The 20th edition of Think Young Coding School will be held in Addis Ababa, from 14 to 17 July 2023. Andrea Gerosa is the founder of ThinkYoung, a think tank focused on young people with the aim of involving them in decision-making processes and to provide decision-makers with high-quality research on youth’s conditions. With offices in Brussels, Geneva, Hong Kong and Nairobi, ThinkYoung has 12 years of experience working to empower students all over the world with needs-tailored programmes such as the ThinkYoung Coding School and the ThinkYoung Entrepreneurship School. Capital’s Groum Abate reached out to Andrea Gerosa for in-depth insights of what ThinkYoung is doing to promote coding. The following are excerpts from the candid interview;
Capital: What programming languages and technologies do you teach at ThinkYoung Coding School?
Andrea Gerosa: During the Coding school, students will gain proficiency in computer programming, including languages such as basic HTML5, Python, and even videogame creation. We go beyond coding and foster a comprehensive 21st-century science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, which is why participants will also delve into robotics and uncrewed air vehicles (drones). The ThinkYoung Coding School is characterised by its innovative approach in a non-formal educational setting, addressing the needs of the younger generation on the one hand and the demand for skilled talent from the African industry on the other hand.
Capital: What age groups or grade levels do you cater to in your coding programs?
Andrea Gerosa: The school welcomes participants aged between 9 and 18 years old, without splitting them into specific age groups. The primary objective we and our partners at Boeing pursue is to provide participants with a foundation in computer programming and other essential STEM skills. The program is designed for beginners, including those with minimal or no prior experience in coding.
Capital: How do you structure your coding courses? Are they project-based, lecture-based, or a combination of both?
Andrea Gerosa: Our coding courses follow a project-based approach, ensuring that every participant receives training in basic coding skills while also allowing them to embark on their own real-world-based projects. At the end of the programme, participants will present their websites and video games. This event serves as a platform for participants to articulate what they have learned and demonstrate the skills they have acquired throughout the bootcamp. Our project-based approach aims to boost youth’s logical and problem-solving thinking while equipping them with STEM skills needed for a successful knowledge-based career in the future. These real-world interactions aim to make learning more accessible and long-lasting.
Capital: Can you provide examples of real-world projects or applications that students have built during their time at ThinkYoung Coding School?
Andrea Gerosa: Students in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda had the opportunity to build websites, blogs and videogames. Thanks to our partnership with Boeing we also involved them in developing aviation related video games, or understanding how software is important in aviation and how a drone can be guided with coding.
Capital: Are there any prerequisites or prior coding experience required to enroll in your programs?
Andrea Gerosa: We welcome teenagers of all backgrounds. One of the unique aspects of the Coding School organized by ThinkYoung and Boeing is that no previous experience is required to be considered as a candidate. We firmly believe in providing equal opportunities for all participants to embark on this transformative journey. Every edition of our program receives an overwhelming response, with up to 300 applications.
One of the key factors we consider during the selection process is the level of enthusiasm and motivation of the candidates in their applications. We seek out the most driven and passionate teenagers who are eager to make the most of this opportunity.
Capital: Do you offer any specialized coding programs or tracks for students who want to focus on a particular area, such as game development, web development, or mobile app development?
Andrea Gerosa: The ThinkYoung Coding School is not only focused on teaching the basics of computer programming, or website creation, it also aims at demonstrating coding is a fundamental part of many other exciting subjects, such as videogame creation, robotics, or even aviation. That is why we always introduce workshops where students can apply the coding schools to different fields.
Capital: Can you share any success stories or testimonials from previous students who have benefited from your coding programs?
Andrea Gerosa: The aftermovie of our 2022 edition in Ethiopia is available on different platforms.
Capital: What sets ThinkYoung Coding School apart from other coding schools or programs?
Andrea Gerosa: The Coding School by ThinkYoung and Boeing is designed to train the young generation with the digital skills needed to pursue careers in STEM. The program is free of charge for all participants, due to Boeing’s support. Notably, 60% of participants are girls, we do everything we can to demonstrate that coding has no gender.
Capital: How do you measure the success of your students in your coding programs?
Andrea Gerosa: We run a survey at the end of the programme where we evaluate how the opinion of the students changes towards STEM subjects. The findings confirm that 72% of participants are likely to pursue STEM subjects in higher education.
Capital: What are your plans for the future of ThinkYoung Coding School?
Andrea Gerosa: This initiative aligns with the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology’s ambitious goal of achieving 70% digital literacy among its citizens by 2025. By empowering and upskilling young people, ThinkYoung and Boeing are actively contributing to Ethiopia’s future and paving the way for technological advancement in the country. That is why, we are committed to scaling up our projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and bringing more opportunities to maximise the potential of the next generation in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.
Capital: You have mentioned several times that your program partner is Boeing. What is the role of Boeing in this project?
Andrea Gerosa: Boeing is our major partner in the Coding School programme providing funding, expertise in aviation and technologies, and participating in major events throughout the program.
Almost 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old but the penetration of STEM education is below other parts of the world. That’s why Boeing has partnered with over 40 organizations in Africa and has invested over $22 million since 2006, to support systemic improvements in education, economic empowerment and the alleviation of poverty. Boeing invests in skills development in Africa to promote careers in aviation, advance STEM careers on the continent and deepen the pool of talent available to the sector. Speaking about Ethiopia, it’s the main “center of gravity” for commercial aviation in Sub-Saharan Africa, connecting the continent to the world. To create a steady talent pipeline in commercial aviation in the country, Boeing works with Ethiopian Airlines Group and ThinkYoung Africa on various STEM education projects.