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Friday 17 April 2015

The Spark of Youth at YouthSpark Vancouver

I was privileged to be invited to offer my expertise in App Development at YouthSpark Live in Vancouver.  I had just recently assisted with Hour of Code at a local elementary school and enjoyed it so much I jumped at the chance to work with Microsoft and their partners at YouthSpark Live.  Little did I know that I would end up getting as much out of the program as the attendees and unquestionably the other participants.  It was explained to me as a full day event with young attendees from the ages of 14-17.
YouthSpark Live events take place the world over and give youth a chance to learn about technology and preparation for jobs, careers in technology, entrepreneurship and creating an action plan towards your goals.  I had no idea how the presenters would cram all that into a short day but I was going to find out.


The day started out with clear support from the local government.  It is in everybody’s best interests to prepare our children to go out into the world and prosper in whatever way works for them.  All the attendees were presented with workbooks to help them develop individual plans basic on each attendees personal mission and chosen track.  Then to get them all rev’d up Molly Burke delivered the keynote.  Molly is associated with the Me to We movement and had all the kids on the edge of their seats.  When Molly came out with her guide dog and started talking straight to the kids (not down to) they were all in.  Me to We is about being a socially responsible world citizen and, I believe, contributes to better understanding of the world around us and how we can participate and help others.  Molly got her message across with startling clarity and I certainly felt inspired.


The support at many levels of government was evident with the participation of the BC Minister of jobs, Tourism and Skills Training & Minister Responsible for Labour.  But it wasn’t just about the government, it was also about different companies such as Microsoft that brought together this wonderful collection of information for the attendees, it was about individuals who took time out of their day to help out wherever they could, it was about the attendees themselves who took time out of school to be there and its about service organizations like Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs that brought many of the children and had leaders there to participate.  It’s amazing to see all the different parts that had to come together to create an inspiring day.  Thanks to everybody!

Coders and Girl Power

After a great lunch girl power went to work.  Sage Franch (@TrendyTechie) and Genevieve L’Esperance presented an Hour of Code activity with the attendees.  All the attendees were loaned an HP Stream 7” tablet and then were led in learning to code using TouchDevelop and a flying robot.  But what really stood out were the presenters.  From the flying monkeys to the enormous energy  as they moved from the stage to the attendees you couldn’t help but be excited about what they were about to do.  The attendees dug in and had a flying robot dodging everything from planets to bananas and having a lot of fun doing it.  Before you knew it monkeys were flying over the heads of the audience as Sage and Genevieve began firing the fuzzy primates throughout the audience.  The amazing thing is that the two had never presented together before and it was like they had been doing it for years even finishing each other’s sentences.
There was no after lunch drop off on this day!!!

Career Panel

A fun part of the afternoon is when a diverse panel of several interns at Microsoft working in several different areas were on stage for a panel discussion with audience participation.  This injected a whole new energy level as the audience had so many questions about what it’s like to work in technology and even at Microsoft.  The panel clearly loved what they did and were clear and concise in expressing their joy in doing what they love to do.

Wrap up and Surprises

It was hard to believe but the day was coming to an end.  After a final briefing on tools and resources available to the students along with the value in additional educational certifications from Microsoft our final speaker of the day came up on stage.  Minister Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education talked to the attendees about their plans for their future and once again offer the support of the government and all the other partners in today’s YouthSpark Live day. 
The last part came as a complete surprised and made me feel quite wonderful.  The Minister announced that the tablets that had been loaned to the attendees for their coding session were theirs to keep as a gift.  A moment of silence and then the room exploded with a lot of happy people and a few “Are You Kidding Me?” statements.  What a great way to end the day.
All the Attendees were now well equipped with planning tools, knowledge and the technology to let them continue their journey into the future.  I still feel good thinking about how all their lives might have been changed by that day and how our world is a better place for it.  I hope I have a chance to do it again!

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