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The Path from Actua Camper to Canadian Innovator

November 5, 2014

Hannah Johnston and Frank Bouchard exemplify perfectly the possibilities created when young people are given the tools to create ideas, innovate, experiment, learn and grow.

Always eager to deliver more innovative STEM programs to each generation of youth, Actua and Google recently unveiled a program called Codemakers. If you didn’t see the announcement, we received $1.5 million over the next three years to transform the way we deliver computer science programming to Canada’s youth.

Hannah works for Google in New York City as an interaction designer. She first fell in love with computer science in Grade 7 when she was a camper at Actua’s Carleton network member, Virtual Ventures. After being a camper, she became a junior instructor and then, co-director of Virtual Ventures while attending Carleton University.

Hannah is successful, smart and engaged. She says that because there were no real opportunities to study coding in school, the exposure to computer science through an Actua camp influenced her career choices and contributed to her successes.

“I can draw a direct line between Actua's science programs and my career at Google,” said Hannah. “That early exposure to science and technology made me realize that there was an entire world of opportunity out there just waiting for me.”

Watch Hannah tell the story of how she ended up at Google and what it means for her:

Ten years ago, Frank  became inspired by experiencing hands-on STEM at Actua’s University of Ottawa camp, Adventures in Engineering and Science. He went from a camper, to junior instructor, to instructor and today is the director of the program.

“The camps were my first initiation to all sorts of the tools I now use in my daily life,” said Frank. “Things like graphic design, programming, animation that you don’t normally get to learn until later on.”

Frank is also a successful entrepreneur. He and and a few friends recently launched Wipebook, a notebook with whiteboard pages. After trying to raise $4,000 on crowdsource funding website Kickstarter and raising nearly half a million dollars, the Wipebook team recently released the second generation of the creative product.

Frank was happy to chat about Actua, entrepreneurship and the accessibility of technology for Canada’s youth.

Though different, Hannah and Frank’s stories are similar to hundreds of other Actua stories across Canada – almost 48% of our volunteers are former campers and nearly 10% then go on to become instructors and directors. What is remarkable to me about Hannah and Frank is neither had an interest in tech or science before camp, but they both were transformed by the new world STEM offered them, both personally and professionally.

As science lovers, we at Actua appreciate the importance of formal metrics, research and evaluation, but we always love to know that we’re making a difference when we hear about people like Frank and Hannah – proof of the change Actua has been making for over 20 years.

It’s safe to say that Actua will be graduating a lot more Frank's and Hannah's in the coming years.