Towards a Smart Nation – Inspiring the young to learn coding

Just for fun, sharing a quick build of Flappy Bird on HTML5 that I have created over a weekend. It is pretty basic and the code is rather simple. You can play it on your Desktop/Laptop or Mobile Phone

HTML5 Flappy Bird

There are actually many HTML5 flappy bird version out there. But this version uses only basic HTML5 so it should be easy to understand. I’ve made this game for fun and hope that I can inspire younger Singaporeans who do not know coding to start learn coding. Coding is not difficult. If anyone of you are interested, just leave a comment, I will passed you the code. Or you can simply view the source from the links given above.

Why learning coding is and will continue to be important

Learning how to code trains the mind to solve problems and will be an essential skills in the future. Even our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has coded his very own Sudoku Solver. Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has also translated that code into javascript. To put things to perspective, the recent program that President Obama has written, drew squares on screen. Of course, we are not doing a comparison of whose leaders code better but rather how Singaporeans can take inspiration from our own leaders to start realising the importance of coding.

Improving productivity has always been the cornerstone of Singapore’s labour workforce. And the enabler will have to be technology. Eventually, the winners will be those who can harness and leverage on the almost infinite capability of computers and robots. People who can give better instruction to computers or build better solution with technology will win the game. Think Google which built one of the arguably best search algorithm. Or Netflix, with its strong recommendation engine that keeps you glued to their service.

How to inspire our young to learn coding

Coding is not as difficult as you think

To inspire the young, I believe that we would have to start with a change in the mindset.

Learning coding is not as difficult or geeky as one might imagine

Most codes are not as esoteric as what our PM Lee has written but are based on simple logic. In fact, one of the basic foundation of programming is the simple “IF…ELSE…” statement. “If the bird hits pipe, end the game, else continue with the game.” Simple logic like that can be built into a program and not necessarily complex algorithm that may seem daunting to most beginner. Of course, more complex algorithm can be slowly picked up once the basic foundation is laid.

Learning coding can be fun

Yes! It can be fun! Coding is not like learning how to type which can get boring. Coding is about translating your ideas from your mind to something tangible that you can see and perhaps feel. It requires a creative process to first think about the problem and then the solution. The sense of achievement and euphoria that a programmer can experience can equal that to scoring a straight A’s in your final exam. What’s more, you can share your work with other people and for them to benefit from what you have created!

For starter, I would recommend building something that you would love to build. Don’t follow some online tutorial to work on their sample projects. Think about an idea. It can be a game like my flappy bird, or a fun program like ‘Love Calculator’. Building on such project will make it more enjoyable.

Learning coding helps you understand your school work

A typical Singaporean kids have to handle so many subjects in school. It is easy for them to see ‘programming’ as yet another subject. But for me, it is not. Programming helps to bring in what you have learned in Math, Science and even Art together. Take the example of Flappy Bird. In it, physics and math comes into play. Physics is needed to calculate how the bird will experience ‘gravity’ within the canvas (v=u+at, F=MA etc.). Math is needed to calculate the various co-ordinate to draw the birds and pipes (remember your geometry class?). If you don’t like the bird, you can create your own flappy chicken using your own artistic talent as well! There are many examples of how you can put what you’ve learnt in classes to use in building an app.

Towards a Smart Nation

I am very encouraged by the Government’s push towards a smart nation with emphasis on the need to learn coding. Being an engineer by training, I would love to see more successful engineers in Singapore building top notch app or solution for the world. For that to take roots, let us focus on our young and build a strong foundation for our Smart Nation.

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