Chris and business partner Bhish are the founders of the School of Code. They have just launched their Kickstarter campaign to get people coding more.
School of Code is a brand new online learning platform that aims to be able to teach everyone of all ages how to code through fun games, puzzles and more. The aim is to help develop the users coding skills through creative, collaborative and competitive play online.
Learners can seek the aid of friends or other players while learning to code, they can develop new connections leading to mentorships and tutors all in real time on the platform. The aim is to develop a fun coding journey that not only gives people coding skills but encourages creativity and helps develop soft skills such as teamwork and communication.
We caught up with Chris Meah to find out more about himself and how School of Code got started.
What is the aim of School of Code?
“The School of Code was set up to teach and help people to learn more about how to code along with helping them gain access to the tech industry.
There is a huge IT skill’s gap and we think there is a really big opportunity to for social mobility. If everyone can get those skills, there is plenty of jobs to go around for coders”.
How did you get into coding?
“On was on my pathway to University and I saw a degree in Artificial Intelligence. After having watched the film ‘I, Robot’ the week before I thought it looked cool and wanted to do that.
When I got to the course, everyone could code already. This confused me because I was trying to figure out how these kids had gotten into coding. It was cool but I wanted to know how you do this before getting to University.
It turned out that a lot of the kids had backgrounds where their parents were coders or they had been given computers to take apart when they were young. That’s how they had learned it and that’s how most people get into coding.
It showcases the massive skills gaps difference between people especially those who don’t have the necessary support or motivation at home. So, as a result, they miss out on this world and how to get into it”.
What is it that you, yourself most enjoy about coding?
“Artificial intelligence for me is something that I really liked. Some projects have involved me making artificial football players from Lego bricks, A poker bot that could detect bluffs during a game and those kinds of things.
The concept of getting that type of intelligence into machines has always interested me since I started my degree.
Fundamentally, what I enjoy most about coding is the creativity and the problem-solving aspect. It’s not about sitting there coding for hours on end behind a desk. It’s about being able to create something completely out of nothing.
Coding is definitely a new art form. If you could paint a beautiful new picture, then people would admire it. The concept of creating a potential masterpiece from a blank canvas is there. Now we can create that same situation with coding in a virtual and digital sense. With a computer you can do that, it just requires the right set of skills and you can get creating.
Technologies influence is continually growing through new development. It allows us to challenge and change the world around us just by creating something with code”.
So what made you want to look at teaching code through The School of Code?
“The biggest problem with coding is motivation. So if anyone has tried to learn to code before or is a coder, you know that it can be a really lonely, frustrating hard journey to learn this stuff.
Many get bored, frustrated or lonely. If you don’t have the support around you, people tend to quit and think that it’s not for them. The people that tend to make it through either have the support around them or just really love code.
By the time they have made it through that lonely journey, they have probably lost some of the soft skills such as teamwork because you just don’t practice in that way. It’s not a team learning experience.
That’s what we wanted to create. A multiplayer platform where people have support and motivation in the game with them where they can play with a friend. You move through levels and team up with others including friends. You solve problems and most importantly code together in real time. There are the options to collaborate or compete.
If you’re a competitive person you might just want to drop into a room and show people how good at coding you are. That helps to motivate yourself to get through that learning journey.
It all about widening the routes so that more people can make it into coding really.
Getting people coding on our platform encourage creativity, collaboration communication in coding. For us, that is what it’s all about.”
The School of Code is a real-time platform where people can invite others into a room and get help with problems or challenges there and then. It serves as a mentoring process with real interactions as opposed to say working through problem-solving or completing exercises in a textbook”.
Why choose to build and launch in Birmingham?
“I’m local to Birmingham and I’ve always been around the city basically apart from traveling for a few years. I’ve grown up here and seeing the drain down towards London has been disheartening. With technology companies and the technological developments, we should be able to run technology companies from fundamentally anywhere.
For a third of the cost, you can run one in Birmingham compared to London. Really the only other barrier is talent. If the people you need to recruit are in London, then it makes sense to be based there.
For us is was about how can we help people of Birmingham because there are not enough general jobs around. The rise of unemployment and youth unemployment is massive around here and yet they are tech savvy.
Youths are interested in technology but they want flexible working and that will change as the working life develops with technological change. So it becomes a case of how can we engage them”.
How important has it been to get involved in Silicon Canal and what has that meant for you being involved in encouraging that pool of talent within Birmingham and the ecosystems?
“The value of a network such as Silicon Canal is only really felt when people collaborate. That has to come from all industries and all angles, especially in Tech outside of London. You really need companies helping each other and working together. Whether that’s through mentoring, connections or collaborating on projects.
That what we try to do, we try to collaborate as much as we can we other companies and organizations.
Some of the social work we have done includes projects such as Homeless Coding, Coding with Crisis, kids, and parents coding with the BBC and ‘Hack your future’ which teaches refugees coding.
All of these projects have involved collaborating with other people to get that network to grow much stronger. That’s what is important with Silicon Canal, they are grouping these companies together and giving them a funnel to help collaborate and make a network of scalable companies”.
You can listen to the full interview here:
The School of Codes Kickstarter campaign features various different rewards for contributors including some exclusive items for backers.
You can donate to the campaign via Kickstarter here: http://kck.st/2eKuLWw