Meet the youngest coding teacher and founder: how 14-year-old Krish Samtani is making coding free and fun for kids
We met a guy who's seen the future, and he says he sees it in combinations of brackets and characters that form commands. A self-learned wizard at this language, he believes people from all walks of life must become a part of this narrative, for it can be thrilling, entertaining, and form the building blocks of the modern world. So, he's decided to take it to them, absolutely free of cost.
And these aren't even the most impressive bits about him. For starters, this coding maestro is just 14, and has already started making his dream come true!
Krish Samtani was born in a town called Secaucus in New Jersey, USA, where he spent his life's first eight years. The family of four – his mother, father, and brother – moved to Bengaluru thereafter, which was a daunting experience for the third grader at first, but he was quick to find reasons to love the city. He attended Greenwood High for the remainder of his primary school education, after which he shifted to TISB, where he now studies in the ninth grade, and is preparing for the Cambridge IGCSE examinations.
Since his fourth grade, Krish has been pushing the envelope when it came to hobbies and extra-curricular activities – be it the applied computer science lessons he took when he was nine, or the courses on softwares right from Adobe Photoshop to Networking he opted for a little later. Whilst he enjoyed these lessons immensely, they were all but stepping stones to his true passion – coding. Two years down, he started taking coding lessons, and, as anticipated, was quick to grasp programming languages such as Python and Java.
“I used to enjoy fiddling with sections of code and did so in my free time. However, I had no practical exposure to the real world applications and wonders of coding,” recalls Krish. It was only when he went to the US in his summers and attended some camps on the concepts of real world coding at Johns Hopkins University, that he was really drawn to it. “I wanted to join a similar class that would go beyond theory, a ‘club’ in a real world environment, but couldn’t find any when I returned. And we are talking about a country that produces the world’s best programmers. That is when I knew that something like this had to be started,” says Krish, who couldn't wait to join the bandwagon and take his plunge.
'Zero'ing in on a plan
It was christened ‘0Gravity’, a free coding club for kids aged 10 to 14 years, as it also embodied his own attitude. “It meant to be something with no bounds and restrictions, allowing children to utilise their exceptional creativity and develop a skill that I believe, our lives will soon be dependent upon,” he says. Krish also learnt that there might be many children who are smart and yet, do not get the opportunity to learn how to code. He decided they would be part of the club.
The idea was to have interesting activities that would make coding fun for children and help them fall in love with it. He had put pen to paper and created a blueprint while still at camp, and had handed it to his parents immediately – a document he has still held on to dearly.
0Gravity is based on the CoderDojo framework, where volunteer professionals teach children in office labs, with a variety of fun hands-on activities. They made their first move by creating a website, in which they published their goals and ideas. This took about three months to get off the road. Following this, they collaborated with CoderDojo, a premier global community-driven coding club network.
Building the community that would build for the future
His next task was to find a corporate company to host the club, for which Krish made several presentations until they found the perfect partners – Saggezza’s Bengaluru office – who would also take this initiative as part of their corporate social responsibility. “I knew this would get the kids’ interested as it would be great to work in an actual office lab,” he recalls.
Brochures and flyers were printed and distributed among schools, while the volunteers started meeting up in order to plan the structure and coursework. In just three days, they had hundreds more registrations than they could accommodate!
They also partnered with the Parikrama foundation, which housed children with socio-economic disadvantage, and gave them the chance to participate in this club. They were taken by surprise when they started receiving queries from people outside of Bengaluru.
“This all seems surreal, considering the idea was only thought up six months ago,” says Krish. The professional social media site LinkedIn got them massive traction, when one of their chief guests, Vaishali Kasture, posted a picture of the event as they lit the lamp. “This made our website go viral and we got about a million views across the world in just a week,” explains Krish.
“The greatest challenge was to balance schoolwork and my passion. We found it difficult to respond to the hundreds of emails we received, but mostly saying no to many parents, which I wish we could have accepted,” says Krish.
This challenge, however, inspired the plot of his sequel – and it has been well established by now that Krish always likes to think way ahead. He made some quick calculation – the establishment of 100 coding clubs, each with 25 kids per quarter, will educate 10,000 kids by 2020, and maintaining a 1:5 volunteer-to-child ratio, just 2,000 volunteers will have to be deployed.
“This is our ultimate goal, and we will keep working till we achieve it. I visit many companies after school and over weekends, to meet with their corporate social responsibility programmes, to gather support for 0Gravity,” he explains.
The latest upgrade
The 0Gravity coding club will also be formally launched in Chennai on February 25, at the IIT Madras Research Park. The host company will be Saggezza, again. Another club in Chennai will be launched towards the end of March 2017, for which another company FixNix Inc. will act as the host.
As for his own future, he says, he has multitudes of interests, but computer science will always be an essential part of his life. “In any career I pursue, I would love to have a combination of math, economics, and computers,” he states before signing off.