Passing the knowledge on to the next generation
Prior to COVID-19, classes were held on the UH Manoa campus. Now, classes are held online but ICSpark hopes to hold in-person classes as soon as it is safe to do so.

Websites have come a long way from the early days of the internet. No longer do they boast white background pages with centered black paragraphs and headings breaking up walls of text and images. Oh no. Nowadays that is something a child can make. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at ICSpark. Their goal is to teach the basics of web development to children and teens, from as young as 6th grade.

Their free 14-week introductory course, which is offered during the spring semester from February to May, meets every Saturday morning to teach “web development 101” and provide resources for continued learning even after the end of the program. The course assumes zero prior knowledge and takes the first few weeks to get students comfortable with coding in a text editor using the language of websites (HTML, CSS) in a fun and friendly environment. These foundational steps are taken in the presence of college mentors with a culture that allows for making and learning from mistakes. The pace and interactivity of the curriculum and patience of the mentors are critical to fostering confidence and desire to learn more. But why would a college student ever want to sacrifice sleeping in on a Saturday morning?

“It’s about passing the knowledge on, or that torch to the next generation and allowing people the opportunity to get hands on experience with it [technology].”, says Jenny Hsu, the current President of ICSpark and a graduating Senior. Jenny mentions that what she enjoys most is seeing the kids learn and have those “aha!” moments when they figure out how to complete a difficult part of the project.

Mentor assisting students with their website projects prior to COVID-19.

Founded in 2019, ICSpark is a student run organization at the University of Hawaii Manoa. It is one of few organizations on campus that allow students to feel a real sense of giving back to the community. “I joined to encourage youth in the community to get them interested in STEM…”, says an anonymous graduating Senior and current mentor of ICSpark. Founder and alumna Gina Watanabe comments on how ICSpark got its name. “The name ICSpark (“I see spark”) is a combination of Information and Computer Science (ICS) and the goal to “spark” something new - a passion, a fresh perspective, maybe simply perseverance - in future leaders and innovators of our community.”, says Gina. She notes how important mentors, and being a mentor, were to her path and that the gratitude she feels drives her efforts to build intergenerational systems that can benefit as many people as possible.

ICSpark is a great experience for a middle school or high school student interested in technology, or simply in learning something new. They can walk away not only with knowledge, but with a final project that shows off those skills. Consider signing up your student during the next Spring session! The next session sign up will open in Fall of this year. ICSpark even accepts high school seniors! Check out their website and Facebook page for updates.