Breakout Mentors started with simple beginnings – there wasn’t a vision to build a business around providing 1-on-1 kids programming mentoring. Rather, it started by observing what support kids and their parents need when learning to code.
In early 2011 I learned about Scratch and other exciting developments that make programming more accessible for kids. Suddenly anyone could get started, including kids as young as 8 years old. No longer are the requirements excellent typing skills and top-notch resilience. Kids all over the world were starting to learn to code and thoroughly enjoying it. I wanted to experience it first hand!
I started working with just one student making fun Scratch games. He was thrilled to take blocks of code and bring his ideas to life. Before working with me 1-on-1, he could make simple animations and involve some interactions with from the user, for example having a monkey spin when a key was pressed. But with my help he was able to accomplish so much more! In a matter of months he had worked his way up to making a 2 player strategy game featuring several different attacks of varying probabilities.
It was extremely fun, but equally as important, he showed a mastery of some important programming concepts! He was now able to break down a large goal into a series of steps. And he was able to troubleshoot when things went wrong. These are skills that will help in any field, even if he doesn’t continue on to more advanced computer science.
I was hooked on the feeling of empowering a young student. And the more I looked around, the more I realized other programming instruction for kids had it wrong! Everyone is trying to inspire more kids to be interested in learning to code. But no one was effectively taking those kids that are interested, and giving them the support necessary to keep advancing.
More and more parents reached out to me about their children that love computers, are really smart, and enjoyed their first taste of coding. They wanted to support their growth and provide a positive way for them to spend time on the computer.
In early 2012 I switched to working with Breakout Mentors students full-time and we have seen incredible results in the years since! There are several students that have worked with us for over 2 years, continue to love coding, and have made some very exciting projects. What can your student accomplish with the support of a mentor?
About Brian Skinner
My first experience programming was with a little on-screen robot named Karel during my freshman year at Stanford. It was truly eye-opening how much can be accomplished with very few lines of code. I was instantly hooked and went on to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in computer science.
During college I spent the majority of my time split between the varsity men’s volleyball team and my coursework. After graduating I worked for three and a half years at a small software company as a technical product manager, before leaving to found Breakout Mentors.