How is learning to code like learning a new language? Ask Nico!
Nico is a 9-year-old from San Jose, California who has built some amazing projects in Tynker, including a version of the popular game Agar.io that even has A.I. for a second player. We chatted with Nico and his father Santiago about what he loves about coding and how he made his projects.
What are your hobbies? I like playing with my dogs, jumping on the trampoline, building stuff with Legos, and flying quadcopters.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Probably a chemist or something in science.
How did you get introduced to coding? From my dad. He’s an electronic engineer who works at Apple. I learned about Tynker in school.
Do you look at the Tynker community projects? Yeah, I love them. I like looking at the other projects. There are a lot of cool ones.
What’s your favorite feature in Tynker? The way that you can connect with electronics via Bluetooth.
What is your favorite thing you’ve made? A game that is called Agar.io. I made it with some artificial intelligence.
Why do you like to code? Because you can make basically anything. I usually think of something at the beginning of the day and make it at the end of the day – you can make whatever you want with coding.
Do you think other kids should try coding? Yes, I think everyone should try it because it gives you a lot of opportunities and helps you learn more things. Like once you learn one language, it’s easier to learn more.
Nico’s father Santiago works in tech and says that he’s enjoyed seeing Nico start to get exposed to what he does: “It’s interesting because coding is not what I do – I do more design and create more stuff.” Santiago speaks several languages and Nico is also bilingual; Santiago says he sees a lot of parallels between learning to code and learning a second language. He says, “I think [being bilingual] helps develop the mind just like coding. Through programming, he is learning a different way to see things and structures.”
Santiago says he sees a lot of benefits of learning to code. He believes that coding and making can instill a unique sense of confidence of being able to bring something to life. Additionally, he says, coding teaches computational thinking and shows kids the value of failure as an integral part of the learning experience: “To me, it’s a way of organizing ideas, structural thinking, and logical thinking. How to even think about engaging machines into repeating or creating process. It’s challenging because kids are forced to think about how to solve a problem. Sometimes I ask Nico, ‘How do I modify this to make it simpler?’ I do believe coding helps with organizing ideas but also the satisfaction that I could make something work. More importantly, it’s the process of learning how to fail – finding a bug and think logically about what is happening. Because once the program is running, it’s cool, but when it’s not working, I need to understand exactly what’s going on.”
For Santiago, one of the most important things about learning to code is that kids practice a new process of learning and experimenting: “The idea is basically encouraging students to fail. You learn by making mistakes. That’s what I try to do with my son. That’s important for other kids too.”
We couldn’t agree more, Santiago. And thanks so much for talking to us, Nico. We love playing your awesome projects and can’t wait to see what you’ll make next!