As kids look to their futures and the jobs that will excite them and pay well, there is one subject that seems to stand out: Coding. Coding is the input system we learn to create computer software, apps and websites. It’s a valuable skill, and many students are looking for classes and camps to gain expertise in the area.
Unfortunately, many coding schools and camps do not teach to young kids, or are exorbitantly overpriced. Enter St. Brendan’s School student Liam Norrix, age 13.
Liam was born into a world of computers, video games, Legos and Minecraft and has always been fascinated with building things, whether it be with his hands or with a computer. “When I was little I always wanted to build with Legos,” remembers Liam. “With coding, it’s not much different because it allows you to create whatever you want to create.”
Liam’s grandmother, Pat Kinsey, who designs databases on Wall Street, suggested that Liam use his skills and interests productively by learning how to code. Liam’s mother, Shannon Hardin, began scouring the city of Los Angeles for coding classes. She found that Liam was limited by his young age and that the only things available to him were expensive summer camps.
Shannon wanted something more intensive, something he could do year-round. Finally, she stumbled upon Coderdojo LA, a free global organization of coding clubs for young people ages 8 to 16, run by volunteers.
Una Fox, VP of Technology at Disney and Shara Karasic, director of community at Health Stream, are the Los Angeles founders. Liam began taking Coderdojo classes at campuses hosted by tech powerhouses such as Google LA, Disney, CAA and Idealab. He immediately found success.
“One of my favorite classes was at Disney Animation Studios where I presented my app in front of about 200 people!” he beams. “Coding is never-ending because there is always a new program to learn.”
Liam loved the classes so much that he wanted to share his new skills with his friends and classmates at St. Brendan’s School. He saw it as an opportunity to give back. “Most elementary schools in L.A. don’t offer coding classes,” Liam observed, “and I thought the kids might like it, so why not?”
After coming up with his own ideas for a curriculum, Liam approached the school principal, Sister Maureen O’Conner, with his plan. She was on board. This past April, third and fourth grade students filed into class after school and began punching away on their computers.
The response from the students and their parents was immediate. And completely overwhelming. The two-day course was so popular that Liam had to create a second class to accommodate the 20 students, of which six are girls. “It felt great to get such a positive response,” says Liam. “I felt happy that so many kids wanted to take the class and that girls were interested also. My grandmother inspired me, so I was glad to inspire the girls in school.”
The father of one of Liam’s students was so excited about his daughter’s enthusiasm for the class that he wrote Liam a personal letter of thanks, playfully lamenting the fact that his daughter now spends too much time working on her coding skills at home.
Inspired by his own success, Liam hopes to continue teaching coding to St. Brendans’ students in the fall as well as to the kids in his neighborhood. As for the not-too-distant future? “My plans are to work towards engineering robots and designing video games,” says Liam.
And someday, when Liam creates that big invention that benefits mankind, we can all say we knew him when.
By Sondi Sepenuk