Hamilton and Waterloo unite to teach kids how to code


Parents and children crowd around two large white tables where circuit boards, wires, laptops, tools, stickers and markers lay splayed across the surface. Four home-made robots, built over the course of the full day, also lay on the tables in anticipation for their presentation to the entire group. It’s late in the afternoon at Mabel’s Labels HQ, in Hamilton, Ontario, and the four coloured teams are ready to show off their hard days work. One after another the teams present their robots, and each one is able to wow the crowd with unique functions, sounds, and plenty of attitude. One robot sneezes when a child reaches too close to it, another frowns unless someone tickles her, another begins blinking her eyes in spectacular patterns. Which ever robot it was, there was something to impress and delight everyone present. Surprisingly, this kind of scene is the norm for Gillian Gutenberg, founder of Hello World Camp.

“Hello World Camp is a tech camp in Waterloo Region for kids. We explore programming and multimedia, build robots, and take special field trips to local companies.

We also offer neighbourhood coding clubs and family workshops.”

Gillian of Hello World Camp, far right, clapping along as a robot presentation wows the crowd.

In Toronto, while volunteering at the Girls Learning Code March Break Camp, Gillians eyes opened up as to how rewarding solving these programming challenges were to the young girls. With that, and the support of friends and colleagues, she began developing what has come to be the Hello World Camp’s core teaching methodology. Through the use of physical computing, a mixture of software and hardware engineering, Hello World Camp allows students to receive instant feed back from their hands on work. As I write this, there are more than fifteen kids running around installing motors, wiring circuit boards, programming lights, and installing sensors; all here in one action packed day. Watching the childrens’ eyes light up as their robots come to life assures me that the learning today, ignites curiosity and a passion for possibilities tomorrow.

Kids learning to code

Katie Clarke of Mabel’s Labels, helping a bunch of curious kids figure out how to work the hardware / software interface

Kids learning to code

Nay and her son adjusting some parameters on the console. Parents and children alike worked fearlessly towards accomplishing their goals!

Today I witnessed a 9 year old girl battling with the wiring of her circuit board, upset with the motor as it would start vibrating unexpectedly, and then working feverishly to get it to behave as she so desired. For this kind of reason Hello World Camp considers physical computing a prime medium for children to learn how to work with hardware and code in a challenging and rewarding way. With how engaged I saw the kids today I have to say that I fully agree. Best wishes to Gillian and her program over in Waterloo. We know that opportunities are building up and we are glad to share and be a part of them and we know how grateful Gillian can be. You can find Hello World Camp over at HelloWorldCamp.com. Look out for them in the future, and if you want to know where to hire in the next 10 years, look no further than the Hello World Camp alumni! 😉

  • Nick

    Great initiative.

  • mumby

    Alex! This is SUCH a great review of the day!!! It was awesome. i love what GIllian is doing too. And I’m just amazed at how quickly kids can learn this stuff. They just need the opportunities like this.

  • Gillian

    Alex, thanks for the awesome recap!! It was SO much fun! And crazy big thanks and love to Mabel’s Labels for your generous support and for hosting and encouraging kids (and grownups!) learning about technology. You rock. xoxo

  • Julie Cole

    Great post, Alex!