Rami Samha, Senior Information Services Librarian in Qatar National Library’s Children and Young Adults team, talks about the continuing partnership with Studio 5/6, helping to educate young Qataris to become the digital innovators of the future.
In science and innovation initiatives, digital developers have quickly become the key central figures, rather than software technicians operating from the outside. In commerce, the developer’s role has changed from support players who drive marginal efficiency within a company to creative leaders who propel innovation and change at the very heart of the business. In that new environment, it is more important than ever to reach out to our young people and stimulate their enthusiasm for careers in digital services.
It is more important than ever to reach out to our young people and stimulate their enthusiasm for careers in digital services
The digital jobs market continues to develop at a rapid rate, with each year coders and digital developers and web designers becoming more in demand. Programming skills have become the responsibility of educators, and not just at universities, but at an increasingly earlier age across all walks of life.
These skills will equip the next generation to become the digital developers of the future
While the Qatar National Library building is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our online services are continuing to thrive and find new ways of reaching out to educate and inform. Teaming up with pioneering Qatari tech firm Studio 5/6, we ran a series of free online camps throughout June for young people to increase their digital skill sets, such as digital fabrication, 3D modeling and computer-aided design, artificial intelligence, and coding. These skills will equip the next generation to become the digital developers of the future.
Many of the programs I organize are at the Library’s Innovation Stations—these are hubs in the Library that foster creativity, inspiration, collaboration and engagement. These stations provide tools for innovators, artists, musicians, creators and learners to express themselves in new ways.
The range of skills our Innovation Station users can learn is limitless. They can discover do-it-yourself coding and electronics and create their own projects—state-of-the-art 3D modeling and 3D printing services complement powerful packages that enable developers to create their first 3D model, edit digital photography or get involved in green-screening.
These workshops are both fun and educational, and they are giving participants the opportunity to make tangible contributions to the future of Qatar and the world
These workshops are both fun and educational, and they are giving participants the opportunity to make tangible contributions to the future of Qatar and the world at the same time that they grow their personal skill set.
For example, throughout June, students used modeling to create an imaginary future city of Doha 2030 and used a program called Tinkercad to design Qatar stadiums for the World Cup in 2022 and through digital fabrication, print them out to learn about prototyping. While this may sound intimidating, both the Library and Studio 5/6 experts are on hand to help students progress from writing their names in a 3D design to creating more advanced like 3D-printed keys or toy cars.
In artificial intelligence, we used a program called “AI for Oceans” to give students a crash course in machine learning. In these classes, we taught students from the ages of 7 to 10 artificial intelligence solutions to real-world problems such as pollution. Looking at the issue of plastic waste in our oceans, we taught students how to come up with a way to eliminate this issue, walking them through a virtual reality space. First, students classify objects as either "fish" or "not fish" to attempt to remove trash from the ocean. Then, students expand their training data set to include other sea creatures that belong in the water. Finally, students choose their own labels to apply to images of randomly generated fish.
The program is designed to quickly introduce students to machine learning and get them to explore how training data is used to enable a machine learning model to classify new data. Machine learning is a vital field of computer science that gives the computer the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed—and it is the future of research and commerce.
Machine learning as a skill has started growing at an enormous rate in recent years due to cheap computational power as well as lots of available data across the world. Entire work tasks and industries have the potential to be automated.
The current global pandemic has shown the value of automation even in small, everyday ways. In one upcoming workshop, we will show students how to automate human applications such as opening and closing doors and squirting hand sanitizer out of a dispenser, using Arduino software—hugely important tasks for health and safety at a time when those are of primary concern.
As we have seen over the last several months, we don’t often know the problems that will be facing our communities and indeed our world until they are upon us. Machine learning, automation and other forms of digital services and development make it easier for us to address these challenges, and I’m proud that the Library and Studio 5/6 are at the forefront of enabling young users to get an early start in this critical field.