TechSpark Academy and Teen Coding: 2015 in Review

As 2015 rolls to an end, we’re thankful for the collaboration and teamwork that took place between student faculty, coding camp participants and industry professionals to launch our first series of TechSpark Academy coding camps this year.

It’s hard to believe it was only in January of this year that TechSpark Academy was born. It happened quickly.

I headed off campus from the EPFL Innovation Park for a bite to eat at our favorite sushi restaurant, Sushi Haiko at St Sulpice, with students and friends, and we came back with as partners with a plan for offering coding camps to teens!

TechSpark Academy Team

TechSpark Academy takes flight

Within a few weeks, we had found program sponsors, students from the EPFL to co-organize, create the curriculum and teach the courses. Six months later, in August 2015, we held our first four courses that that offered teens the opportunity to code and create.

  • Introduction to Programming with Python
  • Mobile App Programming with Swift
  • Adventures in Robotics with Arduino
  • Digital Film and Photography with Adobe

Our motivation was simple: bring digital to life for teens by exposing them to hands-on coding classes in an engaging and motivating, camp-like atmosphere. Let them discover how to create or co-create with friends without the pressure of an exam or scores at the end of the class.

Our goal was for teens to dip their toes into ‘the world of coding waters’ to see for themselves that the water is warm and friendly, not hot (and scary) or too cold (and boring). In fact, we wanted the waters to feel so good that they come back and dive in later on in life.

Our hope was that the teens would leave, with at least one aspect of the coding, digital creation or organizational thinking around programming. We were sure that something would find a place in their life-skills toolkit.

To do this, the people teaching the courses were crucial to success. We wanted instructors who would inspire and who could relate to participants and the EPFL student body became a key success factor and partner in TechSpark Academy from day one.

Students between the ages of 21-25 taught the courses, and the August summer camp was a huge success. Our hunch was right: peer education hit the sweet spot. You can read the student’s comment here.

Frits and Yu

So why learn to code?

“Everyone should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

It’s been 20 years since Steve Jobs said those words. In 2014, Great Britain became the first G7 country to introduce computer science in school curriculums for all children aged 5 to 16.

By the age of seven, British school children will be expected to be capable of writing and debugging a simple program. By 11, some will be exploring computing concepts once considered appropriate for undergraduates.

Science, Technology, and Innovation are critical ingredients of young people’s future, whatever education pathway and career they choose.

With millions of tech jobs available globally set to constantly increase, learning to code is one of the core skill sets required to ensure 20-th century literacy.

Our mission is not to turn children into computer scientists – even if some may be stimulated to do just that! Our mission is to open a teen’s eyes and encourage them to move from consumer to creator and understand what powers the smartphones, tablets and computers they use very day.

Laura Robotics

Achieving our 2015 Mission

Like any Start-up or small company, getting operations up and running is often a lot harder and much more work that we ever expect.

Thanks to an agile team with a can-do attitude, 2015 was a great year for us and full of hard-won successes for our small team.

Here’s are five highlights we are extremely proud of in 2015:

1. We ran our first two-week camps on the beautiful Champittet Campus!
Thank you to all the students (and parents) who signed up and participated. We had a wonderful time learning with you!
We are extremely grateful to Philippe De Korodi, Champittet School Director, who welcomed us with open arms and allowed us to use his classrooms and computer equipment!
Additionally, Matthew Roberts, Secondary ICT Coordinator did everything in his power to make our lives easier during the camps. Thank you!

2. Marilyn Stelzner from Global University Choices visited TechSpark Academy at Champittet. She discussed with us the importance of extra-curricular learning, especially when doing an IB and planning to attend a US or UK college.

3. John Dines, Advanced Analytics at Expedia, Inc. in Geneva joined ourPython workshop.
John works with Python every day developing algorithms and methodologies to optimize the user Expedia client experience and to model and predict consumer purchase behavior

4. We attended the European code week (10-18 Oct) in Geneva and metGabriella Fumagalli, the Europe Code Week Ambassador for Switzerland!
Thank you, Gabriella, for encouraging is and offering your support!

5. We signed an agreement with Ecole Internationale de Genève
ECOLINT, Campus des Nations, is where the IB diploma was born, and we are extremely excited TechSpark Academy will partner with ECOLINT to run two camps in 2106!

  • March 29th to April 1st
  • July 11th to 15th

A big thank you to Richard Allaway, Technology for Learning Coordinator (and Author of www.geographyalltheway.com) who found us on the internet and decided to reach out to us!

What’s coming in 2016?

More camps, in more locations, and more fun! We’ll be offering beginning courses as well as advanced courses for our 2015 alumni.

We also hope to offer camps in Dubai and Rabat, Morocco with the help of our latest additions to the team, Adam Ztot, who joined us as Head of Programme Development this year and Rita Farah, our Programme Coordinator for the Middle East and Gulf. Stay tuned for more news about programs and courses in 2016.

From our team to your teens, we wish you and your families healthy, happy and hopefully even a code-inspired New Year. We look forward to answering your questions about upcoming camps and welcoming your teens to TechSpark Academy in 2016!

Learn more about upcoming courses and sign up for our spring camp here.

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