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The Benefits of Giving Back to the Community

Jack Maders

Software Engineer

It's pronounced 'May-ders'

A core tenet of the company ethos at Web Apps is to have a positive impact in our community, and we’ve found that one of the most effective ways to do that is to invest in the future. Since young people are the future (as cliché as that phrase is), we spend a lot of our time sharing our passion in programming, by mentoring at code clubs. Code clubs are volunteer-led coding sessions to help those interested learn programming from a young age. They have been running since before I joined the company. We now run our own ‘WebbieZone’ at Hack Oldham on Thursday evenings, and we also mentor after-school code clubs at primary schools.

My Background 

Before I was a software developer at Web Apps, I was a trainee teacher working towards my PGCE. So, this part of the job felt natural to me from the start and even though I’m no longer working in schools, there are many parts of teaching that I miss. Helping at code clubs can have similar feelings of challenge and reward to teaching.

As discussed in my previous blog post for Web Apps, even though I knew I enjoyed the problem solving that science provided from a young age, it took until University before I was even introduced to my eventual career; programming.

Born and raised in Oldham, and from a working-class family, there weren’t many opportunities to get involved with anything STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) related when I was young. So, I’m glad to see that these were introduced to local young people, who want to get involved with coding – which can be a very satisfying career for the right people. We don’t just do this to help excite those who are passionate about programming and help them learn, but to also give them the opportunity to see if it’s the right career for them in the future. Having the opportunity to attend something like this would have made such a huge impact to me when I was younger, and being able to have that impact on others is worth it.

What is Code Club? 

The format of a code club session can vary quite a lot depending on how much experience the attendees have. For beginners, we can have it be quite structured, going through the exercises for the Microbits which are a very good beginners point for learning JavaScript.

The Microbits are small, inexpensive circuit boards (like a very basic raspberry pi). They can be loaded with JavaScript code to: wait for button presses, control the LEDs, react when shook, or even be hooked up to an external input device. Microbits allow the code written on the Microbits website (that can either be written in text or constructed using a visual block system) to have more visible outputs instead of just numbers on a screen.

If the attendees are more advanced, then we can let them get on with their own projects while we just assist when required. This can be very good for when they have an idea for what they want to produce at the end but are unsure how to start. It can be an idea for a video game, or a website they want to produce, or even just something they saw and wanted to reproduce.

Why? 

Some people find teaching either in a school environment or in day to day life an exercise in stress management. This can be especially bad for technical (and often abstract) topics like coding where explaining a concept well is often as difficult as understanding it. Having said that, it also has the possibility of being the most satisfying experience. When a young person achieves something that they never thought they could, because you were patient and believed in them, is worth the time you put in to help mentor them.

I’m genuinely glad that code clubs exist as a way that I can give back and, while the sessions aren’t always perfect, they’re always improving. So, if I can’t convince you to get involved in code clubs (or similar) for selfless reasons like giving back to the community, then do it for the knowledge that it will all be worth it.