Help a New Brunswick teen open the door to a cool tech career – you know you want to. Here’s how to do it.

Written by Lisa Hrabluk

Best-selling author. Award-winning journalist. Purpose-led entrepreneur. Find me hanging out where culture, people and ideas collide.

February 27, 2014

Riverview High alum & Foursum coder Michael Go & co-founder David Alston at the Big Data Congress Student Superpower Challenge launch, hosted by T4G, Wednesday Feb. 27, 2014.

New Brunswick teens need your help.

They need your tech know-how. They need your creative talent. They need your time.

In return, they’re going to turn this place around.

On Feb. 27, 2014 over 900 teens gathered at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre to launch the Student Superpower Challenge. It’s a creative competition created by T4G, originator of the Big Data Congress. Its for all New Brunswick high school students (anglophone, francophone, public, private and home school) to think up some cool solutions to the problems they see. Three creative student teams, or individuals, will win one of three $5,000 prizes and mentor support to help them develop their idea into a working prototype.

They came from all over southern New Brunswick, including McAdam, Salisbury, Oromocto, Bouctouche, Moncton, Sussex, Belleisle, Hampton, Fredericton, St. Stephen, St. Andrews, Saint John and Campobello Island. For the students and teachers of Campobello Island High that meant a journey of over two hours through Maine and back into New Brunswick. Bouctouche and McAdam students travelled a similar distance.

Read their tweets from the day on our Storify stream.

Now we need to help them. T4G, Wicked Ideas and Brilliant Labs, the Government of New Brunswick’s new tech ed initiative are leading the charge.

Brian McCain of Brilliant Labs and I are organizing the competition portion of the Challenge and we’re looking for volunteer mentors, subject matter experts and coaches to answer students questions, give them constructive feedback and help them shape their ideas into awesome proposals.

Here’s what we need:

  • People who can help students define their idea and in particular, their unique value proposition. We’ve provided a list of questions to guide them. For this, you don’t need to have a deep understanding of coding. You need to know how to ask the right questions to coach the students along;
  • People who know how to code who are willing to help students, at all levels, from newbies to experienced coders define a possible technology solution to the problem they’ve identified;
  • Creative arts people, particularly in the areas of design and content creation, who can help students make something cool that people will want to use and/or which will attract attention;
  • Social and life science experts, open government experts and all other subject matter experts who can help students gain a deeper understanding of the sector they are targeting with their solution;
  • Sales and marketing people to help them define their market (non-profit and for-profit welcome) and to guide their research as they try and figure out who would use their product or service;
  • Post-secondary education people who want to give students an idea of what they can study to create the career they want;
  • People who work in tech who aren’t coders, to give the students examples of how deep and broad the opportunities are in the knowledge sector.

Expectations include the following:

  • Be available for a weekly, one-hour phone call or video conference call with your student team or individual through to the April 30th deadline;
  • Visit them for a face-to-face meeting at least once by the April 30th deadline. We will match mentors and schools based on proximity, but some schools may need some really special mentors able to travel a couple of hours to be with them. A great opportunity to see Campobello Island if you’ve never been!;
  • Bilingual or francophone mentors for our francophone school students in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton;
  • Be available, if possible, to join them on May 16th at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, if they are one of the eight finalists. This is requested but not required;
  • Be available, if requested, to mentor one of the three winners from May through August as they develop their prototype. These mentors will be matched with the winners post May 16th, based on the needs of the winners and subject matter expertise of the mentors.

Along the way, you just might meet your next intern, summer student or employee. Or maybe you’ll open the door for New Brunswick teens to pursue a new path.

That’s how Michael Go, a recent graduate of Riverview High School, described the impact technology had on him to the crowd in Saint John. “Learning programming was like finding a key to get out of any room you want.”

We can do that for lots of New Brunswick teens over the next few months.

To volunteer contact me or Brian McCain at Brilliant Labs.

We’ll contact you with guidelines the week of March 10th.

Details on the Student Superpower Challenge are here in French and in English.




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