As we lead up to B&N’s 2nd annual Mini Maker Faire on November 5-6, we’re spotlighting several Makers who will be presenting at the event during the Meet the Makers session. Today we meet Samaira Mehta, the inventor of Coder Bunnyz, a board game that teaches kids computer coding concepts. Did we mention she isn’t even 10 years old yet?
What is your Maker passion?
My passion is to get kids (and everyone else) excited about coding. It’s so exciting when kids learn while doing and making things, and not under pressure. To help kids with coding, I invented a board game called Coder Bunnyz. This was my invention last summer. Coder Bunnyz is my first amazing experience as a Maker. I love every bit of it, because I am making young kids excited about coding in a really fun way. I conduct free workshops with Coder Bunnyz. The idea is easy—play a board game, make code and learn to code. All fun!
How did you first get involved in it?
My story starts out one day in the summer after first grade. I was playing board games with my family. I had a huge stack of board games, and I won most of them, so my parents got bored and stopped playing. So I went to the computer to do some coding. Immediately, I had this weirdly awesome idea: what if I make a board game that teaches kids to code? I told my parents my idea, and they were very surprised. They told me I could do it! I started to think of the name of my game while looking at my bunny, and got the name Coder Bunnyz. And so, with the help of my parents and graphic designers from all over the world, I brought my imagination to life. It took many mail exchanges from the graphic designers, but we finally did it! Now I am giving workshops at libraries, schools, and tech events.
What do you like most about it?
My favorite thing about it is giving workshops. I really enjoy it when people play my game and give me amazing compliments, but at the same time, learn and have fun making code. I have been doing workshops at school, libraries, tech events, and more, getting young kids excited about coding. I want to see Coder Bunnyz in hands of all the young kids at home and in schools. It’s a playful way of introducing them to STEM and programming that their parents and teachers would love to get them started with. Make a code, master coding concepts, all while playing a board game!
Are you involved in/aware of the greater Maker Movement?
Yes, in fact, the invention of Coder Bunnyz is a result of my DIY and Maker work. And now, it is used to build more Makers. I have done events at San Jose Mini Maker Faire and Science in the Park with my game. There is a lot of Maker work happening all around. When I go to these fairs, I get a chance to make new things in addition to showing my own work.
Do you have any favorite stories or accomplishments as a Maker to share?
As I mentioned before I invented Coder Bunnyz last summer, and have been conducting free workshops in libraries, tech events, schools, and corporations. I have taught over 1,200 kids in Silicon Valley, including over 50 Google kids at Googleplex, the Google Headquarters in Mountain View. I have been covered by NBC, Sony, Mercury News, and several other media and publications. I have also started another initiative— Girls U Code, where I extend this effort to girls, especially those who are short on resources, and help them get introduced to or advance in coding concepts. In fact, some kids put Coder Bunnyz on their wish list for Santa…that’s so exciting! I recall another exciting day when I got a letter from Michelle Obama praising my efforts. What a day that was… All these keep me going.
What makes you unique as a Maker?
As a maker, my game promotes social interaction and bonding while teaching kids. Spending time with family is important to me. Instead of making Coder Bunnyz on a digital device, I thought to make it a board game, for family fun. I’m trying to make young kids excited about coding but not exactly getting on the computer and doing coding, by playing my board game. Kids make code, spend time with family, learn, and have fun.
What do you have planned for your upcoming workshop at the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire?
At Barnes & Noble, Makers can play quick rounds of game with Coder Bunnyz and make some coding sequences. In no time, kids may learn basic and advanced programming concepts. All computer languages, like Scratch, Python, Java, and C, use the same concepts. So once a kid learns fundamentals playing Coder Bunnyz, it makes it much easier for them to learn any coding language. If you want to read more about my game, go to http://www.coderbunnyz.com.
As Barnes & Noble, we’re always curious…what are you reading now?
First of all, let me tell you this: Barnes & Noble is one of my most favorite places to go on weekends (I love the one at Stevens Creek in San Jose). I get to see and buy the books I like. And now to answer the question: I like to read Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Dork Diaries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, and the Who was…, Who is… , Where is…, and Where was… book series. My current read is Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. But I always love trying new books!
Will you join us at your local Barnes & Noble for the Maker Faire? We would love to see you and your family there. Learn more details here!