Rina Carlini is the President and CEO of Haltech, Halton’s Regional Innovation Centre which helps startup entrepreneurs develop their technology innovations and build their business. She has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Waterloo, a certificate in Business Model Innovation from Harvard University, and is also a proud mom to a Hatch Canada student! We talked with Rina about the importance of coding, and science in general, and also discussed the future of STEM in society, and how Hatch Canada can play a key role in it all.
On the importance of coding…
“The innovative social enterprises that we see today, such as Airbnb, Twitter and Uber, are all mobile and web applications operating with smart digital technologies and using data analytics to give a personalized user experience. So no matter what business or field of study you are in, you should learn to be comfortable with coding and technology in order to make the most of your career. Learning to code is like learning another language - once you understand the basic lexicon and rules of stringing the code together, and then with practice and new skills, you master the creative side of coding to design a great algorithm that powers your app.
Back in the 1980s when I was first exposed to computing, our workstations were not visually rich with graphical user interfaces like we had by the early 1990s. Still, as a young adult studying chemistry and biology, I embraced computer technology and understood that it was going to be an important skill in our future. By the late 1990s, technology was everywhere, and the “dot com” companies grew out of the woodwork! However, what concerns me is that despite the massive use of technology in our world today, our educational curriculum at the primary school level has not embraced it fully. Students are not exposed to learning coding skills until the 8th grade at earliest, and usually from a coding club experience - not as curriculum. Demystifying coding in a fun and interactive way is so important for kids to gain interest. We should introduce kids to the modern STEM skills they need to be successful and encourage our children to dream and develop fantastic new technologies of the future.
When my son did a Summer Camp session with Hatch Canada, they went on a company site visit (to visit places like Google Canada and Pivotal Labs). He saw a cool and collaborative workplace where web developers worked, and he could imagine what it would mean to have a career in IT. He came home and said, ‘I really want to do this,’ which was very exciting to hear."
On finding your passion...
"I believe coding is one of those technical skills that will be important to learn and be comfortable with. But learning to code just for the sake of it is not so critical. Following your passion to solve a problem or help create something meaningful (at least to you) is something that kids and their parents should seek and keep top of mind. As a young adult, I enjoyed both visual arts and physical sciences (especially chemistry, perhaps because it is so visual), and I chose the science path for my career. I believe that in order to be successful in what you do, you need to have both the aptitude in the subject, and you need to have the passion; then you enjoy doing it, it’s not work in your eyes."
On her son’s experience with Hatch Canada...
"A year ago, my son Jason discovered that coding is his great passion; but at his school, there was no avenue for him to learn and develop his coding skills. He taught himself with online self-paced lessons, but didn’t have an opportunity to share and discuss his new skills with other students. His teachers were not sure what they could do to help, since they were overburdened and non-experts in coding. However with a little persistence and the help of a supportive teacher, the school allowed 1 day a week for a handful of senior kids to meet over lunch and learn to code.
But I knew he needed more instruction and guidance to develop his programming skills. This is why I brought him to Hatch Canada. I had heard about Hatch Canada setting up its Oakville business last June 2016, and the $5 Friday after-school sessions were an easy, low-risk and low-cost way to try out their program. Of course, he loved it! Each kid had a Chromebook to learn code based on a themed exercise, such as Star Wars, Pokemon, or simple M-BOT kits. By the start of the next school year, my son was in 8th grade, and he and a friend (who also joined him at the Hatch Canada camp) applied to officially launch The Coding Club at his school. Over 15 kids showed up at the first meeting of this club, with half being girls (which was awesome)!”
On her personal experience with Hatch Canada...
“For years, I had been looking for high-quality camps and after-school programs where my kids would be introduced to STEM skills in common everyday activities. Hatch Canada delivered - it was easy to find information about their programs, and they had the low-cost “try it out” $5 classes on Friday afternoons - a brilliant idea! Their instructors are good programmers, many are university and college students from the area who had gone to the same primary school as my son (which helped him relate even more). I truly feel that Hatch Canada provides kids an amazing experience to enjoy learning and working in the STEM field. This is why I’m happy to support and endorse Hatch Canada. I hope they are very successful as they grow across Oakville and neighboring communities."
What has her son has learned at Hatch?
"Hatch Canada totally delivered what my son expected - in just 1 week, he learned to program in Java to build animations; he explored Scratch coding language to program mini-robots, and he went on the site visit to Toronto’s Pivotal Labs. As a result of that experience, he got himself a Raspberry Pi kit and is working on special projects. That’s the kind of impact I wanted to see from a STEM camp - thank you Hatch Canada for inspiring young people to learn to code!”
We’d like to give a big thanks to Rina for such an inspirational conversation. We’re so glad that your son is enjoying his time with us, and we hope to be part of his future learning!