On Sunday, March 9, 85 people crammed into a public library in Henry County, Georgia, smashing the location’s previous attendance record for a Sunday event.

So what was the deal? J.K. Rowling hosting a meet-and-greet? Fresh copies of The Hunger Games trilogy hitting the shelves?

Nope.

The crowd was there to kick off the newest local chapter of CoderDojo, a free and open lab where kids Ages 7 to 17 can learn how to code and get excited about software programming.

It’ has been about nine months since VersionOne Developer Josh Gough founded the first local Atlanta CoderDojo chapter in downtown. “Kids enjoy the opportunity to learn new things and to share the experience with their peers,” he says. “They want to learn how to build games ā€” which we show them how to do ā€” and their parents are happy to see them doing something creative instead of spending their free time on Minecraft.”

Since the downtown chapter launched in June 2013, Josh has helped launch an Alpharetta chapter in addition to the Henry County group, and a handful of sessions at Holcomb Bridge Middle School inspired students there to start their own after-school program. “A big part of what the CoderDojo movement is all about,” he explains, “is self-directed learning and learning with peers. While we offer lots of mentor-led sessions, we encourage students to learn on their own or with friends, and it’s really exciting to see them begin to teach each other.”

As the program has grown, so has the need for mentors, and the local developer community has stepped up to the task. About 45 developers from various companies have signed up to become CoderDojo mentors, with VersionOne sponsoring background checks. “One of our mentors, William Metz, volunteered at just two sessions before deciding he wanted to start a chapter in Henry County,” Josh recalls, “and now here it is up and running.”

Image source: Quintus HTML5 Game Engine Project

Image source: Quintus HTML5 Game Engine Project

And there’s more cool stuff to come. Josh and his CoderDojo team are partnering with the open source Quintus HTML5 Game Engine Project to develop more training materials and tutorials; plus, they’re in negotiations with a professional software training company to license the use of their videos for self-paced learning.

“We’re also working hard to help other groups and schools to get started,” says Josh. “And personally, Iā€™m working on tools that other people can use to create their own tutorials and help groups of students learn together.”

To learn more about the program or to apply to become a CoderDojo mentor, visit http://www.meetup.com/CoderDojoPonceSprings.

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