This 10-year-old coder is already so successful she's already caught the attention of Google and Microsoft
- 10-year-old Samaira Mehta has become a kid-coder-to-watch in Silicon Valley.
- When she was just eight and she built a game called CoderBunnyz to help teach other kids how to code.
- The game earned her national recognition and she began holding workshops for kids, many of them at Google.
- Google was so impressed, it booked her as a keynote speaker for a local event, and told her she should consider working at Google when she grows up.
Samaira Mehta is a 10-year-old girl growing up in Silicon Valley who has quietly attracted an almost cult-like because of her work as a programmer.
It all started when she was just eight and created a game called CoderBunnyz to help teach other kids how to code. She'd been coding since she was six.
A real life Powerpuff Girl
After creating the board game, Mehta won the $2,500 second place prize from Think Tank Learning's Pitchfest in 2016. This caught the notice of some marketeers for Cartoon Network who were looking to profile inspiring young girls as real life "Powerpuff Girls." After she was featured in one of those videos, things took off from there.
"We've sold 1,000 boxes, so over $35,000 and it's only been on the market for one year," the exuberant and adorable Mehta told Business Insider.
It wasn't just happenstance promotion. When she launched CoderBunnyz she, with the help of her proud father Rakesh Mehta (an Intel engineer and Sun Microsystems/Oracle alum), also came up with a killer marketing plan.
Mehta uses the game to conduct coding workshops for school-aged kids, where everyone plays the game. And she thinks big. She launched an initiative called Yes, 1 Billion Kids Can Code which allows interested people to donate boxes of the game to schools. She then set up workshops to help kids at those schools learn how to master the game.
At the start of this school year, 106 schools were using the game to teach kids to code, Mehta says.
"In the world there are over 1 billion kids," she said. "There are people who are willing to donate Coder Bunnyz boxes to schools, and to people in need all over the world, who want to learn coding."
The new game is called CoderMindz and she's billing it as the first ever AI board game.
Like CoderBunnyz, kids will be learning basic AI principals, concepts like training an AI model, inference, adaptive learning. Eventually, they can use those skills to build robots.
She developed it with the help of her little brother, Aadit. who is six, the age when her dad started teaching her to code.
A young Valley star is born
As the game took off, Mehta was booked with workshops. She's done over 60 of them in Silicon Valley, (over 2000 kids) so far, she says.
The workshops included a series held at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. And that's where she met Stacy Sullivan, Google's Chief Culture Officer.
The plucky young coder told Sullivan that she didn't know if she would want to work for Google. She likes being an entrepreneur.
Meanwhile, Sullivan and the folks at Google were so impressed with the kid coder that she was the keynote speaker at a Diversity in Tech conference held in August hosted at Google Launchpad, the company's startup accelerator in San Francisco. But she's done a bunch of speaking gigs including one at Microsoft and at the Girls' Festival sponsored by World Wide Women earlier this month.
Since the debut of CoderBunnyz she's also met a lot of other big names. One of her proudest moments was receiving an encouraging letter from Michelle Obama in response to a letter she had written back when Obama was still the First Lady.
She also met Mark Zuckerberg on Halloween when she was trick-or-treating in his neighborhood, and took the opportunity to chat him up about her coding work.
She said there was "a super long line" at his house but "I finally got to meet him. He was handing out chocolates. I told him I was a young coder and he told me to keep going, you're doing great," she remembers.
She's now launched her own interview series on her CoderBunnyz website where she talks with people in the robotics, game and education sectors.
While she's reinvesting all of the money from her young business into manufacturing more CoderBunnyz games, and creating the new AI game, she's already got a charity picked out for when she generates profits: PATH.
"It ends homelessness and helps people rebuild skills and I care about homeless," she says.
Until the day her company can make donations, she's putting her entrepreneurial know-how to work in other ways to raise money for it, including hosting a lemonade stand this summer that brought in $119.
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