Coding building bridges to a brighter future
(From left) Courtney Bell, Community Programmes Coordinator, Flow Foundation, highlights a feature of the virtual reality programme to camp participants Jahdaine Johnson and Kasinia Staple, while Shanese Watson, Managing Director, of the Young Scholars Educational Ltd., joins in the fun learning activity.

As Jamaica continues to evolve into a digitally savvy society, individuals strong in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects will be in high demand. Arising from a collaboration between the Ministry of National Security (MNS) and the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY), a cohort of 30 students from schools in vulnerable communities were exposed to this area through their participation in the recent Robotics and Coding Summer Camp hosted by Young Scholars Educational Ltd and powered by the Flow Foundation.

Speaking on the inter-ministerial goals, Georgina Clarke, Project Manager - Social Intervention, Citizens’ Security Secretariat in the Ministry of National Security, said, “These students are facing incredible challenges just to survive from day to day and it shows in their academic performance. We thought that their participation in this camp would be a fun yet educational way to strengthen their competency in STEM subjects while equipping them with the essential skill of coding.

“We certainly hope that the camp generates enthusiasm and will trigger further support for the integration of technology in the school ecosystem. This, we believe, will provide a way to fill the gap by empowering our youth with the necessary core skills to contribute to nation-building as well as open their minds to alternative career paths,” she continued.

The concept of the summer camp was the brainchild of Shanese Watson, Managing Director, Young Scholars Educational Ltd. who shared that she has a passion for robotics and coding. She was motivated by her concern for Jamaican students who were not being sufficiently exposed to or equipped with coding skills, especially as our society continues to become more technologically advanced.

Taeija-Lee Hall-Watts (left), Volunteer Trainer from First Tech Challenge Ja and Peter-John Thompson (right), Coding Trainer, support Khe'Ondre Lawes, a camp participant, as he creates a coding programme to operate a robot.

The robotics and coding summer camp was supported by a group of volunteer teachers who introduced the participants to basic coding languages, which guided their work in structuring the coding programmes being developed.

Peter-John Thompson, Coding Trainer, stated, “I was very impressed with these students. They all started with zero coding skills, and by the end of the programme, they had developed the competency to programme robots.” He further shared, “We had some young children who participated in the camp and their speed of learning the mechanics of the coding languages was amazing.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by his colleague, Dalvin Thomas, who taught a different group. He shared that he enjoyed the challenge of bringing the coding languages to life for a wide cross-section of students of varying ages.

Courtney Bell, Community Programmes Coordinator at the Flow Foundation, stated, “We believe that we have a responsibility to contribute to the development of our nation and are committed to supporting initiatives that advance our focus and mission. Coding provides a fun way for our students to learn some technological skills, so it was very easy for us to decide to support this initiative.

“We were happy to note that there was a cohort from underserved communities that were engaged through this coding camp and share the Ministry’s hopes for these students to be so empowered that they are able to participate in our digital economy,” Bell continued.

The Flow Foundation continues to drive digital literacy and inclusion through strategic partnerships and initiatives that help to prepare Jamaicans for the opportunities available in the global digital economy. Earlier this year, the Foundation collaborated on the staging of Flow’s inaugural Girls In ICT Expo which created a platform for young girls to explore their passion for technology, gain valuable insights, and be inspired by industry leaders.

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