Our daughter Kaede has been attending Under the GUI classes for a couple of years now. Kaede has enjoyed the classes at Under the GUI as the teachers and support staff are knowledgeable and friendly. It has been great to see Kaede make connections between the games she plays on her tablet and the underlying programming. Kaede is gaining the understanding that you can be a creator, not just a user. We think that the knowledge that Kaede gains in Under the GUI classes will serve her in whatever path she takes in the future. The classes help kids gain a structured approach to problem solving and that’s a great skill. We plan to have Kaede continue at Under the GUI for as long as possible.

Simon has been attending classes with Under the GUI for a year and a half. He started showing an interest in computers and coding about three years ago. At that time, we found an online course for kids that he completed in half the recommended time. We began researching for a local coding class, and were lucky enough to find Under the GUI. Jason, Simon’s instructor, is very generous with his time and patience. He is quick to answer questions on the forum, when Simon is working on projects between classes. Simon has been able to use his coding skills at school, and has created some amazing projects. He built a very impressive video game for a social studies project that demonstrated his understanding of agricultural methods used in Ancient Egypt. Simon’s interest in computers has only grown during his time at Under the GUI. He has since purchased a drawing tablet and 3D printer that helped his skills grow even more. Under the GUI has definitely given Simon coding skills that will enhance his education into high school, and his future.

Xavier has been learning programming at Under the GUI for almost two years now. What started as an interest in Minecraft has turned into a passion for writing code. The staff and instructors are professional and maintain a comfortable learning environment; Xavier looks forward to attending his course every week. His interest in programming has also pushed him to practice at home, and even learn math concepts ahead of his school curriculum. The courses at Under the GUI feel like they’re preparing Xavier for industries of the future, where understanding code will likely be a major asset.

“[My son] very much enjoys his GUI classes and looks forward to them each week. He enjoys learning “a new language” and working with his friends in class. I like that my son is learning an important skill in a supportive environment. Jamie, the instructor, is great with the kids. He is learning new skills and building confidence with programming. He’s stretching himself in terms of logical and linear thinking. If a child is interested in programming, it’s a great environment to develop new skills.”

My son Cooper absolutely loves going to the coding classes at Under the GUI! He gets excited every Friday night when I tell him that’s what he is doing on Saturday morning. Classes are fun and educational and Cooper has designed some really cool games.

The staff are great and very accommodating if classes are missed!

Sophia’s experience at UTG has been fantastic. She started a year ago, and is still eager to come to class every week, proud of the programming skills that she’s learned. She’s had a great time creating her own games and watching other people play them. It’s great encouragement seeing others play what you’ve created yourself. She’s enjoyed the supportive, friendly atmosphere that the teachers provide, and the instruction seems to move at a perfect pace for her. I have been impressed with the welcoming and positive atmosphere at the school. Jamie and the instructors have been friendly, informative and always approachable.

They’ve really taken an effort to get to know Sophia and support her in her learning. As a parent, I like the fact that my daughter feels enabled to enter the world of computer programming. The logic and math skills she learns enrich her basic school curriculum, teaching her different ways of thinking about things.

Programming is a skill that most kids should learn something about, akin to basic computer literacy and that’s one of the reasons we’ve enrolled Sophia. I also think that the class functions as an enriched curriculum that teaches skills children don’t learn in the BC school classes, with enhanced logic and math skills. As the parent of a daughter, its so encouraging to watch her learn that computer programming is not just for boys, that she is equally able to learn the skills and have an interest in this area. I’d love to see more girls join up!

I have been in the Under the GUI’s (UTG) educational program for a little over 4 years now. Upon starting the program, I was quickly taught the basics of computer programming in a way which was both engaging and relatively easy to understand. Since that time, I have learned many new fascinating concepts from UTG. These include: pathfinding algorithms, genetic algorithms, sorting functions, 3D programming, and much more. With these new skills, I have been able to undertake jobs, which before I never imagined I’d have access to.

By far the most enjoyable job and learning experience I’ve had so far is working for UBC’s Immersive Technology Lab (ITL). This job allowed me to gain experience in the development of virtual reality applications and computer programs in general. Moreover, during my time with ITL, I was fortunate enough to work under Dr. Ray Hsu. This professor proved to be incredibly influential and insightful in the development of our start-up team, teaching us much about business and coordinating our engineering efforts.

The wisdom and patience of the Under the GUI teachers allowed even the most difficult concepts to seem within my grasp. Finally, if I had to sum up my experience at UTG in one word it would be “enthusiastic” as I never once got the impression that a teacher was anything less that enthusiastic to bestow his or her students with knowledge.

Join us for an all-day event where you will work with a team to build your very own app!
Under the GUI will be sponsoring this year’s Richmond Youth Hackathon, where kids will work with instructors and volunteers to learn about about App development and game programming.
Students then join their team to create a game that will be showcased later in the day. The students at the hackathon will be encouraged to use the PixelPAD Python and PixelPAD Blockly to create their apps!
Reserve your space at the library’s website or contact Launchpad at (604) 231-6475
Did we mention that it is totally free?
Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops, but we will also have laptops available. Lunch is not provided ! so make sure to bring your own lunch as this will be a full day event!

Jamie Chang the founder of Under the GUI Academy talks with Ali Pitargue of BCIT on the importance of Coding at a young age, and discusses coding education from an international perspective.


Welcome back to For the Record on Evolution 107.9, my name is Ali Pitargue and on this edition we will look into kids learning how to code computers. Now the network information and technological age is ever evolving, and for many young people, from this generation and beyond, tech is embedded in how they live their lives. Given, this many are making a compelling case as to why young people should move beyond using technology to applying and developing them. Apple CEO Tim Cook, even made comments last week calling a 4 year degree in coding old and traditional. Now my guest today, Jamie Chang, is the founder of Under the GUI, or “Under the G – U – I” which stands for Graphical User Interface. They are an academy that teaches, computer coding, and STEM skills to kids Grades 1 – 12. Through their curriculum kids learn how to program video games, apps and software. Jamie thanks for speaking with us today.
You’re welcome. Good to be here.
So, Jamie my first question for you is, do you think coding literacy is an essential skill to have for young people?
Yeah, definitely. When you ask about whether or not it’s going to be an essential skill for young people. I think the question at its core really is a question of jobs in the future, or the majority of the problems people are going to have to solve in the future. I think the majority of jobs at least in the near-term future, like the next 5, 10 years is definitely going to be related to software. Even if you in particular, aren’t working with code, you’ll be working with other people who are coding. Someone that’s also vying for your position, that does know how to code is going to have that slight edge, so definitely, I think it’s going to be at least in the near term future, a really essential skill for young people to learn.
What are the advantages of learning coding and computer programming at a younger age?
Are you familiar with schemas?
Not really, but go on elaborate on it.
So, schemas are like this mental model in your brain, like a concept or a digital model in the brain, very abstract concept. There was a study done recently, on kids that grew up with Pokémon, and kids that never watched it. Did you watch Pokémon as a kid?
Yeah, quite a lot actually! I played all the games and everything.
That’s great! So they did a study on kids like us, who grew up with Pokémon and kids that didn’t grow up with it. They looked at the brain, and they showed an image of a Pokémon, they showed an image of pictures, and random animals, and for us, who grew up with it, there’s actually an area of the brain that lights up. So there’s this physical manifestation of this schema in the brain, model of this Pokémon there, and for others it doesn’t. The people that didn’t grow up with they don’t have it light up. It’s really fascinating because what it’s saying is the brain has created this physical area that helps us categorize Pokémon really fast – because what that does, is it allows us to do higher level functions; bringing it back to computer science, or math or Science, or STEM skills, it’s the same idea. If you can do a whole bunch of rote math skills, 2+2, 3×3 and put that away and create schemas for that, and it’s super effortless for you to do 3×3, and you know immediately that’s 9 without doing any computation it frees your resources up to do higher level thinking. For other people, it’s a really hard task to do, but for you it’s effortless. If you learn science and technology at a younger age that’s what it’ll allow you to do. That’s not to say if you’re older, you can’t – it’ll just take you longer to build those neural connections, to make it more effortless.
What do you think needs to be done in the Canadian Education system in order to promote Coding skills among young people?
The VSB is doing a good job in trying to modernize technology, and modernize the curriculum. They just put one a few years ago. They put out a new ADST curriculum, called the “Applied Design, (Skills), and Technologies.” and I think they did a phenomenal job at it, because right now, stuff you’re learning today is going to be very different than the stuff you learned 20 years ago. The smartest kid in the room 20 years ago knew all the, knowledge, the facts. They’re like “The capital of the country is Ottawa!” and now; we can just pull out our phone and say Ok well, I knew that, it’s on my phone. So what they’re trying at the VSB is learning more about more modern skills, rather than learning about the facts and the figures, and more about problem solving and in this case coding.
Let’s talk about Under the GUI; in what ways do you encourage your students to innovate?
For us, we want to teach kids the skills for them to elaborate on their own. So for us, we create games in classes or apps in classes, but these apps can easily be used for other things. For example, we had this girl; she was 8 years old at the time. She was making this asteroid shooter, and she went home and came back with an app that was completely different from what I was teaching her in class – in fact it had no images, it was just sounds. It was still an asteroid game, apparently, but there were no images, I couldn’t see anything it was just a blank screen. So I asked her, why is it blank? I only hear sound effects, is it a bug? And she said No, no, this is for my friend, who’s blind – I wanted to make a game that we can both play. And I thought that was a very good example of how you can apply the skills you learn in school, and modify it at home that can be helpful to everyone.
We had another girl, who made a silent alarm app. If you need an alarm to go off, you press this button and it’ll send a text message to everyone.
We had one more kid, where he was accidentally satirical. He was fairly young, so he doesn’t understand all the politics that’s going on, but he made a game about Donald Trump, it was really funny because it was the Universe version of Donald Trump, where Donald Trump was building this asteroid belt, and that asteroid belt represented the wall, and your job was to gather aliens from one planet to another but Donald Trump stops you – because he doesn’t want you crossing the border. It’s not really Donald Trump either, it’s like the robot version of Donald Trump, and you gotta blow him up, so you can bring these immigrants across. It was hilarious, because, I don’t think he fully understands the politics behind it, but these kids are gathering what they know and putting it into their apps and their games.
Jamie, you did mention a couple of girls in your class. I’m curious about the diversity of your students; by in large as of today, computer programming is still largely a male dominated industry. I’m curious how does Under the GUI encourage all kinds of kids to learn these skills?
We have multiple locations in Canada, and in Asia, and it’s interesting to see the demographics of each region. So you’ll notice in our North Vancouver location, there’s actually more girls than there are boys in some of the classes. I don’t know why. I don’t try to encourage one way or the other, I just open the classes up and anyone who wants to join can join, and we find that there are a lot more girls that are interested up in the North Vancouver location. In Asia, it’s definitely true that there are a lot more boys and it may be partly due to the way the genders are divided there, but in Canada it’s fairly even. But I find that it’s interesting as an observer, rather than someone that pushes one way or the other.
What have been the biggest challenges in running the Academy?
Parents. One word… (laughs)
In what way?
I was listening to a podcast with Elon Musk, and he has solved some really cool problems, like Solar City. Solar City does solar panels, they’re trying to put solar panels on tops of buildings to create energy – and he (Elon Musk) says that the majority of problems they’re trying to solve at Solar City, aren’t sexy. They’re not the super sexy, let’s optimize the solar cells, or work on the technology, or see how much power we can generate, it’s really about landscaping the tops of buildings, it’s really about managing the managers of buildings, and negotiating, which is like the unsexy work that comes with saying you’re dealing with solar panels and that you’re changing the world. It’s the same idea when I started this academy, initially I thought I’d do the really fun stuff with the kids, but really, most of the stuff I’m doing is navigating parent questions. I had a parent ask “Why aren’t you teaching kids punch cards?” and this is really old technology – “there’s a lot of value in that.” and I think they’re right, there is some value in learning how to code on punch cards, but we have to draw a line between, where we no longer have to learn this technology, and we have to learn this newer technology. Navigating those kind of questions, has been the hardest part, teaching the kids, doing all that, that’s super fun, the other stuff not so much (laughs).
Jamie, just my final question for you. What are some further goals for the academy in the future?
We’re taking the stuff that we’re doing in our after school program, in the 7 years we’ve been doing this, taking all that content and putting it online and providing that for the (public) schools. We developed our own website called PixelPAD.io you can go for free, public schools can go for free, where we take all the stuff we’ve learned over the years and put it onto the browser. So as long as you have a browser, it should be able to work.
I see! We look forward to checking that out! We have come to the end of it, that’s I have for you Jamie. Again, I’d like to thank you for talking with us today.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
And this has been For the Record on Evolution 107.9, I’m Ali Pitargue, thanks for listening!

Our coding instructor in Burnaby demoed some of the VR games our students made and brought prizes to draw!

1st place: a full semester at Under the GUI Burnaby Coding Camp free!

The second prize is a free one-week Coding and Robotics Summer Camp at Burnaby!

The third prize is a Bluetooth speaker!

The Virtual Reality (VR) games were all developed by Under the GUI students, aged between 13 – 17 years old.

The patrons at Crystal Mall all enjoyed the immersive environment providing and amazed at the level of knowledge Under the GUI kids had to create these games.

If you are interested in our Richmond Coding and Tech summer camp programs, check out our programs here!. Under the GUI Academy is providing three types of summer camps programs at Richmond this summer, see details below.

This summer, our Richmond Summer Camp is going to provide weeks of awesome science, technology, engineering and coding camps (STEM)! Kids learn in all technology sectors including Robotics, Engineering, Coding, and Animation.
Here is a glance of what our summer camp programs look like:

Our coding & animation summer camp teaches Python and app development. This is intended for students who have no prior knowledge of Python and is a good introduction to real programming concepts and goes beyond the drag & drop coding interface. At the end of this camp, students will have created their own versions of their favorite apps that they can share online!

Our Robotics summer camp program will teach the basics of Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s and making electronic circuit prototypes. From blinking LEDs to complex flying robots, this camp will teach students how to connect components on a breadboard and do basic Arduino programming to control them.

Our Engineering Olympics summer camp will introduce students of all ages to the exciting world of Engineering through a full week of competitions and engaging activities. Activities and challenges will include Giant Catapult, High Egg Drop, Popsicle Stick Bridge, Robotic Arm Transporter and more.

Contact Lucy at 778-829-9310 for questions about our Richmond summer camp programs or if you are interested in the Richmond Public Library’s code club, make sure to sign up now!