MozFest 2021: Becoming a student again with MIT App Inventor

Code Club leader Tilly Boscott describes the thrill of becoming a pupil once again thanks to MozFest 2021's 'Building Apps with MIT App Inventor' session.

As a Code Club leader, I teach children and young adults to use technology to make cool stuff. We’ve built robots, coded cartoons and designed the weirdest games that could only have materialised from the minds of babes. But MozFest allowed me to hang out on the other side of this tech-teacher dynamic, by giving me the opportunity to learn app creation from sixteen-year-old Elana Monaghan.

During the session, entitled ‘Building Apps with MIT App Inventor', Elana patiently guided us newbies through the whole process of starting out with the inventor – she talked us through creating our accounts, signing into the website and downloading the app to our devices. And when it was time to delve into the world of buttons and layouts, Elena knew where we would get stuck before we faltered, and she was there with the calm and friendly answers that we needed.

My first impression of MIT App Inventor was that it was just the right mix of scary and fun. It is fun enough to outweigh the scary, and scary enough to let you know that there’s the potential of making professional-looking applications, if you work hard enough. The back end block side is less intimidating, however. When it comes to coding your elements, MIT App Inventor is kind of like Scratch. It has the satisfying joined up pieces and colour coding of Scratch, with the added excitement of not knowing what you’re doing, despite your years of yellow cat experience. But what a rush.

This session left me super pumped, ready to play, and crazy keen to pass on what I’ve learned to my Code Club members. It gave me back the buzz of starting out with Python or CSS – coding a turtle to build a house or turning a heading lime green. Nothing really compares to learning something completely new, and when you’re taught by a young girl who you’re sure is destined to become the next shining light in the techosphere, it reminds you of what it is to be young, excited and ready to make cool stuff.