For three days over last weekend, 17 – 19 April 2015, Canberra’s school children were treated to hs.hact.io, an event organised by Entry 29, a collective working space based in Civic. Thirty of Canberra’s programmers, technologists and designers came together to provide three days of learning and fun to one hundred and thirty high school students. The event was a project-based learning event, engineered to appeal to students of all skill levels. Those students who are beginners in technology received mentoring from the mentors attending the event and developed their first websites, mobile phone applications, video games, 3D animations and 3D printed objects. Those students considered more advanced formed teams and used the three days to create a project, in order to compete for over seven thousand and five hundred dollars in prizes.
Held at Canberra Boy’s Grammar, the event is something of fantastic oddity, to those who may not be acquainted with the concept of collective working spaces and a locally orientated business community. Student admission attracted nominal fees and the mentors were kind enough to donate their time to encourage and further student’s potential careers in information technology. As Canberra Grammar, Software Technology teacher Matthew Purcell commented “We need more events like hs.hact.io which allow students to engage in practical projects beyond the classroom. At Canberra Grammar School we are proud to support this event which is an ideal use of our new Snow Centre building – emphasising collaboration, teamwork, and community,”.
The event lead and general manager of Entry 29, Matt Stimson, is passionate about introducing Canberra’s youth to both technology and entrepreneurship. “You ask enough developers how they became passionate about technology and it often involves positive experiences and support during their formative years. A large component of this event exists for high schoolers interested in technology and unsure of how to get started with it,” he said. This line of thought follows on somewhat from a recent Entry 29 event, Women in Tech, in which female industry leaders made comments to the same effect about how they got started in the industry.
Those in our community with a base, working knowledge of information technology, like myself, would be forgiven for not having the slightest idea what exactly students were doing. The technical aptitude of the students attending was readily apparent. In much the same people often ask their children to assist them in fixing issues with technology in the home, the students were miles beyond the average comprehension levels of adults twice their age. Some of the devices and technology utilised were easily identifiable to the layman, 3D printers. The printers allowed the students attending the opportunity to make their own designs on a computer and then make them a reality. The results were an eclectic mix of I-phone covers, figurines and jewellery. The printers were kindly provided by one of the companies helping to make the event a reality, Me3d. Based in Wollongong the company manufactures 3D printers in an affordable price range.Another fantastic information technology company helping to enrich the life and futures of Canberra’s schoolchildren, Cogito Group, also helped make the event a reality. The company provides digital security solutions – taking the fail-safes and security measures of physical market places and translating them to the online arena. Notable success for Cogito Group include winning the 2014 ACT Telstra Award for Startup of the Year. Another entity helping to provide Canberra’s schoolchildren with a glut of opportunity in information technology is the aptly suited to the task – National Information and Communications Technology Australia’s – Digital Careers. The organisation works to increase the number and quality of information technology graduates in Australia, as well as ensuring an information communication technology capability for Australia’s future digital economy. Canberra based start-up Madefor.me and game development studios Cardboard Keep and Whalehammer Games also helped make the event a reality and a success.
CBR Innovation Network (CBRIN), whose offices neighbour Entry 29’s in the Canberra CBD, contributed to the event. CBRIN is a collaboration aimed at developing and fostering a diverse innovation ecosystem within the Canberra region. Five world class research and education institutes active in Canberra make up the foundation members of CBRIN: the Australian National University, the University of Canberra, the National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA), the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the University of New South Wales, Canberra. CBRIN has a wealth of innovation initiatives in the Canberra area, designed to foster not only innovation but to help Canberra residents hoping to transition into entrepreneurship.
The fantastic efforts of these organisations and the crowdfunding efforts of hs.hact.io organisers helped make this fantastic event a reality. CBR Innovation Network Chief Executive, Dr Sarah Pearson, echoed what is surely the opinion of many parents who sent their children to the three day event “I only wish there were opportunities like this when I was going through school.” Dr Pearson further commented “We are extremely proud to be involved with hs.hact.io we could not be more excited to support youth in the ACT. This event could be the start of an amazing journey for hundreds of Canberra’s youth.”
In all seventeen thousand and five hundred dollars was raised through crowdfunding for the event, over the website Indiegogo. The monies raised helped not only to run the event but to fund a planned national roll out of the event to other venues in 2016 and a planned expansion of future events to include primary schoolchildren. “This inaugural event is going brilliantly and we’re already thinking of how to grow it and run a similar event for Primary Schools” event lead Matt Stimson, Entry 29.The CBR Innovation Network (CBRIN) reserved the major sponsorship opportunity within hours of the hs.hact.io campaign launch.
In all Canberra’s student population is extremely lucky to have access to events like hs.hact.io and the encouragement of a community orientated business community. With the event set to expand into differing localities in coming years, soon students on a national level will have a chance to gain invaluable encouragement and advice from those in the information technology industry.