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Students transforming Mayaro through technology

Release date:
10 May 2024

Flooding, crime and traffic are just three of the issues that students of Mayaro and environs focused on during the third term of the bpTT Coding Academy.

Launched in September 2023 and sponsored by energy company, bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT), the training is delivered by Education Solution Specialists Limited (ESSL). The academy has an intake of 24 primary and 24 secondary school students, who explore computer-based coding, as well as science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM), during the Saturday classes hosted at the bpTT Mayaro Resource Centre.

As part of the semester three welcome, students were asked to recap their experiences over the past two terms. According to Mya Williams, a Standard Four Student at Mafeking Government Primary, “Since I joined this Academy, my grades have improved a lot. Last term, I was able to get full marks in Science and I made almost one hundred percent in Mathematics. Apart from the computer coding and other skills, I really appreciate is the problem-solving approach that we have been taught. It has transformed my approach to studying and learning, and my results show that.”

The programme utilises flow, block and script-based coding, delivered in an approach to align with, and integrate traditional curriculum-based subject areas. As skills are learnt, participants engage in projects that actualise the technical skills learnt by developing working prototypes. 

As part of their capstone project, students are expected to develop a coding-based solution and working prototype that will directly benefit unique community-based needs in areas that the students identified such as flooding, erosion mitigation, pollution, marine life preservation, crime, traffic and integrating renewable energy.

To improve the learning experience, bpTT installed a new SMART Board in the classroom that facilitates real-time interactivity for the students via the Lumio workspace. On hand to demonstrate the capacity of the new technology as well as to get feedback from the students were members of bpTT’s Communications and External Affairs (C&EA) team, Ryan Chaitram, Manager; and Gamali Balkaran, Advisor. 

According to bpTT’s C&EA Manager, Chaitram, “When we supported the coding camps, we ensured that a level of sustainability would be integrated. The concept of sustainability begins with the community in terms of educating its future leaders as well as developing technological solutions for local issues. This concept also extends to the Academy itself. We transitioned from a two-week camp into a Coding Academy and now we are looking at training local teachers to be able to deliver this programme as an integrated part of the curriculum. This programme must derive long-term benefits for the students and the community.” 

“In offering training in computer coding over the years, we have unlocked a huge reservoir of untapped potential across the community. If this phase is sucessful, we have plans to launch an after-school programme in September 2024 that will provide exposure to Phyton programming, robotics, as well as gaming and app design,” Chaitram added.

This long-term and structured approach follows the delivery of the ‘Cracking the Code’ July-August vacations camps conducted in Mayaro over the past two years. The camps saw dozens of students benefit from exposure to the fundamentals of coding mixed with STEAM concepts.

Brendon Butts, Managing Director of ESSL explained that the coding academy builds on the foundation created by the coding camps, and adds to bpTT’s investments in education across the South-East Trinidad spanning pre-school to post graduate levels including the Brighter Prospects Scholarship Programme. 

Butts noted, “This Academy demonstrates direct linkages across the context of Mayaro’s past, present and future, which underlines bpTT’s approach to sustainable investments. Almost a decade ago, bpTT installed SMART Board technology in all the local schools. Further to that, they started the coding camps, which have now expanded into the Academy. With the teacher-training component to come, this programme will be integrated into schools such that it will be continuous and catalyse the ongoing transformation of Mayaro, one student at a time.” 

Summarising the impact of the coding academy was North Eastern College’s Form Three student, Petrenila John, “This was my first exposure to computer coding and it has transformed my overall approach to technology and learning. In school, I was able to improve my performance in subjects including Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and English. We are developing skills that can empower us to improve our communities and find success, including giving us a jump-start on developing a career in the global technology-based economy.”