May Alsukhon



Computer Science instructor opens doors and helps mentor future students

Inspire young minds. That’s the motto for UBC Computer Science instructor Bowen Hui.

Last week, about 20 students from Kelowna Secondary School (KSS) had the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a student at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Among the KSS students were prospective computer application developers, video game designers, and computer programmers.

The high-school students experienced a glimpse into their future university life, participating in various demonstrations and interacting with current UBC Okanagan students at an outreach event organized by Hui.

“It’s important to get high-school students thinking about computer science early on,” says Hui. “We find if we reach out to them later, they likely have already decided a field to pursue, and miss out on learning about computer science as a possible career path.”

For the past two years, Hui has hosted a visit from KSS; the students in Grades 11 and 12 visit the campus and see computer science demos to get a sense of what the discipline is like at the university level.

“The high-school students get to learn about the Computer Science program, see different kinds of projects current students are working on, and they get the opportunity to determine if this is the right place for their university education,” says Hui.

Grade 11 student Aiden Harrington found the trip enlightening.

“You see a lot of what we have been learning and how it can progress further,” says Harrington. “It was nice to see lessons and material we have learned in action, and in applicable forms.”

Kevin Eger, a fourth-year honours student in Computer Science, finds this event particularly fulfilling. Working with younger computing science students to help promote the program reminds him of his personal struggle of choosing a career path, and the resources he wished were around when he needed them.

“As a graduate of KSS, it is rewarding to offer my expertise and experience to the high school students. It was only four short years ago that I was in their position,” says Eger. “Helping expose them to my interests was euphoric. It felt like I was talking to a younger me. Even if only one younger me gains something from the event, then it is totally worth it.”

“It feels great to give back to the community and reach out to students that are beginning to think about post-secondary education,” says Shannon Farvolden, a fourth-year honours student and event volunteer. “I think there is a certain stigma around being a programmer and studying computer science. Being able to break down some of those stigmas and show students that many of our projects require a lot of design, creativity, collaboration, and applying concepts of psychology, was really rewarding.”

Hui plans to offer more high-school outreach events in the years to come. Along with her UBC student volunteers, they hope to continue with the program next semester and reach out to a larger group of potential students.

“Our student volunteers over the past two years have found working with high school students very worthwhile,” she says. “Participating in an event such as this is two-fold for our students. It gives them an opportunity to showcase what they have built, and at the same time they get to give back to the community by motivating some younger minds.”

Eric Huang, far left, and Shannon Farvolden (leaning over computer) demonstrate some basic computer skills to students from KSS during UBC Okanagan’s recent Computer Science Day.

Eric Huang, far left, and Shannon Farvolden (leaning over computer) demonstrate some basic computer skills to students from KSS during UBC Okanagan’s recent Computer Science Day.