CyberLaunch Academy partners with New Brunswick Aboriginal Communities to bring computer science to First Nations Schools
Fredericton, May 1, 2017: CyberLaunch Academy starts the new province-wide initiative “Computer science to First Nations Schools.” For five weeks during the months of May and June CyberLaunch Academy’s instructors will be teaching fundamentals of computer science to elementary and middle school children at Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School in Fredericton and Natoaganeg School in Eel Ground First Nations Community in Miramichi area.
The training program for the First Nations Schools is based on CyberLaunch Academy’s signature course Adventure World of Computing. This course was designed to give boys and girls as young as 7 years of age a broad introduction to the field of computer science and engineering. The innovative nature of this course helps to address two obstacles that often prevent children from pursuing science disciplines. On the one hand, the course gives children gentle introduction of the field of computer science through interactive hands-on projects that show children that learning science is exciting and fun. On the other hand, the course is designed to prepare children for higher level Academy’s courses in the areas such as web design, robotics, computer animation, cyber security, game design, engineering, circuitry and virtual reality.
“In Fredericton we will provide the five weeks long version of the course as part of the annual enrichment program at Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School. For the schools that are located outside Fredericton area we have developed the intensive version of the same training course. For instance, in early May we will be doing a two-day workshop at Natoaganeg School in Miramichi area. In cooperation with the school Principal Helen Bernard-Ward and the Director of Community Development Centre Cheryl Ward we developed a training program for both kids and school’s teaching staff. We want to equip the teachers with tools that they could incorporate into their classes’ activities. This way we can make sure the training workshop will have lasting effect,”- Dr. Natalia Stakhanova, CyberLaunch Academy founder and NB Innovation Research Chair in Cyber Security at UNB.
The initiative “Computer science to First Nations Schools” is a result of collaborative effort between CyberLaunch Academy, First Nations Communities and local industry.
“We owe the idea of this program to Principal Allison Brooks from Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School. He contacted us last fall asking if we would be interested teaching computer science to First Nations Children and offered his school for running a pilot project this spring. We liked the idea. I discussed this idea with Keith McIntosh the co-founder of PQA Testing who is actively involved in the development of aboriginal communities in the province and he connected us with Eel Ground First Nations community. We are proud to take a lead over this collaborative initiative that is perfectly fits within our organizational goals,”- Dr. Stakhanova.
CyberLaunch Academy is fun interactive and engaging way to promote computational thinking and computer science among K-12 children. It was created in 2016 to assist the province in promoting science and technology among school students. The Academy provides high quality interactive hands-on courses for children to learn coding, robotics, animation, and more. Through regular classes, workshops and community outreach, the Academy uses early socialization into information technology approach as a tool to encourage youth to seek further technology training at New Brunswick’s colleges and universities. Earlier this year CyberLaunch Academy announced a program “Sponsor a child in IT training” where the Academy, local industries and individual philanthropists began providing stipends to students from socio-economic groups underrepresented in science and technology disciplines. The new program “Computer science to First Nations Schools” is the next step in CyberLaunch Academy’s efforts to promote more equitable access to computer science training to all families in New Brunswick.
“I was really fascinated with the vision of the people Principals Allison Brooks and Helen Bernard-Ward and support for their vision from PQA Testing and Eel Ground Community Development Centre. It is one thing to offer computer science as an extra curriculum program. But bringing computer science training to regular class in the First Nations schools and making it available to all children takes the idea to completely new level. Just think about this. Today unemployment, lack of access to education and substandard infrastructure are named among leading causes for many problems of aboriginal youth. But computer science is a field that provides unique opportunity to address these problems,”- Dr. Stakhanova.
Current statistics shows that there is no shortage of employment opportunities for people with computer science training both in and outside the province. In the US alone the IT related employment will increase by 22% by the year 2020. In the recent years there was fast growth of freelancing jobs available to people with computer science training. The global freelancing market for these jobs is estimated to be dozens of billions of dollars.
“Imagine how many opportunities become available to an aboriginal youth if they have skills in computer science. They can easily find an IT relating job as full time employee or as a freelancer for some company located in America, Europe or Asia and in case of freelancing they don’t even have to leave their home. You don’t need expensive equipment, you don’t need complex facilities… All you need is a computer, an internet access and a little encouragement and the whole world will be opened for you! I believe that the programs like the one we begin this week is the first step in building both the interest and competences in computer science among First Nations children. We in CyberLaunch Academy are proud to pioneer this initiative. We hope that at some point in the near future First Nations schools will be able to integrate computer science in their regular curriculum and we will be happy to be part of this.” – Dr. Stakhanova
Oleg Stakhanov, Executive Director, CyberLaunch Academy, 506-440-0759
Allison Brooks, Principal , Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School
St. Mary's First Nations, 506-462-9683
Cheryl Ward, Director, Eel Ground Community Development Centre, Tel: (506)627-4606