Teaching kids to code

Angelina Patel launched a program to teach coding to elementary and middle school students while also breaking down negative stereotypes about coding being nerdy or unappealing.

Angelina Patel types on a computer.

Carolina sophomore Angelina Patel is teaching the universal language of computer programming to an unexpected audience: children.

In high school, Patel participated in a computer science camp at Carolina, piquing her interest in coding. She picked up on it quickly and planned to continue pursuing her newfound passion.

But when she returned to her home in Savannah, Georgia, she hit a roadblock. She couldn’t find any resources designed for kids interested in coding.

“Then I thought, ‘Well, this is something we should be teaching kids, because it’s such a cool upcoming thing that’s happening,’ so I wanted to fill that gap in the community,” said Patel, who is majoring in computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences.

She launched Kids Code, a program that teaches coding to elementary and middle school students while also breaking down negative stereotypes about coding being nerdy or unappealing.

“Computer science has a nice way of teaching you to think through every single step and to take you through every possible condition and every possible option,” she said. “It really just shapes your mind to think that way. I think to shape [teens’ understanding] that young is really nice because it lays a very nice foundation to when you have to jump into the harder, more complex stuff.”

Patel is now taking what started as introductory computer science classes at a Savannah library and growing it into a company with the help of Carolina’s entrepreneurship programs.

A member of the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, Patel quickly connected with CUBE, a social innovation incubator at the Campus Y. With additional funding resources and the guidance of mentors across campus, Patel is expanding her company every day.

“I think that’s something — not to be cheesy — but that makes the Carolina experience really nice. There are so many professors or faculty members here willing to help and support what you’re doing and take time with you,” she said.

With this support, Patel ran two computer science summer camps this year, taught at the Durham Youth Detention Center and worked with the Savannah branch of Horizons National, an organization that works to bridge the gaps for students at or below the poverty line, where she helped develop a coding education curriculum. She also just landed Kids Code’s first government contract with the Durham public library system.

Patel believes her experience developing her startup at Carolina has given her the skills to guide the program into its future.

“The most rewarding thing is being more aware of the communities that I’m serving and being able to impact as many kids as we’ve been able to,” Patel said.