Encepta News

Discover AI Workshop: Collaboration with The C.O.D.E. Initiative

Over the past few months, our Encepta team has been working in collaboration with The C.O.D.E. Initiative to host a workshop for underprivileged youth to learn and explore the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We had the opportunity to interview various contributors to share their different perspectives and insights on the event and its purpose. 

Interview with The C.O.D.E. Initiative

We first got to ask The C.O.D.E. Initiative, our partner in this workshop, questions about their purpose and impact in the community. We’d like to extend a special thank you to the team for their hard work in this event and for taking the time to share some insights into why they do what they do. 

What is The C.O.D.E. Initiative?

A non-profit organization, our goal is to offer affordable, inclusive, and customized STEAM and coding classes. We aim to empower students from underrepresented communities and help them develop confidence and passion in the field. 

We embrace and welcome diversity, providing opportunities for neurodivergent students, LGBTQIA2S+ students, and students from BIPOC communities. 

With an individually tailored curriculum and tutors trained to engage and motivate all students, we are committed to providing an education that allows each student to learn at their own pace. Our teaching style supports student’s strengths, needs, and interests ensuring learning is fun and inspiring.

What is the organization’s core purpose?

At C.O.D.E. we seek to close this representational gap in the tech industry by inclusive, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities for all youth, especially those from underrepresented communities such as neurodivergent youth, and youth from Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. Our education model takes into account that students’ needs and strengths will differ and that the ‘best education’ will not look the same from one student to the next. Our curricula can be tailored to each student, and our volunteers are trained to support students with diverse learning needs. 

By introducing youth to Coding, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math from a young age, we seek to spark a passion for a highly sought-after skill in today’s job market. By teaching our students valuable skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and logical thinking, we hope to give them tools that will benefit them in all aspects of life. Coding is becoming the language of the modern world, and we are here to teach it in a fun and accessible way.

It is our vision to see a diversified tech industry, for we know the accomplishments we see today are only a fraction of what they could be with an inclusive industry. We believe that empowering our students and helping spark that passion in coding and STEAM is the key to making that dream come true.

What is the impact of workshops like these for C.O.D.E.? 

The impact of these workshops is incredibly significant for us and our students. By partnering with tech companies, we are able to offer high-quality learning experience that exposes students to real-world application of STEAM and coding concepts. For many students, this is their first time engaging with coding and STEAM education, and thus the first time they consider this might be something they are interested in. 

The workshops not only introduce students to the fundamentals of STEAM and coding but also inspire them to pursue further education and careers in these fields. For students who have previously felt neglected and unsupported by education opportunities, this is huge. Workshops like these allow us to demonstrate just how incredible our students are simply by giving them an opportunity and setting them up for success through a teaching structure built for them. 

While for our organization it means we have the opportunity to reach more students and give them experience as well as a place where they can make new friends with similar interests, for our students this could be the first time they’ve felt empowered and capable of achieving whatever they set their mind to. There is no price for something like that.

Workshops like this help bridge the opportunity gap, inspire students to pursue STEAM and coding, and equip them with the skills and confidence needed to succeed in the digital age. 

What do you think were some of the highlights from the workshop for you, your team, and the kids? 

Working with Encepta was an absolute pleasure. We were beyond excited to have been met with such an amazing group of dedicated professionals who made us feel welcome every step of the way.

During the workshop, we were delighted to see students slowly come ‘out of their shells’. Students who started the day quiet and contained were happy to joke with their classmates and show off their work to their tutors by the end. 

How can individuals or organizations actively support and get involved with C.O.D.E.? 

There are many ways to get involved with C.O.D.E.!

For individuals, we are always open to feedback and new ideas. Through our volunteer program, specifically designed for students, we are dedicated to providing young professionals with the skills, opportunities, guidance, and experience they would need when entering the job market. Sharing your knowledge and time with our students not only helps them develop their skills and confidence but could also jumpstart a future lifelong passion for the field. 

Financial contributions are also crucial to sustaining our programs. It is thanks to the generous donation of our communities that we can fund research into implementing new programming, provide new material for workshops, and fun new opportunities for our students and volunteers. We also offer guidance and support to those hoping to host their own fundraisers with their community or schools. 

We are always open to partnering with organizations to host new workshops or new scholarship programs. It is through these amazing companies like Encepta that we are able to host more in-person workshops. Collaborating with industry professionals gives our students the incredibly valuable opportunity to learn directly from those doing it, the expertise and resources provided by organizations go on to give students hands-on experience that not only supplements their learning but also gives students a place to gain confidence and make new friends. 

Finally, we are beyond grateful to those who help by spreading the word! Raising awareness about our organization’s mission and programs by sharing our work on social media, amongst your friends, and within your community is immensely helpful. Encouraging companies and educational institutions to embrace diversity in their hiring practices and curriculum development not only supports The C.O.D.E. Initiative but also ensures we are keeping education and tech accessible and provides for a more inclusive tomorrow. 

Interview with Encepta's Workshop Lead

We also got to hear from Henry Hart, Senior GIS Analyst, and Encepta’s Workshop Lead. Special thank you to Henry for his hard work and dedication to creating, planning, and executing such a successful event. We had the opportunity to ask him a few reflective questions and dive deeper into understanding this initiative from his perspective. 

What were your initial motivations behind organizing this workshop, and how did the planning process unfold? 

Our initial motivation stemmed from a recognition of the importance of diversity in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and a desire to provide opportunities for kids who may not have easy access to resources or exposure in the realm of artificial intelligence. The planning process began with exploring educational content suitable for 10-13 years old’s, identifying engaging activities, and ensuring our lesson plan material was both informative and accessible. Next, we collaborated with the CODE team, to refine the lesson plan; organize the event logistics; and ensure that our overall vision and execution of the workshop aligned with their values. 

From your perspective, what were some of the most memorable moments from the workshop? 

There were a lot of memorable moments from the workshop, one being when Nora Toro, Client Tools Manager, ran into the room to kick-off the ‘lost zoo animal’ activity. An Oscar worthy performance. Another moment I enjoyed was the look of excitement on some of the kids’ faces when they first tested the AI models that they had worked on all morning and they actually worked! And finally, handing out the AI trainer Certificates and posing for pictures with each kid was also quite memorable. 

Looking back, what aspects of the workshop do you believe were particularly successful, and why? 

The entire lesson plan hinged on labelling images using LandingAI and this was successful, kudos to the technical ability of the kids combined with all of the help from the Encepta volunteers! This could also be partly attributed to the participation ‘treats’ throughout the workshop, i.e. awarding kids with ‘treats’ (mini food shaped erasers) for their ‘desk pets’ (mini animal figurines in a small habitat). 

In your opinion, why is it important to introduce STEAM to children at a young age and how do you think it benefits them? 

It is important to introduce STEAM to kids at a young age to plant seeds of curiosity and confidence that can blossom into future success stories in the world of technology. However, the workshop was not just about introducing STEAM, but also creating a supportive space for underrepresented youth to explore their potential and teach them how to work effectively in teams, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. 

Interview with Encepta Workshop Volunteers

Lastly, we interviewed two of our many Encepta Workshop Volunteers. Special thank you to Casey Li, GIS Analyst I and Sam Tadey, Programmer Analyst I for their insights on the workshop. 

What inspired you to volunteer for this workshop and what were your expectations going into it?

Casey: The content of the AI workshop inspired me to join this initiative as I always want to learn more about AI myself. I also didn’t grow up in Canada, so I thought it would be an interesting event to meet kids here, to know what kids here are like and what they do nowadays. It sounded like a fun experience so I wanted to volunteer to spend time with these kids and learn about AI at the same time. 

Sam: I decided to volunteer for this workshop because I knew it would be a great experience to work with kids on interesting STEAM topics. The workshop was exactly what I expected it would be! The kids were enthusiastic about AI and ready to learn about image models. 

Were there any specific moments or interactions that stood out to you during the workshop?

Casey: I was really amazed from the workshop by how much kids nowadays know. Some of them already know about scripting and AI. Also, I found their reactions very cute and funny, like they asked “why does this mouse have a wire?”, which reminds me that the first mouse I got to use had a trackball mouse when I was a kid. Additionally, I enjoyed the short skit that Nora and Henry acted out, making the workshop really fun and full of joy!

Sam: I really enjoyed working with the groups of kids and learning about their projects. I learned a fair bit about Scratch thanks to them! 

In your opinion, why is it important to introduce STEAM to children at a young age and how do you think it benefits them? 

Casey: Children like exploring and trying out new things and they can learn these things very quickly. By introducing STEAM to children in early childhood, it definitely helps them to find their interests and encourages them to develop critical and independent thinking skills. 

Sam: I think it’s critical to expose children to a variety of topics and experiences. These types of workshops are incredibly beneficial to introduce youth to topics that they otherwise may never have known about. The STEAM curriculum is a great opportunity to encourage further creativity, collaboration, and engagement in their education. 

Interested in exploring partnership opportunities for workshops and initiatives? Contact us now and let’s work together to make a difference.

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