
GlaxoSmithKline

A*STAR


Candice’s experience in Sales and Marketing spans across various Fortune 100 Pharmaceutical and FMCG companies. She enjoys translating her corporate experience into an organisation that impacts children and strongly believes that programming is a must-have skill in today’s economy.

A mother of 2, she has already started her children on tinkering with the latest tech gadgets. She is excited to be at the forefront of shaping the education of kids in the 21st Century and is also a contributing author for Sassy Mama Singapore in the area of Tech and Education.

She is also the Chairperson of Tiny Thinkers, a social initiative supported by IMDA that provides Computational Thinking Activities and Kits to empower underprivileged kids.

Principal, Agape Centre for Excellence (Perth)
Consultant, Internet Training (STA)
B.Acc. Accounting


The Principal and Founder of Agape Centre for Excellence in Perth and the education partner for Coding Lab, Lisa has extensive experience in the education arena, running a premium enrichment centre for kids.

She found her calling in Education, especially in the area of technology back in 1995 when she founded Paideia (now defunct), a pioneer in Internet training services. As the appointed consultant to the Singapore Telecoms Academy (1995 – 1997), the company received numerous awards for best website conceptualisation and design.

Her passion is to make a difference especially with children, as they are the leaders of tomorrow. Having a child herself, she understands the needs of school going children and wants to empower them with the academic, social and emotional skills to help them reach their fullest potential.

B.Sc. Statistics, NUS
Minor in Computing
NUS High School
Two-time Winner, Singapore VEX Robotics Championships (SILVER) 


Mona’s love for all things tech began when her parents brought home a Macintosh when she was 3. She started playing computer games and fell in love with technology. Her interests in technology extend beyond software, and you can often find her taking apart hardware to take a look at what’s inside.

A self-confessed tech geek, Mona started her teaching career right after graduating from the prestigious NUS High School. She was also part of the team of the NUS High Robotics Club which won twice at the Singapore VEX Robotics Championships (Silver).

Mona holds a Bachelor of Science (Statistics) with a minor in Computing from the National University of Singapore. She delights in translating her passion and talent for coding into the bright young minds of children. She firmly believes that computer literacy is the language of the future and that everyone should at least give it a try.

B.Eng. Industrial & Systems Engineering (Hons), NUS
NUS Undergraduate Teaching Assistant
Thermo Fisher Scientific


Wai Yee graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with honours in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the National University of Singapore.

She has been actively involved in school activities and has held a leadership role in her school’s community service club programme as an internal chairperson. She also volunteers with non-profit organisations during her free time to bring learning opportunities through weekly reading sessions to children.

Coupled with her cheerful personality, Wai Yee aims to bring joy to others. She loves to face new challenges and discover solutions to solve problems.