Mu is not a solo effort. Many folks have contributed to Mu, and I will be eternally grateful for their work. With the spirit of recognising the voluntary contributions of others in mind, I’m going to write about some of our most prodigious programmers. First up is Zander Brown.

Zander, like Top Gear’s the Stig, is a bit of a mystery.

Until recently, nobody had ever met him in real life, and all interactions with Zander were via copious GitHub comments, pull requests and bug fixes.

Some said he was an alien being from another dimension, others claimed him to be a rogue artificial intellegince running rampant in random Git repositories, yet more people whispered in hushed tones that he was merely a pseudonym for Bill Gates, coming out of retirement to contribute to free software projects.

All I can say is that I’m thankful for his considerable contributions to Mu’s code base, eagle-eyed code reviews and seemingly limitless Pythonic knowledge.

Actually, when I met Zander for the first time in July, it turned out he’s a 17 year-old studying for his A-levels (the exams teenagers sit in the UK to help them to get into university). He’s doing A-levels in Maths, Physics and Computer Science. He’s third from the left in the picture below:

I want to bring your attention to how wonderful this is ~ we have several related things going on:

  • We have a courteous, knowledgable and extraordinarily competent contributor to Mu.
  • Zander’s participation is evidence that the Mu project is welcoming, safe and supportive enough to encourage the participation of teenage coders.
  • Zander, a student who uses Mu, is helping to develop Mu. I would very much like to foster this sense of ownership in Mu’s users, be they students, teachers or professional software developers.

I recently asked Zander how he got into Mu. His reply was interesting in that he typed “micro:bit Python” into a search engine after his school had some of the early versions of the device delivered to teachers.

The head of department got the blue one, the other CS teacher had the green, leaving the yellow spare and the rest, as they say, is history…

He started coding with MSWLogo but has, more recently discovered Python and started making contributions to various open source projects:

It’s nice to work on things that help others be that the developer (fix this, add that) or the users (CS teachers!)

Recently I’ve been contributing the GNOME which has the ‘coolness’ that you are in country A working with person in country B to make something that’ll be used in A, B, C & D but also being a tad ‘meta’ when you’re fixing a bug older than you.

Right now, I feel very very old. :-)

How does he find working on Mu?

Great fun, first & only time i’ve met in person with others working on a project and the T-shirt isn’t bad either :-)

Been nice to play on a range of things within the same project from fighting QSS to walking the python syntax tree whilst knowing people are using it in the real world (TAA just switched form GCSE Java to Python so Mu is now used with the lower years)

(When we released Mu 1.0 I made sure all of the major contributors and friends of Mu got t-shirts to celebrate. Thanks to my hugely talented friend Steve Hawkes, Zander got a t-shirt with the “Stig” avatar shown at the top of this post.)

Zander, thank you for your continued contributions and best of luck with your studies (he wants to go on to study Computer Science at university). I have no doubt that wherever you end up studying will soon learn how fortunate they are to have such a talented student as you.