Coder Samaira Mehta is an all-around powerhouse, defying convention at every turn. She’s a programmer among STEM elitists, where parity is still lacking. To date, her company has generated about $200,000 in revenue and she’s taught well over 2,000 students. Mehta has caught the attention of Google, Microsoft and Michelle Obama during her professional career. Parentology, too. So we took a look at some of the 11-year-old’s viewpoints relayed during interviews. Here’s what we found out.
The Path to CEO
Mehta is the CEO and inventor of CoderBunnyz, a board game that teaches basic coding concepts to players as young as four. “There are the very basic concepts like sequencing and conditionals to more advanced concepts like loops, functions, stack, queue, lists, parallelism, inheritance and many others,” Mehta told CNBC Make It.
As with most great ideas, Mehta developed the board game after noticing a gap in instruction for young, first-time coders. Her father, an engineer and AI developer, taught Mehta how to code at around six and a half years old (in 2015).
After learning how to code, Mehta spent a year and a half working on her first game. “It was launched in 2017 and it trended #1 on Amazon shortly after launch,“ she’s said. “It was very well received in the market, schools, nationally and internationally.”
Her mother, who holds an MBA, is in charge of marketing and social media and her little brother Aadit is the game tester. “My family is very much involved in my business,” she’s said.
Building an Empire
In addition to CoderBunnyz, Mehta invented CoderMindz, a coding board game that teaches AI concepts using Java. Mehta calls CoderMindz the “world’s first-ever artificial intelligence board game.”
Mehta has taught coding virtually everywhere; from schools and libraries, all the way up to Silicon Valley. She’s led over 60 workshops that feature her games at companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Intel. “I’m really passionate about coding,” Mehta said. “I want the kids to be the same way … coding is what the world will depend on in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Power Coupled with Philanthropy
In addition to coding, Mehta is equally passionate about philanthropy and community outreach. The money raised from the sales of her games is used to further develop her company, and the hefty remainder is dispersed to charities focusing on homelessness.
On the heels of her desire to reach and teach as many children as are willing to learn, Mehta initiated Yes 1 Billion Kids Can Code. “By the time we go to college (2030), we want to ensure that all one billion kids in the world that do not have access to coding tools have already started their path towards coding and computational thinking,” Mehta has said.
The program arose out of a desire to help those who lacked the resources to learn coding and other STEM disciplines. “There are over seven billion people in the world. According to the census, 26% of those people are kids age 0-14,” Mehta said on the website. “That is around 1.9 billion and over 50% of those living below the poverty line.”
“We [kids] can help bring change and create things to solve the problems of our generations and the whole world to make it a better, safer and fun-ner place to live,” Mehta continued.
Encouraging Love of STEM
Part of CoderBunnyz’s success is its ability to make coding fun and accessible. Coding tends to bring to mind large, overwhelming processes. Mehta says it doesn’t have to be that way. ”The game teaches all the concepts used in coding and AI in a really fun, interactive, and kinesthetic way.”
Mehta dismisses suggestions that she’s too young to lead the charge in engaging children to code. Her stance on providing access to educational resources and being a good global citizen is universal and ageless. “I believe age is just a number. If you have an idea, no matter how old you are, you have the power to change the world.”
In addition to being one of the youngest in her field, another challenge Mehta regularly faces is being female in a male-dominated discipline. “I think a lot of girls struggle that way,” she’s said. “They feel it’s something only boys can do, but I don’t believe that’s correct. I believe girls can be as smart as boys, including in the engineering field, if they choose to work hard and passionately toward what they believe in.”
Bridging the Gender Gap
In an attempt to bridge the gender gap in tech, Mehta is currently working on Girls U Code, an initiative that teaches coding to marginalized girls.
“Some of the greatest programmers of all time have been women,” Mehta said. “Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer; Ida Rhodes, who designed the first computers to run the Census and Social Security; Margaret Hamilton, who wrote the software that put Apollo 11 on the moon…and let’s not forget Anita Borg and Grace Hopper.”
At her core, Mehta doesn’t think she’s much different from other people who are passionate, hard-working and tenacious. During an interview at CNET headquarters in San Francisco, Mehta emphasized that with the right mindset, anyone can be successful: “I’m an ordinary girl,” she said. “I just choose to work toward an extraordinary goal.”
Coder Samaira Mehta — Sources:
CNET: This 11-year-old wants to teach kids everywhere to code
YourStory.com: 11-year-old entrepreneur
CoderBunnyz: One Billion Kids Can Code
Coder Samaira Mehta — Instagram