IT Education Made Accessible to Middle School-Aged Youth


Research Area: Social Innovation | Status:  Ongoing | Led By: Student-led

In 2020, Canada’s ICT industry experienced impressive growth despite the effects of the pandemic. The sector posted better-than-expected growth in terms of output, workforce population, and research spending.

Of all the sub-sectors in ICT, Software and Computer Systems stood out as the fastest growing. With such rapid increase in the software industry workforce, there is a growing demand for skilled professionals in the field. It’s no surprise that the average salary in the ICT sector is about 50% above the Canadian workforce average.

Middle schoolers explore IT

Unlike other career paths, computer programming is not so popular among middle schoolers. According to John Wong, Director, Community & Fund Development at Brilliant Labs, “There is a lack of access and experiential learning opportunities for many of New Brunswick’s youth to learn advanced coding.”

A lack of access would result in the province’s youth being underrepresented in this rapidly growing sector. Joe Marriott, a faculty member and creator of the curriculum, believes that it’s best to engage the young learners before high school.

“By introducing the middle school learners to IT, we help some of them to develop interest early. This helps them to make better choices of courses in high school and meet requirements for post-secondary education in IT.”

Wong and Marriott developed a project that brings together Brilliant Labs, community centres, libraries, youth-serving organizations, and NBCC faculty and students. Together, they teach computer programming to middle school kids in 5-day programs across Saint John and Charlotte County. The Promoscience project is an ongoing yearly summer coding camp that started in 2018. It was put on hold because of the pandemic but is returning during the summer of 2022.

An exciting learning experience

Because of the complex nature of the skill, it’s always been a challenge to get middle schoolers interested in computer programming. This prompted Joe Marriott and his team to take a unique approach.

In essence, computer programming is a tool for creating technological solutions to improve everyday life. The 5-day curriculum for the coding camps demonstrated this truth clearly to the kids.

With the use of Micro:bits, the kids learnt how to use programming to perform mechanical functions such as robotics to open the doors to other interests such as electronics and mechatronics.

Schoolgirls are inspired by role models

“The mentors in these camps are mostly NBCC students. When setting up the mentoring teams, we strive to have the same number of male and female tutors. We need to encourage more girls to develop an interest in IT because women are currently underrepresented in the industry,” Joe Marriott explained.

The results of this project may not be seen until a decade after, but it could be the spark that lights up the youth’s interests in and passions for a fulfilling IT career journey. The students, faculty, partners, and sponsors are proud to be part of this project.

The project was sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Promoscience Program, Government of New Brunswick, Department of Post-secondary Education, Training, and Labour (PETL), Canada Summer Jobs, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation: Research Assistantships Initiative (NBIF RAI).


Project Partners/Funders

Partner

Brilliant Labs

Funders

NSERC GNB NBIF
 

About Applied Research and Innovation
NBCC’s Applied Research and Innovation office helps businesses and communities find solutions to their challenges. Through its expertise, equipment, and facilities, NBCC helps its partners to solve problems, take advantage of market opportunities, and develop new, innovative processes that will enhance how New Brunswickers live, work and do business.