Connecticut’s First Coder School for Kids Opens

The school, located in Farmington, opened in October, serves students between the ages of 7 and 18 and offers classes on a range of coding programs and languages.

by Michael Walsh, The Hartford Courant / December 18, 2018
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(TNS) — Vaishali and Chirayu Shah were looking for additional educational opportunities for their children when they came across the Coder School.

"We were looking for what else there could be," said Vaishali Shah. "What other after school enrichment was around here?"

The Southington couple discovered the Coder School, a company based in Palo Alto, California.

"We came across coding for kids," Vaishali Shah said. "The whole concept was very new to us. We were wondering how you do that. How do you teach kids to code? What platforms do you use? We had a lot of questions."

They were interested. The only problem was that there weren't any Connecticut locations -- yet.

After a trip to a new Coder School location in Long Island, the couple decided to pursue opening their own Coder School in Connecticut.

"That was when we said this was something we could do," Vaishali Shah said. "We saw the excitement on the kids' faces. There was definitely a gap for that population of kids who do like to code."

After a search, they landed on Farmington as the right town for the Coder School. The school opened at 1051 Farmington Ave. in October and currently serves youth between the ages of seven and 18 with classes in a variety of different coding programs and languages.

Neither Vaishali and Chirayu are coders. They've hired code coaches to run classes and one-on-one lessons. But Chirayu Shah does have a background in the tech field, with experience as a project manager. He said he sees every day how important coding skills can be.

"I am not a programmer, but I am in the field, so I work with developers every day," Chirayu Shah said. "I see the importance of it. I see the career path that a lot of these folks have. Everything across the industry, whether you are talking about health care or automotive, there is some component of technology that is taking over."

The Shahs were able to recently participate in their first Hour of Code during this year's Computer Science Education Week, which spanned Dec. 3 through Dec. 9. They hosted a special session with a local Cub Scout troop, among other events. Next year, they hope to visit Farmington public schools to teach coding lessons during the same week.

"The theory is that when you go into computer science in college, or even late in high school, it can be very difficult," Vaishali Shah said. "There's a lot of math. It can be very intimidating. The theory is that it's another language. If you get them into it when they're younger, it's not as intimidating and it's not as hard. Kids can go right into it and they love it."

She's even seen that in the young kids who have taken classes at their Coder School.

"I have been so impressed and almost surprised at how quickly some of these kids get it," Vaishali Shah said. "They grasp it so fast."

That progression is embodied by a painting of a tree that adorns one of their walls. From the roots to the very top, coding languages and programs are placed to show parents and students their potential path to a professional career.

They hope the Coder School can fill a gap in the lives of young children who prefer computers over other after-school activities.

"I've heard parents say, 'You've finally found your place now,'" Chirayu Shah said. "You finally found a place where there's no judgment. Yes, we're nerding out, we're using computers. We're doing it collectively and everyone around you is excited about the same thing. They are excited about coming here."

©2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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