July 21, 2015

13-Year-Old Whiz Kid Representing the Next Generation of Charleston Tech

Suzelle Santos  /  Charleston Digital News

A future star of Charleston tech is walking the halls at the Charleston Digital Corridor.

13-year-old Parker Thompson takes classes and even serves as a Teacher's Assistant at CODEcamp, _an array of classes and workshops in open source _technologies taught by Charleston industry professionals. The soon-to-be high schooler even has his own desk at the Flagship.

Short on age but certainly not in intellect or ambition, Parker Thompson is an example of what can happen when kids are given access to learning code and technology. The teen says he is already proficient in several languages used in coding the web: HTML, CSS, LESS, SASS, and Javascript- his favorite.

Thompson helps teach adults and children in the Digital Corridor's CODEcamp programs; the CODEcamp Kids pilot program is currently underway. When asked if the adults ever feel weird about being taught by a kid, Thompson said he never gets comments about it. "But I have seen a couple odd looks," he laughed.

His experience with CODEcamp started when a program staffer gave a lecture at Academic Magnet High School, which shares a campus with his school, the Charleston School of the Arts. Three weeks later, he was meeting the CODEcamp staff to make sure he could be a part of it and get started immediately.

This summer, elementary and middle school-aged kids from ages 6 to 14 had an opportunity to learn code from many of the same instructors who teach in the year round CODEcamp. The teen says the summer program makes use of a kid-friendly language called Scratch, a way of teaching coding basics with visual blocks to create interactive stories, games and animations.

And if that's not impressive enough, the talented teen says he's working on his own start-up, a messaging app called Parrot. Being careful not to say too much, Thompson describes the app as one that "takes the struggle out of sending and sharing media content." He continues "It's a much safer and efficient way to talk."

What got Thompson so interested in coding? "Videogames," he says with a grin. Thompson credits Minecraft, a game centered around breaking and placing 3D blocks, with sparking his interest in technology. "I started taking apart the engine, and figuring out what did what," he says.

Wise beyond his years, Thompson could pass for much older than 13. What does a talented kid like him think of other kids his age?

He wants them to join him.

"I want other teenagers my age to be influenced hopefully by the stuff I do," says Thompson. "I think what I do is kind of amazing for my age, and I want to help everyone else to do those same things."

"If they know the opportunities and the possibilities you can make for yourself with code, it will influence more and more people," he says. "Because you can create amazing things for amazing people."

"For the Charleston Digital Corridor's CODEcamp program, Parker is able to offer critical feedback and insights as we evaluate bringing forward a year round CODEcamp Kids program," said Director, Ernest Andrade.

Here's hoping that Thompson's example will get even more kids interested in tech.