On August 6th, local tech collaborator Rob More and his team delivered a very special 2020 event as part of the annual Beckwith Tech Camp with area students attending virtually. This daylong computer-science focused workshop was offered in conjunction with Hackergal, a charitable organization based in Toronto whose mission is to inspire girls to explore opportunities in this field where women represent only 22% of the workforce in Canada. Hackergal started in 2015, and to date has engaged 18,000 young women with in-classroom and virtual sessions and are aiming to grow that number to 50K by 2023 according to founder Lucy Ho. They don’t charge for students or their schools for this service and with Ontario’s move to introduce computer coding as part of the public school curriculum starting this fall, the demand for Hackergal’s high level of workshop delivery using the latest software is on the rise. Beckwith Tech Camp does charge a fee for attendees, but after modest expenses the bulk of the revenue is used to support this area’s Rural Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Support Network.
Beckwith Tech Camp’s day started off with some impressive guest speakers such as Gail Carmichael, one of Shopify’s technical educators. When she polled the 40 girls in attendance (ranging from 10-18 years of age) about their definition of computer science, she was impressed to see that more than one chose problem solving as their preferred definition as it certainly matched her experience with Shopify. The majority of the day was spent with practical work on one of Canada’s newest coding platforms, Lynx Coding. This is one software support that will be used in schools this fall, giving the tech campers a decided leg up.
Hometown News was invited to join the main and breakout sessions and It was inspiring to see how relatively inexperienced coders were able to quickly master some intricate skills and concepts and how members of the group supported each other via the online meeting’s chat feature to offer problem solving ideas to others and to cheer for each software mastering victory. This collaborative atmosphere was quoted by more than a few tech campers as something that made the day very enjoyable as well as productive. In interviews held the following day, attendees (even first timers with limited coding experience) found it fun and that it spurred interest in pursuing careers in computer science. Some of the gaming projects that were invented demonstrated keen interest and observation, such as one depicting front-line worker challenges, or another involving NHL games. Participants were able to take subjects of interest to them to create unique online worlds. The fact that session leaders and guest speakers were very motivating didn’t escape the campers’ notice.
At the end of the day the group was joined by Ontario Minister for Women’s and Children’s Issues, Jill Dunlop who congratulated everyone and urged them to take advantage of every opportunity to explore the varied and rewarding careers in computer science. Course leaders related how impressed they were with the speed at which campers picked up new skills and how their imaginations brought new views and approaches which were very inclusive. More employers from every industry and commerce sector can take away a very valuable lesson that was clearly demonstrated at the camp; reaching out and involving young people with innovative means is a great recruiting investment strategy which can pay big dividends right from the start. And with computer sciences in the Ottawa Valley you need to come prepared, as Rob More did when putting on this type of event; the talent that you will draw will blow you away.
For more info check out https://sites.google.com/view/hackathonintheottawavalley/home.