A fifth grader, Samaira Mehta, has designed board games which can help children learn coding and AI. Working to eliminate gender bias in the field of engineering, Samaira has also been featured among 'real-life power puff girls' videos. She has already started working with Microsoft and Google.
Samaira was just six-years-old when her father Rakesh Mehta, an IIT-Delhi alumnus based in the United States, started teaching her coding. With no more than one hour a day’s practice, Samaira released a board game for children to learn coding called CodderBunnyz. Now at 10, she has recently come up with seemingly the world’s first board game to learn coding with AI called CoderMindz with help of her brother – Aadit (7 years). Samaira has picked up many computer languages including Java and Python and is now teaching programming to her brother. Through her board games, she has decided to guide one billion children.
“It all started with a prank that my dad played on me when I was six which involved coding. I developed an interest in it and started spending one hour each day in learning coding. I wanted to create something and spread my love for coding with other children in a fun-filled and non-digital way. Since almost every parent keeps on telling their child to get off screens – be it laptop or mobile or tab – I wanted to design a non-digital game and hence invented my first board game – CodderBunnyz. It teaches children basic concepts of coding including sequencing, debugging and problem-solving,” Samaira told the indianexpress.com.
The board games have earned her a revenue worth $1,00,000 over the years, most of which she is spending on developing newer products. Apart from being a CEO at CoderBunnyz, this small wonder often deliberate talks and hosts workshops. During one of her workshops at Google, Samaira told that senior staff from the tech-giant offered her to work with them once she grows up. Microsoftis also impressed by her and featured her as one of the key speakers at the recent SVF event where she talked about gender-bias in engineering.
At an age too young to understand the complex world, Samaira has sensed people’s attitude towards women education, especially their low enrollment in STEM courses. “Whenever I talk about computer programmer or coders with people, they pictured a boy and not a girl. I researched about it and found out that there are women constitute only 20 per cent in engineering and related fields. This is strange as sales of the game have seen an equal response from both genders,” said she. This 10-year-old has also written about her concern and her coding games to the former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama and received an encouraging response in form of a letter.
Raising a genius
While Samaira thinks what she is doing is normal and her classmates treat her no different, her parents, however, realise her potential. “Samaira is bright but so are most kids in India. I do not think she is special,” said Rakesh Mehta who is currently heading Artificial Intelligence (AI) development at Intel, California, USA.
However, he believes, real achievement lies in doing a range of things. “I do not wish to promote Samaira to a higher grade to put any pressure on her. She is learning music, swimming, coding to holding lemonade stalls to raise money for homeless and that to me is her real achievement,” said he.
Like any wise parent, Mehta never overburdened his daughter with books but carefully generated her interest in coding. “It is all about the kind of opportunities we put across our children. If I had piled loads of codes in front of her, she would have run away. We need to make things simple, break them into steps and make them interesting for children,” he added.
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