Serge Rouselle coding

Education Minister Serge Rousselle watches a coding class at the Fredericton Public Library in November. (Brilliant Labs/Facebook)

New Brunswick-based Brilliant Labs is hoping a series of initiatives designed to teach kids how to code will be the catalyst to launching a new wave of young entrepreneurs.

More than a dozen children crowded around computers last week at the Fredericton Public Library for another in a series of coding classes.

Jeff Willson, the executive director of Brilliant Labs, said the idea behind events like this is to give these young participants the basic understanding of how to computer code and to have fun.

“We are hoping they are going to learn how to create new opportunities for interactive devices and gadgets and really take control and offer kids an opportunity to create rather than just to consume everything that is around them,” he said.

The initiative is a part of a global movement that aims to have children become more literate when it comes to writing or using computer code.

Brilliant Labs uses its large network of teachers and supporters to host events in communities around the province.

The weekly coding sessions, such as the one held at the Fredericton library, are for children as young as four and last for six weeks. 

The programs are very simple to start with and are based on drag-and-drop technology and become more advanced for experienced children.

Natasha Clarke, 8, was using the Scratch program at the Fredericton event and she said she was excited to learn more so she could eventually make her characters dance.

“It takes a while to know how to control and know what your characters are going to do, but after a while you get the hang of it and you will start exploring new things that are more difficult than others,” Natasha said.

The coding event filled up fast in Fredericton. Brilliant Labs filled all the spots in 12 minutes and there were 70 people on the waiting list to participate in the event.

Brilliant Labs is working with schools and community groups to help foster new ways to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

Premier Brian Gallant promised to enhancing these courses during the September election. The Liberal platform also committed to “encouraging the early adoption of learning and teaching technologies and related coding.”

Willson said the dismal state of the Atlantic Canada economy and the ongoing outmigration of young people makes these types of events critical.

“If we are going to transform our Atlantic economy and have kids stay right here in New Brunswick instead of moving out west then why not empower them and give them the skills they need so they can be entrepreneurs and maybe they are going to be the next software developer that creates the next $6 billion company or maybe they are going to create the next, greatest electronic device that  helps humanity,” he said.

The Brilliant Labs official said some New Brunswick students are going to get some high-profile presentations later this week as a part of the "Hour of Code" initiative.

Actor Ashton Kutcher will be participating in a technology chat with Caledonia Regional High School at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9.

As well, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will be chatting with students from Hartland Community School on Dec. 10 as a part of the hour of code initiative.