Over 40 students, grades two to nine, jammed on coding sessions via Zoom for two weeks in July, learning and building projects using various programming languages.
Short Hills Scouts, Tanish and Riya Tyagi, ran their second summer coding camp from July 20 – 31 to teach computer programming in a fun and engaging way, this time virtually! Last year, the coding camp was part of Tanish’s Eagle Scout project; under the guidance of his prior scoutmaster Daniel Cannon and scoutmaster Kevin Radics. This year, the siblings stepped up once again to teach more than 40 students and raised over $4000 for their nonprofit, HerComputing, which aims to promote diversity in tech. The camp included classes in Machine Learning, Web Development, and Game Development.
When asked about their inspiration for this camp, the Tyagi team stressed the value of computer science in the future and the importance of making computing approachable to give every child the opportunity to learn and experience its benefits. The virtual teaching experience was enlightening for Tanish and Riya. “I thought it’d be difficult to connect with students virtually, but it was the opposite. I had so many amazing conversations and funny moments with the students! I also had a really nice experience teaching a smaller group of students per class: 5-6 as opposed to last year’s 25,” said Riya. Tanish recalled, “In my early years of programming, I was excited by gamified learning; now, I feel the same excitement watching my students get hooked to programming and solve problems through gamification.”
But Riya and Tanish weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the camp.
“It was perfect! The teachers were very kind, supportive, nice, amazing! I felt welcomed and excited for the day!!!!” said Richa, a student in the Game Development class. Parents shared their input too; “My daughter has never had so much fun in an online setting since March […] she looks at coding with disdain and anxiety, in the same bucket as Math. She loved learning from you […] She was completely on her own during this camp time, happily disappearing into the basement.”
This year, due to Covid-19 and the online setup, they were extra cautious to ensure the students were learning and enjoying programming. Tanish remarked, “Student experience was very important to us; we took recurring feedback during the course of the camp and used various metrics to capture students’ input. 95% of our students said the camp exceeded their expectations and 100% said they would recommend it to a friend.”
“This was humbling, and I think the experience was so amazing because of the students, who were curious to learn and excited to experiment,” quipped Riya.
The weekend prior to the camp, all students were invited to an opening ceremony where Tanish and Riya addressed the students; they shared the mission of their non-profit, work done in the past year, and plans for the future. They were joined by Chinmay Tyagi as a keynote speaker, who shared his computer science journey and advice for students. “No matter what your passions are, you can use computer science to make a difference in that area, it’s like a universal language. […] Remember that everyone works at their own pace, so if you are getting discouraged like I was when I took my first Java class, don’t rush, don’t sweat, you will figure it out. Just keep an open mind,” advised Chinmay, who is a rising senior at the University of California, Irvine, majoring in Computer Science, and working as an intern at Intel Corporation.
The cost of the non-profit camp was $99 for 15 hours of class, and financial aid was also available. Tanish and Riya plan to host additional camps in the future.
Those who are interested in learning more, volunteering, or contributing financially can visit www.hercomputing.com. Funds raised will be used to build or refurbish computer labs, sponsor teacher literacy in computer science, and fund after-school coding programs in communities under-represented in technology.