Innovation in the Air as SHAD Valley Dalhousie Learns to Code

On an average summer afternoon at Dalhousie University, the campus buildings are quiet. The majority of students from the university are away, taking a break from academia and resting up for the new school year that September promises. But in July there is a different energy on campus – 50 bright and ambitious high school students have made Dal their home while they participate in SHAD Valley, an immersive pre-university program for exceptional high school students.

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SHAD Valley’s mission is to “provide a transformational experience that unleashes the entrepreneurial and innovative potential of exceptional youth,” and let me tell you, they mean business. Over two three-hour sessions in July I had the opportunity to witness the young Shads at work when I led “Technology, Coding and YOU” seminars that featured career talks and game-building using the web-based TouchDevelop coding language. The atmosphere in the room was one of innovation and excitement as students created games of a variety of themes and pushed the project constraints to new levels. There’s something different about Shads – they possess a sense of maturity and professionalism uncharacteristic of your average 16-year-old, and fit in so seamlessly at Dal, you’d think they were already university students themselves.

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I also had the opportunity to mentor a small group of students over dinner and dive further into their ideas and hopes for the future. It is so inspiring to speak with such driven, self-motivated and bright youth, and to help provide them with more opportunities to explore their interests and broaden their knowledge toolboxes. It was a real treat to be a part of SHAD this summer and to witness these young innovators at work.
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