Beside my job, I am co-founder and organizer of a local CoderDojo. CoderDojos are worldwide programming clubs for kids. At CoderDojo, we want to introduce kids to programming and show them how fascinating technology can be.
At our CoderDojo, young beginners start with Scratch. Scratch is awesome for kids who have never done programming before. Within two hours, a seven your old can create her first browser game and share it with her friends. Here is an example for an exercise that we use for absolut beginners:
Kids love Scratch. They can create impressive mini-games without having to learn “boring” prerequisites. They don’t need to bother with syntax problems or typing skills.
However, as CoderDojo mentors, we would like that kids over time take the next step and move from a graphical language like Scratch to real coding. How can we motivate them to do that? It turned out that Minecraft is the perfect motivator. Minecraft is huge for kids. Many dream of creating their own mods.
Programming Minecraft mods in Java in CoderDojos is somewhat difficult. Kids often come with quite slow hardware on which we cannot install complex IDEs. Additionally, they have to understand compilers. We need a more lightweight way to create mods.
Our solution to that problem looks like that:
- We install Visual Studio Code on the kids’ machines as Code is free, lightweight, and available on all platforms.
- We run Spigot Minecraft servers in Docker on a Mentor’s (powerful) laptop. Kids who come with powerful laptops can use the Docker containers on their own machines if they want.
We wrote a detailed instruction for setting up Minecraft servers with Spigot and Scriptcraft installed. It also includes samples for Dockerfiles.