STEUBEN — On a Monday night at the Henry D. Moore Library, Philip Duggan sat with a small group of school children, explaining how they could design websites, games or mobile phone apps.
Duggan is president of a local group called Kidz radioActive that works to inspire youth in science, technology and amateur radio. His focus this night was on a program called CoderDojo, which organizes clubs for children to learn computer programming.
“I thought this would be a great way to get kids started early,” Duggan said. “It’s the fastest growing industry, and the pay is excellent — you can start at $40,000 per year. And once you get some experience you can work remotely from wherever you live.”
The program is self-guided. Participants can choose what they want to work on and go at their own pace. Duggan said this was the first CoderDojo event in Maine.
“Hopefully, if we start to get more interest we can open up more programs like this in the area,” Duggan said. “I’m hoping the kids will continue to come every two weeks, and then we can start moving into stuff like Python and other computer programming languages.”
The children in attendance used a device called a Raspberry Pi, a very basic computer built on a single circuit board that is used to teach basic computer science.
“There’s all kinds of things you can do with this,” Duggan said. “This does almost anything a regular computer can do, only this way you get down into the hardware and learn what’s really making it tick.”
Duggan, a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer and electronics technician, first heard about the CoderDojo program while pursuing a degree in software development at Boston University.
A ham radio enthusiast, he said he first developed an interest in coding because of its applications to radio. He sees coding as an opportunity for Maine students.
“There’s not a lot to do out here, that’s a complaint you always hear. Well, you just have to get creative,” Duggan said. “There was a kid who was a member of our local ham radio club. He started learning code through a webpage. He ended up creating his own social web app and recently sold it. He created his own career. And that was the start, learning how to code web pages.”
This iteration was just a start, but with computer science an increasingly useful skill, Duggan said he hopes to keep the students engaged during what will be bimonthly meetings.
“I really do think the kids, if they start this young, developing some programming skills will go a long way,” Duggan said. “The main thing is that they have fun and get a little creative.”