Sixteen years ago I sat on a plane headed for Baker Lake. It was my first trip to the Arctic. My first visit to Nunavut. I knew that trip would be memorable. I was about to witness a major milestone in Nunavut history - I was about to witness, with my feet on the ground in Baker Lake, Nunavut becoming a territory.
But still, at the time of take off, I did not know this trip north would change the course of my life.
Actua had been invited by a teacher, Jim Krueger, a champion for Northern STEM who had already been doing hands-on STEM activities with his own students. He wanted help realizing his vision of engaging youth all across the Kivalliq region in such inspiring activities. At the time, Actua was a team of one. Me.
On that trip I would visit the geographic centre of Canada and sleep in an Igloo. I would also see the incredible appetite and enthusiasm Inuit youth had for STEM.
That trip was the inspiration for Actua in the North.
Now, sixteen years later, Actua has grown significantly. We have teams of instructors flying up north. This year alone, Actua in the North will support the delivery of extensive programming across the three territories to almost 5,000 Inuit and Northern youth – including Baker Lake.
Last week, I was back in Nunavut – this time in Iqaluit – to launch a whole new program. Powered by a grant from Google.org, Codemakers will transform the way youth engage with computer science.
Nelson Tagoona, a renowned throat beatboxer from Baker Lake, joined us on that trip to Iqaluit to celebrate the new program. By digitizing his music, he helped youth see how computer science can be used as a tool in telling stories of the North. There is no doubt that Nelson has a passion for all things digital. And, as I experienced, he is also an inspiration to the youth around him.
Nelson would have been five when I arrived in Baker Lake for the first time sixteen years ago. It is a privilege to be working with him now on Codemakers, just as it was a privilege to work with Jim 16 years ago.
Happy 16th Birthday Nunavut. I look forward to many celebrations ahead and I look forward to my next inspirational trip north.