Digitized promotes student interest in technology

Robotics Workshop

High school students crowded the halls at the University of Saskatchewan for the tenth Digitized conference this week, and more girls showed up to learn about technology than ever before.

Digitized is an annual collaboration between the Saskatoon Industry-Education Council (SIEC) and the U of S department of computer science, aimed at increasing youth awareness and interest in career opportunities in fields revolving around technology.

About 360 students attended this year, and Digitized organizers were pleased to see the number of girls had roughly doubled since 2014.

"Computer science is about 12 per cent females who stay in the field and get involved with it. To bring out girls, show them that this is an opportunity, tell them not to be intimidated - the stereotypes aren't true - it's another opportunity just to fix the gender gap. Computers are for everyone," said Brittany Melnyk, academic programs and outreach co-ordinator for the department of computer science.

Digitized has presenters from all areas of the tech world walk students through their areas of expertise during its daylong schedule, with everything from robotics, mobile app design, programming and even game development included. Many of these topics are also touched on during hands-on workshops which encourage kids to dive in and measure their own interest in each area directly.

According to Dorothy Van't Hof, education co-ordinator for SIEC, the conference is intended to help kids understand the possibilities available to them in the computer science sector, and to help to fill what she describes as a job gap in the area. "Computer science and technology is one of the fastest growing fields, not only in Canada, but you can see this trend across the world.

What we see in education ... is we can't push out enough people with experience in computer science - so not enough computer science graduates - to actually meet the demand," Van't Hof said.

"There's all this demand for computer science jobs and not enough students, so we're trying to promote it."

David Molesky and Heather Adams, who presented on their experiences with Saskatoon-based marketing and design startup Rock and Bloom, said they hoped their role in Digitized would help attendees gain insight into what's available to them in life after high school.

"I think it's just so surprising how little prepared you are coming out of high school for getting a job, and how many opportunities there actually are that you'd never even think," Molesky said. "Sometimes I think even in Saskatchewan we don't see the full opportunities here."

"We're trying to open their eyes to what could be. There's a lot of smart kids in there," Adams added.

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