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Free coding lessons part of new college centre mandate

Former U.S. president Barack Obama. Famous entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, Supermodel Karlie Kloss. Algonquin’s new Ignite Tech Academy.

What do they all have in common?

Each is at the forefront of the global push to encourage people to learn computer coding, and for its part, Algonquin is hoping to raise its profile as a coveted skill valued by employers in every industry — from government to healthcare to consulting.

According to second-year computer engineering technology student, Gerardo Alvarenga, coding is becoming a necessity these days.

“Right now, most jobs are actually asking for another skill. Coding will become common knowledge at some point, so it’s important to see where this is heading and have people engage in it.”

Set to operate out of the startup-inspired space in F building, Algonquin professor and entrepreneur in residence, Chris Doré, is the main man behind the academy still in development.

“This is unique to Ottawa in the sense that it’s more than coding. It’s also about the exploration of new technologies and what’s next. We are about the future,” said Doré.

In short, the plan is to offer free Saturday classes for anyone who wants to learn to code. They will not be limited to only Algonquin students.

In addition to coding lessons, however, the academy will provide workshops that explore emerging technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, chat bots and robotics.

Industry experts will also be on-hand each week to share their knowledge.

The weekly four hour workshops will be staffed by Doré and Algonquin students. Doré has enlisted the help of second year computer engineering students Alvarenga, Jerome Samuel and Areum Cho to get the academy up and running. Originally slated to open this October, the launch date has been pushed back to January.

The reason for pushing back the launch? “We want to make sure this is of high value,” said Doré.

Anyone in Ottawa is eligible to attend the academy, regardless of their experience – or inexperience – with coding, but weekly spaces are limited. Thirty people will be able to attend each workshop, and attendees are encouraged to come for multiple weeks.

“The culture will be engaging, uplifting and positive,” said Samuel. “The environment will be casual and comfortable. People will be able to ask all kinds of questions.”

Participants will only need to bring a laptop, with the academy providing the instructors and all other relevant gear – including virtual reality headsets and drones.

Doré said “The mission is to spark innovation and entrepreneurship. Sure, people are learning a basic fundamental skill, but it’s more than that. It’s about technological literacy.”

The academy will run for at least 10 weeks (beginning January 2018, and is financed by the college’s innovation fund. If all goes well, the academy may look to partner with leading technology corporations in Ottawa to scale. Online signup is coming soon.

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