The lockdowns in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic have made all of us homebodies. The smart alecs among us saw the opportunity in difficulty. Meet Kautilya Katariya, who took up computer programming and built AI applications when the times got tough.
According to an IBM blogpost, Kautilya began reading IBM course materials to understand computer programming and concepts of coding languages like Python. He has now completed five different courses in Python and IBM in November 2020 including ‘Foundations of AI’, ‘Python for Data Science’, and a course from the IBM cognitive class.
Analytics India Magazine caught up with the seven-year-old, and his mother Trupti and father Ishwari to understand what made him fall in love with coding.
AIM: What got you into computer programming?
Kautilya: I read some books and watched a few videos on YouTube about Technology and AI. And everything pointed to me that cool things are either run by a computer programmer or made using programming. I got fascinated by how things actually work.
AIM: How did your parents help you when you showed interest in learning programming and AI?
Kautilya: When I started asking lots of questions about computers, maths, robots and artificial intelligence, my parents provided some nice books about basic computers, science and technology concepts. I read them all and started asking more questions as I got extra time at home due to the COVID lockdown since the schools shut down. My parents gave me a laptop with an internet connection to explore the computer world on my own.
My parents understood my curiosity and helped me by providing all the necessary means to explore the world of technology and AI.
AIM: What are the sources you would suggest for young people to start learning computer programming?
Ishwari and Kautilya: In our opinion, young people should start with some basic books about computer programming available to them written in the language they can understand or most comfortable with.
Young people should first learn about basic logic by block-level programming, and MIT Scratch is one of the best platforms available to learn.
For AI and Machine Learning, lots of free material are available online, but IBM’s Machine Learning for Kids is a good place to start.
AIM: What’s next for you?
Kautilya: Next, I am learning new and advanced concepts about Applied Artificial Intelligence from free IBM courses, for example, building a chatbot for my website, which can answer questions about programming and AI.
I have not decided yet about the long term but maybe in the future, I will try to learn and work in the cognitive computing field.
AIM: What message do you have for young people who find coding difficult?
Kautilya: I think computer programming is really fun and is similar to solving puzzles. If we think that we are just trying to solve puzzles, coding won’t feel that difficult and you may start enjoying it.
AIM: When Kautilya showed curiosity about computers, what was your approach to help him?
Trupti and Ishwari: Kautilya is a keen reader and reads all kinds of books on various topics along with making mischief in and out of the house. He showed a special interest and curiosity in computing. At the age of six, along with swimming and cycling, computing and puzzles became his favourite topic to discuss. So we provided him books of his interest to satisfy his curiosity. Being a good reader, he was absorbing knowledge like a sponge.
He always finished his schoolwork quickly. When his curiosity became more demanding, we provided him with a laptop to explore the world of technology to let him utilise his extra time. Initially, he was exploring by watching various free YouTube videos on computing, algorithms, coding, programming and AI. Then, he enrolled for some courses available online for free from universities like Stanford, MIT and tech giants like IBM on various platforms like edX, IBM Cognitive Class to gain some structured knowledge about various concepts related to computer programming, Machine Learning, AI and Data Science.
AIM: What advice do you have for parents who are considering coding lessons for their kids?
Trupti and Ishwari: We think every kid is special and has lots of potential and calibre in them. As a parent, we need to identify and provide all necessary means to excel in the area of the kid’s interest. Age should not be the bar to start learning coding at a young age, like any other sports or language. Consider coding as another mental exercise to develop logical thinking and problem-solving capability in the kids rather than an additional subject to teach them.
We think every child is curious by nature and young minds are open to learning new things. We need to give them the right exposure, and they would love to involve and solve problems like playing with puzzles. Coding is one of the best tools to channelise.