Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Coding with kids to teach valuable IoT skills

By Nicola Curnow September 8, 2020

As more of us work from home and our kids learn online, Code Club has been finding a way to make sure kids don’t miss out on valuable digital skills.

Code Club Australia, a program run by the Telstra Foundation, has been offering Virtual Code Clubs to Telstra parents stuck in isolation in Victoria as well as existing Code Clubs.

Telstra’s own developer advocate Michelle Howie participated as a guest speaker with a club in Tasmania. In her role as the developer advocate for TelstraDev – Telstra’s API and IoT Marketplace – Michelle is an expert on the Internet of Things (IoT) and taught the kids all about how they can participate in the global Internet of Things revolution in their everyday life – and gain some valuable skills and lessons along the way.

Nicola from Code Club Australia talked to Michelle about her experience.

Nicola: Thanks Michelle for guest-hosting our Virtual Code Club this week – I saw some really excited faces when you told them how many IoT devices there are!

Michelle: I was just as surprised the first time I found out that there are more IoT devices than people in the world! I started off by explaining some IoT devices they may see around their home, in their community, or on the TV! It was great to then show them how they could code with their own virtual IoT device from their desk. It proved that they already had the skills but also the access to technology. Nicola: What did you make with them?

Michelle: Using Code Club’s easy lesson plans we spent an hour virtually coding an IoT emulator that could display predicted weather conditions. The kids learnt about how computers see RGB colours, IoT emulators, and the science of rainbows, all while using Python! We used one of the Code Club lessons that uses a Raspberry Pi and a SenseHAT. The lesson was completely run on an in-browser emulator, so the kids didn’t have to buy any hardware and could jump in and have a go!

Nicola: How do you think IoT is relevant to kids stuck at home?

Michelle: The Internet of Things is a key technology of the 21st century that will increasingly affect every industry, in all aspects of our lives. From Agriculture to Education to Entertainment and Medicine, but also in AFL stats we see valuable data insights from IoT! Students of today are our future leaders, and so it’s important that they are able to understand, engage, and even build their own solutions to their world’s biggest challenges. You don’t need to be an engineer to have this critical coding and problem-solving skills, and I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to get started at home with self-guided projects like this. It builds confidence and creativity with technology in a fun, educational way!

Nicola: And did you have fun?

Michelle: For sure! I wish I had Code Club when I was at school – I’ll definitely do this again.

Code Club Australia and the Telstra Foundation are committed to providing digital skills to kids across Australia. We believe you don’t need a lot of experience to teach coding and that everyone should be able to access the skills of the future. Join our community at the Code Club website. You can watch this recording and find out about other IOT kids projects at Code Club’s blog post.

TelstraDev is Telstra’s API and IoT marketplace. They are committed to getting the raw tools for creating IoT solutions directly into the hands of the developers that will innovate with them.

You can find out more on the TelstraDev website. Follow their blogs and Twitter for the latest IoT and API developer updates for all ages and experiences!

Moonhack - Code Club - Telstra Foundation
Technology For Kids | Telstra Foundation |

Moonhack: why it’s important for kids to learn how to code

By Christian von Reventlow July 19, 2019

With Moonhack about to lift off, the annual record-setting global event to get as many kids coding as possible, Jackie Coates, Head of Telstra Foundation chats to Telstra’s Group Executive Product & Technology, Christian von Reventlow about the importance of coding and AI education for young minds.

Jackie Coates: It’s the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing this year and to celebrate we’re aiming to get tens of thousands of kids coding across the world as part of our annual Code Club Moonhack campaign. Why do you think parents should get their kids to learn how to code?

Christian von Reventlow: I believe it’s vital for kids to learn how to code. I have taught my own children and it’s certainly a skill they’ll have for life and can build upon. I think initiatives like Code Club and Moonhack are a great first step because they demystify technology and enable children to “get under the digital bonnet” and understand it better. When a child learns coding, they are also developing skills in critical thinking, persistence and problem-solving – skills needed as they grow up. Coding can also help develop mathematics skills and despite what many people think, it actually helps them to be more creative as it encourages curiosity and teaches us to be a bit fearless and not worry about making mistakes.

JC: What advice do you have then, for parents with young children?

CvR: The challenge for parents nowadays is around how we can help young people with the skills they need to thrive in the future. We need a pipeline of future developers to take the first step and get kids coding. There are thousands of Code Clubs around Australia that can sew the seed. Parents don’t have to know how to code to start which is a great thing.

JC: There is a sense of urgency and sometimes it feels we are in a bit of an arms race in education with technology evolving so quickly – it’s hard to keep pace, would you agree?

CvR: It’s true, things are moving fast which is why we need to futureproof this learning investment in our young kids. Just like we looked at the moon and said one day we’ll walk on it, we need to look at AI with a future focus. Young people will need to understand machine learning and the concept of AI – really know how it works in order to make more informed and critical use of these technologies.

We need to start thinking about AI literacy because coding itself is evolving. It is shifting to a self-coding model where AI will create its own code. This is different from classic programming which describes what the machine does. In AI, the machine finds patterns to program and the deterministic nature of programming gets lost in AI scenarios as a result. I don’t think we’ve fully digested the meaning and impact of this, which is why we need to up-skill our young people to be AI literate so they can better understand this future.

JC: You’ve written a book about Artificial Intelligence where you advocate it must become a tool for everyone. What do you think the challenge will be for young people growing up in a world where machine learning and AI is increasingly pervasive?

CvR: I think one of the biggest changes in the next two decades will be increase relevance of artificial intelligence changing the way we live our lives. Digital Assistants, Chatbots, music and video recommendations, flying planes are just some of the ways it’s in our everyday lives now. So given this context, if our children have an early understanding of how it works, they’ll be better equipped to live, work, and interact in this future world.

Along with an understanding of AI and machine learning – such as how bots learn, how algorithms work and how data is being collected – we also need to teach kids how they can humanise AI and adapt it. This is critical because this is what humans will ultimately need to do in an AI-saturated world. We will need to make sure the next generation has the programming skills to ensure AI is inclusive and reflects the social, cultural and moral standards of contemporary society.

Parents can introduce their children to the concepts of AI through educational projects online like Cognimates which was developed by the MIT Media Lab.

About Moonhack

Moonhack is an initiative of Code Club Australia, powered by Telstra Foundation. This year’s event will be held on July 20 to July 26 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – and we’re looking for more Aussie kids to get involved. To take part, you’ll need a computer with internet access and a passion for discovery. Simply register your interest and prepare for lift off! Kids can take part in the challenge at home by themselves or in groups.

Technology For Kids | Telstra Foundation |

Moonhack 2018: 24,000 kids learn to code to prepare for the future

By Dr. Louise Baker July 19, 2018

Calling all earthlings from Sydney to Seoul, Montreal to Madrid, who’d like to learn more about coding and join 24,000 kids aged 8 – 18 from around the world in a record attempt to get as many kids coding together as possible!

Started by Code Club Australia in 2016, Moonhack is the annual record setter event that aims to get as many kids around the world coding over a 24 hour period, and inspire collaboration and interest in digital technologies.

This year’s event will be held on July 20 to mark the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – and we’re looking for more Aussie kids to get involved. To take part, you’ll need a computer with internet access and a passion for discovery. Simply register your interest and prepare for lift off!

Kids can take part in the challenge at home by themselves or in groups as part of a ‘Moonhackathon’.

There are four space-themed projects for kids to choose from and discover how fun, easy and exciting coding is. The projects are generally designed to take 45 minutes to complete, but it will depend on the participant’s level of coding experience.

Why is coding such an important skill for kids to develop?

We believe that all Australian children should be given the opportunity to develop skills in coding and across the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) so that they can succeed in a rapidly shifting and technologically focused workforce.

Coding develops skills in critical thinking, persistence and sharpens children’s problem-solving abilities. Coding can also assist in developing children’s skills in mathematics and despite what many people think, coding actually assists in the development of creativity.

What’s the connection to July 20?

On this day nearly 50 years ago, the first humans landed on the moon in the lunar module, ‘Eagle.’ Landing this machine was no easy task; the Mission Commander, Neil Armstrong and the pilot, Buzz Aldrin, had to land the craft softly enough so that it wouldn’t crash – this is actually one of the projects that Moonhack participants can tackle through the challenge.

Surely all the excitement was in America – why are we celebrating this anniversary in Australia?

Our nation played a pivotal role in the moon landing of 1969. Just this past weekend I was in Canberra, where I visited the Deep Space Communication Complex, the antenna known by the name of Deep Space Station 46 which relayed the first television images of Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps the Moon, which is pretty cool!

About Code Club Australia

Code Club has been operating since 2014, thanks to the generous support of their founding partner, the Telstra Foundation. There are now more than 1600 Code Club’s operating around the country. In addition, we have reached more than 100,000 children and empowered more than 500 teachers to deliver a curriculum with a focus on digital technologies education.