Computer science summer program draws in high school students - Education Matters Magazine
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Computer science summer program draws in high school students

Instead of spending summer holidays at the beach, 160 high school students are this week immersing themselves in a computer science summer program taking place in Sydney and Melbourne.

The program covers advanced technology disciplines including generative artificial intelligence, cyber security, cryptography and coding.

The 10-day residential ‘summer computer science camp’ is an initiative of Grok Academy, a widely used digital skills e-learning platform in Australian schools.

In 2023, 209,000 Australian students and 6,000 teachers in 3,400 schools used Grok’s classroom-ready online resources.

Grok Academy’s National Computer Science School (NCSS) summer program is running concurrently at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Melbourne from 6-15 January.

Designed for students heading into years 11 and 12, Grok Academy said the program is part of its vision to see tech skills taught from a young age.

CEO and Director Dr James Curran said all Grok initiatives are motivated by the powerful role Australia’s education system can play in addressing Australia’s digital and cyber security skills shortage.

A report commissioned by the Tech Council of Australia and Accenture in 2022 forecast a shortfall of 186,000 Australian tech workers by 2030. It also found that addressing this shortfall in the same timeframe will contribute around $A36 billion annually to Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“Whether you want to fight climate change, make a blockbuster movie, or unlock the secrets of the universe, technology will underpin almost every future career choice of today’s primary and high school students,” Dr Curran said.

“We believe that establishing a solid computer science understanding and core skills from a child’s early learning years is vital to shore up our future economy.”

Since its inception in 1996, NCSS has been bringing together talented young people from around Australia to advance and nurture their tech skills outside of school hours through its summer program.

The program is designed for students heading into years 11 and 12. Image: Grok Academy

A survey of past graduates indicate Grok’s summer program is having an impact: last year 78% of participants reported being more interested in pursuing tertiary study in computer science because of their experience.

2023 graduate, 18-year-old Orlando Lee, is about to start first year computer science at UNSW.

“NCSS was a catalyst for many of my decisions going into university and ultimately my career path. It was so much fun, and I loved forming relationships with like-minded individuals. I highly recommend the summer school,” he said.

The NCSS summer program has expanded over the last 28 years in partnership with the universities, and growing support from Australian businesses such as Airwallex, Atlassian, Australian Signals Directorate, Commonwealth Bank, Dolby, Google, Macquarie Group, NAB, Optiver, Telstra, Westpac and WiseTech Global – many of whom offer site visits for the NCSS summer school students.

Australian tech billionaire Mr Richard White, CEO of WiseTech Global, a major sponsor and long-term financial supporter of Grok, applauds its corporate peers for sponsoring and engaging in the NCSS summer program.

“Finding talented tech thinkers and creators to fill jobs is already challenging and is only going to get harder in future. This program is a chance for industry leaders to engage directly with students and teachers already investing in advanced digital literacy skills and learning,” Mr White said.

“Students get a sense of what our culture is like, especially during the site visits, and often ask questions about job prospects. We get to talk about job security, high renumeration potential, fast career progression and a range of other perks that come with working in high-tech businesses like ours,” he said.

Dr Curran said the company is immensely grateful to all its sponsors making this year’s summer school a reality.

“We hope that by giving this 2024 cohort of 160 students a glimpse into life as a computer scientist, they might go on to spark a brighter future for our nation.”

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