Young programmers contribute code

Erika Drushka

It’s Computer Science Education Week, and some fantastic technology and education organizations, including Mozilla Webmaker, are participating in the first ever Hour of Code. Millions of people will try their hand at coding this week, some for the very first time.

Young webmaker at a coding event in Brooklyn

We couldn’t be more excited! Coding is an important piece of the Web Literacy Standard, a collection of the skills and knowledge we need to become contributors and creators of the web. Contributing to an open source project is another piece of the Web Literacy Standard, but that’s too advanced for beginners participating in the Hour of Code, right? Think again!

David Humphrey is the lead developer at Webmaker. He’s also a dad, and recently he started teaching his two daughters about programming. As David explains in his blog, he and his daughters participated in the Hour of Code with a project in Processing (that’s a code language) specially designed for new programmers: hello.processing.org.

An owl made with Processing

While the girls had some early success creating an owl, disaster struck when they tried to create a minion from Despicable Me and one keystroke unexpectedly sent the entire project back to the beginning, deleting all of their work.

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as losing hours of effort on the computer, especially when you’re just starting out. But rather than give up, the girls took a break and came back the following day:

“Today we decided to see if we could fix the issue that caused us to lose our work in the first place.  The Processing Hour of Code was designed to inspire new programmers to try their hand at programming, and what better way than to write some real code that will help other people and improve the tutorial?” — David

With some guidance from their dad, the girls identified the problem, searched the web for a solution and eventually found a small line of code that they could use to resolve the issue. But that wasn’t enough; they were determined to help other people who might experience the same frustration as they had. So, David and his daughters created a GitHub account and shared their solution with hello.processing.org’s creators:

“We told them about the bug, and how it happens, and also that we’d fixed it, and that they could use our code.  We’re excited to see their reply, and we hope they will use our code, and that it will help other new programmers too.” — David’s daughters

Add code to make sure users don't lose their work by accident · 1cf2be1 · threeamigos:Processing-Hour-Of-Code · GitHub 2013-12-10 10-01-22

Scott Garner, who leads development on hello.processing.org’s code base, read the girls’ suggestion and created a patch to solve the problem.  When Scott deploys the code, a prompt will appear on the screen preventing users from accidentally losing their work.

Happily, the girls’ efforts were quickly noticed by the open source community. Not only did the girls receive some well-deserved praise (Daniel Shiffman, who created hello.processing.org, tweeted that their pull request was possibly his favorite, ever!), other contributors are now building on their idea to make the program even better.

We asked what the girls thought about their adventure in coding and here’s what they had to say:

“It’s the most incredible thing ever! I never thought that I could do something like this that my dad can do with computers.  It was an amazing experience.”

“I feel great about it, seeing how much everyone loves our fix! I had a lot of fun doing it with my dad.”

We’re so thrilled to see the Hour of Code initiate not just new programmers, but contributors to the open source community as well.

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