NNDSB App Development Co-Op Program Gives Students Real Industry Experience


An intensive month-long summer co-op program has two Near North District School Board (NNDSB) students developing a mobile app of their own creation while working with tech professionals and like-minded students from around the province.

The one- and two-credit virtual co-ops give Ontario students the opportunity to network with each other and learn from mentors from Apple Canada and Canadian skills training company Our Wave Hub. Students work to identify a problem and code a mobile app to solve that problem.

Students work collaboratively across a variety of mobile platforms and are taught about entrepreneurship, working in the tech industry and the finer points of mobile app programming.

At the completion of the co-op, students pitched their mobile app to their fellow students as well as tech professionals from Apple. They provided valuable feedback to students on what helps students be successful in their app ideas and their pitches. The most innovative app was selected to continue to the next round of the development process.

“Co-op is a great opportunity for students to really dive deeper into a potential career, helping them decide where their next move is towards obtaining the skills or education required to enter that career,” summer school principal Jamey Byers said. “In this specific co-op, there’s an added competitive flavour to motivate the students and resemble what it is like working on a project team in the information technology (IT) industry.”

NNDSB students Ty Hall and Patience Gilbank, who participated in the co-op, learned a new coding language called Swift, how to work in a professional setting with experts, and how to present their concept to a group of their peers. Hall created an exercise app that allows users to target specific muscle groups. Gilbank’s productivity app helps high school students make schedules, manage their workload and prevent procrastination.

“Our cohort mentor worked at IBM, and she guided us through the steps and processes of developing anything. She taught us how to focus our ideas into building an app, how to pitch our ideas, and gave feedback on everyone’s project,” Hall said.

Hall said the experience taught him things he can’t learn in school such as how to work in a true professional environment.

“It taught me the ways to focus my ideas and really get my point across using professional vocabulary and speaking with confidence. It’s like an actual work environment, it teaches you useful things about the world of business.” Hall said.

Hall said the collaborative environment of the co-op helped to quickly move projects from the idea stage to a fully realized app. The hardest part was presenting his project to the group.

“I have never been so nervous and excited to present my idea, because I really believed in it,” he said. “Although I did not win and go to the final round, I still think that in the future I can use the information that I have gained with this co-op and put my best foot forward.”

For Gilbank, the exposure to new people, new ideas and new programs was a highlight of the co-op.

“It was nice to see and hear the ideas of other students. Working with a completely new integrated development environment and programming language allowed me to step out of my comfort zone by doing something different,” Gilbank said.

Gilbank said the co-op has unlocked her creativity and made her confident in her career choices.

“I learned much more about design thinking during the co-op. I also learned first-hand about what a future career for me might look like, such as being given certain tasks to finish that day and having to join a video call daily. I would like to be a video game developer, so enjoying working with code and user interfaces has solidified my future career choice,” she said.


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