Centennial High senior publishes computer coding book

Nobody ever told Danny Takeuchi that most people wait to launch their business startup and publish their first book until after graduating high school.

Not that it would have mattered.

Danny, a senior at the West Ada School District’s Centennial High School, isn’t the type to conform to expectations just for the sake of following someone else’s rules.

Danny Takeuchi
Danny Takeuchi studies an advance copy of his book, “Animation for Kids with Scratch Programming — Digital Art, Story Telling and Coding,” which arrived at his house Wednesday. Photo by Andrew Reed / Idaho Ed News.

After all, Danny landed a big Hewlett-Packard internship after his sophomore year —in high school, not college.

He absolutely rejects the idea computer programmers have to love math or be geniuses.

He thinks some coding advocates have done a disservice to women and girls.

He believes some academics undervalue creativity within the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

And he’s the type of guy who started writing a book without even knowing it.

This month, Danny will release his book, “Animation for Kids with Scratch Programming — Digital Art, Story Telling and Coding.”

“I found it to be way too hard to teach a 9-year-old kid how to program,” Danny said. “It would really bore the heck out of them, and I wanted to find an easier way to teach kids.”

So Danny did just that.

The lessons in his book are based around Scratch, a freely available program developed by MIT Media Lab. Scratch is very visual, allowing users to drag and drop boxes of code commands to create programs, games and animation using photos and characters called “sprites.”

Danny says his book is the first of its kind to cover animation, computer programming and storytelling in a way that is geared primarily to children and students.

The book, which uses computer screenshots, pictures and short blocks of text instead of long paragraphs and verbose technical dissections, opens with programming basics and a simple project involving a naughty cat. From there, it eases into motion and speech commands, more advanced functions and animation.

He even incorporated an animation project based on an award-winning poem, “Oil in the Ocean,” written by his younger sister, Abbey.

The book and Danny’s classes are designed for 8- to 18-year-old students and written so students will have fun and practice to build their skills.

“Kids are somewhat deterred by thinking programming really involves a person who is really only good at math or science,” he said. “I think that’s not a true statement, I think that’s a misconception. Really, programming also takes a lot of creativity and imagination.”

Danny got into programming after deciding it would be cool to create his own video games and apps. He is largely self-taught through reading coding books, although he took a Java class at school.

Things took off after a friend of his mother’s asked Danny to teach a young student how to code. Danny didn’t like how coding and programming lessons were traditionally presented, and he soon launched his online startup, www.mentorscloud.com, and a series of programming, coding and animation classes.

Over the past year and a half, Danny says he has taught coding to more than 200 Boise and West Ada students. Some have gone on to create their own mobile apps.

The book sprang from Danny’s lesson plans and class curricula, and he said he was writing it before he even realized it. However, the formatting and editing process devoured nearly all of his free time during the summer.

Along the way, he received help, support and guidance from his mother, friends Jack Gonzales and Parker Erway, and the Meridian Parks and Recreation Department, which offered his coding courses in conjunction with their community activities programs.

In the classroom, Danny maintains a 4.4 weighted GPA and has been a captain of his school’s policy and debate team. He enjoys watching new movies, hanging out with his friends and playing strategic board games.

After graduating high school, he would like study computer science or economics. Danny is considering Columbia University, MIT and the University of Chicago among several other colleges.

Want to learn to code?

Danny’s book “Animation for Kids with Scratch Programming — Digital Art, Story Telling and Coding” is available to preorder from his website, www.mentorscloud.com. It will be available to purchase through Amzaon.com later this month. Cost is $28 in paperback and $15 for the e-book.

Danny is offering a coding, animation and game programming class that begins Oct. 21 at the Meridian Candlewood Suites. Cost is $145. For each student signup, Danny will donate $30 to that student’s local PTA organization. Details are available on his website and through Meridian Parks and Recreation Department’s activity guide.