Thanks to winning a Discover Your Passion scholarship last year (to find out how your child can enter, click here), my 10 year old son was able to take the trip of a lifetime and participate in Young Rewired State's Festival of Code in Plymouth, England, this past summer. There, he not only got to meet self-taught computer coders under the age of 18 from all over the world, he was also one of the youngest semi-finalists in the weekend-long hack-a-thon, using UK open source data to create apps on the fly.
Due to the prohibitive cost of airfare, it's doubtful he'll be able to go again but, the good news is - he doesn't have to!
YRS is coming to NYC the weekend of November 1-2, 2014 for two full days of programming just for kids.
All skills levels are welcome, from beginners to budding Sergei Brins and Larry Pages. Participants will, once again, be given open source data, this time from New York City, to work with, and they'll be mentored by volunteer developers and designers on-site and around the globe to help them make the coolest product they can - that will also improve life in the five boroughs.
While the event is FREE to attend, registration is required at: https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-everywhere/yrs-new-york-2014. Sign up as an individual, or get a group together to really make it a social occasion. (Plus, inside tip: Group projects tend to do better than solos, since, as everyone knows, two - or three or four or five - heads are better than one.)
For more about Coding for Children in NYC, click here. It's sad that very few NYC schools, public or private, offer any kind of computer programming instruction, especially below the high-school level. Elementary school kids who love to code can take classes or teach themselves, but they often feel isolated in their regular school settings, as few share their passion - or humor ("There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who know binary, those who don't, and those who didn't expect this joke to be in Base 3.") Something like YRS ends up being a godsend not only from an intellectual, but also from a social perspective.
And if your kids are so into tech they find regular books, and even e-books passe, get them an enhanced e-book. Dan Elish's "The Worldwide Dessert Contest" is not only a middle-grade fantasy novel featuring exploding caramel apples, roller-skating apple pies and enough sugar-fueled action-adventure to please any sweet tooth, it also has it's own original musical score, which you can access at the click of a button. Get a FREE sample (and listen) here.