“What happens at bol.com [one of the Netherlands’ largest online retailers] when you click the ‘buy’ button and before the package arrives at your house?”

Silence. Blank stares. Shrugs.

This is how we began the ‘Intro to Programming’ classes we taught as part of our 2017 EU Code Week Road Show for Rising Technologists in Amsterdam Southeast, a predominantly immigrant and low-income community. We refer to students there as ‘Rising Technologists’ because we believe that with opportunity and access to computer science education, they have the potential to become future technologists and leaders who can help their communities.

We taught the Road Show at four local schools during EU Code Week (October 7-22, 2017). Our aim was to co-teach with classroom teachers and reach students who would not normally have computer science lessons during school.

Most of the kids had no idea what happens at bol.com and we used this as an opportunity to teach them about programming in the context of automation. We showed them examples of robots in warehouses picking up and delivering goods.

We then taught them basic computer science concepts around programming (algorithms, commands and loops) and gave the class the challenge of ‘programming’ mini-robots by drawing commands.

We chose to integrate technological literacy into our classes because many of these children have parents or know people who work in jobs which will disappear because of automation.

We spent a lot of time discussing why companies are replacing humans with robots (robots don’t get tired or sick, they make less mistakes, they cost less) and what impact this will have on humans (unemployment, depression, more free time).

We were very happy when one student said that instead of packing and delivering packages, people should learn how to program the robots and run the warehouse system!

A big ‘thank you’ to our partners:

Projectenbureau Primair Onderwijs Zuidoost (PPOZO): the organization which coordinates after-school activities for primary school students in Amsterdam Southeast, working with 10 school boards representing 29 schools and 7017 students.

Google Europe: the company is committed to expanding computer science education around the world and financed our Road Show at four different primary schools through a 2017 EU Code Week subsidy.

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