High school students watch the event keynote
Hundreds of high school students gathered on the USask campus to engage with technology. (Photo: Vivek Patel - @vivekpatel.photos)

USask alumnus headlines technology event to inspire Saskatchewan students

Last week, the Department of Computer Science, in partnership with the Saskatoon Industry-Education Council, welcomed hundreds of grade 10 to 12 students to the USask campus for Digitized 2024. The May 1st event was sponsored by Vecima, BHP, and USask ICT.

Rahat Yasir addresses an audience question at his keynote for Digitized 2024. (Photo credit: Vivek Patel - @vivekpatel.photos)

"The goal of Digitized is to inspire students and showcase the boundless opportunities that technology has to offer them," remarked event organizer Ellen Redlick. "The day engages students with dynamic speakers, hands-on workshops, and career exploration sessions with industry representatives. We hope students will leave with a better understanding of the many roles they can play in the future of technology.”

After a welcome from the Dean of the College of Arts and Science, Dr. Brooke Milne, the event commenced with a spirited keynote about the future of data analytics and AI from alumnus Rahat Yasir (MSc'18).

Yasir, currently serving as the Head of Data Quality & Analytics at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), holds an impressive track record in this field. In addition to being recognized as one of Canada's top 30 software developers under 30 in 2018, he has been awarded nine Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Awards in the Artificial Intelligence category.

“It was pretty exciting,” Yasir said of speaking to the students. “They are the future of Saskatchewan and the future of Canada. I was very happy to see their enthusiasm. My advice for students is that the future will be full of collaboration between humans and AI. Be curious, learn about data analytics and AI, and enjoy what you are doing.”

After the keynote, students had an opportunity to explore diverse career paths in the tech industry through career exploration sessions. BHP, Vecima, VendAsta, and Coconut Software shed light on potential career opportunities in technology. Students gained invaluable perspectives on the wide array of roles available in the tech sector and the education required to fill those roles, empowering them to envision their own future paths in technology.

Thank you to the 2024 event sponsors of Digitized.

Students were then treated to one of two speaker sessions. Professor Mark Eramian led an engaging interactive activity to explore Machine Learning algorithms. Graduate students Chris Ugbomah and Ben Lewis collaborated on a session that emphasized the importance of understanding AI's current impact and envisioning its future role while stressing the need for responsible usage.

Finally, the students attended a workshop where they were able to try their hand at game development, cyber security, product design, or Arduino development.

In the cyber security workshop, participants were given a mission to identify common security attacks in a game of “capture the flag”. Workshop instructor, Tom Maurer, was impressed with the aptitude displayed by the students during the exercise.

“I was amazed to see how quickly they took to the game. We have run this workshop many times in the past and it’s rare to see high school students score at that level,” reflected Maurer.

The impressive performance in workshops and insightful questions during speaker Q&A sessions point to a bright future for innovation and technology in Saskatchewan.


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Digitized 2024