TechUnder 20 is an organization that has the aim of exposing youth to the technology world and has been running since about 2015. It is currently lead by Denys Linkov who is now at UofT in Computer Science but he joined when he was in high school.
I’m a believer that not everyone should be coding (and yes I’m a coder since 14) and there are a lot of other opportunities available in the tech industry besides coding. That’s why I have been supporting TU20 both personally (when ever I can) and under RedBit by sponsoring, giving presentations on resume building, sharing contacts in industry and mentoring teams competing in TU20 Cup or just giving advice on what to do and how to get into the industry.
In the 2017 TU20 Cup, I had a team called Team NextGen and they built a prototype of a tutoring platform to help in high school students get tutoring. What was great about this idea was tutors would be students helping other students and all would be done via mobile app. They were so eager and enthusiastic to build a mobile app, but with a limited amount of time and no one on the team ever having built a mobile app this presented a slight challenge. What most of them did have was photoshop skills and some did have coding skills but mostly python and PHP which probably would not help in building the app.
My role as a mentor was to help them going on the right track, so what I suggested is come up with an ideal flow of the app, figure out the screens for the app. And this is exactly what they did
I recommended they build it out using a tool like Proto.io. This is exactly what they did and resulted in this video
Once this was completed they needed to come up with a pitch which included a business model or how they would make money. The presented their concept at the Microsoft offices and did a fantastic job in the preliminaries earning a spot in the finals
In the end, the team placed second place behind a web application called StarSpeak which was a working prototype to help people present with confidence.
Amazing job by the team and this year some are off to university or finishing up highschool and continuing their journeys. Here is the 2017 team
This is a perfect example of how you don’t need to be a coder to be in the technology industry and there are so many other fields in the tech industry that new comers can enter from design to coding to marketing/pitching!
The 2018 TU Cup was recently held at the Microsoft offices, and thanks to Microsoft for providing the space again! This year I had a team of four highschool students and was excited to help them out. Some of them did have coding experience and the theme for this year was Smart Cities. The team was call Team Road Alerts.
This year, [GEOTAB](https://www.geotab.com] was involved as a sponsor and opened up their big data pool to be used. With over 900,000+ devices on the road, they collect 2billion records per day and can use AI and Machine learning to predict certain scenarios.
The idea that the team came up with is notifying people and municipalities when there are potholes recognized in the system. So users would sign up for the server and provide proactive maintenance instead of being reactive and waiting for citizens to report. Now because the GEOTAB devices have an accelerometer, they can ‘predict’ if the pothole is a major one or a minor one which means the system can notify at certain levels only.
This year they did get a working prototype going but did not get everything done for the competition and considering they were juggling school and everything else, I think that is fine!
And in the end all the hard work paid off and they came in third place overall and came in first place for the highschool division.
As technology leaders, we should always give back for the next generation. I expose my kids to technology (and I’m sure they are tired of hearing me!) but I think we should do what we can to help and guide the future generation and get down the right path, even if that path is not being a developer. Definitely looking forward to TU20 Cup 2019!