Smart Buddies offers free online coding webinars

Sharmi Albrechtsen

With parents across the country learning how to homeschool their children, Smart Buddies is offering free online coding webinars for students in elementary school.

Smart Buddies is an offshoot of Smart Gurlz, a company cofounded by Sharmi Albrechtsen, a self-described robotics aficionado who serves as its CEO. With her background as a learning specialist and her husband’s experience as an engineer, they set out to create a product that could help their daughter learn math.

The products themselves are action figures on scooters that children can program to ride around, spin, race or perform other actions through an app.

“We thought we would combine our efforts and create something that would be more toward girls but also toward underserved learners and kids who may not find a robotic product exciting, but could still benefit from coding,” said Albrechtsen, who earned an investment in Smart Gurlz on the television show “Shark Tank” a few years ago.

She added that the company has seen a large increase in sales throughout February and March, which coincides with mandated school closures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

School districts, including Encinitas Union, Solana Beach and Del Mar Union, have been providing guidance and resources to parents and students so they can continue with their school curriculums.

Some parents have also been turning to supplemental products and other methods of bolstering their children’s education, since schools are limited in what they’re able to offer through videoconferencing software and other remote learning techniques. Smart Buddies help teach the fundamentals of coding, including sequences, loops, events, conditionals, functions and variables.

“It doesn’t really have a curriculum, it’s more about having fun and doing a bit of coding. It’s more organic and free-thinking learning,” Albrechtsen said.

The product line includes multiple characters, each with their own names.

“All of our characters have an interest in science, engineering or math,” she said.

Parents can register for the free 20-minute courses online. According to the Smart Buddies website, the program is aligned with national curricula for students ages 7 to 11 including Common Core standards for English, language arts and math, in addition to International Society for Technology in Education standards.

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