It’s no secret that computers are taking over almost every aspect of our lives. It’s also no secret that as a country, we need to improve our IT literacy. This will be vital if we want to ensure that the next generation and Sri Lanka as a country prospers in the coming years. To this end, the industry conducts various initiatives over the years to help improve IT literacy in Sri Lanka. The most recent of these initiatives was YouthSpark Live 2016, which was organized by Microsoft Sri Lanka alongside Sarvodaya-Fusion.
YouthSpark Live is a global program but this is the first time it was conducted in Sri Lanka. The event was held at Trace Expert City and it had one purpose. This purpose was to encourage its participants to pursue a career in Computer Science and share with them what a career in this field would look like. This in line with Microsoft’s goals to support initiatives that help Sri Lanka on its digital journey.
And so, YouthSpark Live 2016 kicked off with a few speeches from industry veterans. The first two speakers were Shanil Fernando – Managing Director of Cake Labs and Peter D’ Almeida – CEO of N*able. Both shared their insights on what opportunities are available in the IT industry. The event also featured Ajitha and Nalin Gunawardene who shared their views on the fourth industrial revolution. Additionally, Chonil Jayanaka – Social Media Coordinator from Octocompus shared insights about social media in a local context.
Following the speeches, YouthSpark Live 2016 featured a career guidance session. During this session, participants were taken on a guided tour emphasizing the importance of computer science now and in the future. Throughout the session, a booth manned by Microsoft Student Partners focused on the significance of this field. Meanwhile, a job opportunities booth touched on the growing demand for computer science skills in the industry. Additionally, participants were also able to participate in mock interviews and obtain career guidance from Microsoft representatives.
Finally, the event culminated with a competition dubbed the Code Relay. This was a competition aimed at helping the participants develop their coding skills. It did so with the help of Code.org. Microsoft has built a strong partnership with Code.org, which features many interactive games that teach people how to write code. We saw 19 teams of three each participate in the competition. Their goal was simple: to complete 10 levels of Frozen, 5 levels of Star Wars and 8 levels of the Minecraft competition. Their time limit was one hour. Once the rules were explained the participants began writing their code. And so, the hour of code began.
At the end of Code Relay, all the participants received certificates of participation and the best won a few awards. So who won exactly?Well it was team E Pacific from Udubaddawa who emerged victorious. Following suit were teams MoraSquard from the University of Moratuwa and R2B2 from Ananda College Colombo, who grabbed the 1st Runner Up and 2nd Runner up awards. Once the awards had been handed out, YouthSpark Live 2016 came to an end.