Wednesday Oct 09, 2013

Silicon Valley Code Camp Kids Track 2013




Silicon Valley Code Camp v8.0 concluded over the weekend. I've attended each code camp since the introduction of Java (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and now this one). The code camp has stuck to its three core principles from the beginning:
  • By and for the developer community (no product or marketing pitches ;)
  • No charge to attendees
  • Never occurs during work hours

The code camp has shown constant growth over its lifespan as is evident by the trends below:



The conference is definitely outgrowing its existing venue as the registrations had to be closed early for the first time.



It takes a village to organize a volunteer-driven conference and that has indeed been the case for all these years. The conference has been primarily focused on professional developers for all the past years. President Obama said

"If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible — from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career."

 So this year, other than my usual speaking engagements, I also volunteered to coordinate a new track focused on enabling future generation of developers. It was astounding to see kids from elementary school, middle school, and early high schoolers learning programming skills.

This new track had 16 sessions delivered by 8 speakers:
More details about the track are available here. About 200 kids attended stayed with their parents most of the day and enjoyed interacting with other attendees.

Here is some feedback we've heard so far:

Thank you very much for the great classes this past Sunday.  I had a lot of fun and learnt a lot.  I hope you have more of such classes so I can also have my friends attend with me.
Arun - thank you so much for volunteering your time and organizing such a fantastic event today!! My kids had a blast and quoting my 9-yr old son "Mom, this was the best experience I've ever had" :-) We would be interested in any future events you may be planning, one time or on-going.

Thanks again for the Minecraft Mod workshop yesterday; my son enjoyed it tremendously and I hope it will encourage him to learn how to program in coming years.  I also enjoyed it as it gave me some hints as to how Forge mod loader works.

We enjoyed the minecraft modding class yesterday as part of code camp.  My 11 year old has never coded (beyond Scratch) and he was up and hacking minecraft within the first hour.  Arun’s preparatory materials, teaching approach and engaging style made this a great experience.  I would definitely like to see more kid based courses in the future and would definitely recommend the minecraft session to anyone interested in modding.  I’d give the course 4 out of 5 stars.

A friend invited us this morning to SVCC, and although the room was packed, my son and I managed to get in and enjoyed learning more about Java coding.  Thanks for putting this class together, and for making opportunities like this for father/son activity related to computer literacy.  We had a good time, please keep it up for next year :-)

We loved kids sessions in code camp.  It motivated my kid programming.  Keep up the good work.

My 12 year and 8 years old sons has been coming to code camp for over 4 years now.  It has been fun all these years, however this year in their words "It was the best code camp ever!".  Thank you Peter K., Kevin Nilson, Arun Gupta and Stephen Chin and all other volunteers for excellent sessions!

"This was fun" says my 11 yr old son Aidan. As the dad, I've been spending some time with him at home building mods in Java and it's definitely a way to motivate him to learn programming.  He's been able to slog through some rather dry Java materials so that he can get better at Java programming. Re: the Minecraft class, you did a nice job of teaching theory and then connecting it to something applicable.

If you attended any of the sessions, we'd love to hear your feedback at kids@siliconvalley-codecamp.com.

Many thanks to co-track lead Dave Briccetti and other speakers: Neil Brown, Stephen Chin, Lynn Langit, Samantha Langit, Shadaj Laddad, Aditya Gupta, and Ron Verghis.

Check out some pictures from the event ...
























And complete album at:



The two days were very exhausting, but extremely rewarding and satisfying!

Follow at @arungupta and @devoxx4kidsba (Devoxx 4 Kids Bay Area) for any future updates on similar workshops!

Friday Mar 22, 2013

Introducing Kids to Java Programming Using Minecraft


Minecraft is a wildly popular game among elementary and middle schoolers. The game allows players to build constructions of textured cubes in a 3D world.

My son has been playing the game for about a year, lets say addicted to it. Last Fall he told me that the game is corrupted because the JAR file snapshot has messed up the configuration. And that right away rang a bell in me as a Java Evangelist at Oracle.

I learned from him that the game is written in Java, has a trial version that runs as an applet in the browser, and downloaded as a JAR file for desktop. The game is modular where the players travel through a world and chunks are loaded and unloaded to keep the memory footprint small. Something unique about the game is the ability to modify the game from what it was originally designed for. In Minecraft language, this is called as a "mod" - short for modifications. For example, a mod can add new characters to the game, change look-and-feel of the play field, or make it easy to build new structures.

The game has a server and a client component. This allows the game to be played in a single player mode where a player connects to a server using a client and plays the game. Alternatively multiple players, using different clients across platforms, can connect to a server and play with each other collaboratively. Its very common to have a server run with multiple mods. There are almost an infinite number of mods someone could do to make Minecraft a more amusing game to play. There is no official API to create these mods but there are several third-party vendors that provide that capability; Bukkit is one such API. The ability to write mods and alter the game play gives players more control over the game and gets them more excited.

My son expressed his desire to write a mod and so we started exploring further. Then onwards, he started teaching me Minecraft vocabulary and I taught him the Java programming concepts. Our discussions in the car, on the dinner table, during the breakfast preparation, and elsewhere changed to reflect that as well. He already played with Scratch and Greenfoot last Summer and that was extremely helpful during this learning curve. We set up a goal to build a mod during Christmas break. After understanding the basic concepts and building a few mods, we decided to share the knowledge with a broader set of Minecrafters. And that's where the concept of doing a Minecraft Workshop was born.

My son came up with a list of his minecraft buddies and we announced a date for the workshop. Everybody invited for the workshop confirmed their presence right away. I found out that both the invited kids and their parents were equally excited. One friend could not attend because of a prior commitment and was extremely disappointed. On the day of the workshop, some kids were eager to come even before the formal start of the workshop.

The workshop was attended by 10 kids with age ranging from 10-14 years. Most of the kids had no programming experience, let alone Java. However there was high Minecraft experience in the group with some kids playing for about 2 years and up to 2 hours every day. When given the topic of Minecraft, the small group would talk excitedly about different aspects of the game, constantly using hundreds of game-specific terms and phrases as if speaking a different language. My goal was to leverage their passion and introduce them to Java programming.


The challenge for me was to introduce programming to these kids using analogies from the daily life. Using a car, features, capabilities, types, and car dealers and correlating with class, properties, methods, instances, and packages seem to work. Fruits and different methods of peeling, eating, and planting was used to introduce the concept of Interface in Java. I asked, “What can you do with a watermelon?” the first answer was obvious, “you can eat it.” The second one was a little less so, “You can chuck in a trash can.” The response was greeted with scattered laughter. I used that to explain the concept of Exceptions in Java.

Short anecdotes and side-conversations kept the livelihood of the group going throughout the five hour programming session. There are almost an infinite number of mods someone could do to make Minecraft a more amusing game to play. But all these mods hold the same basic framework that we set up for any future work on making game-specific mods. By the end of the session, we had worked out an entire framework for making a mod. A Maven archetype to create a template Bukkit plugin allowed the attendees to avoid writing boilerplate code. A lower bar to get started and simplicity was the key for this audience. The mod built in the workshop added a new server-side command and printed a trivial message.

Although the goal of the workshop was to get an introduction on programming and make a Minecraft mod, I believe the attendees learned much more than that. I think the informal set up helped them discover that programming can be fun and useful to add to gaming experience. Programming is a vast field and we barely scratched the surface. But most importantly, the attendees had a good time and learned their first lesson of Java programming to start off an interest in it.


"Fun", "Easy", "Quick", "Awesome", "Short", and "Intuitive" described attendees' one word summary of building and running their first Hello World application using NetBeans.

All the instructions followed in the workshop, including a lot more pictures, are available at java4kids.java.net/minecraft-workshop.

For me, it was quite a humbling and learning experience. I've delivered multiple workshops all around the world but mostly to professional developers. I realized how the instructions need to be completely spelled out in order for the attendees of this age to make progress. Something as simple as "Hit Enter after entering the command", yes, that is required. Anyway I plan this to be the first of many more workshops aimed to introduce the world of Java programming to school students.

One of the lessons learned during the workshop was to simplify the installation experience. All the kids had JDK and NetBeans set up already, pretty straight forward. However I wonder why Maven insists on JAVA_HOME variable instead of figuring it out. I need to investigate how to seamlessly install JDK, NetBeans, and Maven in a platform independent way. This will allow to focus more on building the actual mod rather than the multi-step installations.



This workshop was not possible without mentoring support from Allen Dutra and other parents. A huge shout out to my family who helped validate and calibrate my strategy for the audience. My nephews feedback from the lab is incorporated into this blog. Thanks to Oracle for sponsoring the snacks!

Thank you @notch for using Java to build the game! You've provided a great platform for young kids to learn Java and truly enabled Make The Future Java ...

Friday Jul 04, 2008

Hindi Poems for Kids

Got the following Hindi poems from a friend - deja vu.















And then the best of all ...


A consolidated collection is available here.

Technorati: hindi poems kids

Monday Jan 08, 2007

First skiing over the weekend

After getting postponed for past 3 weeks, we finally made our first skiing trip of the winter season to Boreal over the weekend. And the best part was that my son (4 yrs old) enjoyed his first encounter with the skis at their Kids Club. Riding up in elevators and going down on the slides are two of his favorite games and he could easily connect with ski lift and downhill skiing with them very well. Most of the lifts, Accelerator, Claimjumper, 49er, and Solaris were open. However Cedar Ridge was closed which is the route I've always enjoyed.

If you are a regular Boreal person, it's definitely worth signing up for iRIDE card as that gives you "Buy 2 - Get 1" deal for lift tickets which I've found better than any other discounts available for Boreal.

Check out the flickr stream.

Technorati: skiing ski winter sports boreal kids snowsports kids ski

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.


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