Awaken the inner engineer in kids

Partake in "Bring Your Child to Work Day" on Thursday, April 28

lego robotics
Credit: Franklin Park Library

Ahead of “Bring Your Child to Work” day on April 28, security practitioners who have long been in the industry can be thinking about how to engender curiosity in the young, particularly in their own children.

Having worked in K-12 technology education for nearly 12 years, 2U CTO James Kenigsberg knew that hands-on approach at home would benefit his young sons in learning about STEM. James taught his sons how to code and gave them a clear view into what his job is like. He even helped one son develop a robotic “Wolverine” claw that is controlled through a smartphone app. 

Kenigsberg brought his older son Daniel to work with him on a "Bring Your Child to Work" day. Daniel, who shared his energy and love for robotics in his own words, was instantly fascinated by everything going on at 2U. Daniel said, "It all started when my brother, my dad, and I were driving home from a day at his job. I was 8 years old. My dad was telling me something about programming. I told him I wanted to learn to program. He told me he'd figure something out. In an hour he came to me and showed me an app called Hopscotch."

The Hopscotch app proved a great tool for Daniel who was easily able to drag and drop a loop or a statement. "The first thing he did was draw a square. I told him if he could figure out how to draw a perfect Star of David, we’d go to Toys R Us to get something he really wanted," Kenigsberg said. Daniel showed his dad the first attempt, which Kenigsberg said wasn't quite good enough. He continued to challenge his son.

Daniel said, "In order to accomplish this, I had to learn not only advanced programming techniques but also a lot of geometry." Geometry and math, code, and algorithms is not easy, but with the right tools, kids can learn. The more opportunities Kenigsberg shared with Daniel, the more he was able to learn on his own.

"He got really into robotics. It was like he was creating magic," Kenigsberg said. "That passion for technology and in general STEM is so deeply rooted in him, but I can totally see that when he grows up those skills will be necessary for every day life," Kenigsberg continued.

Daniel shared a letter with me expressing with great enthusiasm his absolute love for programming and code. Below is a portion of that letter:

Later that year, my dad gave me a Lego mind storms set as a gift. In order for me to program the robots I built, I had to learn how to send signals from sensors to the computer and convert them to tasks for the motors. When I was 9, I was introduced to a website called Scratch. One day, I put in a simple computer algorithm to control one avatar and for the second one I programmed a GUI. I had created a simple video game. It was very, very primitive; you had to avoid the beetle as long as you could. This sparked creativeness in me. I made all types of other more complex games, and I even learned how to do multiplayer by assigning different controls.

About a month ago, Daniel woke up at 6 am because he had an idea to build a robotic wolverine. "He used raspberry pi and origami, and he figured it all out on his own using basic stuff he found around his room," Kenigsberg said. Daniel then connected his creation to his iPhone. He made a robotic wolverine claw that he was able to program.

"I could try to teach them everything myself, but I travel a lot. I see my kids learning at school, but at home they have unlimited resources, like Kahn Academy and YouTube. He never listens to music and instead listens to podcasts. There is so much great content out there now, and if we teach our kids how to find resources, they will become pretty proficient self learners."

Imagine if his dad hadn't opened that door of opportunity for Daniel and decided not to bring his son to work? 

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