Bowen Hui, instructor in computer science at the University of British Columbia- Okanagan, thinks young people should learn to code earlier in life. That’s why for the last two years, Bowen has worked with local school districts to offer a one-day coding camp for high-school students.
Now that the second annual camp has wrapped up, we caught up with Bowen to see how things went and why she thinks it’s important to do.
Why did you decide to start running the coding camps?
I was originally approached by School District 22 because many schools don’t teaching coding. The BC curriculum is changing to include coding as a mandatory component in the K-12 curriculum, but many teachers and parents don’t have the necessary skills to teach computer science.
Because many students aren’t getting that early exposure to computer science in high school, the teachers and parents feel their kids aren’t exploring computer science as a career path as early as they would with other disciplines. That’s why I’ve developed the coding events to try and help out.
Why is it important to learn coding?
It’s important because nearly every aspect of our lives now has a computer working behind the scenes. Early exposure to computer science certainly helps open up career paths in a very in-demand field. But even if you are simply a user of applications, which we almost all are, having a little knowledge for when things go wrong can be very useful in our professional and personal life.
What does the day at Coding Connections look like?
In the morning, we do a couple of “unplugged” activities that get them used to computational concepts without actually using computers. That’s followed by two coding activities that come with worksheets and step-by-step guidance. In the afternoon, students take one of the programs they built in the morning and learn different ways to customize it so that they can take ownership of their work.
We’re always open to ways on how to grow this experience. We’ve seen some real benefits in just two short years. One of the girls that came last year didn’t have any prior coding skills and only attended the coding day for fun. But I just found out that she’ll be studying computer science at the university level this fall. That’s exactly the kind of outcome we’re aiming for and that we hope will continue.
What makes UBCO a great place to study computer science at the university level?
We offer smaller class sizes and closer student-teacher interactions than many other top-tier universities. As a student, you can discover the things that interest you, and pretty much personalize your learning experience by working closely with your instructors.
There’s also a lot more opportunities for students to do individual projects with professors. It’s not just about sitting in lectures or reading textbooks. Students get a lot more experiential learning opportunities at UBCO. Those projects are also a great way to showcase students’ abilities when they graduate.