A conversation with sisters and imagiCoders Tansi and Tania

Tansi and Tania

One of my favorite aspects of working at an early startup is that even though I mainly work on developing the imagiLabs app, I also get to spend quite a bit of time talking to our users. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to Tansi and Tania, who’ve been part of the imagiLabs community since December. Tansi is a third grader in Taipei, and she received an imagiCharm for her birthday from her older sister Tania, who is working at a tech startup in Hong Kong. We talked about both of their journeys with coding so far, as well as their experience with the imagiLabs app.

Paula: Tansi, can you tell me a bit more about yourself, like what grade you’re in and what your interests are both in and outside of school?

Tansi: I’m in third grade, and I like reading and sports, including soccer, baseball, swimming, and gymnastics.

Paula: That’s a lot of sports! And what about school? Do you have a favorite subject?

Tansi: I like math.

Paula: And do you do any coding at school?

Tansi: Not at school.

Paula: Well we’ll dive more into the coding part later then. And Tania, I stalked your Linkedin a bit and I know that you studied Computer Engineering at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and you’re now in a leadership role at a tech startup! So I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about your journey in tech so far.

Tania: Sure! I started coding quite late. I only started when I went to university, so I took my first Python class at 19. I think I accidentally stumbled into the world of tech and engineering, because before university I thought I wanted to be a doctor. And then once I got to university I realized that I didn’t want to study something for seven years. What if I didn’t like it after seven years? So I decided that maybe I should try engineering, and I think what excited me at the time was the world I got introduced to, like hackathons and some really cool people coming together because of tech. I was mostly drawn by the people rather than the actual technology itself. And over the years I started coding a lot more. I actually worked on a period tracking watch, which was mostly hardware work, but I also wrote some of the software for it. It’s a digital watch for anyone around the world, even without internet electricity, to be able to use to track their period. I worked on that for about two years, and now I’m in-between projects. Other than that I also really enjoy making tea.

Paula: I just discovered that you can make tea in a French press and that’s been life-changing for me. So Tania, you’re calling in from Hong Kong, and Tansi, you’re in Taipei. So what’s the last time you two saw each other?

Tania: Back at the beginning of the year, in February.

Paula: And I’m assuming the frequency with which you see each other has been affected because of the pandemic?

Tania: Yes, very much. Quarantining for two weeks is a lot, especially when I had to do it in both places.

Paula: I have a younger sister in Romania as well, and we’ve mostly stayed in touch with video calls and memes. How have you two stayed in touch throughout these times?

Tania: We have calls when she needs help debugging actually, in the imagiLabs app.

Paula: I think it’s awesome that you two have used the imagiLabs app as a bonding activity! And I know that the two of you joined the app back in December, and I was wondering how you found out about it.

Tania: Tansi found out about it because it was a birthday gift that I got for her, I got her an imagiCharm. I was like here you go, have fun! I think I saw it on Twitter, and Linkedin, and also on Facebook, because I’m part of a couple of women in tech and women founders’ communities, and when I saw it I wanted to get one, a physical one. I think either you or Beatrice posted about it, and I just kept seeing it. I thought it looks really cool and very fun, and by the time Tansi’s birthday was coming up, I thought, oh, that would be the perfect gift. And she’s been learning coding for a while already.

Tansi with her imagiCharm
Tansi with her imagiCharm

 

Paula: So Tansi, what kind of coding have you done outside of imagiLabs?

Tansi: Python, Javascript, Scratch.

Paula: Wow, that’s a lot! And how has your imagiLabs experience been so far!

Tansi: Good!

Paula: I really like the projects you’ve made, and congrats on winning our April challenge! I thought your project was great, and I saw that you’ve created a bunch of other projects and even started our #imagi30DaysOfCode challenge. So I was curious, how do the two of you work together when for example Tania, you’re trying to help Tansi debug something?

Tania: I tell her to show me the error code.

Tansi: And we just found out that on Discord you can share your screen!

Tania: Yes I do screen share, but usually she’ll call me and say, “I have a problem!”. Then I try to use one phone with the video on, to show what’s going on on the other phone, and then we will check the error message together, and let’s say there’s a syntax error, usually it’s about forgetting the brackets after “animation”, and I’ll ask her, if it’s a syntax error, then there must be something going on, and even though she’s been using animation a lot I’ll ask her to check her previous code, and see why her animation worked before, and really try to be a detective.

Paula: Are there any specific parts of the app that you really like?

Tania: I think Tansi really likes getting the badges there! Whenever there’s an opportunity to get one, she will try to get one. What’s your favorite challenge Tansi, I think you did one every month since December?

Tansi: I only missed the February one!

Tania: What is your favorite one Tansi? The last one was for April. What’s the one you made for April?

Tansi: The Earth one!

Tania: What about March?

Tansi: Women’s History Month! And January was the New Year.

Tania: So which one did you like the most?

Tansi: March and April.

Tansi's Earth Day imagiChallenge submission

Tansi's winning Earth Day submission (submitted by @wutansi)

 

Paula: And you won the April challenge! I also really liked the fireworks you did for January.

Tansi: Oh I forgot about those, yes!

Paula: I was just looking over your projects, and I saw you’d started doing the #imagi30DaysOfCode, which would lead to a cool badge! And I think that’s one of the rarest badges in the app because it requires quite a bit of work.

Tansi: I’m trying to do day eight now.

Paula: Maybe it’s time for another coding session with Tania! I think it’s great that you’ve been coding together in the app. How do you go about planning out what to code? Do you for example make sketches on paper, or just code directly in the app?

Tansi: I use the design screen to design what I’m going to do.

Paula: I’m glad that’s been helpful! And what are you working on for day 8?

Tansi: It’s the pair project.

Paula: Well that’s a great project for two people to work on then! And Tansi, what is the most exciting thing about coding for you?

Tansi: I like that I can make things.

Paula: I agree! I think building things is super fun. What about you Tania?

Tania: For me it’s also knowing that I’m capable of making these things that feels good, and the feeling when one of things you’ve been thinking about is brought to life.

Paula: And what are the more challenging parts of coding for the two of you?

Tansi: I keep getting “Oh no’s!” in Khan academy.

Paula: But I think making mistakes and learning from them is really just a part of coding. What about you Tania?

Tania: I think the most difficult part when I started coding was having to be patient and solve problems. And I definitely didn’t spend enough time trying too hard, like giving it more time and solving the problem. So sometimes it’s easy to feel defeated. But I’ve really learned over the years that if you can get better at the basic concepts of coding, you just have to spend more time, and the more time you spend, the better you get, just like everything else as well. There’s really no shortcut.

Paula: I think for me the toughest thing, but also one of the most fun things, it’s that there’s always more to learn, and you feel like you’ll never know everything. But I think it’s just gaining the confidence that you can figure things out that’s really important. Tansi, is there something specific you’re excited about learning next?

Tansi: Everything!

Paula: What about you Tania?

Tania: There’s definitely so much to learn, and a lot of it is really exciting.As of right now I am most interested in learning more about all these different blockchain protocols & technologies. Even building an app, or learning more about web like hosting and how the internet works is something I want to look into more as well.

Tansi: I made an app, last semester.

Paula: Awesome! What did you build? 

Tansi: It was an app that takes you to the amusement park, and there were buttons you can press to go to different games.

Tania: Was it with the MIT App Inventor website?

Tansi: Yeah!

Paula: Fun! So where did you build this app?

Tansi: I went to a class.

Paula: So you’re doing some classes outside of school, which I think is great. And in terms of the imagiLabs app, is there something you wish you could do that you can’t currently do?

Tansi: I wish that in the Learn page we didn’t have to unlock other things first, and we could just learn whatever we wanted to learn first.

Tania: I’m not as heavy of a user as Tansi, but I really like the Explore page, I think it’s really fun.

Tansi: The imagiCharm page is fun too! 

Paula: Tansi, have you used the gallery on your imagiCharm?

Tansi: I am right now! *shows gallery on her imagiCharm with several of her projects*

Tania: I think one thing about the app, is that sometimes I look at some projects and some people are using quite complex code, so for some projects it’s simpler, like using for loops, but others include libraries like random or more advanced things. I wish there was a better way to categorize them or have some learning based on other people’s projects as well. Sometimes I go into the app with Tansi and we’ll see a super cool animation, and then it might be hard to explain what’s going on. So some way of explaining it or allowing the creator to explain it, or encourage them to add comments would be nice.

Paula: We definitely have some more experienced coders in the app, and although some of them do explain their code, not all do, so I think encouraging them is a good idea! And we’re trying to do a bit of that with our Discord server, through which you can ask questions, and you two have been pretty active there as well! Tansi, you’ve been coding for a bit now, so do you think computer science or programming is something you would want to continue studying or pursuing professionally?

Tansi: Yes! 

Paula: And do you have advice for other kids your age who want to start learning how to code?

Tansi: Just download the imagiLabs app.

Paula: What about you Tania, maybe for people who want to pursue a career in tech?

Tania: Don’t be afraid of trying coding. It might seem intimidating the older you are.

Tansi: You need to have confidence!

Tania: Just be more confident, and give yourself time, and be patient and confident. And there are so many free resources online! Tansi is using a bunch outside of the classes she takes as well.

Paula: Awesome! Tansi, you’re one of the youngest people I’ve met who codes this much and I think that’s super inspiring. And this was also your first interview ever, so thank you so much to the two of you for your time today, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you continue to create! Also to those reading this, make sure to check out Tansi and Tania on the imagiLabs app by looking up @wutansi and @wutania!

This blog post was written by Paula Dozsa, co-founder and Lead Developer at imagiLabs.

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