Starting to Climb Mount Everest – IT for Youth
When you first encounter informatics, it feels like there is a mountain ahead. Stadt Wien honored Welcome.TU.code for helping to start the journey.
On October 7, 2022, City Councillor for Cultural Affairs & Science Veronica Kaup-Hasler invited students, organizers & trainers to honor the TU Wien Informatics’ initiative welcome.TU.code and the course “IT-Projects for Youth” at Vienna City Hall.
Welcome.TU.code started as an education project in 2015, offering free courses in informatics to unaccompanied adolescent refugees. The program has developed since then and now caters to all people from migrant backgrounds, mainly refugees and asylum seekers. Welcome.TU.code offers basic informatics workshops, introduction to software and hardware, and programming. The project paved the way for a further initiative in cooperation with WUK WORK.SPACE and Sprungbrett: The course “IT-Projects for Youth”. As part of the informatics curriculum, students at TU Wien Informatics develop & run IT workshops for young users with different cultures and language backgrounds.
“People should be put at the center of technology development. Everyone deserves a chance to participate in innovation, which is why the City of Vienna honors the efforts of TU Wien Informatics with these two initiatives, challenging important issues of our time”, City Councilor Kaup-Hasler states.
Digital Humanism for Education
The masterminds behind all this are Nysret Musliu and Reinhard Pichler from the Research Unit for Databases and Artificial Intelligence, who work together with student tutors like Alina Schärmer. Schärmer started as a student herself but soon became a tutor and is now organizing workshops and educating the next generation of trainers.
“To train the trainers is a core concept of this endeavor. We want to equip our informatics students with the crucial skillsets to change the digital world of tomorrow,” Dean Gerti Kappel explains, “For the youth we teach, this is the first step in their informatics journey. And, maybe they’ll take a second one and a third – no matter how slow you go, it is infinitely faster than staying put.”
The informatics students’ workshops for their young pupils cover diverse topics, from awareness building to hard skills. More than 20 half-day workshops with over 50 pupils are organized with WUK’s Labs and Sprungbrett per semester. The workshop participants learn basic IT concepts like algorithms and discuss relevant issues like data security, social media, or dark patterns. Knowledge skills are also taught in courses specialized in programming using Arduino boards and classes for Microsoft Office or creative software like Blender. “What excites me is how fast our young students grasp complex topics”, Alina Schärmer tells about her experience with Sprungbrett, “in the beginning, there is great confusion, but at the end, the girls create new code from scratch.” So, the first steps to the summit are done – let’s see what comes next.