Kids Build Computer Programming Skills for Christmas
You are more than likely reading this on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or even smartphone, using software developed by a team of talented and inventive engineers. That field of work is opening up for young people around the world, including in Saint Lucia. In order to give a group of young students from Saint Lucia a leg up on the competition, Writing Legends, in tandem with Flow and the Curriculum and Materials Development Unit (CAMDU) in the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development, decided to host the island's first Christmas Coding Camp.
The five-day camp got underway on Monday, December 17, 2018 at one of the Information Technology (IT) laboratories at St Mary's College. Some 16 young people, aged 10 to 15, took part. They were introduced to the rudiments of programme design, computer programming, datatypes, variables, conditional logic, memory management, and the basics of app development for fixed and mobile devices. Additionally, the youngsters were exposed to careers and opportunities in Information and Communications Technology, in a session led by Flow IT Director, Tim Dantzie.
He said, "Interventions like this are absolutely essential if we want our young people in Saint Lucia and the wider Caribbean to play major roles in the emerging global economy. We at Flow are delighted to be able to play our role in the growth and development of these future coders and software engineers, as they transition from being passive users of the technology, and really begin to gain an appreciation for how their devices work, and how they can build programmes of their own. It's really exciting to see how eager they are, because that passion could be the keystone to their future careers."
Jonathan Charlery of Writing Legends was one of the principal instructors for the camp, which he is hopeful of spreading to the rest of the island. An alumnus of St Mary's College, and a senior software engineer with Bloomberg, he has already been in talks with the Government of Saint Lucia, through CAMDU, with a view to expanding the scope of the camp to encompass hundreds of potential coders.
Said Jonathan: "This has been a great experience for these kids. They are asking questions, they are really into it, and that's the first step. Flow has been helping a lot. They gave us the resources we need for this. They gave a lot of swag for the kids: bags, pencil cases, water bottles and so on. CAMDU, and the Ministry of Education by extension, has been helping. They reviewed the curriculum, and it matched one of the initiatives they had already been looking into, so we are using this sort of as a pilot programme. If this all takes off, then hopefully we can scale up all across the island."
Other facilitators for the five-day camp included Choiseul native Christy Butcher of Writing Legends, and CAMDU representative, Germain Anthony, Curriculum Specialist for Technology Integration in the Ministry of Education.