Many people have spent hours, if not days, playing block-breaker games—but building them would be a whole new ball game.For two days at nonprofit Dream Together’s centre in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, 40 children busied themselves with wrapping their heads around coding and creating their very own games at the SmallBasic camp, jointly organised by Microsoft Korea.“At ‘Dream IT Spark IT’, another activity of ours, the children specified that they wanted to do more than just play games. They wanted to be the ones designing the games that others would play. It was gratifying to see them picking up the basics of programming and coding so quickly, at such a young age,” said Seo Jin Jeong, Student of Soongsil University, Microsoft Korea Student Partner.Helming this programme were 19 Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs), who had themselves picked up those coding skills from Microsoft Korea employees, and now wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by coaching the children who come from underprivileged backgrounds.How to create blocks and balls in a game? How are scores tallied? Before they could answer these questions, they had to translate programming into a simple and engaging language. After going through basic coding topics such as Text Window, Graphic Window and other Microsoft Small Basic API references, the children were tasked to create an English dictionary and finally, a block-breaker game—complete with colours, music and sound effects of their own choice.Excited to create their own games, the children were determined to keep up with the lessons. As the classes were conducted in pairs or groups of three, offering close and differentiated guidance, the children were able to learn at their own speed. It wasn’t surprising that Turtle Graphics, a very powerful yet simple programming language that was wildly popular in the 1980s, was a hit with the children who enjoyed using the animated turtle icon to draw shapes on the screen.
After trying to create the dictionary, the children went on to build their games that came complete with animation, pop-up notices, customised wallpaper and sound effects.“Maybe there’s a Bill Gates amongst them! In this age, coding, like reading and cooking, is a basic skill that anyone can master. We hope that through this camp, the children can pursue more options in life and careers in the future,” declared Eun Bee Song, Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft Korea.