Code in Place

This week, I finished my final weekly volunteer session with my Code in Place section for 2024. Code in Place is a free online introductory programming course offered by Stanford University, teaching the fundamentals of Python programming based on the university’s flagship CS106 course.

CS106 has been a huge inspiration for me ever since I took the class in fall quarter of freshman year (in 1999!), and especially since I took CS198, the course where they taught us to run our own sections. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that CS106 + CS198 have been transformative experiences for me: My times section leading for CS106 were some of my fondest Stanford memories, and the inspiration and energy from then have informed my career for the last 15–20 years as an educator here. I’m not certain we’d have Tinkercademy or Swift Accelerator now if I hadn’t been through those.

Thanks to all my students, mostly from halfway around the world, for showing up every week, putting in the work, and for participating actively in class. This was some of the most fun I’ve had teaching an online class in a while. (Yes, the cat made an appearance during section.)

The Code in Place team remains a huge inspiration — thanks to profs Chris Piech, Mehran Sahami, and the rest of the team at Stanford CS for this opportunity, all the teaching training materials, and for making this available to everyone.

Super cool too that I managed to reconnect with Leoson — an ex-student from over a decade ago when he was in high school — as a section leader whose post I happened to stumble upon in the forums!

Pictured: A screenshot of the section homepage, showing “Next section: 2 days and 2 hours ago” ????)


A moving story*

My company, Tinkertanker, is moving from our Bukit Merah office of 5 years over to Jalan Pemimpin.

It’s our fourth “real” office after we moved out of a study, and I’ll remember it as an office where we hosted a lot of friends, partners, and visitors; where we had a meeting room the laser cutter venting went through (loudly); where we got through the pandemic (and when Engineering Good kept the lights on during lockdown) and published a book; where we over-engineered our automations and decorations; where we continuously got complained at by management by putting random nonsense like a TARDIS outside our door; where we watched colleagues and students and interns join, leave, visit and grow.

I’ll miss the nearby noodle queue, the mysteriously large number of roadside chickens, and the vague worry that the mezzanine would collapse on us in the meeting room whenever there were too many people upstairs.

Pictured: Memories from the old office; the old office being cleared out; fun electronics projects we really should have thrown away earlier; a preview of the new office with fun pink stairs and a lift that I got trapped in on the very first day.

* ok I know sorry sorry

Determination to Learn

About a year ago, Daniel, a 19-year-old New Zealander, gave me a call, and asked if he could just come by our office and hang out and learn things quietly on his own. He wasn’t sure what to do for university, or if he even wanted to study at all. He was aware we had a techie internship programme, but didn’t feel qualified enough to join us and get paid for it. 

We thought, why not? The worst that could happen was he’d come in, and stop showing up after a while. (Which is what happened with some other guy.) 

He never stopped showing up. 

He learned a whole bunch of programming, made himself very useful, we offered him a proper paid internship, and now he’s off to study CS. Read his story at our blog.

What’s a Tinkertanker

Republished from Medium.

We started Tinkertanker in 2011, and haven’t written much about the company and what we do. As a result, we now regularly get emails from people who think we run an actual tanker.

Maritime recruiters, please stop sending us crew member CVs! We don’t run a ship! We’ll let you know when we buy one okay, but COEs are expensive

So, here we go:

A paper version of TKrobot, our mascot. We squished him once accidentally, and he’s been mad at us since.

Who we are. Tinkertanker is a technology and education company. We’re coders who enjoy teaching, teachers who enjoy coding, and coders who enjoy teaching, and people who repeat themselves. (Did we mention we’re teachers who…)

Our products. We run Tinkercademy, where we teach coding and electronics to students of all ages; GuestDay, an iPad-based guest registration service; Get Hacking, an online store for technology toys and tools; and various smaller tech projects, like 125andup, which we recently retired, and our IC Photo app, which, uhh, we should probably get around to updating before Apple kicks us off the App Store.

What we do. Our core strengths are in building software, teaching technology, and creating with electronics; essentially, we spend our time making cool stuff with technology, or teaching folks how to do the same. Not everyone in our team codes and teaches, but we all enjoy tinkering with open-source frameworks, electronics, 3D printing, laser cutting, design tools, and more.

The office. Our office at Tai Seng is a workshop, lab, and warehouse, with a well-stocked pantry that usually doesn’t contain solder or wood chips. We have three Michelin-starred eateries within walking distance, so that lets us get pretty fat.

Our technology stack. While most of our current production code is in Ruby and Objective-C, we have projects implemented in other languages — Python, PHP, Clojure, Squeak. We teach in Python, Swift, Java, HTML, CSS, flavour-of-the-year JavaScript framework, Unity C#, Arduino C, Scratch, and more. Our upcoming projects are an Android app (Android Studio, Java), an iOS app (Xcode, Swift), and a micro-controller compiler (a healthy mix of C++, JavaScript, and staring at one another suspiciously).

So, there we go, an introduction to this little company we call our own. We’ll keep this post updated as we evolve, and we hope to tell you more about what we do in future posts, which may or may not take another 6 years. Stay tuned!

The Company We Keep

Republished from Medium.

After I left a five-year stint in the Ministry of Education, I started Tinkertanker in 2011 with two of my closest friends.

We created our very first invoice for teaching a programming class, did some software consulting, made a couple of apps, hired our first full-timers, started teaching a boatload* of programming classes, started an online store, hired a boatload* of technical interns, worked with IMDA on projects, exhibited at events, designed some hardware, and now we can’t describe what we do in a sentence any more.

So we’re starting a blog:

… where we get to adapt all these emails and blurbs we’ve written about the company over the years into something we can share. Take a look, and let us know if you have any feedback, want to work with us, or know anyone awesome we can work with.

* Boatload because “tanker”, get it, get it, hur hur hur