Hello World Workshop
In one of Syria’s brutal war zones, teen girls and boys still have the faith and desire to learn recent technologies despite the severe circumstances they live in.
Let’s read their story.
A year ago, a group of IT Engineers who volunteer at Al-Bir NGO in the city of Homs, Syria, had the idea of simplifying the concepts behind the most important technology pivots, and teaching it to the younger generation.
As strong believers that coding provides you with a new way to think, so everyone should learn it!, we started the “Hello World” workshops. The workshops contain 4 sections (programming, web development, algorithms and Android development ).
We start the workshops with a warm up by discussing what programming really is about? Where and how it is used ? What are its advantages and disadvantages? We start with showing them how coding can be a harmonious part of our daily lives and how much it is valuable to learn how to program, regardless of whether or not they go on to make a career out of it. They learn the basic rules of programming and programming languages, we focus on C++ and Scratch, show how to use templates and generic programming principles. During the workshop, we have interviews with extraordinary people in the field such as Mutaz Hakmi who has the most visited website in Syria according to ALEXA statistics.
In the third day of the workshops we start discussing the history of computers, Internet and the World Wide Web. We then ask them to design a very simple web page with some strict rules to imitate the thought process that they might go through when building a real website. By doing so, the idea of web design and the creativity it needs, becomes clear.
The Fourth day is a big step forward, we ask them to think of and develop an idea of a website that’s useful for our community in these days. Using posters, they have to pitch their ideas to their peers. At this point of course, we had to create a rule to make everyone feel comfortable in sharing their ideas on stage; if anyone laughs at the pitcher, they have to tell a joke out loud! And I can say that now I know a lot of funny jokes! On this day, we also discuss when to use WordPress, its features and compare it with other Content Management System examples.
Now that they have a good overview of programming and web design, the fifth day focuses on solving the problems they might face during implementation, using Algorithms. They learn how algorithms work and their flowchart using activities and games. They also get exposed to different types of algorithms and their objectives such as (the shortest path algorithm, search algorithms like Greedy, Dynamic, and Backtracking etc…) also handling the Eight Queens puzzle.
Finally due to its viable growth, Android development is a must-know. How great would it be to program your own application and make it run on your mobile phone? With this question in mind, we open the door to an enormous amount of mobile applications ideas. They learn about turning them into real apps with MIT inventor, an easy way to program applications by defining its basic structures.
In the end, our young coders learn CS fundamentals alongside crucial life skills such as teamwork and effective idea development.
On the last day, we created a cardboard mailbox in the classroom and exchanged messages that were filled with thank you’s, hopes, dreams, and encouragement to develop one’s self and make dreams come true!
Creating something from nothing, from only sitting in front of a computer screen is a magical feeling. Such magic, gives power and makes life more bearable, while one may only see the darkness surrounding. Our goal is to introduce the young, to a tool, a hammer, and hope they continue to use it in a way that would enlighten their future.