Youth Digital provides online computer courses that teach kids how to be digital creators and innovators. It also offers summer camps to those lucky enough to live near one of its 21 camp locations. But the founder of Youth Digital, Justin Richards, has a goal of reaching kids who may not have access to a cool camp like his. Hence the online courses, which are engaging youngsters in more than 100 countries.
BE Smart spoke with Richards recently. Here’s what he had to say about empowering kids to create.
BE Smart: What is the goal of Youth Digital?
Richards: Our goal is to create creators. It isn’t just to teach them how to code, but how to create with code, or not just to design or animate, but to make and create animated movies or a fashion collection—whatever kids are interested in.
We focus on the creation cycle of process, teaching them and having them go through it in depth, because that’s what they’ll be doing if they continue to make more animations, or apps, or video games, or if they go to school for it or get a job in it. That’s what professionals do, so we want to introduce them to that sort of process at a young age. Creating creators is how we’ve summed it up.
And we mean really create. We’re not giving them software that has its own built-in limitations. They’re learning the skills they would need to work at Pixar or Minecraft.
Is it important for kids to learn to code?
In schools, kids are getting exposure to coding— and it’s important for all students to conceptually understand how coding works. What we do with our courses is not just exposure, but provide the experiential knowledge that you gain when you actually create.
Because coding is such a buzzword right now, unfortunately some of the other digital arts are getting left behind. So we offer coding, but we also offer fashion illustration, 3-D modeling, or animation. I think that those skills will also be in high demand, especially 3-D. There will be just as many jobs in 3-D design and 3-D rendering as in coding.
Are you reaching underserved or disadvantaged kids?
A lot of middle schools and high schools are still underserved. That’s a gap we’re trying to fill with the online courses, because we want to reach those kids. We want them to be able to become creators too.
Our camps partner with nonprofits that already have existing relationships with those communities. We’re still figuring out the online piece. We want to partner with nonprofits and enable them to deliver this content to kids whose lives they’re already touching.
For more information, go to Youth Digital.