Rock City Elementary student Emmitt Giesbrecht, front, gets a kick out of his beats during a workshop on digital music, as classmates Kyle Fisher, left, Lauren Churko and Ruby Gress work on their own tunes. The class was part of Best Buy Canada’s Geek Squad Academy, which came to Vancouver Island for the first time on Tuesday. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Nanaimo students get lesson in technology

Best Buy Canada’s Geek Squad Academy stops at Rock City Elementary in first Island visit

Robots zipped across the classroom floor, rolling into bags and the odd table leg, as Rock City Elementary students learned all about coding.

“It’s really fun. I like how you can change like the colour and you can play music and you can control what your little BB-8 can do,” said Sydney Westergaard, a Grade 6 student, who was giving the robot a spin with classmate Fatima Douhaibi.

Students traded textbooks for technology Tuesday during Best Buy Canada’s day-long Geek Squad Academy where students experimented with everything from digital music to Lego robotics, web programming, digital citizenship and 3D design.

The hands-on program will go to 15 schools across Canada this year as a way to teach students about the latest technology, get them excited about new products and thinking about future careers in the field. But Rock City Elementary is the academy’s first camp and marks its inaugural visit to Vancouver Island.

Teacher E-J Boyd said she applied to bring the program to the school because of the importance of digital citizenship and to promote future careers in technology.

“Many of the jobs that you see coming available for our kids that will be of working age in the future are in the tech field, so I want them to know there are things out there that they can do involving technology,” said Boyd, who found students were quiet, interested and excited in the academy classes.

Grade 7 student Masha Zhaksybek said the academy is cool because it lets kids explore and gives them more variety to know what they want to do. Her first stop was a class on GarageBand, a music recording program.

“I personally didn’t really know much about this, about this music, and I probably don’t know much about 3D editing and all the other stuff they’re teaching us,” she said. “It’s really cool that it’s hands-on too.”

Thirty Best Buy employees from Island and Lower Mainland stores turned out to run the academy, now in its fourth year.

Jen Knight, community relations specialist for Best Buy Canada, said part of it is to get kids excited about technology in general but some of the schools the academy goes to, don’t have access to the products that are brought in and it might be the first time students play with Lego, BB-8 robots or see a 3D printer in action.

“It’s an opportunity for them to see some of the technology in person and get a change to interact with it, when they might not normally,” said Knight, who notes some students carry on with projects, or start a robotics or coding club.

“We come in for a day or two and we get them excited and inspire them and we hope they continue that on throughout their education.”

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