Samaira Mehta is a 12-year-old with lofty goals. The founder of Yes, 1 Billion Kids Can Code and CEO of a board game company called CoderBunnyz wants to get 1 billion kids into coding by the time she graduates from college around 2030.
While the coronavirus pandemic threatened to put a damper on her ambitions to host workshops, one quote taped to her bedroom wall stood out to her: "When it rains, look for rainbows. When it's dark, look for stars."
Mehta decided the only way forward was to leverage all the time spent indoors to bring coding and artificial intelligence education directly to people's homes. Through her company, which she co-founded with her mom, the Santa Clara, California-based middle schooler sells two different board games: CoderBunnyz, which teaches basic coding concepts, and CoderMindz, which is focused on artificial intelligence principles. Now, the company also offers free AI and coding curriculum online all around the world. Mehta is also launching a new initiative called Boss Biz, a program teaching kids how to create a business alongside entrepreneurs across the world.
"I've actually seen that this is helping me achieve my goal a lot faster," Mehta told me over a Zoom call. "I can reach more places without having to actually be there."
As part of her mission, Mehta has led more than 150 coding workshops for kids at companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel. She's also spoken at more than 50 conferences, including Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest phone show.
"[CoderBunnyz] helps a lot of kids learn to code without actually doing it online," one workshop attendee said in a Today show interview last year. In one review, a parent wrote that "the game gently eases players into the basic ideas and fundamentals of coding."
With in-person workshops and conferences out of the question this year, Mehta has had to rethink how to reach kids interested in STEM. When I spoke to her last year, Mehta said she wished she could clone herself so she could be everywhere in the world to reach more people and hold more workshops.
"Now, I'm actually kind of able to do that," she says. "I'm able to be everywhere in the world while not being everywhere in the world."
Through Boss Biz, Mehta and other experts offer mentorship and support to students, who learn what it takes to create a company and also get the chance to win $1,000 in seed funding to kick off their business. The global, two-week program runs from July 13 to 24 and is open to anyone. The cost of attendance is $10, which goes toward Yes, One Billion Kids Can Code.