Hour of Code with MentorNations

Hour of Code with MentorNations
Araf Noor

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This year, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week, MentorNations organized Hour of Code with upward of 10,000 youth across Bangladesh, Tunisia, Pakistan, and the United States.

Hour of Code, a program offered via code.org, is an hour-long coding tutorial available for anyone from the ages of 4 to 104. The program aims to provide an interactive way of teaching computational thinking – one of the primary building blocks of learning to code.

Melissa Sassi, CEO and Founder of MentorNations, “believes that digital literacy is a human right, and one of the sources of evolving Bangladesh’s future is through access to technology, computer science skills, and the ability to turn access, utilization, and skills into small enterprises owned and led by youth across Bangladesh”.  MentorNations is a US-based nonprofit organization in Bellevue, Washington.  Sassi’s team of volunteers span upward of ten countries, and focus on digital literacy, coding camps, tech entrepreneurship, affordable access initiatives, and government-level advocacy.  Through Sassi’s MentorNations team in Bangladesh and around the world, she aims to empower youth to transform lives through technology, mentorship, and access to external capital.

With an audience of more than 150 students, on the 5th of December, Syed Akhter Hossain, Head of the Computer Science department, keynoted the Daffodil International University kickoff of this year’s Hour of Code series in Bangladesh,  Due to the success of this year’s event, Hossain announced his support to impact more than 3,000 students – a joint initiative to be managed by Daffodil leadership, staff, and students in partnership with MentorNations.

On the 10th of December, the MentorNations – Bangladesh team led sessions at East West Bidda Nicaton, a primary school for underprivileged students – a partnership with the East West University Environmental & Social Club (EWUESC).  Approximately 100 children between the ages of 4 and 12 attended the sessions.

Sassi believes that “inspiring youth-led, grassroots initiatives such Hour of Code often impact the volunteers just as much as the participants, as they are provided opportunities to learn soft skills, understand the importance of social good, and deepen their technical skills – all necessary components of economic prosperity in today’s world”.

Per Afroza Akter, Lead Tech Evangelist at MentorNations, “despite never having touched a computer before, many of our students were still able to participate in the Minecraft, Star War, Angry Birds, and Frozen tutorials with ease.  Our youngest participant, Tammi, age 3, attended our session with her elder sister Lamia, and managed to master the Minecraft tutorial. Imagine if we were to empower children as young as three to start to learn the necessary technical skills to evolve our economy and society!  For us, Tammi and Lamia are our future, and we believe our MentorNations team is on track to empower our next generation of leaders to do more and achieve more.”

On the 11th of December, the MentorNations Bangladesh team visited Hajee Mohammad Danesh with the Science and Technology University in the Dinajpur district of Bangladesh. The team found so many curious students anxious to explore the new tools our team introduced. Despite lack of Wi-Fi and Internet support, the team found a way of making Hour of Code successful.  The team is actively researching ways explore affordable access to spread Internet access throughout locations currently lacking connectivity.  The team has a lot of work to do, and recognizes the role of government, the nonprofit sector, large multinationals, students, and the community.  Per Sassi, “there are amazing things happening around the world in the field of TV white spaces and last mile connectivity.  I have not researched what might be possible in Bangladesh, but I would love to learn more and determine if we could introduce such innovation within the country of Bangladesh”.

“Bringing the latest in assistive technology to children and youth is the most challenging part for any underdeveloped country like Bangladesh. Despite lack of widespread Internet access, lack of devices in many of our educational institutions, we still must all do our part to advance our society, our education, our opportunities, and our economy. Many areas remain unserved, and the concept of digital literacy continues to be a challenge for the people of Bangladesh.  With the global tech market growing day-by-day, we believe tech creates opportunities, opens doors, and gets people employed by leveraging technology. MentorNations believes in investing in the necessary tools and learning to support youth of Bangladesh.  For us, we must encourage more children and youth in to grasp the role that tech can play in their lives. By using Hour of Code, we are creating an understanding of an initial block program to make more people interested in computer programming all over Bangladesh.”  -Rezwanur Rahman, Country Manager (Bangladesh), MentorNations.

All Hour of Code sessions were made possible thanks to the leadership of Rezwanur Rahman, Country Manager (Bangladesh), MentorNations, Afroza Akter, Lead Tech Evangelist, MentorNations, and 6 trainers and 30 volunteers from different institutions throughout Bangladesh.

MentorNations Founder and CEO is an employee of Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. In the final year of her PhD program, Sassi’s research involves defining what it means to move from unconnected to connected to thriving from the standpoint of skills, utilization, and access to tech.  She expects Bangladesh to be a central focus in her research.

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