New York: Coding Kids

coding131202_katie_wenger_250The doorbell rings, and Katie Wenger, 13, leaps up from the family dinner table and throws open the front door. On the stoop of her family’s building in Chelsea stands a 26-year-old Yale graduate named Allison Kaptur. Formerly a financial analyst, Kaptur quit to teach herself how to program and now works as a facilitator at Hacker School, a “writers’ retreat for programmers,” with a sideline as a coding tutor. The two descend the stairs to a basement study, and Katie shuts the door. “I’ve got exciting news,” she says. “I’m going to launch a start-up! It’s called Let Us.”

“What will it do?”

“It’ll be like Chatroulette, but connected to Facebook.” Katie describes her concept for an online environment in which strangers can randomly meet and either just chat or interact educationally as student and teacher. Kaptur nods. “Okay,” she says. “A little later, we can talk about the pieces we would need to make that work.”

For most people, software programming’s social cachet falls somewhere between that of tax preparation and autism. But it’s catching fire among forward-thinking New York parents like Katie’s, who see it as endowing their children both with a strategically valuable skill and a habit for IQ-multiplying intellectual rigor. According to WyzAnt, an online tutoring marketplace, demand for computer-science tutors in New York City has doubled each of the past two years. And if one Silicon Alley–backed initiative pans out, within a decade every public-school kid in the city will have access to coding, up from a couple of thousand.

Read the rest in this week’s issue of New York magazine.

3 thoughts on “New York: Coding Kids”

  1. Am I the only one weirded out by the shut door? I’m not trying to throw shade onto the tutor or anything but onto the parents whose job it is to assume the worst.

  2. You know, that hadn’t even occurred to me. Allison Kaptur is a very poised and well put-together young woman, and Katie seems pretty street-wise. Of course anything’s possible. Unstated, but implicit, in this case of course is the fact that I was in the room as well…

  3. @Jeff

    The revolution is the Chromebook, and the cloud. I was always grabbing my high end MacBook Pro for heavy lifting – Matlab, Linux Shell C, Python 2.7,… I decided to get a Chromebook and play around with it about a year ago. As you know, it is a thin client costing around $200 versus the Mac at close to $2000.

    It is all I use now. I run Matlab and Python in the cloud along with Google Docs and Sheets. It is actually faster than my Mac, and I never have to be concerned with backing anything up. It is wonderful. The future of computing, and the opportunity for kids to get into it on the cheap has never been better.

    If my Chromebook gets lost or stolen it would be only a minor inconvenience. I could grab a new one and be up and running right where I left off in a few hours.

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