Picking a career path is not easy, especially for students, who often have not had practical, real-life experience in their areas of interest. That is why Ontario high schools offer students a corporate education program where students can pick a career path they’re considering, and the school will pair them up with mentors from an organization in that field.
Since 2018, STEM Minds has been providing co-op opportunities for 2-3 students per term who are interested in STEM careers.
One of our programming students this term is David Mak, a Grade 11 student at Bur Oak Secondary School. David already had a passion for coding and previously worked on his own projects, but he was curious about how the practical application of it would look like in a work environment, and how he could take his ideas to a more advanced level.
With guidance from STEM Mind’s senior director of technology, Mac Smith, David would get a glimpse of what a software engineer’s work and lifestyle could look like. He has been given a big project to program a puzzle game that teaches players about databases.
He had a week to learn how to use the C# programming language so that he could build the game design on the game engine, Unity. During the same week, David had to think of all his game’s logistics, including the format, the setting, and the graphics.
Consequently, he started with a test project, which would give him the necessary foundation to develop the full version of the game.
Throughout the placement, David has acquired many skills that will advance his current programming strategies and future career prospects.
To start off, he learned multiple new programming techniques. Then, he was introduced to the process of preparing for a coding project beforehand by creating algorithms and running tests to build a solid blueprint for the actual project. Lastly, David learned to ask for help more often when he is unsure of new concepts. Currently, he is on his second puzzle, with the goal of creating 4-5 puzzles in total.
David believes that many young people are uncertain to pursue a career in computer programming since, he states, “People don’t like what they don’t know”, and many students are not sure where to start. However, he encourages everyone to start learning the basics of one programming language, which will then make it easier to apply that knowledge to others. He feels that programming is a useful skill for everyone to have as technology is projected to dominate all aspects of the future.
“When you’re in high school, you still have the freedom to explore different fields. Take this time to try whatever you want because you have the opportunity to do so.”
David’s experience with STEM Minds solidified his goal of pursuing a career as a software engineer and he’s excited to apply his new programming skills to more projects in the future.