Local Student Selected to Attend Virtual Coding Camp

After spending more than four years working her way through the coding programs, after-school classes, and camps offered by ConnecTech, Bermuda’s first technology training center, Priel Minors, a senior school student at Cedarbridge Academy, was chosen by educators at BIOS and ConnecTech to receive a scholarship to participate in a weeklong “BioCoding at Home” course. This unique weeklong virtual course was offered over the summer by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center and was designed to introduce students to advanced computer programming and coding, while also allowing them to manipulate and analyze real-world biological data, such as DNA and protein sequences.

Priel Minors, 16, a senior school student at Cedarbridge Academy, was chosen by educators at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) and ConnecTech, to participate in a weeklong “BioCoding at Home” course offered virtually by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center. BIOS’s Ocean Academy provided a scholarship to cover the cost of the course while ConnecTech provided work space and coding support. 

ConnecTech, Bermuda’s first technology training center, offers a variety of training classes, including coding classes and camps for school-aged children. Led by founder Coral Wells, ConnecTech is a partner in BIOS’s Curriculum Enrichment Program, which enhances local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education by supporting teachers that want to bring BIOS’s cutting-edge science and immersive educational experiences to their students.

“BIOS and ConnecTech joined together in January of this year for the launch of the Institute’s Mid-Atlantic Robotics in Education (MARINE) program, and we continue to work together on ongoing initiatives that benefit both of our audiences,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of education and community engagement at BIOS.

When the BIOS Ocean Science Camp was unable to run as planned this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute’s education team began thinking about new and innovative ways to engage students in marine science careers by taking advantage of virtual learning spaces. At the same time, they also wanted these experiences to help develop skills that young scientists need for success, both in school and their early careers.

“Data manipulation is one of the top skills that a scientist can develop over the course of their career, and learning how to utilize big data sets is a skill that is currently on the rise within the job market,” Noyes said.

Julius C. Barsi, a molecular biologist at BIOS, suggested that Noyes look into the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center. Established in 1988, the mission of the DNA Learning Center is to prepare students and families to be successful in the age of genetics and gene education. The Center is the largest provider of precollege biotechnology instruction in the United States, and each summer it offers genetics-based science camps to middle and senior school students. This year, due to COVID-19, the camps were offered virtually, which worked out well for Minors.

Minors was selected by Wells and ConnecTech for her long-term dedication to coding, as well as her strong interest in biology.

Priel was one of ConnecTech’s first coding students when the center was established in 2016. She started in the beginner program and worked her way through the intermediate and advanced classes, which included coding with robots and drones and learning the Python computer programming language. This past year she worked on building a blog webpage using hypertext markup language (HTML) and cascade style sheets (CSS), two of the core technologies for building webpages. In addition to ConnecTech’s regular after-school classes and camps, Priel also participated in a few specialized introductory “bootcamps” for JavaScript, a high-level computer programming language, and mobile app development.

“We are excited and honored to partner with BIOS to offer our students these opportunities,” Wells said. “Priel is always enthusiastic about learning new concepts and expanding her knowledge.  It is great to see her interest in connecting biology and technology. Integration of technology into all aspects of learning is a key objective for ConnecTech, which we encourage throughout our programs.”

The weeklong DNA Learning Center camp, which ran July 13-17 for four hours each day, was designed to introduce students to the Linux operating system and Python, while also allowing participants to manipulate and analyze real-world biological data, such as DNA and protein sequences.

“The ‘BioCoding at Home’ camp was a great experience and helped me improve my coding skills,” Minors said. “My first thoughts on coding and DNA were trying to figure out how these two things could be connected, but after this camp I am considering it as a possible career choice. I highly recommend it for those who are interested and experienced in coding and sciences.”