Meet the next generation of STEM whizzes

It’s not often you get to meet a group of people who will be your boss in 15 years, but MYOB employees got that opportunity when the kids came to teach the adults a few things.

Last week students from Richmond West Primary School were given the opportunity to present their final work from a 10-week long Code Club to the big kids at MYOB.

Their final work took the form of browser-based games made from scratch, including a boat-racing game and a reaction game based on squashing bugs.

The group had been getting together on Tuesdays during lunchtimes for ten weeks, learning about various aspects of coding and using that knowledge to create games.

The class was led by teacher Simon Negrelli and Senior Developer at MYOB Matt Dunn. Dunn told The Pulse it was an opportunity for him to do something about the crippling STEM crisis in Australia.

“It’s something I’d wanted to do for a while, but the opportunity wasn’t really there,” said Dunn.

“We’re all [employers] contesting from the same pool of developers, so we desperately need to widen the pool, and down the track that may include these kids.”

He also said it was an opportunity to pass on the same experience he had received as a child, when his parents bought him a computer when he was about 10 years old.

He said that experience started him on the path to becoming a software developer.

Negrelli said giving the kids the experience of coding and the opportunity to tour MYOB’s Richmond office was vital in giving them a glimpse of their own potential.

Richmond West Primary School has a diverse range of students, including students from the local housing estate.

“A lot of kids wouldn’t get to have that sort of experience – they don’t have the same opportunities others may have,” he said.

“It’s good for them to even get a sense of what a software development office looks like. It’s certainly a bit more trendy and creative than a normal office.”

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 You can look at more images from the day here

As an ex-software developer, Negrelli said he was motivated to jump into the classroom partially because he saw that Australia was falling behind on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects.

“I saw that there was a gap there in the STEM education system, particularly in software – we’re lagging behind,” he said.

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and just shaking my head at it I saw that and realised that I could do something about it.”

He said there was an increasing focus on STEM opportunities from education departments on both a state and federal level – and even if the kids from the Code Club didn’t go on to become software whizzes that they would still learn vital lessons.

“One of the things they get out of it is building up resilience and problem solving. It’s about being presented with a problem and needing to find a solution,” said Negrelli.

“You find areas where you may have a bug and you try to solve it – so you’re building up resilience.

“Software development teaches kids to learn about how to go about things if they hit a roadblock.”

For Dunn, it was a new learning experience, having never stepped into a classroom in a teaching context.

“It was definitely something outside of my experience, which made it a learning opportunity for me,” he said.

Richmond West Primary and MYOB are looking at the opportunities to do something similar next year, and Dunn said he would take the class again in a heartbeat.

“I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learned is just how bright they are – just how gifted the younger generation are if you give them the opportunity,” said Dunn.