British Columbia

Coding wiz, 13, trying to personally assist 100,000 people

Tanmay Bakshi, 13, has a resume many adults would love to take into a job interview. His YouTube channel has more than a quarter million views and nearly 12,000 subscribers. He's working on a book on coding, and delivering a keynote address at the B.C. Tech Summit in Vancouver.

YouTuber Tanmay Bakshi spends much of his time fielding programming questions online for free

YouTuber Tanmay Bakshi is giving a keynote speech to about 1,500 people at the B.C. Tech Summit in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Tanmay Bakshi, 13, speaks quickly and passionately. The ambitious teen gestures with both arms, and litters his sentences with the type of positive language that you'd expect from a professional speaker.

In fact, his business card lists 'keynote speaker,' along with software developer, cognitive developer, [IBM] Watson developer, author and YouTuber.

Bakshi's YouTube channel, where he shares computer programming advice, has more than a quarter million views and nearly 12,000 subscribers.

On Wednesday morning, Bakshi will deliver a keynote address to about 1,500 people — mostly youth — at the B.C. Tech Summit in Vancouver. Organizers expect hundreds more to watch the speech on the online livestream

"[It's] about, really, how the youth can get involved in technology, why they should get involved in technology, and of course, the present and future of technology, which is — beyond doubt — artificial intelligence," said Bakshi at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Tuesday.

The B.C. Tech Summit runs March 13-15 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Fielding questions

The young coder spends a lot of time helping other young people get involved in programming. He receives roughly 20 questions a day via email, Twitter, and YouTube comments. The people getting in touch with him range from about eight years old to 75, and he tries to answer as many as he can — 5 to 10 per day.

"I actually have a goal to help and reach out to at least 100,000 aspiring kid coders and beginners to help them innovate and in fact, I'm already around 3,400," said Bakshi, whose mother keeps track of how many individuals he has directly helped.

"Some are wondering how they can get into programming," Bakshi explained. "[For] some, it's really just motivational sort of emails, some have, specifically, problems with, you know, applications or their code."

"I absolutely love to respond to [the questions] and help them out personally, one-to-one."

Bakshi's forthcoming book is titled, Hello Swift: iOS App Programming For Kids and Other Beginners.

Interested in AI

Bakshi became enthralled in coding and thinking about artificial intelligence technology after stumbling across the IBM Watson project in 2015. He's since been granted honorary status as an IBM Cloud Advisor, and has even found mentors at IBM. 

His father, Puneet Bakshi, who works as a computer programmer, noticed his son's interest when he was only five years old. Puneet refers to himself as an "old-time kind of programmer," as opposed to his AI-focused son.

Puneet Bakshi, Tanmay's father, ignited an interest in coding in the 13-year-old. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"Not like iOS development, or Watson, or AI, or neural networks as he does. I'm in fact nowhere — I'm just five per cent of where he is," said Puneet.

A couple years ago, Tanmay Bakshi began home schooling, which allows him the flexibility to attend conferences and give speeches.

'I absolutely love to share my knowledge'

Just days after the B.C. Tech Summit winds down, he'll be in Las Vegas at the IBM InterConnect conference. There, he'll talk about how cognitive computing can improve the lives of people living with special needs.

The speeches, travelling and answering questions online is all part of Bakshi's passion to pass on his knowledge and skills.

"I still find that for beginners and the youth, there's lack of resources out there to help them get into the coding world or to help them solve their problems," he said. "That's why I absolutely love to share my knowledge — to help fill that gap and the lack of resources."

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker