Disclosure: This post for Technology and Our Children was generously sponsored by Microsoft but as always my opinion is my own.
I think back to when I was a child and although the technology was just starting to become something that every household had, it was most definitely not like it is now. I remember my very first computer, a Commodore 64 that I learned to program in basic. I had a blast programming my computer with such small, basic commands and I look at the things my kids are doing and it blows my mind. I have always thought of Microsoft as a leader in the field and my feelings about the company and their products have not changed at all. In fact, I am always impressed by how much Microsoft gives back to the community.
One of those ways is the Microsoft YouthSpark program. Microsoft held their annual YouthSpark program last week at the Microsoft Canada head office in Mississauga and invited 75 high school students from FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics programs to enjoy a day of coding, inspiration and career planning.
I was able to interview some of the students that attended as well as a representative from Microsoft to answer several questions about the program from myself and my 12-year-old son who is absolutely intrigued by all things technological. He hopes to design and code video games one day, so this event is something that he was very interested in learning more about.
My questions for the students were (these were answered by team 7013, the members are Clover, Daniel, Maria and also Cherryl Lewis the Executive Director of the African Canada Christian Network):
- What do you think makes the YouthSpark program such a valuable resource for youth?
It gives kids opportunities in technology.
It really helps youth open their eyes, personally hearing the stories about the people who have been in these programs and where they have done what they achieved and accomplished in their lives it is a great driving force and motivation for me moving forward.
It encourages creativity and gets kids interested in getting into technology because technology is the future so YouthSpark allows youth to see if that is something they want to pursue in the future and see they have options.
It gives motivation just hearing different people speak about their experiences and it gives youth the motivation and sees that yes it will take a lot of work but once you persevere through that you will be successful.
As the name implies, YouthSpark, what it has done, just listening to the three of them, that it has ignited something in this group right now and they are all thinking wow I want to work for Microsoft and working with them was to help them understand what’s out there in technology ~ Cherryl Lewis
- How important do you feel digital technology skills are in our world of advancing technologies?
Technology is our future and the skills are extremely important. We can see all the problems with it and what we can fix and see what we can do to make it even better
I think it covers many things and can really push us forward in everything
Our world is becoming more and more digitalized and if you get left behind it will be very difficult to do many things.
- How do FIRST Robotics and the YouthSpark event really help students learn more about digital technology and coding?
Opens up our eyes about what we could be doing with our future, take the knowledge and the more you learn and the more they are able to understand to make other projects do exactly what you want it to do. We are networking and everybody in this industry knows somebody and allows for collabs that could make things even better.
Coding is something anyone can do but the fact that YouthSpark is targeting younger people to help us learn even more and makes it better for you to understand.
Getting them with mentors and when children learn early they build a better foundation for their future and FIRST robotics along with YouthSpark gives them more advice and what skills they need to build on and networking.
My son who has such an engineering brain wanted to ask a couple questions as well and these were his:
- I am only 12 but I am extremely curious about STEM and all things in the digital world, what advice would you have for me as I go forward with my education?
Don’t lose your passion and reach out to join LEGO league and look for any community functions and talking to people to find mentors that can help you reach your goals.
Use what you have the best that you can and take any opportunity you can and a lot of it is a mindset, always take a step in the direction you wish to head in.
Stay interested, stay passionate. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it because you aren’t old enough and just work on learning as much as you can and start really thinking about what kind of job you want to have in the future It’s never to early to start thinking about what you want to do in the future.
Don’t let your age define you and continue with your passion.
- How does someone like me with an interest in robotics and engineering become part of the FIRST Robotics program?
Community team (Durham, Peel, York, Halton Hills and Toronto) – get our kids from the community involved. FIRST robotics LEGO program. Check your school for the robotics program and look online for programs.
Cherryl Lewis Executive Director of the African Canadian Christian Network ~ We want technology as a way of life for our young people
I also wanted to ask a member of the Microsoft team some questions as I think so highly of their brand and wanted their perspective on what makes YouthSpark such an important initiative.
- Can you explain what the YouthSpark program means for students in the FIRST Robotics program or students with digital technology interests?
YouthSpark is Microsoft’s commitment to training youth in digital skills to prepare them for the jobs of the future. Our program focuses on ensuring access to opportunities for learning, in particular for underserved communities and girls. FIRST Robotics Canada has partnered with us to ensure more teams have access to competitions. They also used our funding to expand their programs to British Columbia, creating a truly national impact for students across the country. With support from Microsoft, FIRST Robotics Canada provides meaningful hands-on STEM learning and mentorship for students of all ages.
- Why does Microsoft believe in funding programs like the YouthSpark program?
Our goal is to make computer science education more accessible so that all youth can develop the creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills gained through learning digital skills and coding. We know that when young people have access to digital skills, they can help solve the world’s greatest challenges and innovate in ways that benefit themselves, their families, and their communities.
- Microsoft is truly a leader in the digital world in my opinion, how does being part of programs like YouthSpark and FIRST Robotics play a role in that leadership?
We know that the demand for digital skills is growing and we want to make sure that all people are in a position to participate in a meaningful way in the future global economy. Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Through our work and partnerships, we strive to bring the benefits of technology to drive sustainable social impact and enable economic opportunity for all.
I couldn’t help but write so much about a brand and company I love so much. I hope you enjoyed the interviews with these amazing students and learned more about the YouthSpark program and how it benefits all of our children. They are our future.