LINDA LIUKAS, DEVELOPER OF A PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR CHILDREN
Skolkovo recently held Startup Village. It is the most large-scale annual startup conference for tech entrepreneurs in both Russia and CIS. One of the event’s sections focused on women’s creativity and entrepreneurship. Linda Liukas, a programmer from Helsinki, told there about her one-of-a-kind project, which is Hello Ruby, a children’s picture book about programming. She is its author and illustrator.
The speaker remembered: “When I was a little girl, I could not think of becoming an engineer. I liked studying French, philosophy, knitting, and doing something manually. At the time, I considered programming to be boring and more suitable for men”. Linda grew up and entered a business school. However, she understood that she did not like entrepreneurship. While travelling around different countries within an educational programme, Linda realised programming languages were becoming more and more popular, even compared to communication ones. By the way, programming was included in her curriculum.
Linda studied programming in California. She could not learn much from textbooks because of the variety of terms and dryness of style. That was when Linda created a character called Ruby. Ruby was a six-year-old girl. Ms. Liukas imagined, how Ruby would explain challenging rules and laws. Thus, Linda created the first series of short comics and posted it in social networks. Users liked the idea and they suggested her to make a comic book. Pre-orders earned her almost 400000$. Ms. Liukas spent a part of that money on printing her books.
Linda mentioned, that learning a language of programming is just as tough as learning any other language. Remembering the rules will not be enough, as one has to practice constantly by exercising in different formats. Hello Ruby is a book suggesting a groundbreaking way of introducing boys and girls to the tech world. It explains complex ideas in a simple way. Linda Liukas highlighted computer is not even required for that. Programming is always around us. When doing handicraft, we follow certain instructions. When cleaning the room, we act according to a certain algorithm. In our everyday life, we are always thinking, reasoning, and using logic.
Linda provided us a small extract from her book as an example. According to her, one of the main rules of programming is that you have to enter clearly formulated commands in the right order. So, the extract tells about the situation, where Ruby is asked to put the toys away to make the place cleaner and roomier. The girl did it, but left pencils and books lying on the floor, as they were not toys. Thus, entering a wrong command, one can achieve an undesirable result. The main idea of the book is that the biggest problems in the world are made of smaller ones. That means one has to deconstruct a global problem to solve it.
Despite the fact, that Linda always considered programming a male thing to do, the main character of her book is a girl. Ruby is the symbol of doing what one likes to and developing one’s skills, being free of fears or embarrassment.
Now Hello Ruby is translated in 22 languages. The small, curious, brave, and funny girl became a favourite character of many children from different countries. Linda Liukas herself is glad that she managed to create both interesting and useful character. Ruby teaches children a basic thing, which is solving any issues, be they digital or real.
Linda continued: “When we think about technology, we imagine something distant, unobtainable, complex, and sometimes even boring. It is not true at all. That is why I decided to project my own vision of what the tech world should look like. It does not scare children off, it attracts them”. In the book, Ruby goes on a trip around such a wonderful world.
Linda mentioned technologies are not just computer-based mechanisms. The Greek word ‘mechanism’ is translated as ‘a tool for solving a problem’. Many years ago a bicycle, gardening accessories, pens and pencils, calculators and many other things that are habitual to us now, were new technologies either. Nowadays new technologies are presented with gadgets, robots, and various machines. Linda Liukas supposes, that “we do not know now, what the new technologies of the future will look like. However, we do know, that they will still be aimed to solve various problems of the humanity. I want to build a literary bridge between youth and tech world with the help of Hello Ruby. My main objectives are teaching programming to children and preparing them for future life”.
Viktoria Yezhova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Boykov