UpstartED presents Youth2Tech, the city’s first tech innovation conference for high school students


After organizing an entrepreneurship bootcamp for students at Notman House last November, UpstartED Inc. is back this year with an even more ambitious project.

November 11-12, the organization is putting on the city’s first innovation conference geared at students aged 14-19. It’s called Youth2Tech, and it promises to be two full days of interactive workshops, inspiring talks, and includes both an education and career fair.

“[It] was essentially founded by myself, Bonnie Chau, and Abdaal Mazhar Shafi last year,” Diana Baranga, Co-founder of UpstartED told MTLinTECH.

“We first started out with an entrepreneurship/ tech boot camp last November where we brought together 40 students from 16 different schools and ran it similarly to the way we run Startup Weekends. They came in, they pitched their idea, they got into teams, and then at the end of the weekend they had to present to a panel of judges. But we provided more guidance in terms of ideation. So we took them through an exercise in design thinking, and throughout the weekend they actually had coaches in specific domains. We had workshops about what does it mean to be part of a sales team or a design team at a startup. The purpose is more educational, so that they come out of it having learned something.”

What they learned from last year’s boot camp was that students actually wanted more in-depth tech knowledge

“We actually got a lot of feedback from students saying they had a great time and loved learning about the business side, but what they told us was they wished they had learned more about the tech side. We spoke a lot about the opportunities that young professionals have in terms of going to conferences and getting exposed to the latest technologies, which is fantastic. But there aren’t similar opportunities for the youth. Which is a shame because their generation is the most in touch with multiple kinds of tech, and they’re going to be the ones most affected by things like virtual reality and artificial intelligence.”

“There’s no medium in which they can go and learn about these technologies, or even get a sense for what they are. By and large these students told us that they don’t feel comfortable with things like AI because it sounds scary, it’s not exactly a technology that is very accessible. Usually you need a PhD or at least a Master’s to get involved. What we wanted to do was really demystify these technologies and show students that you don’t have to become an expert, but you do need to be at least a little bit fluent in the different tech out there.”

The main components of the upcoming Youth2Tech conference are the interactive workshops and speaker sessions. Both are focused on providing experiential learning to students.

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“There are two elements to the conference. One is about the technology, and we’re bringing in experts in different domains to talk about how technology has disrupted traditional industries. For example we’ll have speakers from Dialogue, which is a telemedicine company in Montreal. We’re also going to have Technovation come and speak about women in technology. We’re complementing the tech talks with discussion around soft skills. So things like critical thinking, and how to beat procrastination, and how to position yourself online. The content focuses on technology and all the soft skills you need to succeed in a tech-infused future.”

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There are still some tickets left for $25; buy them here before they sell out. The conference is happening at Lower Canada College (4090 Avenue Royal) with registration starting at 8 am on the 11th.

“We’re hoping to get as much support as possible from different high schools and institutions in Montreal because at the middle and high school level we are lacking entrepreneurship programs and tech programs. We’re hoping to get as many institutions on board so that their students get exposed to a program that complements the traditional educational system.”

 

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