Xavier Explores Programming Languages!
Featured Maker Xavier is 11 years old and lives in Washington, USA! When he’s not in school, Xavier likes to draw, code, and participate in theater arts. He’s made movies with his friends, like a documentary about the American Revolution in which he played a foot soldier! His favorite subjects in school are math and art, and he’s currently involved in an after-school math club, where he’s getting ready to participate in a math competition. In addition to using Tynker, Xavier is learning computer science concepts like HTML5 and 3D CAD coding. A fun fact about Xavier is that he likes cheese! Read on to learn more about Xavier and why he feels coding is a creative medium and a skill that’s preparing him for the future.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A dermatologist, probably. I’m going to a STEM school where I’m going to take computer science classes, so that too. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor of some sort and help the community. [Computer science] is a creative medium for me, like art. I like to feel like I’ve made something that other people enjoy.
If you were to do that for a career, what could you see yourself doing with it? App designing, or a business systems analyst like my dad.
How long have you been coding?
Since I was nine, because when I started 4th grade we got our school-issued iPads. Tynker was In their catalogue of educational apps, so I downloaded it onto the iPad and I started playing with it and seeing some of the tools. It’s a thing that me and my friends do. I also used to, in 3rd grade and years before that, use the ‘inspect’ feature on the school computers. One time it was my birthday and we were doing a state-issued test and I changed the “Congratulations, you have finished your test” to “Happy Birthday Xavier.”
How did you learn how to use Tynker when you were first starting out?
I used some of the beginner courses and then went off on my own and started making other things. I put code blocks together and saw what they did and asked myself, I wonder if I could make that into something bigger. I just kept adding [code blocks] into things to see what they did.
How have your coding skills improved since you started using Tynker?
I got really into [coding] with Tynker. I didn’t really know how to begin before.
Where do you get the idea for ‘Lumberjack’? How long did it take you to make?
I used to be really into Minecraft and stuff like that. I drew inspiration from Minecraft, but it’s really hard to make 3D games and stuff. Not quite at that level yet. So, I decided to make a top-down game and that’s how ‘Lumberjack’ came to be. The first thing I added was naturally-responding trees that you could get wood from. And then I kept adding onto it.
I started making it at the end of fourth grade. The actual time working on it would be ten hours, probably. Just putting in twenty minutes everyday to start piecing together some stuff and start getting the trees working. I went through phases: I would code a new thing, and then I would debug it and then add new features to that thing. It took a while to build up my foundation for the game.
How do you get inspiration for your projects?
I go into the community of Tynker and I find things that I like. I smash all those things into one thing. And that’s basically my projects!
Why do you like to code?
It makes me feel free to do what I want to do and to express myself. [I also code] to please the community of people who follow me. It allows me to be me and create things for other people.
Do you have a favorite code block?
The “if” block. It’s essential to the building blocks of the game. Probably in every single actor of my projects I have at least one “if” block. In my project Robotic Artificial Intelligence, there are 200 if-blocks in one actor, which is the robot, the only Actor. You enter text into a thing and then it has a set of responses that it can give you from the text you enter.
‘r.a.i. Robotic Artificial Intelligence’
What do you do with a project when you’re done with it?
I have to say I’m never really done with a project. I’m always adding a bunch of stuff. With the few projects I am completely done with, I kind of just see the community’s reaction to it and I use that to build my other projects, my future projects.
What are you planning to make next?
I want to do more with artificial intelligence and make a simulator-type game. Like a universe sandbox simulator.
What’s the best thing about Tynker?
The community, because they’re really supportive. I like being part of a big community and doing my part in the space that Tynker has built for people like me.
How do you think learning to code has prepared you for the future?
A lot of jobs now revolve around coding. We’re moving into a digital age where computers are used a lot more. It’s useful to know a language that computers can read so you know how they understand it and you can make things that they can actually read.
Do you think other kids should try coding? Why’s that?
Definitely. Because I think it’s not only a creative medium, it’ll prepare you for the future and it’s a way to build things for other people to use.
What advice would you give to kids starting out with Tynker?
Visit the community page a lot! Not just to look for tutorials but for inspiration. And I found it useful, once I got into the more advanced stuff, [to use Tynker’s] tutorials that you have embedded in the actual app itself and just take some of the ideas from those to make physics and [other things]. I didn’t know the start-gravity block even existed until I went into the gravity tutorial for physics.
Alex told us how learning to code has also helped Xavier with his math skills: “In the same way that you’re coding, you have to keep everything grouped just right. He’s starting to do some algebra and pre-algebra. And getting into geometry is where you need to keep all your formulas in a specific way and pay attention to the details. Coding definitely helps them to get into that and keep that mindset when he’s doing his mathematics.”
Not only is Xavier building a strong foundation for learning programming languages and building academic skills, he’s also picking up cognitive abilities like focus and project management as he codes, as Alex explained: “It’s definitely helped [Xavier] and increased his focus on those particular projects that he does. He is personally invested in those and he’ll take time out of his own day. He’ll even talk to me about his calendar of events and [say], ‘Then I need to do an hour’s worth of coding today.’ He’s focused, he’s determined, he’s got follow-through, all really important things for being successful.” In this way, coding helps Xavier learn both the technical skills of programming and the character skills needed for a great future: “Using programming at this level to get him prepared for what he’s actually interested in, there’s no better thing in life than to actually do, as a job, something that you’re interested in. If you can have fun while you’re at work, then it’s not work.”
Well-said, Xavier and Alex! Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with Tynker. We’re sure that Xavier’s future is bright as he continues to use coding as a creative medium and as a potential tool in a great career!