EPAM eKids Toronto Completes a Successful First School Year
EPAM Toronto recently completed its first school year with EPAM eKids by wrapping up its third session, this time at Maple Creek Public School. Over the school year, 15 EPAMers in Canada mentored 95 students with the help of four teachers and taught them coding and software engineering using Scratch, a drag-and-drop coding platform developed by MIT.
Throughout our journey launching eKids, we learned that it was equally as important to share information about career opportunities with young people in addition to teaching tech skills and coding principles. EPAM volunteers shared their career journey with students, why they chose a career in IT and how they progressed to their current role, as well as what education and skills they currently use in their day-to-day job.
Sharing this information led to many interesting discussions among the students and volunteers, including: Is receiving high marks as important as being a team player? What technologies and competencies will be in demand over the next few years? How applicable is college course curriculum in your day-to-day job? How often do IT professionals need to attend professional courses and expand their knowledge? It is possible to get a job in IT without a technical background? Do jobs in IT provide an opportunity to be creative and follow your passion and interests?
In addition to exploring potential career opportunities in the tech industry, many of the students were interested in learning game design. eKids built computer games by learning new algorithms and sharing their games with friends. Game design builds creativity by giving life to new characters, thinking through the game rules and implementing the rules through basic coding concepts. One of the most memorable lessons throughout the year coincided with International Women’s Day. A team of EPAM designers created a few characters portraying influential women in history. The students were able to use these characters in their games, research influential women and become inspired!
Here’s what some of the teachers, students and EPAMers had to say about the past year:
‘The program reinforced the 21st century skills that we are teaching in the classroom. We are always looking for opportunities to integrate STEM activities in an engaging way that applies to the students' real lives. Rather than simply playing games, they got the opportunity to design computer games for their friends to play. They were also exposed to career opportunities that were geared toward their interests in the program. Regardless of their comfort level with programming or using Scratch prior to the program, each student was successful in creating a game and they had a lot of fun doing it! I would highly recommend this experience to other teachers and students!’ – Sanja, teacher
‘Scratch is a great experience and I loved making games. It is a cool thing to develop when you're older. I like that Scratch gave me the opportunity to create my own personal games. Overall, I thought it was an amazing learning opportunity.’ – eKids student
‘I enjoyed programming the character movements and actions in the game. I enjoyed this because it really made me feel like I created the game and I was proud of myself for my accomplishments.’ – eKids student
‘I loved the story concept. We made very funny and cool stories and it was great to see the story come to life!’ – eKids student
‘Scratch is a valuable tool because it allows kids to learn coding in an interactive way. It helps convey our message to kids at young age that the IT industry is not complicated and they should not be afraid to join it one day.’ – Ghezal, eKids volunteer and Business Analyst at EPAM Toronto
‘During the first round, one of the kids was able to program a small video game! He and his friends were playing with it, laughing and having a lot of fun. I was quite impressed with that!’ – Allie, eKids volunteer and Lead Business Analyst at EPAM Toronto.
Technology is reshaping the world every minute, disrupting the job market and the skills required to sustain a job. EPAM eKids gives students the ability to understand the impact of technology, grow their skills, be exposed to different career paths, learn soft skills like teamwork and communication that are applicable to every industry, and inspire them to follow their dreams. We look forward to continuing our eKids program in Toronto and building the next generation of technologists!