My KidsRuby Journey

Author Note: Katie Hagerty is the daughter of Engine Yard’s PJ Hagerty.  She recently keynoted at RubyConf as well as spoke at Nickel City Ruby Conf.  Katie is a 6th grader who is learning to code and organizes the Western New York CoderDojo for kids.

I’m a kid.  I’m a 6th grader at a middle school where they have a lot of fire drills.  I also dance, and write plays and hang out with my friends.

Oh yeah, and I code. I used to wonder what my dad was always doing down in his basement office, wearing his pajamas all day.  I knew he did Ruby and it meant talking to computers, but what was Ruby?  I wondered, could kids do this?  I asked and my dad put KidsRuby on my computer.

My first question when I started was what is this turtle everyone keeps talking about.  I learned that the “turtle” is a program.  A program is a list of instructions you put into a computer to make it do the things you want it to.  Creating a program is what people call coding.

At first it started simple.  I would make a line or change some colors and it was fun, but I still didn’t have a turtle yet.  I kept going through the KidsRuby program and was able to create more shapes by changing the commands I was using.  I could make crosses with lines shooting out of it and various shapes.  Here is a picture of one of my programs in KidsRuby and what it printed out:

When I saw this working I knew I answered the big question: KIDS CAN CODE!

KidsRuby also taught some other things, like alerting and putting.  An alert sends a message to the screen with a little sign with an exclamation point.  It can take information too, like your favorite dance style or favorite color, and give it back to the program.  Putting sends a message to the screen and you can see it in a browser like a regular webpage.  You can put the message “Hello World!” on the screen…but it isn’t really “Hello World!” because only you can see it.  It’s really just “Hello Me!”.

KidsRuby also taught me about Ruby in general.  It talked about a guy named Why and how he wanted people to learn Ruby and have fun.  It also talked about Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto and how he created Ruby to make coders happy.  It was cool that I got to meet him at RubyConf.

The best part about KidsRuby is it can be done anywhere.  You don’t need a fancy or expensive computer, just a computer that works.  Everyone should try it, not just kids.

Now that I learned a little bit of how to code I’m trying to make an application called Kitter, like twitter for kids. Kids can tell jokes and they get fans instead of followers. Followers are creepy, and fans make you feel famous (even though you’re not).

Everyone should help kids learn how to code.  KidsRuby is a great way to start.  Also, adults who code should help kids out at CoderDojo and other kid coding things.