Guide

Each year, Audible invites employees’ children to participate in Take Your Kids to Work Day (TYKTWD). This year’s theme was Customer Care and Technology, with the technology segment starting off with:

“Welcome! We’ll begin as soon as everyone has a seat.” As all the kids enter the Harry Potter room, there’s chatter about what Alexa is doing there.

“My name is Tyler and I’m going to be telling you a bit about today’s activity with the help of my friend, Alexa.” Intuitively, various little voices start yelling “Hey Alexa, what’s the weather like today?” After a little expected chaos, we managed to regain control so only Tyler spoke to Alexa while each kid entered their name into a text file uploaded to S3, Amazon Web Service’s cloud storage service. Alexa then welcomed everyone individually, taking on the role of the Sorting Hat and splitting everyone off into smaller groups for the technology segment of Audible’s own TYKTWD.

Kids in Conference Room

This was followed by activities geared toward teaching kids between the ages of 7 and 14 how to code and work together to engineer solutions. They were each handed a Kindle or laptop, and then split off into groups based on age.

Kid photo Kid photo Kid photo playing with Fire tablet

What do you want to be when you grow up?

In a Jungle Book themed room with kids 7-9 years old, each group dove right into playing with an app called Lightbot. The main character is a friendly animated robot who teaches coding principles (loops, conditionals, functions) by following commands. One of my biggest concerns was not knowing what to do if one child breezed through the levels and another one who was struggling with level 1. Truth be told, that’s exactly what happened. On top of that, there were waves of frustration from debugging Lightbot’s movements and understanding the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise. Much to my surprise, the quick learners occasionally paused to check on others, and partnered with another teammate to bring them up to speed. The ones who were a level or two behind and admittedly getting frustrated, accepted the partnership and got up to speed. By the end of the hour, I witnessed the organic formation of a team of these brilliant minds working together to progress through the levels.

Kids being Mentored

The remaining two rooms had kids between the ages of 10 and 14 working on a series of games listed on code.org. The 10-year-olds got creative with their own versions of MineCraft and Flappy Bird, which they programmed with blocks. Meanwhile, the 11 to 14-year-olds used JavaScript to maneuver R2D2 and BB-8 in the Star Wars portal. Mike Massiello, VP of Engineering, made rounds to each room performing captivating magic tricks while explaining the role of technologists at Audible and what Engineers, Program Managers, Product Owners, and UX/VX Designers do.

Workshop Photo

By the end of the day, the tech mentors were both drained and excited. We talked about how some kids didn’t want to leave their devices behind to take the group photos, and how others talked about their apps already being published in the app stores. This was indicative of the goals we wanted to accomplish, such as giving each child an opportunity to learn how to code, demonstrating the value of teamwork, and being receptive to feedback. The event provided equal gender representation, as Audible’s “Women in Engineering” chapter also served as tech mentors and published a how-to guide for future hour of code events. Kids left with great enthusiasm about having innovated, solving challenges, learning how to code, and having a modernized perspective to the traditional question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Kid photo Kid photo playing with Fire tablet