Creativity and logical thinking are two vital skills for any career path, and they can be developed when learning to code—which is why many technology companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, are actively encouraging youth to code.
To get more youth acquainted with coding and computer science, Microsoft YouthSpark was organised in Indonesia with the help of Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (YCAB) Foundation, a local nonprofit. Held last November in Yogyakarta, this is the programme’s third year in the country; it saw 1,000 youth picking up the fundamentals of coding, and applying their newfound skills to create games through Kodu Game Lab. Their mentors from the University of Gajah Mada and Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) then selected 300 promising youth to further develop their apps at a YouthSpark Idea Generation Workshop.
Subsequently, those with the most impressive ideas were chosen to attend an advanced coding session on Kodu, with their games submitted for a local hackathon. The winning group will then work closely with the MIC staff to refine its app, which will be used as a competition entry for Imagine Cup Earth, an online global contest on raising environmental awareness through mobile apps.
The mentors were impressed with the breadth of creativity displayed by the participants—most of whom had little to no coding background at all—and two game apps stood out to them in particular.
One of them was Rebut Kembali, which means “take back” in English. Based on the Indonesian culture, this game requires players to overcome challenges to retrieve stolen cultural artefacts. In another game called The Adventure of the Word, players have to journey through tourist attractions in Yogyakarta by following instructions and solving word puzzles in English.
Participants were wrapped in a candid discussion on how they could incorporate the culture and traditions of Yogyakarta in their games.
"YouthSpark is not about promoting how youth can develop highly complex apps; it is more about the thought processes behind the app development,” said Ruben Hattari, Corporate Affairs Director, Microsoft Indonesia. “We hope that through this programme, youth can think more creatively and strategically, in a way that can help them to achieve innovation and success in their careers."
Local government officials also held a YouthSpark roundtable discussion on 27 January with experts from the University of Gajah Mada, YCAB Foundation and MIC.
“Computer science needs to become a fundamental part of education, as it can be used to empower youth, especially for those who are faced with an opportunity gap,” said Eka Indarto, the education technology advocate of Yogyakarta. “As one of the cities in Indonesia with the fastest access to the internet, Yogyakarta is the perfect model for other Indonesian regions to follow as we journey closer to our vision.”