Programming is becoming more mainstream and coding is considered to be a second language in the modern world. It is a new way to organize, express and share ideas — just as we do with writing.
EPAM eKids corresponds with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through our education initiatives, we support the goal of "ensure(ing) inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all."
In order to achieve this goal, EPAM eKids was launched in Prague, Czech Republic in January, with 14 children of EPAM employees who will graduate in the spring.
EPAM eKids Goals in Prague, CZ
EPAM eKids encourages young girls and boys to explore the world of software engineering. The program is active in 14 countries and has already shown its effectiveness.
Petr Bursa, marketing assistant of the EPAM Prague’s office and coordinator of the program in Prague said:
“eKids is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative of EPAM. The program can have various formats. We decided to launch the program with an eight-week course for children of our employees. Each lesson is an hour and a half and centers around the Scratch programming language. Scratch was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for children aged 8 to 14 years old. EPAM eKids in Prague started on the 19th January 2019 in Russian and the spots were quickly filled. Currently, we have 14 kids registered (five girls and nine boys) and five active volunteers. Three volunteers are always present at each lesson. Our goal is to bring kids closer to the IT sector.”
Why do we use Scratch for EPAM eKids?
Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is free of charge. EPAM eKids utilizes Scratch to provide a fun environment to learn coding through hands-on challenges and close mentoring opportunities with EPAMers.
With Scratch, kids can program their own interactive stories, games and animations, as well as share their creations with others in the online community. The program helps kids think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively, which are essential skills for life in the 21st century.
What do EPAM eKids classes in Prague look like?
During a 1,5-hour lesson, kids study programming with Scratch. At the beginning, the students practice what they’ve learned from past workshops. After that, mentors go over new material and spend more time practicing new skills, such as coding, visual and audio effects. During the break, kids have treats and fruits, and enjoy some time to relax, chat and discuss their projects. Girls and boys not only learn to code but also develop soft skills and make new friends.
Insights From EPAM eKids Volunteers in Prague
It’s amazing how five volunteer teachers with regular jobs and busy personal lives find the motivation and time to give valuable knowledge to children of EPAM Prague employees through eKids.
Why did you decide to volunteer for EPAM eKids?
Danil Vagapov, Senior Software Engineer, eKids mentor:
“I have some experience as a lecturer with students and colleagues, but always wanted to mentor and engage kids. Kids learn faster in groups. It’s a good challenge: they compete and learn from each other. It’s the most effective way of learning. Though we’ve had some basic preparatory training for these workshops by EPAM, I still learn a lot by ‘doing’."
What is the greatest challenge you face while working with kids?
“Keeping kids focused and consistent – they are very emotional and active."
How do you keep kids motivated?
“In order to keep the kids highly motivated, we use a special class pass. If a student collects all of the eight stamps (one stamp for each class), he/she receives a nice gift from EPAM and a certificate of attendance. It’s not just recognition – it’s an accomplishment. We also ask for feedback after each class from both kids and parents. There’s always place for improvement. We do not give any homework. However, it’s nice to know that many kids do coding at home and repeat what they’ve learned.”
What are some of your favorite moments as an eKids volunteer?
Oleksandr Movchan, lead Software Engineer, eKids mentor: “Childhood is the most important period of life. It’s interesting to see what hooks the kids, what is important to them. It’s amazing to see how the kids compete. They’ll say, ‘I can, I know, I’m better than my neighbor and I’ll show them how cool I am. If I can’t do this, I’ll cry for help. I need to solve this problem ASAP.’ Each kid is unique, and you should find the best way to help him/her learn. The main goal of eKids classes as I see it, is to help kids cope with difficulties on their own, so that they understand and can say, ‘Yes, I can do that.’ Kids are open to new ideas and approaches and are eager to learn.”
Pavel Isachanka, Software Engineer, eKids volunteer:
“It’s cool to be a volunteer and fascinating to watch the kids during the classes. Their open smiles and laugh are the best anti-stress ever.”
Insights from EPAM Parents and kids
EPAMers as experts support their kids’ interest in coding. Children are also eager to learn complex things during classes.
What motivated you and your children to participate in the eKids program?
Volodymyr Bobyr, Senior Systems Engineer: “My 12-year old daughter Valeria is really a computer girl. Math is her cup of tea. As I learned about the eKids course here in Prague, I told her about this opportunity. She instantly decided to go for it and I’ve registered her for the class. Technology is everywhere nowadays. The kids are efficient users of smartphones and computers. It’s great that Valeria can look from a different perspective, learn the basics of coding and how the IT world works.”
Valeria: “I like working with Scratch. It’s not that difficult to code. I enjoy the classes immensely.”
Kristina Erofeeva, Lead Business Analyst: “We are a tech family. My sons are fond of modern technologies. The ability to code computer programs is an important part of literacy in today’s society. It’s becoming a ‘must-have’ skill. When people learn to code, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects and communicating ideas. That is a great motivator and the earlier our kids start learning, the better. So, we jumped at the opportunity of eKids classes.”
Nikita: “I like Scratch and our classes. My project is about a cat. Can you imagine what I did today? Today we learned how to make a cat fly, how to get it bigger and smaller in size. We learn how to make the computer do things – the things we want. Wow!”
Anuar Serdaliyev, Systems Engineer: “The future for our children is changing quickly: new and unique skills will be necessary. I would like my daughter Amina to try and get as many different skills as possible. IT skills are among them. Coding broadens the mind. An IT dad’s daughter should learn some basics of coding at least. I tried to show Scratch coding to Amina myself. However, it works better during the classes with other kids and EPAM mentors. Amina is really proud of her progress and eager to share the results with me.”
Amina: “I want to create exciting games.”
Mykola Avramenko, Systems Engineer: “My sons were interested in daily engineering work. They tried some coding at home. However, it’s great that eKids mentors have found Scratch, an interactive animated tool. Kids like Scratch and are really engaged. It’s a nice opportunity to learn the algorithms. Such fundamental knowledge of algorithms will definitely be helpful in the near future.”
Oleg: “My dad works at EPAM and I want to learn coding.”
Maksym: “I wanted to try something new. Coding is exciting. Though I can’t create complicated games yet, the easy ones I can.”
Ivan Yukhnovskyi, Senior Business Analyst: “IT is our future. When kids learn to code, they learn creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and other skills necessary for the global world. eKids is a great and fun way for kids to get engaged! It’s a meaningful and valuable game.”
Mykola: “We code a lot. It’s great fun.”
Maxim Sukhov, Senior Software Engineer: “My 9-year old son Ivan wanted to attend the eKids classes. Ivan likes technology. Interest is a great motivator and I would like to encourage his interest in IT. It’s useful to know at least the basics of programming. Learning to code leads to a competitive advantage today.”
Ivan: “Today is my birthday and still I didn’t want to miss a class.”
Iurii Maistrenko, Lead Software Engineer: “Being a member of an IT family, my son Hlib enjoys math and technology. The possibility to attend classes on a regular basis and his interest were the key factors for our mutual decision to participate in eKids. Through coding, kids develop the skills they need to create their own future. It’s a nice opportunity for socializing as well. Hlib enjoys the classes and is proud of his progress.”
Hlib: “I’m fond of computers. I want to learn more about programming and coding. My dad is a programmer and I would like to work in IT in the future. Our classes and teachers are great.”
Irina: “These classes help kids think logically, use their imagination and create their own projects. Programming knowledge also helps kids understand the world around them better.”
Agata: “I really enjoy our classes. Coding is fun and satisfying.”
It seems that a new generation of EPAMers is already on their way. Good luck to the future eKids Prague graduates! Stay tuned for new, exciting EPAM Prague programs and insights.