British startup Feynlabs expanding to Miami with new technique for teaching children to code

 

ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Ajit Jaokar believes that if you can read and you can think, you can code.

He is the founder of Feynlabs, a London-based education startup that has been studying the way kids and their grown-ups learn technology. Jaokar believes many kids need to be able to learn coding fast so they develop the curiosity and passion to stick with it. For more than a year, Feynlabs has been working in the United Kingdom and Europe to develop its product through a series of trials with more than 400 computer science teachers and their students. The technique is based on accelerated learning.

“Today, everyone needs to understand how to code, but yet, we teach programming in exactly the same way we have for 60 years. We are developing a set of techniques that accelerate the early-stage learning of programming and computer science,” said Jaokar, who has also done research in smart cities, big data and transcontinental technology policy.

Now Feynlabs is ready, and Miami will be its global launching pad. Attractions were the growing tech scene and Miami’s positioning to Latin America and Europe, as well as the area’s rich immigrant culture and its “social ethos,” said Jaokar, who was born in India. Miami social media expert Alex de Carvalho is on Feynlabs’ advisory board.

About 60 students and teachers took his courses at The LAB Miami in November. In the class for kids, the students hacked the code to create a throng of balls jumping across the screen. At its core, said Jaokar, Feynlabs’ technique is teaching kids to understand essential patterns. Feynlabs even applies programming techniques sprung from sports-endurance coaching and the grand masters of chess.

Summer Stanley, 9, went to a workshop led by Jaokar that introduced her to the Raspberry Pi and the Python programming language. She loved it so much, said her father, Levy Stanley, that the family has bought her a Raspberry Pi, an affordable credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and keyboard, and several programming books. Her grandmother bought her a programmable robot.

“Think of tech education like going from 0 to 60 like the acceleration of a cheetah. Our course is designed to accelerate the early-stage learning of programming,” said Jaokar. “This matters because once a child drops out at an early stage, it’s hard to get them back.”

Lately, Feynlabs has been studying the learning differences of boys and girls. For instance, boys respond well to competitions or games, but girls may learn better if their project is connected to a “cause,” he said. Jaokar is also interested in working with children on the Autism spectrum.

Feynlabs will be launching its instructional book, authored by Jaokar and his 10-year-old son Aditya, online in late May and in print in the fall. In May, Feynlabs will also begin training teachers and others in South Florida who aspire to teach Feynlabs’ techniques, Jaokar said. Jaokar hopes to offer free classes at The LAB and online soon after.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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