Ed is one of Breakout Mentors’ excellent programming mentors that works 1-on-1 with students. He has an impressive computer science background, graduating from Stanford in 2010 with a masters in Computer Science (focus on artificial intelligence), interning at Facebook, and now is in a leadership role at personalized audio startup Stitcher. When working with kids, interpersonal skills are just as important as technical knowledge, and Ed excels in this area as well. Let’s get to know him!
When did you start programming?
I started dabbling in programming when I was a kid because I loved video games and wanted to learn how to create them, but growing up in New Jersey it was tough to get any formal education in computer science. Even my high school didn’t offer any CS classes so I had to learn by myself through books I would borrow from the library. I didn’t get any formal education in CS until I got to college.
What do you find rewarding about teaching kids how to program?
When I was a kid I really wanted to learn programming but there wasn’t any way to do it except to learn on my own. Even today in Silicon Valley, the heart of technology, most kids won’t have the chance to have any formal education in programming until high school or college, even though there are younger kids that are eager to learn and bright enough to do so. The great thing about Breakout Mentors is that it gives these kids a chance to learn some really useful skills while also having a lot of fun. In many ways, this program is fundamentally improving the world of computer science education.
Why is it important for kids to start programming when young?
Whether or not kids go on to program professionally, the concepts and skills that it teaches are fundamental and important to developing analytical thinking. Programming is all about thinking logically, structuring problems, recognizing patterns and coming up with creative and practical solutions. Kids should have the chance to practice developing these skills at a young age.
What is your favorite game you have created with a student?
I love when a student is so passionate about a game that they want to customize every last detail and make it truly their own. For example, one of my students was developing the classic game Breakout, which involves bouncing a ball off of a paddle to hit and destroy bricks. He wanted to incorporate Mario Bros., one of his other favorite games, into Breakout so we ended up customizing the ball to be a Koopa shell instead of a normal ball and incorporated a Fire flower into the game as well. The game ended up being an awesome mix of the classic Breakout and Mario, which we appropriately named “Mario Breakout”.
What advice to you have to kids learning how to program?
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to learn how to program. There is a misconception that you have to be an adult with a lot of knowledge to program, which isn’t true. With the tools we have today like Scratch, anybody can pick up the fundamentals of programming and create some exciting things in a short amount of time. That being said, programming is hard work and requires time, effort and dedication. Don’t get discouraged if your programs don’t work perfectly right away. Even for professional programmers, it takes a lot of time and many tries to get things right. Keep at it and don’t give up.