Elementary student learns coding, teaches class of peers
While exploring the blocky world of Minecraft, a 10-year-old Damascus resident had a thought: “What makes my character move?”
The popular video game, which serves as a sandbox to explore and construct, had Kayden Meyer wanting to delve deeper into the caverns most youngsters settle on. Instead, he was drawn beyond the screen.
“I asked my dad, and he told me about coding,” Meyer said. “He is always asking me what is under the hood of things,” said his dad Kurt Meyer.
So in early 2020, at only 7 years old, Meyer began to dive into the world of coding.
He took multiple classes framed around different games like Minecraft and Roblox. He turned to YouTube tutorials, his grandparents gifted him books, and he rented others from the library.
“I think this one might be overdue,” Meyer said. “I wanted to learn all the skills, and it kind of clicked for me.” “He just needed exposure to the syntax and verbiage,” Kurt added.
But Meyer wasn’t just content to sit on this new knowledge. Instead, he chose to share it with his peers by creating, pitching, and teaching an after school class for his peers. “I liked coding and figured other people would like it too,” he said.
The fifth grader took it seriously and wrote a massive proposal to the school. At first, he envisioned a sweeping 30-session course but eventually settled for five two-hour gatherings with the help of Angela Karch, the school’s children’s ministry director.
He came up with the curriculum all on his own. It was about learning Scratch, a visual programming language perfect for youngsters dipping their toes into the programming world.
It was the language he had first learned from, well, scratch. Meyer designed the class around having the students make five types of games — a drawing simulator, target practice, tag, trivia, clicker, and a final spaceship game.
“My favorite part was working with them and showing them how to do things,” he said. “Hearing when they finally got it.
One of the kids told me when he figured it out, he said, ‘Look, mom, I can make the cat go around the screen.’”
Teaching is second nature for Meyer. When others gravitated toward the toy section of stores, he always made his mom take him to get school supplies.
Then, as a kindergartner, he set up a classroom for his parents at home with a projector, whiteboard, and laminated handouts.
“We got grades and everything,” said Mom Maria Meyer with a laugh. “It was much different teaching the coding class full of boys who were loud,” Meyer added. Meyer has infectious“energy, a quick smile, and brilliant curiosity that shines through everything he pursues.
His home is filled with technology, and he loves exploring the latest and greatest innovations.
“Check this out,” he said before having Alexa turn off the lights in the living room. “I think it is so cool how you can have a screen, get into a Google search with Wi-Fi, and then see how things interconnect,” he said.
He and his mechanical engineer father share a love for learning, and they are always working on a new project.
An example of their collaborations comes every Halloween, with their costumes a thing of legend across Damascus.
One year Meyer was Wi-Fi, another a toilet. He has been a working traffic light and a windshield wiper that ended up being more of a metronome that sprayed water.
“All of the kids look forward to seeing what they come up with every year,” Maria said. Meyer loves playing basketball and riding an off-road dirt bike.
He is a burgeoning entrepreneur, brainstorming a 3D printing business alongside a pair of his friends. And an inventor — one of his ideas is windshield wipers for glasses.
“My brain goes how to get the wipers to work and how to attach them to the rims,” Meyer said. “My brain needs to fix problems.”
And he hasn’t rested on his programming laurels. He has recently been teaching himself Python, another coding language that represents a significant bump in difficulty.
In addition, he has been tooling around with a simple game — a text-based call-and-response featuring Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
“If you miss one punctuation mark, the whole thing doesn’t work,” he said. Next on the schedule for the industrious Meyer is a second after-school class.
Again, he is leaving it up to a peer vote, but his idea is an advanced version of what he seeded this spring. He also hosts a website where his peers can post and share the games they create with their newfound coding skills. “Coding is a good (skill) for a lot of people, and it can make you a success,” Meyer said.
“NASA needs so many coders to make sure every flight is going well. Flappy Bird is code. I don’t think a lot of people realize how important it is.”