New coders club immerses students in computer science field

December 1, 2015 — by Cassandra King and Ryan Kim

The Young Coder’s Club was co-founded by the Kumar brothers with the mission of immersing high school and middle school students in computer science.

Sophomore Shivaum Kumar and his older brother Rishub, a Class of 2013 grad who attends UCLA, had a simple idea that they began to advertise on social media last spring: If you're interested in computer programming, come join like-minded students at a weekly meeting in the Joan Pisani Community Center.

The brothers weren't sure how successful their efforts would be. But as the meeting started in early June, they knew their publicity efforts had paid off. More than 200 people eventually trickled into the room.

I felt that a lot of people would enjoy this club after the [first] meeting and that's what made me continue with it,” Shivaum said.

The Young Coder’s Club was co-founded by the Kumar brothers with the mission of immersing high school and middle school students in computer science. The club is not affiliated with the school and meets every Sunday in the Joan Pisani Community Center across from Redwood Middle School.

Shivaum decided to form the club after noticing that in the lower grades, programming opportunities and chances to explore the high-tech industry are fairly limited. He wanted to provide a learning opportunity for those kids who are interested in it.

“Hopefully, [students will] be exposed to different types of software so that in the future, they can join [App Developers Club [at SHS] or make a new Saratoga High app,” Shivaum said.

Although club attendance has dropped from the 200 who initially showed up, around 40 students now regularly attend the sessions, which are led by Shivaum because his brother is off at college.

The club often hosts youth or professional speakers who share their experiences in the field or teach students how to code. When there are no guest speakers, Shivaum teaches club members different coding languages, such as Java, Python and C++, himself. Students bring laptops to follow along and complete the examples.

In addition to teaching coding, Shivaum recently began a Entrepreneur 101 Bootcamp. During these sessions, Shivaum invites guest speakers who introduce the fine points of entrepreneurship and how students can learn more about the field and integrate themselves in it.

The club also hosted the Silicon Valley Tech Day on Sept. 12 and invited a panel to discuss views on technology in the Silicon Valley. Executives from well-known tech companies, such as Intel and VMware, and leaders in the Silicon Valley like Milpitas mayor Jose Esteves made up the panel. Elementary and middle school students attended the event to present applications and other projects they had been working on.  

Freshman Patrick Li, for instance, presented an app at the event called Geon, which allows users to find restaurants based off their popularity; it tracks the number of people eating at restaurants using geofences, which are virtual perimeters around a certain area. Li believes that being able to introduce his app and listen to the speakers gave him a greater insight on how to improve.

“The annual tech day benefited our community by helping raise awareness of technology in our daily lives,” Li said.

In addition, this past summer, the club invited Class of 2015 alumnus Aditya Aggarwal, former president of the school’s App Development Club, to teach the students how to create an emulator, which allows users to develop and test apps with a virtual phone instead of a real phone.

“I really wanted to make the practical applications of computer science accessible to kids at an early age,” Aggarwal said.

According to Aggarwal, the club inspires students to learn more about computer science so they can apply those skills outside of just school.

“[Clubs like this one] really can change our school and the community,” Aggarwal said.

Shivaum continues to send weekly emails, updating members with different events and workshops that are being held. Eventually, Shivaum and Rishub hope to expand the club outside Saratoga to Silicon Valley and said there are already plans for locations in Pleasanton and San Jose.

“It has been been a great learning experience for me to put together this program that every child in Saratoga can be a part of, learn to code, contribute and learn,” Shivaum said. “To [replicate this community in] San Jose, East Palo Alto and for kids in Silicon Valley that may not have the opportunities that we have would be amazing.”