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Aim to harness tech for everyone's benefit: Teen coder-author Paarth Arya (IANS Interview, Ld)
New Delhi, Sep 17 - Hes all of 17 but his language is that of a Computer Science pro. He played chess at the national level in the Under-7 category, is disturbed at the "huge challenge" of the digital divide, hopes that his debut book on software programming for beginners is a "great way to start your coding journey" and in five years from now, aims to be in a position where he is "well-equipped to harness technology for the benefit of everyone".
Paarth Arya, a Class 12 student of DPS Gurugram, of which he is the Head Boy, ascribes all this to his grandfather, a teacher of Mathematics, to whom he has dedicated "The Python Champions of Coding" (Wisdom Tree).
"My grandfather was a Math teacher. I believe I inherited a liking for Math from him, as also the spirit of sharing. I dedicated my book to him. I have memories of my first day at school, where, while other children around me were glum, some of them even crying, I was busy counting all of them on my fingers," Arya told IANS in an interview.
"I think the common factor between Math and Computer Science is the problem-solving approach. Actually, before my interest in Math organically developed into an interest in Computer Science, I first developed an interest in chess, which I played at the national level in the Under-7 category. I guess chess became a bridge between Math and Computer Science," he added.
The book, in a way, is pandemic-inspired.
"Online schooling meant I had more time on hand, which I utilized by taking up free online courses in Computer Science. One particular course, CS50 from Harvard University left a deep impression on me. It is sharp, smart and still simple. It made me think why couldn't our books, especially in Computer Science, be like that? In lower classes, we are still made to learn the definition of a floppy disk!
"At the same time, reading about the huge challenge of the digital divide left me disturbed. I saw an opportunity to solve both problems by writing this book. So the book is simple and clutter-free and is available in all formats -- physical book, e-book and free videos on YouTube. And all my royalties will be used to buy devices to enable digital education for students who can't afford it. I am aware that the difference I may make may be only to a very few students and we have millions in need, but at least I would have made a start," Arya explained.
"My target is to ensure online education for 100 students through my earnings from the book," he added, rather modestly.
Given his depth of knowledge, the book took him just five months and six drafts to complete.
"I first made a mind map about the topics that needed to be covered in a beginner's level book. I wrote several simple codes and cross-checked if some principles were getting used that I had missed including in the content plan. Thereafter, I wrote the first draft of the book.
"Once the draft was ready, I took feedback on its different parts from my friends and juniors. The feedback helped me make it simpler and plug any gaps. Then I decided to do a study of similar books available in the market. Not many by Indian authors were available that treated the subject like I wanted to, which encouraged me further. The whole process took me five months and it took six drafts to finalise the book.
Python, on which the book is based, is a very popular and simple programming language, he said.
"It's a great way to start your coding journey, be it as a child or as an adult. Its syntax is similar to the English language, which makes it very easy to use and master. I have tried to capture all the basics of Python in a fun and friendly manner with many fun practice activities," Arya elaborated.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he's already planning a sequel
"Yes, I have a sequel in mind - a supplementary book that will have activities and projects for the beginner level so that young learners can understand the actual applications of programming," he said.
Where does he see himself, for instance, five years from now?
"After five years, I want to be in a position where I am well-equipped to harness technology for the benefit of everyone. I believe technology is inherently inclusive and can solve the problems that get created because of its lack of access. Both, through the enhancement of my skills by becoming a computer scientist and through a better understanding of the ecosystem in which technology works, I would like to make a difference in the lives of citizens who generally are the last in reaping the benefits of technology," Arya concluded.
May he be a beacon to all youngsters of his age -- and even the not so young!
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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