the_foosThis month’s Innovator Spotlight is all about the man behind the Foo’s.  What’s a Foo?  Let Grant Hosford tell you.  Grant is the CEO and co-founder of codeSpark, a gaming company with a mission of bringing computer science education to all kids everywhere. And, the Foo’s are how they do it.

When Grant’s middle daughter asked to take a lego robotics course he was surprised to see that she was the only girl in the class and the youngest by several years. Wanting to help her more, Grant sought out resources to help teach kids how to code but couldn’t find any. Along with his co-founder Joe Shochet they began engineering prototypes for what would become codeSpark.

So how do you teach kids to code?  Through gaming, of course!  “codeSpark uses a scaffolded and incremental approach that incorporates puzzles and freeplay,” says Hosford, “and, it takes the sharp edges out of what is an otherwise unapproachable subject.”

When asked about the Foo’s, Grant explains that the methodology for using a character driven approach is to hold a child’s attention better.  Foo is common vernacular in computer science and refers to a placeholder variable so that programmers can search later and define it.  Foo is a non-sensical term and a nod to real computer science.  Plus, it just sounds fun.  In fact, the game is so much fun that over 500,000 apps have been downloaded since its launch 5 months ago and boasts users in nearly 150 countries.

codeSpark is based out of Idealab and looks to expand by hiring staff and developing additional content to the existing application in the next year.  Hosford couldn’t be happier with the innovation community that his helping his business to thrive.  “We just went through a recruitment for a 3D Artist, Game Artist, Designer, and Unity Developer- all highly sought after positions and to say that our office would be located in Old Pasadena where they could walk to great restaurant and cool shops and be close to other technology companies make it easier for us to recruit talent.  The Innovate Pasadena community and new elements like Cross Campus make Pasadena a nice place to be for tech companies.”  Aw shucks.  For more information about Code Sparks and to download their app, visit http://codespark.org/.