It’s a sunny Friday morning at Mahinda College. The birds chirp as we climb a steep hill and make our way to the Olcott Hall. After taking a moment to catch our breath, we take a look around the hall. It’s packed with rows of students from all over the Southern Province. Why were they here? Having met the teachers, the second day of the SLASSCOM Galle IT/BPM Week was aimed at encouraging students to pursue IT as a career. It was conducted with the support of Asian Development Bank to encourage women to join the IT/BPM industry and Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology as the Coverage Partner.
How mischievous childhood habits led to IT
First on stage was Sameendra Chathurange – Software Engineer at 99x Technology. He talked about how mischievous he was as a kid. His days as a kid mostly included begging for all sorts of equipment such as old radios, clocks, toys and whatnot. Why? So that he could take them apart. This habit eventually led Sameera to dabble in a few electronics, where he would try to make circuits work.
As Sameendra grew older, he understood his way around a computer. In fact, he understood it so well that he once developed a virus and shared it with his friends at school. No, he (sadly) didn’t destroy any computers. But he did leave a lot of his friends angry. Sameendra notes how he was often the guy his friends came to whenever there’s any computer related problem. Still, he never thought of himself as someone who would follow IT as a career. Not at first anyway.
Fast forward a few years later, Sameendra decided to pursue his passion for engineering. The only problem, he was coming from a bioscience background rather than mathematics. This eventually led him to follow the software engineering program of Informatics Institute of Technology, which was the Education Partner of the Galle IT/BPM Week. One thing led to another and now he’s a software engineer at 99x Technology.
The rewards of entering IT
Chathuri Gamage followed a similar story to that of Sameendra. Like Sameendra, Chathuri had also pursued her interests to be a doctor. But falling short of getting into the state university, she diverted her attention towards IT. Chathuri states that although she was a novice, she did realize the many opportunities IT had to offer. So she decided to pursue it and became a software engineer at IFS Sri Lanka.
Ruvini Bandara, on the other hand, had things a bit differently. Her father brought a computer home back in the 90’s. And ever since, she’s been one for computers from a young age. These computers with giant CRT monitors ignited a passion for computer science in her. Fast forward to the present, Ruvini is an Account Technology Specialist at Microsoft.
So what does this tell you?
Looking back, one thing Sameendra, Chathuri, and Ruvini wished for is that if there was someone back then to better advise them about the IT industry, and its opportunities. Hence the Student Awareness session at the Galle IT/BPM Week. But you might wonder, how does one inspire kids to get into IT? That’s what the Deep Dive workshops were all about.
Getting hands-on and with tech
These workshops were the focus of Day 03 of the Galle IT/BPM Week. Once again, students arrived in the early hours of the morning. As they registered, they took a sticker that they applied onto their uniforms. These stickers were their ID’s into the three workshops that took place around Mahinda College.
The first of these workshops was an innovators session. Conducted by Igniter Space, this was a crash course in building innovative products. This was done by guiding the students to build a model car. With each step, the students were taught about the technical details of circuits and other parts they used to build their model cars. The workshop ended with the students carrying out a trial run to see if their cars worked.
The second of these workshops was an introduction to programming. This was done by tasking the students to build a game through Scratch. The workshop began with the students being taught how to execute basic instructions. As the workshop progressed, the students built a game where a mouse would try to grab as many donuts as possible while avoiding a cat.
The third workshop was all about coding with microcomputers. This was conducted by the Micro:Bit Sri Lanka User Group. The workshop began with the students learning how to display the word “microbit” using the LED lights on the Micro:Bit computer. Afterward, they carried out various exercise ranging from showing different icons when buttons are pressed, a temperature sensor that works by shaking the Micro:Bit, and a simple counter that utilized all of the Micro:Bit’s features.
It doesn’t stop with students and teachers
Thus far, you’ve seen what the students and teachers saw at the Galle IT/BPM Week. However, merely encouraging teachers and inspiring students isn’t enough. If we want children that are passionate about IT to pursue it, then it’s also important to reach out to the parents. And that’s why there was a session for them that occurred in parallel to the workshops.
At the end of the day, if we want to change our education system to promote innovation and prepare students for the digital world, we need to bring everyone to the table. And the Galle IT/BPM Week organized by SLASSCOM did that. It didn’t merely have talks showing the benefits of pursuing a career in IT. It also gave kids the first step into the world of tech through its workshops.
But now the responsibility is on the teachers to take what they learned at the educator’s workshop into the classrooms. Similarly, it’s also on the parents to encourage their kids as much as possible if they are passionate about pursuing a career in IT. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more tech startups popping up in Galle? Hopefully, time will tell us a positive answer to that question.