It is believed that in the very near future computer coding will be as essential a skill to have for many entry-level positions, in the same way that word-processing-and-spreadsheet facility is today. That is, the knowledge-based workforce of the future will be heavily dependent on computer coding skills. Around the world, developing countries are training more and more of their students in computer programming (coding), although much of that focus happens to be on cell-phone apps. Even at this level, the Caribbean is being left behind in the race. By not sufficiently developing computer programming skills in its population, the Caribbean is unable to take full advantage of its potential to build a modern-day workforce and to diversify its economies.
In order to help the Caribbean catch up with other developed countries, beginning in January 2018, the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), Scotiabank, and the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS will be partnering to launch Level I pilot of the Computer Coding Camps which will run approximately once every other Saturday in Barbados.
The goals of the coding camps are consistent with the overall CSF goals of helping to diversify the economies of the Region and raise the standard of living of the people by: (1) assisting with education reform to address the low numbers of Caribbean students pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering, (2) helping to train the technology workforce of the future, and (3) helping to stimulate more technology-based entrepreneurship by grooming the next generation of Caribbean science and engineering leaders.
Total enrollment in the 2018 pilot camps will be limited to about 25 participants. The targeted group includes students between 13 and 17 years of age, at-risk youth up to 25 years of age, disabled individuals, and a small complement of secondary school science and mathematics teachers who would like to gain some training in computer programming to take back to their classrooms. The goal for the targeted group also includes equal participation by men and women.
In 2018, Level I will be offered to two cohorts of Barbados youth: Level IA (entry-level) for high-school students in the 13 to 17 age range, and Level 1B (also entry Level) for at-risk Barbados youth in 18 to 25-year range as well as some secondary school teachers. Levels IA and IB camps will meet on the same day but at different times.
The Level IA and IB camps (entry-level camps) will focus on html and cell-phone Apps. For both camps, in the first half of the syllabus we will develop basic coding skills in the campers. In the second half, the campers will form teams, and the teams will focus on the development of simple Websites and Apps that would address specific problems of interest to them.
Training of the coaches will take place in December of 2017. Thereafter, the camps will meet roughly every other Saturday during the school year, beginning early January 2018. The campers will be given homework assignments between the face-to-face camp meetings.
In 2019, a Level II camp will be added for intermediate and advanced programmers. The primary coding language for the Level II Camp will be Python, although other modern languages may be adopted as necessary for problem solving and specific applications. Level II will focus on the applications of coding to problem solving in a variety of areas including science, engineering, social science, art, and industries such as tourism and financial services. Examples of Level II projects could include video games, programming Raspberry Pis and micro-controllers for the control of machines (robots, drones, appliances, and the Internet of Things) as well as the processing of big data using machine learning algorithms, and other applications that may be of interest to the teams.
Python has been chosen because of: (1) its versatility, (2) its widespread adoption today as the entry-level language of choice in the world’s leading science and engineering universities, and (3) to assist the Region in moving away from Pascal (a dead language) at the CSEC examination level.
Camp Time Table
The camps will meet roughly every other Saturday during the school year, and the campers will be given homework assignments between the face-to-face camp meetings. The camps will begin in early January 2018 and conclude on Saturday, June 2, 2018 with a public showcase.
Regional Scale Up
The longer-term plan is to scale up the coding camp and offer it in other Caribbean Countries in subsequent years, beginning first with the OECS countries. Key operating partners of the CSF are the Barbados Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
Long-Term Anticipated Benefits
Long-term anticipated benefits of the Computer Coding Camps include:
- Awareness raising and increasing the opportunities for more youngsters to consider science and engineering as career options
- A more appropriately trained future knowledge-based workforce
- Promotion of more technology based entrepreneurship
- More self-employment opportunities for our youth
- The formation of more globally competitive ICT companies that could bring in more foreign exchange
- More and better paying jobs for Caribbean people
- The scale up and spreading of coding camps into other Caribbean countries
- Regional mobilization onto the path to catch up with the more developed countries in the ICT areas
- Our students better prepared for university study in the STEM disciplines
- The ignition and nurturing of the inventiveness in our youth so that the next “Google” has a reasonable probability of coming out of the Caribbean
Application forms for campers and coaches will be available here around the middle of October 2017.