A few months ago three British teens launched a project called Thinkspace, a school club of sorts that teaches kids to create websites and apps by making coding fun, social and student-led.
Thinkspace is different than an ordinary computer club because it can’t use any old classroom. The room has to “look like you have entered Google HQ,” says one of the project’s 16-year-old founders, James Anderson.
That means plain walls, Thinkspace logos, bean bag chairs and modern computers.
They also created and launched their own Thinkspace social network and landed some huge names in tech as backers and advisors. Supporters include Virgin’s Richard Branson, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and British actor Stephen Fry.
As of Friday, Thinkspace is going global, looking for teens worldwide to join them in a new project called Thinkspace Pioneers. They want to show kids how to launch Thinkspace in their own schools. Pioneers will be rewarded with invitations to exclusive tech events, international Thinkspace parties and hackathons, paid for by sponsors.
Business Insider asked the Thinkspace teenage founders, James Anderson, Kamran Malik and Jordan Earle, to share more about their company and the new Pioneers program. Here’s the lightely edited interview.
Business Insider: Why did you launch this project?
James Anderson: In January this year, we were all sitting around a table discussing the current IT curriculum. It’s dull, boring and completely de-motivating for students up and down the country and even around the world.
Our thoughts were, “What if we could create a space designed to look like you’ve just walked into Google or Microsoft’s head offices, where students could learn how to code while getting a feel of what it is like to work at these places?”
Today, education is all about drilling the facts into people’s minds and it restricts their creativity and imagination. Thinkspace is all about bringing the creativity out of these young people and encouraging them to create real-life projects through teamwork and collaboration.
It’s an extremely proud moment for us to say that we are directly changing the lives of nearly a hundred students and this number is ever-growing.
BI: What are your personal goals for yourself and with this project?
Kamran Malik: We want to see Thinkspace reach as many schools as possible. We are meeting our goals by giving the project everything we have, and we’re always looking to innovate and grow. This is something that will never stop as long as there are students out there who want to learn.
We’re now experiencing the making of young entrepreneurs with the help of Thinkspace, and these people are going to be the ones who will change the world tomorrow. It’s greatly inspiring, and if we can dedicate all of our time into helping the project grow, we can only change more and more lives.
BI: How do kids qualify for an invitation to become a Pioneer?
Jordan Earle: We’re actively looking for talented young individuals who have a deep passion for technology. However, if a young person not on our radar thinks they have what it takes, they’re more than welcome to apply on our site and we’ll review all of these applications by hand and pick out the cream of the crop.
We naturally can’t let everyone through as we need to ensure that the young people have got what it takes to fulfil this role — however we will help guide and shape them through this process.
We have contact details for all of our backers plus several angel investors, so we are hoping to put some of these budding entrepreneurs in touch with them to get the ball rolling.
Are you focusing on Europe? The U.S.? Other countries?
Jordan Earle: We’re currently working with schools up and down the country and around the world. We have had interest from students and teachers in Atlanta (GA), Cumbria (UK), India, Singapore, Israel, Northern Ireland and Australia and much more.
We think that having Thinkspaces spaced out around the world isn’t an issue (for communication purposes) because our social network, Thinkspace Social, brings them together.