What we do here at REA is super serious business, but I came to REA for a different reason entirely. Because of technology. It has the capacity to be creative, fun and simultaneously, it can deliver value.
It is no secret we have a lack of talent coming into IT here in Australia. I believe that the reason behind this is how software development is perceived in the community. Hacking in popular media is presented as a Matrix-like activity, where we “wire in” and the computer and our bodies become one. We have a pride in complexity, and through the grad programme, I’m starting to understand why. Unfortunately it doesn’t make it easy to enter into our industry.
Instead of just sitting back and complaining about the lack of software developers, REA has decided to step up and do something about it.
Last January, we invited 11 kids from 8 – 12 years of age to come in and not only check out our gizmos, but to actually go through the creative process and make something.
We took them through Hour of Code (code.org/learn), in which participants go through a browser-based tutorial and eventually create a game that they can share with their friends. It’s very accessible as the code is symbolised by blocks. All the kids completely nailed it, finishing way too early and they spent most of the time customising the games.
My friend and I took them through some 3D modelling. We used Mudbox which allows people to push and pull objects like clay, we then printed them out for them using the 3D printer we’ve got at work. The 3D printer can sometimes create some unexpected results.
We also took them through electronics, using Little Bits, which are small modules with things like blinking LEDs and toggles, joined together by magnets (we weren’t allowed to get them to use the soldering iron).
We also took them through some Virtual Reality demos. They were particularly fascinated by the job simulator.
An unfortunate reality of the IT industry is male gender bias. I was brought up around technology, so I was a lot more competent with computers compared to others at that age. I asserted myself with confidence in my IT classes, but I remember noticing that the girls were more reserved in comparison to the boys. It was really refreshing to now see both genders acing through these activities. I believe this may have something to do with the higher prevalence of technology in their generation–perhaps also the huge bias of most of their parents being massive nerds who work here at REA.
The pay off has been great – we’ve converted a few to be excited in a career in IT – especially REA. Hopefully we’ll see them in a few years working with us!
We’re looking to repeating this again – just with more kids!