A child learns coding skills while playing with a ProBot.
A child learns coding skills while playing with a ProBot.

The Steel City Codefest is an annual, citywide app-building event that challenges teams to “create apps for local government, citizens and community organizations over a 24-hour period.” Codefest attracts some serious developers, designers and technologists, but with this year’s first-ever Codefest, Jr., the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh wants everyone to know that coding is for kids, too.

“There is a misconception that you have to be a computer programmer or take a lot of advanced courses to learn how to code,” says Mary Beth Parks, youth services coordinator at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. “Codefest, Jr. demonstrates that learning to code can begin before a child even starts school.”

But what exactly is the benefit of kids learning to code at such a young age? Parks notes that it’s not about becoming a prodigy or preparing for a career in Web development: “The skills associated with learning to code—like sequencing, estimation, logical thinking and problem solving—are all in line with educational standards and STEM skill development.”

Codefest, Jr. will take place at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch in Oakland on February 22, 2015, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to children of all ages. While there, kids will get to test out BeeBots and ProBots, robots that move and perform various actions when programmed with simple commands.

The library will also demonstrate two iPad apps that have been popular among children participating in their programming. These apps, as well as the robots, feel like fun and interactive toys to youngsters, but they are introducing the basics of coding skills.

Codefest, Jr. is just one part of the library’s broader efforts to help children and parents learn how to better incorporate educational benefits into all things techy. “This event,” says Parks, “shows what we’ve been doing at the library for a while now. We’re focusing on highly interactive media that’s engaging for both children and their parents.”

Parks encourages parents to bring their kids to Codefest, Jr. and see what it’s all about. No registration is necessary, and the event is free and open to children of all ages and skill levels.

Hailing from northwestern PA, Deanna has made the transition from country to city life. She earnestly covers all the fun and intriguing stories that Pittsburgh has to offer. And when she's not writing, you might find her running the streets of the East End or cooking big meals in her tiny kitchen.