Today, we would like you to meet Kieran Ho, our student and 1st Place (Python and Electives) at the International Coding Showcase 2020 (JP-SG) and awardee of Most Promising Young Coder at the Young Coders Global Hackathon (YCGH) 2020 Meet the inquisitive and bright, young boy in Secondary One this year.

Hi Kieran, tell us a bit about yourself!

Photo of Kieran, aged 12 and awarded the Most Promising Young Coder
Meet Kieran, aged 13 now, and with two years of coding experience

I turn 13 in July, and I have just started studying at NUS High School of Math and Science. I first got interested in coding when I came to Coding Lab in Primary 5. This led me to choose to attend NUS High as they have a module for computational thinking… and most of my friends are going there as well!

How was your initial coding experience?

When I first realised coding was a thing, I was slightly confused and didn’t really know what it was about. I only knew that you could code games. However, in Primary 2, when my friend said that he was reading a book about coding, I got interested in the topic and decided to find out more. Since then, I was fascinated by coding and after joining Coding Lab, I have deepened my understanding of programming immensely enough that I want it to be a part of my future career.

“Even if it seems hard now, in the future, it will get better and your hard work shall be rewarded!”

What is your favourite coding experience so far?

I really enjoyed participating in YCGH 2020. At the time, it was the largest project I had done, and I worked hard on it. In the end, my hard work paid off! I got a Merit award and got into the Top 5 finalists.

Is there a favourite project or program that you’ve done up?

My favourite project was probably a school administration system that I made using Python in my free time. The school administration program basically stores a list of students and teachers, and you can add students and teachers to the list and remove them as well. It could be used to manage teachers and students who have joined the school. This actually took a few weeks for me to code, which was quite a long time to me back then, as most projects I did back then didn’t really take too long to finish. It was quite fun to make and I really enjoyed it.

Watch Kieran’s International Coding Showcase submission

What would you say to other kids who are starting out coding for the first time now?

I would probably ask them to follow their dreams and to never give up. Even if it seems hard now, in the future, it will get better and your hard work shall be rewarded!

What do you like most about your coding classes?

I like that Coding Lab provides a great atmosphere to learn coding and even make new friends. The lessons are fun and immersive, and in case you need help, experienced coaches will always be by your side.

What do you want to do with coding in the future?

I might get a job that involves coding in some way, or enrol in a computational thinking course. I would definitely continue joining coding competitions, as I think they’re fun and can also help to improve my understanding of coding as a whole. They also teach me several important moral values such as resilience and perseverance.

Catch Kieran in the interview video with our dear students!

Kieran Ho, 13, is a Year One student at NUS High School of Math and Science. He started out with App Inventor when he was 11 years old, and has since quickly breezed through Python. He is brimming with potential, already taking on the Advanced Electives under our S200 series (recommended for ages 13 to 18).

(Written by Nicole Loo)

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Sarah will be starting her first year as a Computer Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) – which is ranked #18 globally for computer science subjects – on a 4-year scholarship! Read on to find out how she managed to achieve this incredible feat. 

Image of Sarah Go

From our previous interview with Sarah Go in 2018, we got to know about how she clinched the Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) within just less than six months of learning how to code! Fuelled by her passion for coding, Sarah spent her winter holidays as a student tutor volunteer at Coding Lab to inspire the next generation of coders.

Q: Hey Sarah, it’s been a while since our last interview with you. Congratulations on getting a scholarship to UT Austin! What were your feelings when you first got to know about the scholarship?

Sarah: I was definitely very happy! Initially, I wasn’t expecting a scholarship because I was applying as an out-of-state student to UT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. 90% of spots are reserved for in-state students, and UT’s ECE program is considered prestigious in the US. So even admission is very competitive – not to mention a scholarship! – and this knowledge makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to my school as well. 

Q: What did you do to ensure that you stood out from the rest of the other applicants?

Sarah: There were many other qualified applicants, and even the admissions committee can’t specify what ensures an applicant will receive a scholarship.

I didn’t have to go for any interviews or submit any additional materials as I was automatically considered for a scholarship with my application to UT. I can say that I put a lot of effort into maintaining a good academic record and producing quality work in school, especially in my research projects.

And outside of school, my extracurricular activities – particularly my experience in Coding Lab, which I wrote about in my college essays, certainly contributed as well. 

Image of Sarah Go and student
Sarah as a student tutor volunteer explaining a concept to her student.

Q: What were the Coding Lab classes that you took and how have they brought you to where you are now?

Sarah: I took the Python Meets Mathematics course and honestly if I didn’t take that course I wouldn’t even have chosen ECE as my major! I went into Coding Lab as a total coding newbie and honestly was feeling quite ambivalent towards coding when I went to my first lesson.

I found the course material accessible and easy to understand, and I got to use the programming knowledge I learned in fun mathematical applications right from the start.

At the end of my first lesson, after just a couple of hours, I was so enthralled with coding that both my parents and I were surprised! But beyond the course material, what truly sparked my interest in coding was my teacher Mr. Yong. He’s an incredibly dedicated teacher, and his guidance and enthusiasm towards coding not only made me look forward to every lesson but, three years later, has ultimately motivated me to go into computing in college and maybe even as a career. 

Image of Sarah Go and her class
Sarah and her bright students!

Q: How do you plan on making the most out of your time, now that things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah: Well, like many other students around the world, I am pretty much stuck at home this summer due to Covid-19. Fortunately, there are so many readily available resources be it educational and recreational on the internet that I have hardly been bored! I’m reading ebook versions of classics that have always been on my reading list, and have also been self-studying Chinese. I have also stuck to my goal of learning at least one new computing-related thing every day, which has definitely helped keep me busy and productive. Today, for example, while doing some problems I encountered a neat algorithm called the Boyer-Moore Majority Vote Algorithm. While reading about the algorithm, I learned that it was a UT professor that co-invented it, which is super cool!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you start university?

Sarah: I really look forward to meeting other students at UT; not only ECE students who share the same interest in computers as me, but also other students in different majors, all of whom have very diverse cultures and backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting professors at UT, who have done amazing work in their fields! As for my classes, I’m quite excited about learning more about the hardware aspects of computing, because I’ve really immersed myself in programming these few years. I believe these aspects of my university experience will be a real eye-opener for me. 

Q: Any words of advice for budding programmers out there?

Sarah: My first advice to budding programmers is, honestly, to keep coding! That may sound kind of silly, but coding is one of those things where the best way to learn is by doing, or in this case, programming. Every time you learn something new, grab some problems or projects off the internet – or maybe think up something yourself – and create a program to try it out! I also think it’s good to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes, easy programming problems can be tempting, but you learn the most from hard problems – problems that seem complex and maybe even beyond your abilities.

By continually pushing your boundaries, you’ll expand your knowledge and eventually problems that you once found difficult will become doable.

And also – it’s completely fine to encounter difficulties and spend hours debugging a program. Just keep in mind that coding is a lifelong journey, and like a rollercoaster ride, while there may be ups and downs, it’s a lot of fun as well! 

(Writen by Zulaikha)

Meet 13-year-old Ziv. A creative and fast learner, he picked up coding when he was 11 and hasn’t looked back since. He was part of a team that won the code::XtremeApps:: (CXA) 2019 Hackathon (Junior Category) by IMDA and was in the Top 10 Finalists of the Young Coders Global Hackathon 2020.

Photo of Ziv with a sunset
A boy with geeky humour, the Yew Tee Primary School alumnus is now learning as much as he can about Python before proceeding to Java and C++ coding. Photo courtesy of Ziv.

Hi Ziv, how did you get started on coding?

Mum felt that I spent too much time on computer games, so she signed me up for classes and later realised that I have a flair for coding. I truly enjoy my lessons at Coding Lab and have since developed a passion for programming, aspiring to use my skills as a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker.

Ziv’s Mother added, “Frankly speaking, Ziv naturally fits into coding as he is good in Math and Science. He is now focused on his journey to becoming a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker, and I’m glad I made the correct choice when he was in P5.”

Note: White Hat Hackers are ethical hackers, using their skills for security to protect against threats or other hackers.

“Coding can be hard. … You should also commit your free time for coding so as to improve. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for programming.”

What do you like most about coding? Why?

What I like most is that I can do anything limited by only my imagination and knowledge. This means that I can do whatever I want, I can also do things that are impossible in the real world. So far, my experience at Coding Lab has been good. I learnt a lot of things on Scratch, MIT App Inventor, Micro:Bit and Python thanks to my mentors.

I am now learning Python, which is a big jump from all the other coding languages I’ve used. Simply because I have to type out all the codes instead of using blocks. Just an additional bracket could lead to a big error. Despite the big jump, I am able to learn most of the things thanks to the teachers’ guidance.

Ziv’s team, Eagle Eye, receiving their award. Photo from CodeXtremeApps.

How did your Coding Lab mentors guide you for CXA 2019? What are your key takeaways from the competition?

We encountered a lot of problems, but thankfully, we were able to debug it. By applying what our Coding Lab mentors had guided us to do in our regular classes, we managed to overcome the glitches we faced. Most importantly I had lots of fun participating with the team!

What advice would you give to young coders who are new to programming?

Coding can be hard. You will learn how to debug and think logically. If you encounter problems, you should ask the teacher for help. You should also commit your free time for coding so as to improve. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for programming.

Ziv presenting his team's game to the judges at the CXA 2019
Ziv presenting his team’s game to the judges at the CXA 2019.

Ziv Lim, 13, is a Secondary One student at Zhonghua Secondary School. He started off with our Scratch 1 class in 2018, has since completed our ScratchYoung Computer Scientists and MIT App Inventor classes, and is currently picking up Python.

The Champion of the CXA 2019 and Top 10 Finalist of the Young Coders Global Hackathon 2020 is constantly seeking improvement with the goal of becoming a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker. His enthusiasm for coding is evident, going beyond what is taught in class, and continuously demonstrating his creativity and ability to think on his feet. We’re glad that such a bright young student like Ziv began his coding journey with us at Coding Lab!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Meet 11-year-old Leah. As champion at the code::XtremeApps:: (CXA) 2019 Hackathon (Junior Category) by IMDA, the Methodist Girls’ School student shares with us her coding journey so far – and how she intends to take it further.

Photo of Leah at the CXA 2019 Hackathon Presentation
Leah at the CXA 2019 Hackathon Presentation Ceremony. Photo from CodeXtremeApps.
Leah's ballet performance
The 11-year-old’s hobbies include dancing, where she participates in ballet performances. Photo courtesy of Leah.

Hi Leah, how did you get started on coding?

I started coding during a one-week holiday programme at Coding Lab. It was an activity to keep me occupied during the December school holidays since my family did not plan any vacation. Classes were fun, so I asked my mother to sign me up for more. My Coding Lab teachers are really helpful, especially when I don’t understand something or if there’s a bug in one of my codes. The lessons are really interesting because they are about the ever-changing world, like climate change and reducing pollution.

“The world has a big amount of coders making a difference in the world and I want to be a part of it.”

What inspires you to continue coding?

What I like most about coding is that I am able to make games and educate people about what is changing and how to deal with the changes around us. Many children like games, so they can have fun while learning.

Coding makes me feel like I am a part of the world, and that I’m not being left behind. The world has a big amount of coders making a difference in the world and I want to be a part of it. 

Share more about a program you have created. What were some challenges faced when creating it?

I once created a Scratch project about cell division, but there were many challenges that I faced. I didn’t know how to start because I thought it was too complicated. Thankfully, I was able to complete it with some guidance from my teacher. 

“Coding might seem complicated at first, it’s fine to make mistakes.”

Leah's team, Eagle Eye, receiving their award
Leah’s team, Eagle Eye, receiving their award. Photo from CodeXtremeApps.

How was your experience at the Code XtremeApps 2019 hackathon like?

This competition helped me to learn how to work in a group and it made me more competitive as this was my first real competition. I felt well prepared with the classes that I had taken at Coding Lab where my tutors would guide us like mentors by constantly giving us challenges to code and solve. They are very encouraging and supportive! This helped us to win. I felt very proud of myself and my teammates when we won first place.

What do you hope to accomplish next in programming? 

I hope to make more cool games in the future for people of all ages to play. For example, Geometry Dash. I would code the looks of the obstacles, the colour and when the character jumps. I would want this game to be published on the App Store without any supporting website. I hope that my programming can help people with their needs and entertainment. 

What advice would you give to young coders who are new to coding?

Coding might seem complicated at first, it’s fine to make mistakes. Just know that your teachers are there for you and will be happy to help you in any way possible!

Leah, 11, is a Primary Five student at Methodist Girls’ School. She started off with our Scratch holiday camp in 2019 and has since completed our ScratchYoung Computer Scientists and MIT App Inventor classes.

After noticing her creativity in class, Leah was encouraged to compete in the CXA 2019 Hackathon. Her team emerged as the Champion, motivating her to take her coding to the next level. The outspoken young girl is always up for a challenge and we look forward to all her future coding projects!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Meet Christian. At only 12 years old, he has already breezed through our roadmap and attended our Python Perfect classes (which we recommend to 13-year-olds and above), where he coded an impressive Pokémon game on his own.

His story has been featured on the Tiny Thinkers blog before, which covered how the special needs child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and gradually found his passion for programming. We talk to the young boy, who is part of Eunos Primary School’s Robotics Club and aspires to be a professional coder, as he continues his coding journey with us.

Christian's parents kick-started his interest in programming when they bought him a book titled "Adventures in Minecraft".
Christian’s parents kick-started his interest in programming when they bought him a book titled “Adventures in Minecraft”.

Hi Christian! Could you tell us about your program? 

Christian: I started it in class after I finished my Python assignment from the teacher. I would continue to work on it as a reward whenever I finished my in-class assignments early! The program is like playing the Pokémon game without the graphics, so it’s all text-based in Python.

What gave you the idea for the program?

Christian: Everyone else seemed to be coding something practical, I suppose maybe because they were older. I didn’t really know what practical stuff I could code, so I decided to do a simple Pokémon program because I was playing it quite a bit on my Nintendo Switch.


What were some difficulties you faced when developing this program? 

Christian: I ran into a lot, of course. There was one when I asked to view the Pokémon in my party, and all the letters would split up. It took me a while to realise that I was missing a function. Generally, attending classes helped me to solve what I needed to know but the Coding Lab teachers also taught me what I didn’t know codes could do. They also gave me hints on what could have gone wrong with my codes, suggested more efficient ones, and even gave me ideas on how to improve my program.

“Start small, start with something you like. Keep going and don’t give up!”

Do you have any future plans for your program?

Christian: Currently, I am preparing for the dreaded PSLE. But I’m looking to add more features to my game, and to modify it to a more MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) style that I enjoy playing. It’s still not completed yet, so I just want to finish it and run it. Hopefully, after I finish my program, I can get some beta testers who can give me suggestions on how to improve.

Christian, 12, spends most of his free time on the computer or reading on Kindle.
Christian, 12, spends most of his free time on the computer or reading on Kindle.

What advice would you give to young coders who are new to coding?

Christian: Start small, start with something you like. Keep going and don’t give up!

Christian, 12, is a student at Eunos Primary School taking his PSLE this year. He started off with our Scratch holiday workshop course in 2018 and has since completed our ScratchMIT App Inventor and Python classes.

He aspires to be a professional coder in the gaming industry and to work at Google someday. It is evident that Christian loves coding, and it is one of his many strengths. We’re sure that he will do great, and we look forward to seeing his future programs! 

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Meet Alicia. At 16 years old and with just two years of coding, she came up with the novel idea of a program that would allow drivers to check the availability of public carparks – and breathed life into it in just two hours during her Data Analytics class. We finally got to catch up with our student, who took the time during her ski trip to Italy to respond to our questions.

Hi Alicia! Could you tell us about what your program does?

Alicia: It aims to help drivers check the availability of Singapore’s public carparks – all in real-time. The program allows the user to input the carpark number that they wish to park at. In response, the program will inform users of the number of lots available at the specified carpark. As such, the driver will be able to head to another carpark if that carpark was full, saving time and fuel.


What gave you the idea for the program? 

Alicia: I remembered that there were several incidents where my parents encountered difficulties finding a carpark during peak hours and we wasted a lot of time driving around the area searching for an available carpark. It came to my mind that the data analysis program can be useful and convenient for carpark users to check real-time carpark availability beforehand. 

What were some considerations you had to factor in when making the program? 

Alicia: I considered my limited coding knowledge and decided to create a simple yet useful program. The program’s only function was to check for the carpark availability of the public carparks in Singapore which made it convenient and time-saving for the user. I hope to turn this simple program into an app that I can manage and upgrade in future, with more navigation functionalities.

“Don’t rush yourself to attain results and instead enjoy the process of learning!”

What were some challenges you faced when developing the program? 

Alicia: One of the challenges that I faced was processing the carpark availability data from the Singapore Government Data website. I had to manually go through the massive data and extract the carpark number and carpark availability by trial-and-error. Luckily, my Coding Lab mentor, Ms Mona Tan, was very patient and helpful. Whenever I faced problems in running the program, she will give me some pointers to guide me through my thought process.

Alicia, 16, a Nanyang Girls' High School student, picked up coding as she was inspired by the changes and solutions that arose from Artificial Intelligence and coding.
Alicia, 16, a Nanyang Girls’ High School student, picked up coding as she was inspired by the changes and solutions that arose from Artificial Intelligence and coding.

What advice would you give to young coders who are new to coding? 

Alicia: Don’t be too ambitious when you have just started to code! It is important to have a final goal in mind when it comes to a project, however, it’s important to take it step by step to reach your final goal, instead of rushing towards your final aim. As you get more familiar with the programming language and more experienced in coding, you will be able to constantly upgrade your project, reaching your final goal eventually. Don’t rush yourself to attain results and instead enjoy the process of learning!

Alicia, 16, is a student at Nanyang Girls’ High School. She started off with our basic Python (S101) course in 2017 and has since progressed to S201 Data Analytics and C++ programming, where she participated in the National Olympiad in Informatics 2019.

She has also taken on various projects to simplify sales analysis and performance reports at her uncle’s organisation, and has plans to create an app to showcase his products. She is currently in the Nanyang Science Mentorship Programme with I2RASTAR, where she regularly applies the MATLAB and Machine Learning techniques she has garnered.

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Coding Lab Student Feature: Josephine, 14, Raffles Girls’ School

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.