The sessions, held under Blanck’s Start Code banner, are held in the music class space at the Toco Hills Shopping Center on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Students can create games, stories, music and art with friends while practicing problem-solving and critical thinking.
“We’re teaching kids real programming; we’re not dumbing it down … we don’t have to because it’s fun,” said Blanck. “My goal with Start Code is to help them see technology as a tool for creation and not just for consumption. Then, future options open up for them … because a large part of the workforce depends on that.”
Start Code’s programming labs are organized by age, coding tools and prior experience.
Like with virtually everything else in the technological realm, time has brought forth much change in computer programming since Blanck’s childhood days in the 80s and 90s. Back then, Basic, as its name suggests, was the standard programming language. That program no longer exists, having since given way to between 20 and 30 presently popular languages like Java, Python and C++.
Steering kids in the right direction in a post-Basic world is what fuels the endeavor orchestrated by Blanck, who has worked for nearly 20 years as a programmer, network engineer and information technology director.
“Kids don’t have to become professional software developers to understand what can be done,” Blanck said. “They just need some experience with putting the pieces together and understanding what the tools can do … then the light bulb can go on and inspiration can happen.”
Pupils also learn concepts tested on the AP Computer Science exam. Projects created at Start Code also build a digital portfolio for college entrance applications.
In addition to after-school and weekend programs, Start Code is also now offering computer programming labs in the early afternoon for home schooled students.
“The kids in the program have really responded to it,” Blanck said. “They’ve demonstrated great retention because I think we’ve found something that they connect with.”