A fantastic result for Hedy programming language

03 November 2022 16:49

Countless donors have recently contributed to the Hedy crowdfunding campaign: a project via the Leiden University Fund. Hedy is a unique programming language for children who want to learn to program. It’s an incredible tool that was created by Dr Felienne Hermans. She tells us more about the initiative.

Helping children understand the digital world
Why did Hermans start the project? ‘The world is becoming increasingly digital and although you might think children automatically keep up with developments, they have little understanding of the systems behind the scenes,’ says Hermans. ‘A lot of information is restricted. The digital generation is growing up with software and apps but isn’t learning how these things are made. I think it’s important they learn to create rather than just to consume.’

Hedy works in steps. As codes for adults, such as Python, are quite tricky and you can get stuck just by putting a space in the wrong place, this makes them less suitable for children. The program behind Hedy starts off easy and works with levels where you gradually learn more. ‘You can make drawings in it or have software sing a song,’ Hermans explains. Two and a half million Hedy programs have already been made by children all around the world.

Language that adapts
Another difference: Hedy is available in 29 languages, in contrast to coding languages like Python that are released in English as a default. This is important because Dutch and not English is already a second language in many parts of the Netherlands. ‘When we added Chinese, Arabic and Bengali, it became much more logical for various children. That made me aware of my own attitude towards the Dutch language. Why not just give the children a Dutch programming language?’ says Hermans.

Most people in the world adapt to us when it comes to common software programs like Excel. People from countries that use a different script, such as Arabic, have to conform to them. That was a real eye-opener for Hermans. ‘You assume your experience is the same as everyone else’s. But it’s totally different.’

A big thank you
The crowdfunding page has raised €8,533 for the Hedy project. Felienne Hermans is delighted that people understand the importance of Hedy and are willing to donate. The project will hopefully be a stepping stone to a bigger project that can stand on its own feet internationally. We at the Leiden University Fund would therefore like to thank all donors for their contributions. We also wish Felienne and 'Hedy' every success in the future.