Preface at MIT App Inventor Summit 2019

It has been a busy summer for Preface — on top of coaching 300+ students in our Summer Bootcamps this year, our team has just returned from the MIT App Inventor Summit, one of the biggest developer summits in the world. During the 3-day summit, the Preface team interfaced with more than 1,000 developers and educators and presented the brilliant work of our students to the top technologists from all over the world.

Held by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) right on their campus in Cambridge, MA, the summit was an eye-opening event that showcased the most innovative tech projects developed by App Inventor students and educators. Preface was invited as a distinguished educator to host an educator workshop, showcase our student project, and present an academic thesis about the community impact of Preface Hackathon.

Preface Coder project: Tin Hau Now and Then

Preface was invited as a distinguished educator to present the community project created by our students — “Tin Hau Now and Then through Our Eyes”. The project takes its audience back in time to see how Tin Hau has developed from a small village into the present-day neighbourhood through a series of thematic games and animations. The event participants were amazed by the quality of this project. Many of them asked if they could meet the little creators in person! The Preface team also had a lot of valuable exchange with other educators in how to deliver quality coding education using App Inventor. This gave us a lot of ideas for our upcoming App Inventor batch starting this September!

Educator Workshop: How to build powerful apps with App Inventor Extensions

During the summit, the Preface team held a 3-hour workshop about how to utilise extension and connect external hardware to App Inventor for the coding educators. The first part of the workshop introduced some useful extensions that quickly expand the capacity of App Inventor as a mobile development tool, such as the Material Card Extension. The extension allows developers to put together an intuitive interface that involves significantly fewer blocks to build. While the audience was already familiar with the usual functionalities of App Inventor, they were impressed by how extensions can streamline development processes so simply.

In the second part of the workshop, the Preface team shared their experience of building the T-Rex Runner project with the audience. The project was an arcade game built with App Inventor and controlled via external hardware. The standard package of App Inventor does not offer an easy way for users to connect an app to external controllers. However, with the use of keyboard extension, developers can connect the control panel of the app to a set of external hardware keys with which you can perform different controls. The T-Rex Runner game is an example of how the original control as a simple tap on the touch screen is translated into a press on a big arcade button with the use of key extension which is especially useful for adding a dimensional experience to a software product.

Academic Presentation: The community impact of Preface Nomad Hackathon

On top of the hands-on workshop and product sharing session, our founder Mr Tommie Lo also took over the academic podium and presented a thesis on the community impact of “Preface Nomad Hackathon” as an indispensable part of Preface’s programming curriculum. While the 1-on-1 personalised setup of Preface Nomad lesson allows a 100% attention from teachers to help students learn, Preface Nomad Hackathon serves as a complementary learning tool that adds a social element to the learning journey of Nomad students. It serves as a chance for all solo learners to collaborate with others and use what they learn individually to solve real-world problems together. The curriculum of Preface Nomad is designed in a way that focuses on growing the individual strengths and characters of each student while giving them the opportunity to learn from their peers without having to compromise for individual progress.


Participating in the MIT App Inventor Summit was an invaluable chance for the Preface Team to share their vision in coding education on a global arena and receive feedback from educators of diverse background. As summer is approaching the end, we can’t wait to share what we’ve learnt in this summit with our students in the coming school year!

Combining Coding and Psychology to Create Societal Impact

Originally published on MIT App Inventor official blog on April 22, 2019.


This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainer Queena Ling.

Like many budding psychology students, Suki has a strong desire to aid those with special needs or suffering from mental health problems. Unlike her fellow psychology students however, Suki has taken her aspirations to the next level with her new mobile application – a mental health application built through App Inventor that aims at helping people combat depression.

Aided by a fundamentally sound coding skillset learnt through Preface NOMAD, the pioneer coding school in Hong Kong powered by A.I. technology in teaching, Suki has created a fully functional health application complete with an impressive range of features, including music to calm users and use of the web browser component to host web articles to motivate users, and educate them on how to overcome depression. A high school student with ambitions to study psychology at UCLA, Suki wishes to she can positively impact the mental health community in spite of her young age.

Suki hopes that adults and teenagers alike can find the perfect tool that they can draw strength from through her application, and hopefully empower them in their fight against depression.

Hacking School System with App Inventor at Preface

Originally published at MIT App Inventor Official Blog on April 22, 2019


This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainer Anna Yu

Recently we sat down with the February Winners of Nomad Hackathon and interviewed them about the experience of learning how to code at Preface using App Inventor and Scratch.

Nomad Hackathon is a monthly coding event in which the young coding students in Preface create useful apps for the local community. In February, we witnessed two groups of coding students transforming into product makers. Brandon, Sik Kin and Macarius teamed up and created a loyalty app using App Inventor, while Jacqueline created an interactive translation app with Scratch.

The Beginning

(From left to right) Brandon Chan, Sik-kin Chan and Macarius Chan — the brains behind the Preface Coffee Loyalty App

Brandon, Sik Kin and Macarius have been coding for years now. None of them were older than 10 years old when they first started coding.

“I was five when I started learning Scratch”, smiled Brandon. At the age of 10, he has already coded up more apps than an average adult in Hong Kong. Both Brandon and Macarius started coding because they wanted to have their own creations. “I liked to play video games a lot, and I was very curious about how to make one myself. But then my day school doesn’t really teach us that.”

“I was five when I started learning Scratch”, smiled Brandon. At the age of 10, he has already coded up more apps than an average adult in Hong Kong.

The First Challenge

It’s a big problem that the local school system sees as non-existent. While there is some form of computer classes at school, it hardly matches the learning needs of school kids.

“My school doesn’t provide any coding classes until I get older.”

Jacqueline explained why she started coding at Preface.

Even when there’s a class, it still doesn’t guarantee a chance to learn. “The coding projects at school are sometimes too easy. By the time the teacher finished explaining what the project is, I have already done most of the codes for it”, shrugged Macarius.

Tackling the Challenge

The average class size of a day school in Hong Kong is 32 kids, all with different personal experiences, interests and needs in learning. The challenge for a teacher to ensure the teaching quality and class engagement is monstrous and, as a matter of fact, unrealistic.

Brandon compared his experience at school with Preface and revealed the fundamental difference in learning experience owing to the class size.

“The class is too big and the teacher cannot answer every question we have. However, at Preface, every group class has only two to three kids. Our teacher never fails to answer our questions. They also teach us how to find the answer ourselves instead of telling us the answer straight away. And the projects are so fun to work on.”

“At Preface, every group class has only two to three kids. Our teacher never fails to answer our questions. And the projects are so fun to work on.”

— Brandon Chan, App Inventor student at Preface Nomad

Sik-kin put his shyness away with excitement when he talked about the games he built with App Inventor, such as Space Shooting Fun or Farming RP.

“We learn really fast while making these fun games”, Sik-kin continued, “we like the challenges”.

— Sik-kin Chan, App Inventor student at Preface Nomad

Hacking Education with Hackathon

While they learn how to work independently in regular classes, our coding students learn to collaborate and leverage the strength of each other during Nomad Hackathon.

“I’ve never missed a single Hackathon after I started having coding classes here. I want to see what other kids are doing and learn from them”, said Brandon.

The high relevance of the Hackathon projects to real-life problems is proved very effective in motivating students to practise what they’ve learnt.

Hackathon is much more valuable for their learning than a simple exercise or exam that only challenges their short-term memory. Coding is a brand new subject for young kids; it requires a brand new approach in delivering the know-how. The century-old setup of an overcrowded classroom is failing hard as our new generation of learners has told us. Getting the approach right is half the battle done; at Preface, we place a strong focus on the approach. We keep our classes small, our projects relevant, and our students highly engaged.

Coding is a brand new subject for young kids; it requires a brand new approach in delivering the know-how.

At the end of the day, we give them a stage — Preface Hackathon is not just another coding class; it is a platform for the young students to prove to themselves — and the community — that they have learnt something exciting.


Sik-kin concluded our conversation with a big picture of himself in the future.

“I want to be a professional coder when I grow up, and teach young kids about coding with what I know from my years.”

Although Sik-kin is only 10 years old now, his vision doesn’t seem too wild for us. We are confident that our young students will give back to the community in their own ways in a not-so-distant future.

Congratulations to our February Winners again!

Starting Coding from a Young Age

Originally published on MIT App Inventor official blog on February 21, 2019.

This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainer Anna Yu.

The first Preface Hackathon of 2019 started off with a bang, as Preface coders aged 9-12 aimed to build on their past year of creating impactful applications for the community. The past few months saw Preface coders design impressive applications ranging from local Geostories to event countdown timers. January was no different, as they bustled around with an abundance of passion and inspired minds, striving to utilize TinyWebDB and Variables components to build an online item trading platform.

The event also celebrated the winning coders from Novembers Hackathon, as Hector Lo, Hilary Yum and Edison Fu of Team Black saw their game-based discount application officially uploaded to the Google Play Store. Built for local snack store Cameos Kitchen, the game offered discounts for food at Cameos in accordance with how well players completed particular challenges. The application was a success, not only giving Cameos Kitchen a further attraction in line with its delicious snacks, but also a platform for increased customer interaction.

The key attraction of the Cameos Kitchen discount application is its motion sensing ability. Named Cameos Kitchen Tilting Game, the game enabled users to control components of the game through tilting their devices. This was something our Scratch coders strived to emulate in their own Hackathon, as they took full advantage of Scratchs new extension Video Sensing to create an interactive Lai-See collection game capable of tracking motions of players to score points! The recent upgrades coupled with its development as MIT software, exhibits Scratch as an ideal stepping stone to App Inventor by allowing kid coders to have a taste of app design and development.

Age doesn’t matter in the world of coding – rather its the inherent creativity and the thought process that counts. These kids showed that given the right tools, even a six-year-old can build an application that can wow entire audiences.

HK Children built Burger Ordering App for local restaurant

Originally published on MIT App Inventor official blog on October 23, 2018.

This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainer Tommie Lo.

It’s 11:30 in the morning, 45 minutes away to your lunch break. Having been in a rush and skipped breakfast, you are suffering from the complaint of your rumbling stomach. Here, you pick up a tablet, access an app and start ordering your customized burger. You choose from a selection of buns, vegetables, patties to a list of chefs secret sauce. When you are ready, a simulated mouthwatering burger appears in front of you. Then you place your order and grab your burger out of your office right at 12:15.

This is what our coders aged 9-12 built during the Preface Hackathon last Sunday – a “Create Your Own Burger” custom app for Hong Kong burger chain Texas Burger, which was structured with Variables and ListPicker components, and further fine-tuned with Procedure components and colour coding. As aforementioned, the app provides enhanced visualization for customers, and also serves as a confirmation tool for store owners to minimize wrong orders.

All kids are born with limitless creativity. Give them a platform to channel their abilities, and they may end up with creations with larger impacts than any adult could fathom. There is an ever growing influence of coding knowledge in the real world, and hence, newer platforms for kids creativity are needed to reflect this change. The App Inventor blocks that our coders have thoroughly explored may be interpreted as the next “Lego”.

This was well reflected in our Hackathon. Though many kids at the event were young, and had little experience with coding, they exhibited a passion and excitement for coding that stunned their own parents. They were fully engaged throughout, and were buzzing to contribute in any way they could. This bodes well with our role as Preface Programmers – to guide young coders in not only learning, but applying coding knowledge practically too. We are extremely proud of every kid for the work theyve put in, and would also like to take this opportunity to thank Texas Burger for being a reliable partner all through this event!

Changing the Asian Community one App at a time…

Originally published on MIT App Inventor official blog on September 10, 2018.

This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainer Queena Ling.

Coding education has always been viewed with utmost importance in USA and UK, and has also been an integral component of school curricula in Japan and China. Yet, many parents in Hong Kong still perceive coding education as an extracurricular activity. The failure to see the importance of coding knowledge may arise from an inability to envision how their children could apply their newfound knowledge to real-world situations.

Coding education has always been viewed with utmost importance in USA and UK, and has also been an integral component of school curricula in Japan and China. Yet, many parents in Hong Kong still perceive coding education as an extracurricular activity. The failure to see the importance of coding knowledge may arise from an inability to envision how their children could apply their newfound knowledge to real-world situations.

Both parents and kids alike need to be exposed to opportunities that allow them to experience the eye-opening possibilities coding knowledge could bring when it is applied to the real world. With that in mind, Preface launched its very own Hackathon event, in which students attempt to build an application with App Inventor to enhance and improve the local community with technology.

Over the last two Sundays in Aug 2018, Preface Junior Coders used components of QR code scanners and TinyDB in App Inventor to design a discount app for a local coffee store (Preface Coffee). The event successfully demonstrated how simple applications can have a profound effect on the community in solving real-world issues and improving efficiencies around us.

Preface believes Hackathon is the ideal event to combine a childs coding knowledge with their inherent creative abilities and imagination, as it allows them to fully immerse in the process of designing and building their own applications. It definitely fuels students confidence in not only their coding mindsets, but also their ability to change the world with it.

Preface intends to continue running Hackathon events, in hopes that this could be the first step to instilling a Silicon Valley styled coding culture and a world standard problem-solving method that is not currently prominent in Asia.