Apr 012017


“I am often stunned and charmed by the simple brilliance of what children say.  But, you have to be willing to listen.” – Mike Farrell

When I was a child, we often didn’t have a television.  Consequently, we spent a lot of time as a family with other diversions including playing board games.  One might think that quaint pastime was a thing of the past; but, not only is it providing entertainment to new generations of families, it has taken on a decidedly modern spin.

Samaira Mehta is a nine-year-old inventor who is about to take the world by storm.  She has taken the humble board game and turned it into a teaching tool that just might help a lot of kids and other people learn valuable skills that will help shape the future.

You see, in addition to playing board games, Samaira loves to do computer coding, and she thinks this is a pastime more kids would love if they just had the chance.

“Coding is fun,” she asserts.  The uninitiated among us will have to take her word for it for now, but soon adults as well as children will have the opportunity to learn coding in a fun way.

When I asked her why she feels it is so important for children to learn this skill, she told me, “Coding is the future.  It’s in everything.  People who want to be leaders need to know how to code.  It helps them to be better thinkers.”

How does a young child become interested in computer coding?   “Let me tell you the story of how I got to know about coding,” Samaira offers.  “Some time back, my dad played a little prank on me.  He showed me something on his laptop that had one button and a command that said, ‘Press this if you are beautiful.’”

He asked me to give it a try, but when my mouse pointer touched the button, the button disappeared.  I was like, ‘How did you do that?’  Am I not beautiful?  What’s going on here?’”  He said, “This was made by coding,” and then I was like, “I want to do that too,’ and that’s where it all started.”

From that simple beginning, Samaira developed a love for coding.  “From then on, whenever I got on the computer, I would go to the website to practice debugging, problem-solving, sequencing, and conditional.”

“As the tasks got harder, I enjoyed the challenges each new level presented to me.  I began to learn problem-solving skills I now think are essential for everyday life.  It’s very important for kids to learn coding, because coding is starting to become an important part of life.”

She decided to do something to help make it easier for kids to learn coding.  Using her stuffed rabbit as an inspiration, Coder Bunnyz, a board game designed to teach coding was born.

According to her website, Samaira’s mission is, “‘to get everyone age 4-104 excited about coding in a really fun way!”  Coder Bunnyz is how she plans to accomplish that.

Why did Samaira decide to use a low-tech vehicle to teach something as high-tech as coding?  She explained she didn’t want it to be computer-based, because as she explains, “That’s just on a screen and not talking with others.  With Coder Bunnyz, the whole family is learning, and it’s fun!”  She went on to explain the game will help build relationships, and it will give adults and opportunity to learn along with their children.

Samaira isn’t just interested in coding; she is also interested in all areas of STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.  However, she hasn’t always been.  “When I was 5, I didn’t have interest in STEM,” she says.

When asked about the gender gap in these areas of study, she explains, “It’s a cultural thing.  In other countries, girls scored higher but not in the US.”

How would she suggest that be addressed?

“Start coding early; then, they might not lose interest.”  She explains the game allows players to begin at a very elementary level and advance to higher levels of ability.  “Besides, it’s better to know how to code, because there won’t always be a boy.”

This pint-sized sage has become somewhat of a celebrity having been recognized for her efforts by the White House and featured by various media outlets.  Yet, in spite of the attention, she remains  level-headed, saying, “I just keep working hard and keep my feet on the ground.  My friends are proud of me, and I like it when they ask me to teach them to code.”

She offers this advice to adults as well as children. “Observe, explore, and ask questions.  Never stop learning. Follow your dreams.  It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, because you learn from them.”

Coder Bunnyz will be available in April.  To learn more, visit her website or Facebook page. You can also follow Samaira and Coder Bunnyz on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Rebecca Lacy is President of Pinnacle Management Group, Incorporated, a company providing leadership coaching, training, and consulting in the areas of employee engagement and leadership development.  She is the author of Leadership in Wonderland that takes leaders at all levels on a journey of self-discovery.  Website Facebook TwitterBooks