Fulbright Alumnus Teaches High-Tech to Young Minds

I started Kids and Codes in October 2015 as a voluntary initiative that was sponsored and funded by the Fulbright Alumni Community Action Grant. This grant allowed me to start a small workshop to teach kids about robots and the concepts of coding. Our mission is to promote the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to children, and especially girls. Our first workshop was very humble, and the goal was to measure the learning process of children and understand how they will interact with robots. However, the early feedback from kids and parents was so positive that it pushed us to continue with the project and serve even more children. To date, my team of technology and engineering professionals has hosted ten workshops in different locations throughout Iraq.

Atheer and his team introduce students to robotics concepts

Workshops begin with a short presentation on the history of robotics and then finish with hands-on robotics work. I have found that working with children is incredibly fun. I see them running around asking each other questions, and sometimes arguing. They ask my team many technological questions, some of which are tough to answer. For example, when I was explaining the surgical robot, Da Vinci, one of the students asked, “what if the robot breaks, who will take over while we have a patient under operation?” Unsurprisingly, we found that we need to prepare well for children’s workshops because they will ask questions that are debatable and deep. It’s best to be prepared!

Robot Testing Phase

Kids and Codes would not be possible without Fulbright. Apart from the financial support my team received, the very idea of Kids and Codes crystalized in my mind when I was in the States and had the opportunity to visit several organizations that run similar projects. We think that the Kids and Code’s mission is not only limited to teaching coding to children, but we also aim to introduce scientific concepts to the Millennial Generation by using out-of-the-box tools and methodologies. As a Fulbrighter, I studied engineering, so I always try to emphasize that field in our workshops. We are in the stage of finding a permanent place so that we can establish a science club in my city, which will probably the first of its kind in Iraq. Our long-term goal is to extend our activities beyond coding concepts to also cover subjects such as physics and biology.

The Kids and Codes project is now in its second year and has taught more than 100 Iraqi children the basics of coding. To learn more about this exciting project, and to remain up-to-date on the latest workshop news, visit the group’s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/kidscodes/

Atheer is from the Iraq and is an alumnus of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. He graduated in 2014 from Louisiana State University where he earned a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering.