TEDxWomen in Seattle

This is my first post for my new blog, dedicated to exploring scientific and technical topics and how they affect my local community. Among other topics, I plan to also blog about events that I attend. This week, I would like to talk about this year’s TEDWomen event, hosted locally by TEDxSouthLakeUnionWomen and Women in Bio.

I love attending TED events. I get to unplug from my daily routines and drink in the amazing speakers and ideas presented. This event did not disappoint. Speakers ranged from Nicholas Kristof to Jane Fonda to Gloria Steinem. The themes were Resilience, Relationships, Rebirth, and Reimagine. Local speakers included Lili Cheng from Microsoft, poet Rose McAleese, and artist Ginny Ruffner.

One of my favorite presentations was Lili Cheng’s presentation on a visual programming language.

Inspiring Kids to Program Through Storytelling

I was glad to see Lili speak because she was introduced as representing science and technology for this event. As General Manager of the Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs at Microsoft, she presented her group’s work on Kodu, a visual programming language that helps kids and adults build their own games.

Kodu is a user interface that replaces boring lines of code with icons. Therefore, kids can learn how to think like a programmer without memorizing a programming language. The key is to inspire kids about the art of programming through game development and storytelling. As Lili mentioned in her presentation, kids love video games and get excited about making their own. By giving kids the opportunities to build their own worlds and characters, they can use programming tools to tell a story.

Throughout Lili’s presentation, I kept thinking of Thomas Suarez, a sixth grade app developer and previous TEDx presenter. When I saw his talk online, I was blown away by his enthusiasm for learning programming languages. He urged adults to take kid programmers seriously. I wondered if all sixth graders had a secret desire to learn C programming. But I suspect that they don’t. While Kodu may seem a little too simple for Thomas, I think it’s an exciting prospect for making the art of programming more accessible to all.

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