Jake is a Self-Taught Coder!
As we spoke with 13-year-old Jake, it became clear that he’s already an advanced programmer for someone his age; he loves Python and is the “resident coder” at his school—his classmates and teachers often ask him for help when they have questions. A fun fact about Jake is that he likes space! He started a robotics club at his school and participated in a robotics challenge where his team got the Rookie Inspiration Award! Read on to learn more about Jake’s exciting journey with learning to code!
What do you do outside of school? Code and play video games.
What do you want to be when you grow up? I would like to go to Mars on the, now it’s called the StarShip. It’s being made by SpaceX. It could be something I use programming for. Programming is more of a hobby that I have and a good way to get a job. Especially an AI programmer, that’s the thing I mostly focus on with coding, in my favorite language, Python.
What’s your favorite subject in school? Science, especially rocket science.
How did you get introduced to Tynker? Our school had us use it. Tynker’s mathematics functions make it easy for me to make a cool application on Tynker: I had to use the Pythagorean theorem to get where I wanted to hit the ball, so I used that to figure out the degree. It’s really cool. Our school has been pushing for having us do coding once a week, which our entire class is very enthusiastic about.
Did you know how to code before you used Tynker? All my coding knowledge is self-taught. I first started to program was when I was 8; I saw this YouTube video on HTML, and I just started messing around with [HTML]. Then I saw Python, which was a lot more cool, had a lot more adaptability, and it’s used for artificial intelligence. So, tried that out, started teaching myself it, took an online college course, completed it, and currently right now I’m also competing in a competition called Halite [Halite AI Programming Challenge]. You can find it on halite.io. It’s a good course to expand my knowledge on artificial intelligence.
How have your coding skills improved since you started using Tynker? It’s allowed me to put more thought into making games.
How did you get inspiration for your featured project, Fun Tycoon V0.1.4? Our class in social studies was doing imperialism; we were learning about how we had imperialism and the pros and cons. Our teacher gave us the option of using Tynker to make a project, and I decided, why don’t I make a game out of this or something? I made an entire game where you have to get resources to make your products, and then you trade your products and get money. You can go on expeditions and make trade routes or take the resources, like in imperialism. It’s a fairly sophisticated game; I think that it is very addictive, from what I found from my classmates.
“Fun Tycoon V0.1.4”
How do you get inspiration for your projects, in general? I look at a YouTube video, or something happens and I think, “This would be a cool project to code.” Or if there’s a problem presented. For example, I started trying to code a bot that basically goes onto Zillow, takes the information from house listings, then can predict your house’s price. Zillow has Zestimate. Their Zestimate actually came from a competition, a freelancer actually made it. That could be in demand if they want to make a new version of it. I’d definitely be willing to make a new version of it.
Why do you like to code? I just think that it’s a cool thing. It’s easier to automate things. If you have some skills that are subpar you can code something to make them better, like making a bot to play a video game you’re not very good at–like Fortnite or something. Or making a video game for others to play. Or just making whatever you want. I just find it amazing.
Do you have a favorite code block? The start block.
What do you do with a project when you’re done with it? Publish it.
What are you planning to make next? I don’t know, not until something else comes up for me to try to make.
How do you think learning to code has prepared you for the future? In the future, some of the best job opportunities are going to be for coding. It’s probably going to allow me to be well-off in my lifetime. It’ll allow me to raise a family and kids without having to worry about money.
Do you think other kids should learn to code? Of course! Once they’ve mastered block coding they should get into other languages, like Python.
What advice would you give to kids who are starting out with Tynker? Look into the Python courses. If Tynker can make it easy to learn, I’m all for it!
We spoke with Jenna, Jake’s mom, to learn more about her son’s experience with Tynker and coding. Jenna’s very proud of everything that Jake has accomplished! She told us: “I think by eight years old he had read most of the Coding for Dummies books. The way I say it is, some people can just play a piano; I would say it’s kind of that equivalent for him. It’s just a language that he understood intuitively at an early age. It was really something that he wanted and he would ask for. He was very self-motivated; he asked for those books.”
Jake’s skills, and his willingness to share them, help those around him who are learning how to code: “Other kids turn to him and say, ‘How do I do this?’ He’s the resident coder in every class, the person that they’ll go to for how to work out code. It’s both teachers and students. That gives him the confidence to talk someone through a problem on a computer.” Coding is also an expressive medium for Jake and helps him demonstrate learning, as Jenna explained: “[Coding] helps him translate to teachers what he knows. Because sometimes essay writing doesn’t really express the knowledge that you have. With code, he’s able to express these larger concepts in his mind better than he could do verbally or in writing.”
Thank you for interviewing with us, Jake and Jenna! We’re so excited to hear about how Jake has taken the initiative to learn programming languages and other technology concepts at such a young age. We hope that he’ll continue to innovate and become a tech leader who solves problems and shares his knowledge with others!