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By SARENRAJ RAJENDRAN
Photos by JESSLYN TAN
brats@thestar.com.my

SO many of us learn new languages like Mandarin, Spanish or German to get that extra edge in our careers, but these days, learning a new programming language could prove just as useful.

And the thing is, computer programming really isn’t that hard to learn these days. It all starts with coding – the process of writing basic computer codes that command your computer to perform certain tasks. Learn enough lines of code, and you can start building your own computer programmes.

So, why don’t we spend more time teaching our young people this invaluable skill? That’s exactly the question that drove two young Malaysians, product manager Wunmin Wong, 24, and freelance web developer Sher Minn Chong, 23, to initiate their non-profit project Code Equality.

Sher Minn Chong (left) and Wunmin Wong are the founders of Code Equality, a non-profit initiative to promote computer science education among Malaysians.

Sher Minn Chong (left) and Wunmin Wong are the founders of Code Equality, a non-profit initiative to promote computer science education among Malaysians.

The project is all about promoting computer science awareness among young Malaysians, starting with an event they call A Weekend Introduction to Coding.

The event is actually the third they’ve organised under Code Equality, but it’s something they hope to do at least once every three months to get Malaysians started on coding.

And the best thing is, they’re doing everything for free. They charged an RM20 deposit to lock down participants of the Weekend Introduction to Coding, but refunded it to the people who actually showed up.

“Through Code Equality, we would like to gently introduce computer science to teens so they can consider taking the major at tertiary level,” said Wong, who missed the chance to major in computer science in university (though being a graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she didn’t do too badly for herself), something she regrets to this day.

There are several different languages in coding, such as C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, etc., but the one Wong and Chong chose for the Weekend Introduction was Python, with additional sessions on HTML and CSS.

“Wunmin and I agreed Python would be good place to start, since it requires fewer lines of code compared to other ‘mainstream’ programming languages,” said Chong, a University of Wisconsin-Madison computer science graduate.

“Participants of the workshop weren’t expected to have any background knowledge on programming. It was meant for newbies to get a feel for programming.”

And just to show how easy coding can be, the youngest attendee at the event was 12-year-old Trinity Tay.

Another kid, Nathaniel Leong, 13, also showed up with his father.

Family affair: Twelve-year-old Trinity Tay tagged along with her brother to attend the event.

Family affair: Twelve-year-old Trinity Tay tagged along with her brother to attend the event.

Nevertheless, Wong does have concerns over the number of good software engineers in Malaysia, which is why she and Chong are constantly going through their network of college friends to find qualified talents to give talks on computer science.

The first ever Coding Equality event was held back in February, and it was a talk by software engineer Carolyn Au about her experience working with Google in Silicon Valley.

Their second event, a visit to the Google Malaysia office earlier this month, also turned out to be a success.

To find out more about Code Equality and how you can support its cause in making computer science more accessible to all Malaysians, head on over to codeequality.org.

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