50 students learn to code with music in Amcham workshop

Amcham TT CEO Nirad Tewarie during the chamber's economic outlook meeting at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on January 1, 2019. Amcham hosted a breakbeatcode hackathon for students in August. File photo -
Amcham TT CEO Nirad Tewarie during the chamber's economic outlook meeting at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on January 1, 2019. Amcham hosted a breakbeatcode hackathon for students in August. File photo -

A two-day workshop held by the American Chamber of Commerce TT (Amcham) saw 50 students benefit from a computer coding programme.

Last weekend, students between the ages of 13 and 18 were exposed to the first-ever breakbeatcode hackathon in TT, an initiative introduced by Google.

Amcham said in a media release that breakbeatcode showed young people how to use code through beat making and music creation.

“The initiative is a 20 per cent time project introduced by Google that empowers its employees to spend one day of their workweek, or 20 per cent of their time, on a side project of their choosing.”

The local arm of the project was aimed at engaging and exposing young people to the opportunities available to them through interactions with technology.

Students were exposed to introductory lessons on coding concepts such as variables, functions and while loop as well as music theory concepts such as beats, measures, tempo, repetition and effects.

Amcham CEO Nirad Tewarie said nearly 500 applications from 120 schools were submitted for the workshop, which was well supported by local subject matter experts and volunteers.

“Ultimately, the goal is to provide increased opportunities to unlock the talents and skills of our citizens so that we are creating the next generation of artist engineers, tech entrepreneurs and business leaders that would be vital to building the tech ecosystem in TT. To be honest, we really want to show the kids that learning something new can be fun too.”

He added that knowledge of coding was important to young people, in a digital age that was currently dominating life, work and play.

“Having even basic knowledge of coding creates more job opportunities for young people and helps them become more digitally fluent since they are quicker to learn other aspects of tech.

“Coding is a skill that teaches problem-solving in a logical and creative way, improves interpersonal skills, expands creativity, and strengthens the ability to bounce back quicker from failure.”

At the end of the workshop, the students were able to develop their own tracks using the Earsketch programme which featured beats and sounds donated by popular US hip hop artists such as Ciara, Pharrell and Common.

Those tracks were uploaded to SoundCloud under the protection of the creative commons licensing to ensure that it was not sold, copied, stolen or distributed without permission from the students.

Lending support to the initiative were Nailah Blackman and DJ Robbie from the Kes the Band as well Trinbagooglers Elizabeth Mannette, Akaash Rampersad, Stefan Salandy and Dion Paul. Mannette Rampersad and Paul were part of the Google team responsible for the breakbeatcode hackathon to TT.

Rampersad, a customer engineer, infrastructure modernisation at Google, said the breakbeatcode session was one of his most rewarding experiences as a Googler and citizen of TT.

“It was the largest breakbeatcode hackathon to date with the highest level of student participation and engagement. All the teams produced amazing beats which not only highlight their dedication to the event but also showcase the ability of the students to learn something new and excel at it in a short span of time.”

Salandy, a former TT national swimmer, added that the students showed enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity in the project and the future of technology in TT was bright with such driven students leading the way.

Amcham said they were exploring avenues for further collaboration with Google and engagement with the students on future breakbeatcode sessions.

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