‘Cricket’ technology helps Northland school girls learn code

(Last Updated On: March 30, 2015)

595_htyn-logoWhile the whole of New Zealand has been rightly obsessing over the Cricket world cup over the past few weeks, a group of primary school girls in Northland have been learning some valuable skills for future careers with the help of another kind of cricket; namely, a clever piece of technology called a Pico-Cricket.

The ‘Pico-Cricket’ is a sensor board invented by MIT Media Labs that allows girls and boys from as young as age eight to integrate art and creative thinking with technology using sensors and coding languages like “Scratch”.

The girls have been learning how to use the technology through an after-school programme called Tuna Tec, which is run through the High Tech Youth Network studio located in Northland. They will gather at the studio again today as they prepare to participate in a nationwide event happening today that is focusing on getting kids – and especially girls – into computer coding.

Mike Usmar, CEO of High Tech Youth Network, says Pico-Cricket is just one of the many pieces of technology that youth throughout the country will have the chance to try for creating code as part of Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific wide ‘Week of Code’ campaign, which is encouraging young people to try coding, many for their first time.

The feature event for the Kiwi ‘Week of Code’ will be a hosted #WeSpeakCode event happening from 4.30pm today, led from HTYN’s Studio 274 at 51 Othello Drive, Otara. The event will bring together students, parents and teachers across the Network’s nine studios – including Northland – to give coding a try.

“A key part of our mission is getting young people into training for future employment in the technology sector, which has become New Zealand’s third highest export earner, worth over $8.4 billion dollars,” says Mr Usmar.

“Imagine what it would do for employment in Northland, and other hard to reach communities across the country, if our young people were able to receive such training as part of their regular school education.”

The High Tech Youth Network has drawn support for the campaign from a range of high-profile public figures, including sport legends Michael Jones and Manu Vatuvei, who have backed the campaign and joined with youth across the country to encourage everyone to try coding for themselves.

Jones says, “Code should really be New Zealand’s fourth language, as technology touches every part of our life.”

Usmar says the campaign is particularly targeted at girls, noting the fact that women are under-represented in the technology sector globally, where companies like Google have just 17% women employees.

The #WeSpeakCode event will see hundreds of mostly Maori and Pacific youth aged eight and above creating code for games and apps at High Tech Youth Network’s nine studios, which are linked across New Zealand and the Pacific.

For the campaign, Microsoft has made a range of resources and activities available through the web site, which students, teachers and parents can try for themselves to help them take the first step in the world of coding.

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