By Sarah June Fischer July 2, 2014

When it comes to learning design and code, two local 6th-graders say, “Do it!”

Semira and Fiona, middle school students and recent Startup Weekend participants, have big plans for helping other kids develop a passion for programming.

Semira and Fiona in Foundations I

Their team won the top prize at Startup Weekend in May, which came with a scholarship into Foundations I: Computer Science & Web Development at the University of Washington in June.

I sat down with the two rising entrepreneurs to talk about how they got started, what they’re learning, and their advice for other aspiring developers.

What originally drew you to learning how to design and code?

Fiona: I’m not really sure; I was always interested in art design, and coding I didn’t get too interested in until a while later.

Semira: I wanted to learn how to code because I realized there was something behind Scratch, and that something was code. I hope to someday make something new for the world, something creative, something innovative, something that makes a difference. In this day and age, code is my best chance at being able to do that.

What has helped you learn?

Fiona: For art design my mom was an art teacher, and for coding I looked a Khan.

Semira: Google, Codecademy, Learneroo, and, now Code Fellows.

What programming languages do you know?

Semira: To the extent that Codecademy teaches, I know JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. I have also messed around with Python and Ruby, but I can only do basic logic in those languages.

What programming languages are you learning?

Semira: I am trying to learn JavaScript better, and I have been playing around with Telnet and batch files in the command prompt lately. I have also recently started working on Java.

What is the story behind Giggy Games, Inc.?

Fiona: Well, we had tried to make a game company time and time again, but every time we didn’t get far or people got into an argument. When people got into arguments it would split, and all the neutral people, not wanting to hurt people’s feelings would go to both sides. But in Giggy Game we got a lot done quickly. We haven’t made any games yet but we are working better together.

Semira: I was the second person in the business and I am the lead coder as of now.

What do you want to do with what you’re learning?

Fiona: Learn more, get more opportunities, and understand half of what Semira is talking about.

Semira: Anything and everything that I can. I want to make games or software, reprogram stuff, hack into things. Overall, I just want to have fun and learn and grow.

How is the class going for you so far?

Fiona: I think it is going really good. I have been keeping up and having fun.

Semira: It has been great; I’m loving the people, instructor, and class lessons. I have learned all about the inventor of the internet (Tim Berners-Lee), object-oriented programming, the O’s, and all sorts of other things! I have definitely improved my coding skills, as well as my persistence during this course.

How did you meet each other and decide to working together at Startup Weekend?

Fiona: We first met while I was in third grade and she was in second grade. We met through chess club. Although she always won, I could sometimes give her a run for her money. But half way through the year, she left to got to a private school called Seabury. The next year I joined her at Seabury, and then she skipped fourth grade and we became even closer friends. We went to Startup Weekend together with plans to work together.

Semira: I’ve known Fiona since I was in 2nd grade and she was in 3rd grade. (I skipped 4th grade which is why we are both in 6th now.) We have been great friends and she knows I like having company. I am very passionate and excited when I talk about code or mess around with code, and she knows that I really appreciate it when she hangs out with me at events like that.

What did you think of your time at Startup Weekend?

Fiona: It was so fun and exiting. I loved Startup Weekend a lot and would recommend it to fellow classmates and friends.

Semira: It was awesome! All those people doing all those things! It was amazing! Everybody understood what I meant when I said JavaScript; they got what subjects I wanted to teach in the game we’d like to develop. It was pure awesomeness! I have already told everybody I know that it would be a good idea to visit a Startup Weekend!

What would you say to fellow students who want to start learning how to design and code?

Fiona: Do it, try it. It could be really cool and get you money, so try it out; you’ll have fun.

Semira: Do it. It’s a great idea; put it into action! Get on Codecademy or Grok Learning or even just a search engine. Look at examples and pick it apart. Ask questions if you have them, try to form a community, reach out, help others, but above all, have fun! If you aren’t sure, think about this. It’s all around the world, you use it all the time, control it! Code can shape everything you see. Learn to use it, recognize it, do your math homework in it (I did do that one time!), it is everywhere, and it is everything. Knowing how to code will be the most important skill in the future—learn it now! Ponder if technology is something you use, and if so, go around your house and identify all the electronics in the house. Think about having control over all of them! That is a good reason to code.