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.

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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.

Did you catch Tiny Thinkers at the National Library Board’s (NLB) kidsREAD 15th Anniversary Carnival?

Thinzar, the President of Tiny Thinkers, explaining the Junior Computational Thinking kits to the children at booth.
Thinzar, the President of Tiny Thinkers, explaining the Junior Computational Thinking kits to children at the booth.

On 9th November, Tiny Thinkers was invited to celebrate the 15th anniversary of NLB’s kidsREAD programme. Tiny Thinkers had a booth for children to kickstart their Computational Thinking journey with our Junior Computational Thinking kit. The kit, developed by Tiny Thinkers and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), allows children to plan a character’s story and also included hands-on activities for parents to complete with their children at home.

President Halimah Yacob with (from left) Ms Low Tze Hui, Manager of Infocomm Media Development Authority and her son, Thinzar, President of Tiny Thinkers, Candice, Co-Founder of Coding Lab,
Our Tiny Thinkers team (in orange), Coding Lab Co-Founder Candice (third from left), and Amazon Web Services volunteers (in blue) taking a photo with President Halimah Yacob and Ms Low Tze Hui (far left), Manager, Infocomm Media Development Authority, and her son, Luke.

Thank you to President Halimah Yacob, Mr S Iswaran (Minister for Communications and Information), and Ms Low Tze Hui, for stopping by our booth to find out more about Tiny Thinkers and our goals for the children of Singapore!

Luke showing President Halimah Yacob what he learned from the Tiny Thinkers Junior Computational Thinking kit. (Source: President Halimah's Facebook page)
Luke even had the opportunity to show President Halimah Yacob what he learned from the Tiny Thinkers Junior Computational Thinking kit. (Source: President Halimah Yacob’s Facebook, MCI Photo by Lee Jia Wen)

Tiny Thinkers is proud to have been able to collaborate with NLB to reach out to more parents about the importance of Computational Thinking in today’s digital economy. This is especially relevant as this year’s kidsREAD programme was focused on promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics.

A volunteer from Amazon Web Services guiding two young children through the Junior Computational Kits.
A volunteer from Amazon Web Services guiding two young children through the Junior Computational Kits.

Throughout the year, we worked closely with NLB to hold free one-hour workshops titled ‘Tiny Thinkers On The Go’ at Tampines and Jurong Regional Libraries, where our Junior Computational Thinking kits were also distributed. We hope that participants of all our Tiny Thinkers events enjoyed completing the kit activities and that this jumpstarts their interests in computational thinking!

Thank you to all the Amazon Web Services (AWS) volunteers from AWS InCommunities and Connect@Amazon for collaborating with us for this event!
Thank you to all the Amazon Web Services (AWS) volunteers for collaborating with us for this event!

We also want to thank our Amazon Web Services volunteers who helped us to guide the children and spread the word about computational thinking among the event’s participants! We couldn’t have reached out to as many people without their assistance, persistence and love.

Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, dropped by our booth to have a chat with Thinzar, President of Tiny Thinkers, and our Amazon Web Services volunteers.
Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, also dropped by our booth to have a chat with Thinzar, President of Tiny Thinkers, and our Amazon Web Services volunteers.

Tiny Thinkers will also continue to collaborate with NLB next year, where free Junior Computational Thinking Kits will be given out to 3,500 participants of the kidsREAD programme to equip them with the tools to be digitally-ready.

More children trying their hand at our Junior Computational Thinking kits!
More children trying their hand at our Junior Computational Thinking kits!

If you weren’t able to get a kit this year, fret not! We know that as parents, we all want to give our children a headstart in this digital age. Do keep a lookout on our Tiny Thinkers page (or Facebook page) for updates on what we’re doing and on our future events!

Another Amazon Web Services volunteer assisting participants in Computational Thinking.
Another Amazon Web Services volunteer assisting participants in Computational Thinking.

2020 definitely looks like an exciting year ahead for our Tiny Thinkers!

About kidsREAD
A nationwide reading programme launched in 2004, it encourages positive attitudes towards reading and aims to inculcate good reading habits among young Singaporeans of all races, and especially those from low-income families.

For more information, please click here.

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.

Coding Lab was invited to be a part of Project We Care Garden Party at the Istana on 1st September 2019. Our founders and volunteer tutors were on-hand and eager to impart their coding knowledge to people of all ages at the booth.

Coding is for everyone of any age!
Coding is for everyone of any age!

The bi-annual social wellness event by the People’s Association reached out to 1,500 beneficiaries from low-income families, the less privileged children, and the elderly. Visitors to Coding Lab’s booth were treated to a programming feast as they got to code Photon robots to ‘eat’ mooncakes, ketupats, putu mayams and cupcakes (Each delicacy representing one of the major ethnic groups in Singapore!).

Our Founders with Mr Chan Chun Sing, Deputy Chairman of the People's Association and Minister for Trade and Industry, at the Project We Care event.
Our Founders with Mr Chan Chun Sing, Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association and Minister for Trade and Industry, at the Project We Care event.

Coding Lab has been working to bring programming to communities as part of this initiative. Our volunteers have taught Python to youths and conducted workshops on app usage for the elderly. We are proud to do our part in spreading digital literacy in Singapore.

It’s Coding Lab’s honour to be a part of Project We Care Garden Party at the Istana, where we were able to showcase and share with others the joy of coding and programming. Thank you to the People’s Association for giving us the opportunity to participate in this meaningful initiative to give back to the community – we can’t wait for our next corporate social responsibility event!

About Project We Care

Started in 2012 by People’s Association, the project aims to rally businesses to contribute to meaningful causes in the community and to encourage volunteerism. The bi-annual Garden Party @ Istana partners with corporations to bring joy to beneficiaries through fun and engaging activities.

To find out more about Project We Care, click here.

Coding Lab and Tiny Thinkers were at the inaugural Smart Nation & U event on 30th November and 1st December to spread the coding word to families through fun. If you weren’t there, here’s the rundown on the things that happened!

Wai Yee, our Operations Manager, sharing with a parent what we do here at Coding Lab.
Wai Yee, our Operations Manager, sharing with a parent what we do here at Coding Lab.

The collaborative two-day event between Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was held at Downtown East to share how new technologies are transforming the ways that we work, live and play. Indeed, the future is digital and it is essential to spark interests in tech – especially in our children.

A participant using a micro:bit to play a Scratch game.
A participant using a micro:bit to play a Scratch game.

Coding Lab engaged children with our wireless micro:bits, which were connected to Scratch games on the laptop. This gave them a peek into what we do in our Young Computer Scientists (for ages 7 to 9) and Advanced Computer Scientists (for ages 10 to 12) classes.

Lakshmi, Head of Marketing at Tiny Thinkers, getting parents and their children acquainted with the workshop and tips on how they can navigate in a Smart Nation.
Lakshmi, Head of Marketing at Tiny Thinkers, getting parents and their children acquainted with the workshop and sharing tips on how they can navigate in a Smart Nation.

On the other hand, Tiny Thinkers held free Tiny Thinkers On The Go workshops that distributed free Junior Computational Thinking kits for exciting parent-child activities.

Parents working on the Junior Computational Thinking kits alongside their child, and with the help of a Smart Nation Ambassador.
Parents working on the Junior Computational Thinking kits alongside their child, and with the help of a Smart Nation Ambassador.

We would like to thank our participants for joining us at our workshops, as well as the Smart Nation Ambassadors who were on-hand and actively facilitated learning among parents and children!

Coding has no age limit – we shared information on coding with people of all ages!
Coding has no age limit – we shared information on coding with people of all ages!

Coding Lab and Tiny Thinkers are pleased to work with Smart Nation Singapore once again at the Smart Nation & U event, to move towards the goal of Singapore becoming a world-class city with a leading economy powered by digital innovation. We look forward to the next time that we get to join forces again!

About Smart Nation Singapore
It is a nationwide initiative by the Singapore Government to harness the power of technology to build a Digital Economy, Digital Government and Digital Society. It was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2014, who described the goal and future of this nation-building initiative as a Singapore “where we can create possibilities for ourselves beyond what we imagined possible”.

For more information, please click here.

6 valuable lessons video games can teach your child

“My Child can’t stop playing video games! What can I do about it? How to stop him/her?”

From young to old, video games have always held a certain fascination; from classics like Tetris, Lode Runner and Pacman, to Super Mario, to today’s Clash Royale and Minecraft, millions of children have experienced and played video games. Who can remember the thrill of the adrenaline rush when you beat a level, or when that tetris block drops perfectly in space, clearing four rows at once?

As parents, we are rightfully concerned about our children’s attraction to video games, especially in today’s digital age when our kids get exposed to technology at a very young age.

How do we manage their interest, and direct their interest into something that can benefit them for life? Read on to find out!

How do Video games benefit your child? Well, Video Games:

1. Help improve problem-solving skills

Video games are all about processing large amounts of data in a short amount of time. Even basic shooting games require thinking logically. Quest-based games require players to find alternate ways of moving forward or solutions to different problems. And these are definitely some of the essential skills that kids need to pick up from.

Coding games like Spacechem, Infinifactory, and Codecombat teach procedural literacy. That is the reason kids programming classes often use coding games to generate students’ interest in coding.

2. Help develop better hand-eye coordination

Gaming involves the use of consoles or remote controls to control all the action on the screen. Studies suggest that playing video games can help improve coordination and balance in the heart patients and even in Parkinson’s patients. Children who play video games, naturally, develop better hand-eye coordination.

3. Help improve social skills

Contrary to popular belief, It is a stereotype that children who are into video games are introverted and isolated. Nothing teaches community bonding and teamwork like video games do. Games also have flourishing bases both online and offline.

Moreover, 70% of gamers play in the same room with their friends. Coding classes for kids are social places as well, and project planning, teamwork and even presentation skills are developed. This helps develop positive peer relationships and build high self-esteem. Check out our showcase testimonials to see our confident kids presenting the work.

4. Strategy games help acquire strategic thinking

Video games can give kids a chance to analyse their performance objectively. They also help them devise strategies to implement those. Most games have a set goal or mission and allow the gamer to use multiple ways to reach it. However, most of them require using strategy to achieve the goal. Many of them provide immediate feedback on performance.

5. Learn mathematics in a fun way

Kids programming classes combine learning and fun into one. Video games based on simple coding can help develop analytical thinking. They encourage children to find multiple solutions to a problem. Games like Lightbot, Scratch, and Code Monkey are interesting ways to learn to code while having fun. In the longer run, it encourages kids to take up coding as even a career. Kids who code are usually good at mathematics.

Help develop empathy and improves decision-making

Many parents find it difficult to teach their kids to empathise. Empathy is an important aspect of developing moral consciousness and opposing prejudice. Video games can help kids to empathise much better than books or verbal repetition can do.

Why not allow kids to learn decision-making skills? Some games enable kids to face difficult situations and help them learn how to make ethical decisions. These situations deal with sensitive issues and simulate circumstances that would otherwise be difficult to create.

Indeed, studies suggest that gaming is as beneficial as physical activity for cognitive development. Coding classes for children make use video games to teach analytical thinking. Video games can help your kids learn a multitude of life’s lessons, ranging to making fast and timely decisions to overcoming a fear of failure. All in moderation, of course!

Top 6 apps for teaching kids to code

Computer programming courses for kids has become easier with apps and online resources. Other than having apps that help in revising for kids’ exam, these computer programming related apps comes with project-based learning. These tools give them a chance to create and participate in fun activities. If your kid has a packed curriculum or if they think coding isn’t interesting, these applications are perfect to start with. These apps are used in coding classes for children and can be used by anyone without any background in coding. Read about the top 6 apps that can be used to teach children how to code.

 

Scratch

This is available on the internet free of cost. It was designed by a group of students and teachers from MIT. Scratch was developed for computer programming courses for kids of ages 8 to 16.

The Scratch website provides teaching guides and resources to help instructors with no prior background. Scratch uses a visual coding language with bricks to be dragged to the workspace to trigger loops, play sounds and create variables.

 

Tynker

Tynker is a free, web-based application as well. It is a new tool, but already popular in coding classes for children. The interface is like Scratch. However, the difference is that while the former was designed for programming, Tynker teaches programming.

Tynker has lesson plans, a community of student-created programs, and tools for classroom management. Tynker lets students learn at their own pace, and sparks interest in programming in them with its interactive games.

 

Cargo-Bot

Available on iPad, Cargo-Bot teaches computer programming for kids for free. Kids have to write programs in order to control a robotic arm and move crates to the top of the screen. The scope of replaying each level encourages kids to try out different moves.

Coding classes for children are increasingly using Cargo-Bot to introduce otherwise different concepts like looping constructs and procedural abstraction. Kids from grades 5 to 12 can play this game.

 

Hopscotch

You can access Hopscotch on iPad for free. It is similar to Tynker and Scratch in that it uses controls to shift blocks onto a workspace. However, the difference is that the controls are not that extensive. Meant for grades 4 to 9, Hopscotch is a great tool to start computer programming for kids.

 

GameStar Mechanic

This is another web based application meant for kids from ages 7 to 14. For kids who are into video games, GameStar Mechanic is the right app. By using a narrative style game and inbuilt design tools, kids can learn the basics of game design with this app.

Using assets, they can then switch over to the workshop and start designing their own games. GameStar Mechanic helps develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking in your kids.

 

CodeMonkey

Meant for kids of age 9 or above, CodeMonkey comes with excellent graphics and interesting puzzles. The game uses a real programming language and guides players at each step. CodeMonkey is a good choice for those looking to keep the burden of technical language away. Puzzles at higher steps require the use of knowledge gained so far, so the whole game functions as a carefully-thought-out programming curriculum.