NewTechKids chose the question ‘What is a computer?’ to kick off our ‘Intro to Programming’ Bootcamp yesterday. We started the first workshop by knocking our group of 7-9 year olds out of their comfort zone and challenging their belief that computers are just a screen, keypad and circuit board.

They discovered that computers are all around us: traffic lights, turnstiles in the subway (metro), home heating systems and other things in everyday life.

We then introduced them to concept of ‘Finite State Machine’ or FSM which is just a fancy term for how computers function: fixed states which change according to input. When we introduced the concept of the German Enigma and Alan Turing, who broke the code during World War II, we were pleasantly surprised when one of the children described what an Enigma did in full detail.

To bring thinking in terms of binary numbers, FSM, input, programming and solving problems step-by-step to life, the kids turned into pirates to play a game based on getting to a treasure island. The kids then designed their own FSMs and came up with a secret binary code.

Here’s to a future generation of technologists with Alan Turing programming capabilities!