I just got home from a four-day adventure in Toronto. What kind of adventure? Only the kind of adventure that involves the Ontario Universities’ Fair – an event that sees about 120,000 students and parents converge on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to learn about all of the various programs that the universities in Ontario offer.
I know – I’m a wild man.
Anyway, I spent the last four days with students, staff, and faculty from the School of Computer Science, chatting with prospective students about the programs we offer (and in some cases the programs that the Math and Stats department offers).
Honestly, although the days are rather long, it’s always a lot of fun to chat with high school students who are clearly keen on mathematics, statistics, and/or computer science. It’s great that I get the opportunity to explain to them and their parents that their degree is so much more than just academic; that it includes getting involved with their community (both on and off campus), and using their skills to make a meaningful difference in the world. It’s even better when they get it.
My favourite part of this particular weekend, however, was not that I got to talk my face off to a bunch of computer science hopefuls; it’s that I got to connect with a lot of passionate students who have already done some crazy cool nerdy things, or who were clearly excited about the potential to do crazy cool nerdy things.
For example, one girl had developed a program while in grade 10 that would identify and capture a particular type of shiny Pokemon after she determined that the animation required to draw it involved more frames than the standard (non-shiny) Pokemon character. Honestly, I’m not really sure what any of that means – but what I do know is that she had the wherewithal and curiosity to 1) figure out that the number of frames required to animate the shiny Pokemon was different from that of its non-shiny counterpart, and 2) develop software that would identify and capture it whenever it appeared. So freaking nerdy. So freaking awesome.
Other students talked about learning how to code on their own, or tinkering with Raspberry Pis and Arduinos. Some of the students were excited to get an invite to one of our bi-weekly events on campus where students nerd out with other students. Almost all of them were stoked to learn that they could build projects for real clients – specifically not-for-profits or charitable organizations – in my class.
It was a non-stop parade of nerds.
What I loved about this – and the thing that all of them had in common – was that they all seemed to sense that they were about to embark on an epic adventure. They seemed, at least to me, to recognize that they could be the ones to make a change, to do something amazing, to make our community and world slightly better than it is right now.
And I think because of this I feel like our future isn’t going to be so bad.