Over the course of our experience teaching thousands of engineering students and professionals and our interactions with several stake-holders, we have heard several concerns from students, faculty members and businesses alike. There are some key patterns in the concerns raised and one of them is about what Engineering students should learn in their curriculum. In this post we make a humble attempt to answer this question with a seemingly simple but effective approach that students can take for guaranteed success.
One of the most exciting moments for us was to watch 12 year olds programming in Python. Our record is being able to teach the use of a “for-loop” in Python to a 6-year old.
While we see Engineering students and Software professionals struggling with the syntax of programming languages despite having a degree in Computer Science, we were able to teach these kids basic programming constructs like looping and conditional within less than 3 hours. So when professionals say “Python is too hard”, we retaliate saying, “No, the syntax is not that hard. 10 year old kids were able to pick it up in less than 3 hours! May be you need to unlearn.”
Here we describe our experiences of teaching kids and learning about learning from kids.
It all started with our Fast Trackers Workshop. We had a student from 1st PUC (11th standard) attending this program. We found him to be self-motivated, sharp and he picked up concepts as easily as the engineering students.
This got us wondering. If school students can learn programming, can we try with students of a younger age. What is the age at which students “get” programming? Is programming everyone’s cup of tea? Should we teach programming to everyone? When I asked these questions, Shreelakshmi told that she can help. Shreelakshmi used to run her startup in Mangaluru and as a part of this, used to teach in a school in Mangaluru. So we decided to run an experiment in her school.
In the last 3 years of Jnaapti’s functioning, we have visited more than 20 Engineering colleges in South India and one thing that we see in common is the lack of motivation in engineering students.
So when this is what seems like a norm, it’s always good to see organizations like Free Software Movement of Karnataka (FSMK) trying out initiatives like the FSMK Summer Camp 2014.
So when one of our Meetup participants asked us if we are interested in conducting sessions on free software technologies for this upcoming camp, we blindly accepted to be a part of this.
What the FSMK team was trying out was something really grand! Getting 185 participants (and another 20 odd volunteers) under one roof for a period of 9 days during the vacations and keeping their motivation levels high during the entire period is not an easy task. But like, Sarath MS (one of the key people behind FSMK) put it, “It’s better to try something this big and fail than to not give it a shot”.
During the last 2 years of Jnaapti’s functioning, we have faced a lot of criticism from many of the stake-holders in this field. And we are not surprised.
This is an account of why this is so, and why Jnaapti functions the way it functions.
My intention of writing this post is to only help parents and students make an informed decision about their careers and make better choices for themselves.
People have criticized us and will continue to criticize us because they have a certain mindset when looking at the success of the IT industry over the last decade.
We have been approached by many parents when their sons/daughters are in the final year of Engineering hoping that we can get their children a job. They say, “My son just finished his Engineering and is now looking for a job. I believe that you can get him one?”. And it hurts us that we can’t help most of them because of the sheer lack of quality. In a lot of ways we feel that these people have been duped. If someone had done this outside the context of an Engineering degree, such institutions would have been forced to close and the people behind this would have been taken to the courts.