Caribbean Computer Coding Workshops: Overview

Motivation

The knowledge-based workforce of the future will be heavily dependent on computer coding skills. 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 are today. Around the world, developing countries are training more and more of their students in computer programming (coding), and much of that focus begins with html (for Website Development) and 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.

Workshop Goals

(1) Help train the technology workforce of the future, especially girls and young women, as females are underrepresented in the ICT workspace (goal is a 50/50 gender balance), (2) assist with the training of persons with disabilities, (3) help address the challenge of increasing the low numbers of skilled ICT workers in the Caribbean region, (4) stimulate more technology-based entrepreneurship by encouraging the formation of more globally competitive ICT companies, (5) stimulate more interest in science and engineering careers, (6) generate more student interest in going beyond programming and into the field of advanced computer science, and (7) help prepare the younger students for university study in the STEM disciplines. Our goal is very much about helping to “teach our people to fish rather than giving them fish.”

These goals are consistent with the overall CSF goals of helping to diversify the economies of the Region and thereby raise the standard of living of the people. Thus, CSF projects have a long-term focus on stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship, and grooming the next generation of Caribbean science and engineering leaders. We truly believe that there is no reason why the next “Google” cannot start in the Caribbean.

These Workshops provide a significant foundation to anyone who wants to dive into the world of computer programming. More specifically, Website Development, and Python and its applications. Beginners often want to build the next “Facebook” or “Google” without first mastering the fundamentals. Hence, these workshops aim to cover the basics while still providing a taste of the more advanced code libraries used to accomplish exciting results.

Targeted Groups

Because of limited resources, total enrollment in the Workshops was limited to about 25 participants per session when offered in person. Owing to the pandemic, we now offer the C3Ws online via the Zoom platform and currently allow up to 40 participants per workshop. Applicants must be Caribbean citizens. Persons younger than 15 years old on the day on which the particular Workshop session begins are not eligible to apply to that Workshop.

The Workshops have a special focus on attracting: (1) more females to meet the 50/50 gender-balance goals of the Workshops, (2) unemployed and at-risk youth, and (3) persons with disabilities. If budget constraints permit, we will basically accept all applicants who satisfy the age requirement. However, for the Python workshops, applicants are expected to have facility with basic algebra.

Current Workshops

Currently, four workshops are being offered:

  • C3W.101 – Website Development I(HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP) – for beginners
  • C3W.102 – Website Development II(HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP)
  • C3W.201 – Introduction to Programming in Python I (Basics for beginners)
  • C3W.202 – Programming in Python II (fast paced to intermediate-level video games and other applications – for persons with a good math background)

Persons interested in the Summer 2022 Caribbean Computer Coding Workshops (C3W) can find more details as well as student and Instructor/Teaching Assistant application forms at the 2022 Coding Workshop Page.

Anticipated Benefits of the Coding Workshops

  • A raised awareness and increased opportunities for more persons to consider science and engineering as career options
  • Better preparation of our students for university study in the STEM disciplines
  • A more appropriately trained future knowledge-based workforce – more graduates with enhanced skill sets and qualifications will obtain entry level positions in the workplace (especially at-risk youth)
  • Promotion of more technology-based entrepreneurship, and more self-employment opportunities for our youth
  • Eventual formation of more globally competitive ICT companies that could bring in more foreign exchange
  • Scale up and spreading of coding workshops into other Caribbean countries
  • Regional mobilization onto a path to catch up with the more developed countries in the ICT areas
  • Ignition and nurturing of the inventiveness in our youth so that the next “Google” has a reasonable probability of coming out of the Caribbean

History

In order to help the Caribbean region to 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 partnered to launch a Level I pilot of the CSF Computer Coding Workshops which ran on Saturday mornings in Barbados from January to March and again from September to December 2018. Thereafter, the Barbados workshops were held twice per year until May 2021, with the Fall 2020 and the Spring 2021 sessions being held virtually owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The Level I Workshop was replicated in St. Lucia and Dominica. The first two offerings of the St. Lucia Workshop took place from January 12 to March 30, 2019 at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, and from September 28 to December 14, 2019 at St. Mary’s College. The first session of the Dominica Workshop took place from January 11 to April 4, 2020, and the second session ran in a virtual mode (owing to the pandemic) from September 19 to December 5, 2020.

Coding Workshop Level I Inaugural Class, Instructors and sponsor’s representatives at inaugural opening ceremony 06 January 2018

In the summer of 2021, the CSF added an additional workshop (Programming in Python) and offered both workshops virtually to all English-speaking Caribbean countries (with particular focus on Barbados and the OECS). These workshops are now known as the Caribbean Computer Coding Workshops (C3W). Python was chosen to encourage the Region to switch away from testing our students in Pascal to the adoption of a more modern language such as Python. In the Spring of 2021, we added a second Python workshop (Programming in Python II) for participants with some previous coding ability. The longer-term plan is to offer more advanced versions of the Website Development and Python coding workshops as well as other modern languages, limited only by funding availability.

Videos and News Clips

Please view the inspirational video below, produced by the St. Lucia Ministry of Education, to get a better understanding of the motivation for the holding the CSF computer coding workshops in the Region:

Participants in the Coding Workshops work in teams, and each team creates a Website, an App or a video game that solves a problem of interest to the team. At the Coding Workshop Final Proects Showcase which takes place on the final day of the Workshops, the teams show off their Websites, Apps and games to a public audience. Below are videos from the following Workshop final projects presentations:

  • Fall 2020 Dominica and Barbados Computer Coding Workshops on Website Development
  • Spring 2021 Barbados Computer Coding Workshop on Website Development
  • Summer 2021 Caribbean Computer Coding Workshop on Website Development
  • Summer 2021 Caribbean Computer Coding Workshop on Programming in Python


Have a look for yourself at the following news articles to see how creative past students have been:

More computer programmers in Barbados – BarbadosToday, 29Dec2019
Exciting showcase concludes 4th CSF Computer Coding Workshop-Barbados – St Lucia News Online, Dec2019
Coding Skills Key – Barbados Advocate, 19Dec2019
Another economic pillar needed to complement tourism – Barbados Advocate, 19Dec2019