Newcomer youth build valuable skills in computer coding course

In partnership with the CyberLaunch Academy, the Global Gathering Place recently wrapped up a multi-week Youth Computer Coding course for 10 to 14 year-olds from newcomer families. Tailored to the newcomer community, the course makes building valuable tech skills more accessible. In addition, it provides an opportunity for youth to meet new friends and learn from each other.

Offered on Saturdays in February and March at the Global Gathering Place, youth got a crash course on electronics and coding by working with Arduino microprocessing boards. According to the Arduino website, the boards “are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online.”

Although it sounds complicated, CyberLaunch Academy specializes in helping young people with no coding experience develop Arduino and circuitry skills. The CyberLaunch Academy is a non-profit that launched in 2016 with the goal of developing a training program that would encourage children and youth – particularly females – to pursue a career in science and technology. The training program gradually builds digital literacy through a natural progression from concepts to techniques, from play to skills, and from idea to completed project.

Every Arduino class is designed by the CyberLaunch Academy instructors, who are current University of Saskatchewan computer science faculty and students. Youth build circuits using electronic devices which are routinely embedded in toys, remote controls, microwaves and thousands of other things that are inseparable part of our daily lives.

Then, with the assistance of Arduino microcontroller, they “teach” these devices to “listen to the outside world” and to “talk to each other” to produce intricate patterns of colorful LED lights, to play out catchy tunes, or to display messages like, “We love coding!” on Liquid Chrystal Displays (LCDs). Through hands-on and engaging processes, youth are immersed in the world of electrical engineering and coding, learning the principles of electronics and fundamentals of programming languages.

Carlie Russell, GGP’s Program Facilitator, says that while other programs that build tech skills exist in the community, the newcomer population may not know about them or face obstacles to participation. “Offering Youth Computer Coding at GGP allows us to both promote it directly to clients and ensure that the program is accessible,” she explains.

For youth who may not otherwise get exposure to thriving areas of tech, a course like this can broaden their skillset and widen their career possibilities. Carlie says, “It’s great to have programs where youth can get together to build tech skills in a fun and engaging way. We want newcomers to have equal opportunities to learn and develop an interest in coding.”

This blog post was written with the input of CyberLaunch’s Dr. Natalia Stakhanova and Global Gathering Place Program Facilitator Carlie Russell.


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