AMCHAM T&T - BREAKBEATCODE HACKATHON: 50 STUDENTS LEARN TO CODE WITH MUSIC
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) successfully hosted the first-ever breakbeatcode hackathon in T&T over the weekend where fifty (50) students between the ages of 13 and 18 were given the opportunity to learn the skill of computer coding.
Breakbeatcode is an initiative that introduces young people in various communities across the globe to learn how to code through beat making and music creation. The initiative is a 20% time project introduced by Google that empowers its employees to spend one day of their workweek, or 20 percent of their time, on a side project of their choosing.
AMCHAM T&T worked with the breakbeatcode team to bring this event to Trinidad and Tobago to engage and expose young people to the many opportunities available to them through their interactions with technology. Students who participated in the event benefitted from interactive and creative engagement with famous local artists such as Nailah Blackman and DJ Robbie (Kes the Band) as well Trinbagooglers Elizabeth Mannette, Akaash Rampersad and Dion Paul who are part of the Google team responsible for bringing the breakbeatcode hackathon to Trinidad and Tobago.
Students were given introductory lessons on coding concepts such as “variables,” “functions,” “while loop” etc. as well as music theory concepts on beats, measures, tempo, repetition, effects etc. The students then had the opportunity to work in teams to develop their own tracks using the Earsketch programme which features beats and sounds donated by popular US hip hop artists such as Ciara, Pharrell and Common. The teams were supported by local coach volunteers who were trained by the breakbeatcode team before the event. These original tracks were uploaded to SoundCloud and protected under the Creative Commons Licensing to ensure the tracks cannot be sold, copied or distributed without express permission from the students. The two-day event ended with a Live DJ session that took all the music tracks created by the students and incorporated them into a custom playlist.
Speaking on the success of the initiative which received applications from nearly 500 students from over 120 secondary schools, Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T said the hackathon was a unique opportunity to introduce tech skills to both the current workforce - the teachers and coaches who volunteered - and the workforce of the future - the students. “Ultimately, the goal is to provide increased opportunities to unlock the talents and skills of our citizens so that we are creating the next generation of artist engineers, tech entrepreneurs and business leaders that would be vital to building the tech ecosystem in T&T. To be honest, we really want to show the kids that learning something new can be fun too!”
Tewarie noted that learning to code is beneficial to young people especially in this digital age that is currently dominating how we live, work and play. “Having even basic knowledge of coding creates more job opportunities for young people and helps them become more digitally fluent since they are quicker to learn other aspects of tech,” Tewarie said. “Coding is a skill that teaches problem-solving in a logical and creative way, improves interpersonal skills, expands creativity, and strengthens the ability to bounce back quicker from failure. Equipping our young people with these skills learned through coding will serve them well, wherever they end up in life. We were very grateful to partner with breakbeatcode to bring this empowering initiative to our young people.”
Meanwhile, Stefan Salandy, a former T&T national swimmer who is currently one of the Trinbagooglers working as a coding coach on the breakbeatcode project expressed his satisfaction with the level of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity shown by the students. “During the live DJ session, the DJ mixed the music the students made to produce a lovely and engaging playlist. The students were clearly happy to hear their work represented in such a manner,” Salandy said. “We've also shared some online resources students can use to continue learning more about programming. It was an honour to be able to participate in this event and give back to my home country. The future of technology in T&T is bright with such driven students leading the way!"
Also, Akaash Rampersad who is a Customer Engineer, Infrastructure Modernization at Google, said the AMCHAM T&T breakbeatcode session has been one of his most rewarding experiences as a Googler and citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. “It was the largest breakbeatcode hackathon to date with the highest level of student participation and engagement,” Rampersad said. “All the teams produced amazing beats which not only highlight their dedication to the event but also showcase the ability of the students to learn something new and excel at it in a short span of time. Congratulations to the students and the coaches!”
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank the team from breakbeatcode for their support for the hackathon and we look forward to the hosting of future sessions to accommodate the 400+ students that were not selected to participate in the two-day event. We are exploring avenues for further collaboration with the Google team and engagement with the students.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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