Start-ups seek to teach children to code - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Start-ups seek to teach children to code

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

A toy with the potential to keep a kid interested forever should appeal to every parent. But when that toy, named Bo, also seeks to one day help your child get a job in one of the highest-paying sectors out there while also helping to bring computer education in this nation up to par with the rest of the developed world.

You can understand why investors chipped in nearly $10 million to make this crowd-sourced plaything a mass-marketed reality.

"We realized we needed something tangible to keep kids involved at this age," says Saurabh Gupta , the co-founder and CTO of Play-i.

The intended programmers of this robot are children aged 5 and up.

"At that age, it's more about the concepts of computational thinking," Gupta says. "It's more about the concepts that you can take any big problem, break it down into smaller chunks and solve it."

He explained how his toys grow with their users. As children learn concepts closer to real programming, the interface matures with them, eventually teaching and then allowing them to use actual coding languages, including Scratch, Blockley, and Java.

"Coding right now is almost what reading and writing used to be 100 years ago," Gupta says.

Today convincing a kid -- or an adult -- all these pages of seemingly random characters deserve their attention probably does require a colorful toy robot, but in the future we may treat code like the basic English or math we learn in school or at home.

"It's used at every single level of the business, from the webpage that promotes you to the software that you use day to day to run the business," says Zach Feldman, 33, CHIEF academic officer and co-founder of the New York Code and Design Academy. "I learned to code in the fourth grade."

But his students often hail from significantly less-techy backgrounds.

"Everybody -- I've had students from the ages of 8 to 68," he says.

Feldman started renting space in a buddy's architecture firm and now plans to move to his own office to accommodate a spike in demand. That should only continue to grow as the rest of us scramble to compete with the Play-i generation of programming savants raised on this first generation of coding toys, expected Christmas 2014.

"No matter what profession you pick coding and programming will teach you concepts that will help you with that profession," Gupta says.

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