Hackathon with a mission: Tamariki and tech

Hackathon with a mission: Tamariki and tech

A call for ICT organisations to help build a platform that will connect volunteers to teach the new digital curriculum

Vivian Chandra

Vivian Chandra

By 2020, every kid needs to learn STEAM, but there is only so much money and so much providers

Vivian Chandra, OMGTech and

By 2020, 29,000 primary and intermediate teachers across New Zealand are required to teach digital tech or STEAM

There are 2,500 primary and secondary schools in New Zealand. Most are small and in rural areas. Not all of them have the help and resources to teach the new digital technology curriculum. 

Schools today need to teach digital technologies. There are training programmes (for teachers) around the country but to truly excite the tamariki and rangatahi with new material, they need expert voices in the room, connecting them with a real-world context.

Meanwhile, many large corporations have volunteer programmes. They want to give back to the communities they work in. For a variety of reasons, a lot of these volunteer hours remain unused. 

Vivian Chandra, CTO and tech facilitator at OMGTech asks, what if corporates that provide volunteer time offer the opportunities for their staff to teach these digital courses?

“By 2020, every kid needs to learn STEAM, but there is only so much money and so much providers,” she tells CIO New Zealand.

She points out there are 100,000 corporate volunteer days that are unused each year, and predicts this will grow to 300,000 days in the near future.

“If we can get 300,000 days of volunteering out there in schools for all of 2019, that is a lot more kids we can reach for free.”

She says this is the idea behind the new education campaign called, launched just over a week ago, is a volunteering platform that will match classroom-ready volunteers with pre-prepared content that will be developed with schools, corporates and content providers.

But, she says, “we need to build a MVP (minimum viable product) to prove our concept.”

This is the goal of the a two-day hackathon on December 8 and 9.

She explains the first day of the hackfest is a ‘design day’. This is where UX, accessibility and infrastructure people can imagine how the app could look.

This will be followed by a ‘curated build day’, focusing on the front end of the app, so they can test these with the users.

“We want to make it really easy for all schools, corporate and volunteers to work together,” says Chandra.

Chandra says a raft of organisations, including Datacom, Spark, Microsoft, Fusion, the Ministry of Education and Xero, are supporting the event.

But they need more corporate partners and volunteers to build the platform and staff the initiative.

She believes the resulting product can eventually be used by corporates to link their staff with various volunteer opportunities.

She says OMG Tech has been doing this linkage with corporates but using a manual process. This inhibits their capability to scale the programme.

At the moment, OMGTech talks mainly with technology companies for the outreach programme.

The platform can potentially help them reach organisations such as banks and telecommunications providers that have thousands of staff who can use their volunteer hours this way. These organisations will also have facilities across New Zealand.

What, she says, if there is an app and a website through where a school can log in and request, for instance, volunteers to teach robotics in three weeks?

The programme can help schools outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to have access to these ‘volunteer helpers’.

She says this activity will suit CIOs and their teams.

The ICT teams can pool money to buy materials and also invite their techie friends and colleagues to come along and help teach the children.

Chandra has first-hand experience of how these events can have a strong impact on students.

Recently, she brought technologists from major software companies to a school in South Auckland to teach robotics.

The volunteers were elated when the students told them the session was “really cool” and that they wanted to learn more about the topic.

This came as no surprise to Chandra, who has been running technology workshops for OMGTech in schools in non-affluent communities.

“I have been doing this for five years, and I know how much fun it is to go to a school to teach robotics, coding and 3d printing, to share my passion for technology with the kids, especially those that have never thought about technology before,” says Chandra.

“These are the kids we are trying to reach.”

At the launch in Auckland
At the launch in Auckland

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