Game On: Winnipeg students learn app design, coding from the pros

Winnipeg students got the chance to learn about the world of app design and computer programming from industry insiders at Sisler High's third annual Game On event.

Sisler High School hosts 200 students from 20 schools for third annual Game On event

Grade 12 Sisler High School student Aidan Langdon looks over a duck-themed animation he designed in school. (CBC)

Carly Shuler's Winnipeg startup Kindoma makes video-calling and messaging apps for young children — think Skype for kids with an interactive twist.

But on Thursday, her audience was a bit older.

She spoke to a room full of Winnipeg students about what it takes to make and develop an app as one a handful of industry insiders taking part in Sisler High School's third annual Game On event, where students learn about programming code and app design.

Carly Shuler, CEO and co-founder of Kindoma, speaks to students about app development. (CBC)

"This program allows them to see what it means to be an app developer, a game developer, or have a technology startup in real life. And it helps them realize that they can actually achieve those dreams if they want to," said Shuler.

This is the first year Sisler has invited other schools to their two-day workshop, and approximately 200 students from 20 schools, ranging from Grade 6 to Grade 12, are taking part.

Kara Vallega, 17, has already taken digital film, movie-making and animation courses at Sisler, and says it's great to hear from people who are already working in the industry.

"That's what gets everyone else inspired. Rather than just hearing stuff in class, it's always good to get insight from people who actually know what it's like to be in the industry," Vallega said.

Sisler High School hosts third annual Game On event

5 years ago
Sisler High School is hosting 200 students from 20 schools for the third annual Game On event. The two-day workshop teaches students about programming code and app design. 2:14

"After coming out of these kinds of presentations, I'm always inspired and I want to do more."

Fellow Grade 12 Sisler student Aidan Langdon has worked on game design and animation on top of his regular high school courses, and said events like Game On can really shine a light on the industry.

"It's lets me get ready for things in the future that I aspire to do or that I am even just interested in," he said.

Jamie Leduc, who teaches animation and project management at Sisler and is one of the organizers of the game conference, said interest in the field has grown. Ten years ago, Leduc started with five computers and five cameras and an idea for a club at Sisler.

Now, the department has 860 student registrations in creative-industry courses at the Winnipeg high school.

This is the first year Game On has hosted students from other schools. The two-day workshop has approximately 200 students from 20 schools, ranging from Grade 6 to Grade 12. (CBC)

"If they grow up with digital technology, but they love playing video games or they love animation or they love drawing,  all of a sudden it's an outlet for them," said Leduc.

Leduc said they don't focus on teaching the software, they focus on teaching the skill sets. He acknowledges that some people might think learning about gaming or programming isn't serious school work, but said their courses are cross-curriculum and cover math, science, technology, engineering, art and music.

He also said it's important for schools to shift their curricula to match what is happening in private industry.

"The creative industry right now across Canada is one of the strongest economies, period, and it's growing," said Leduc.

Leduc was quick to point out there is a difference between being good at playing games and taking it to the next level by creating something new, which is what his students are doing.

"They're no longer becoming consumers. These students are actually starting to think outside the box and wanting to create and develop stuff. And that's the type of people we need to lead Winnipeg and Manitoba in the future."