Computers and all sorts of other cool tech gadgets – today’s kids are big fans of these. Sometimes they are the most demanding users. But not all kids are limited to just being consumers. Some have discovered that making the computer do what they want it to do is also quite cool and programming is an exciting and compelling activity. They gain knowledge at school, dedicate their spare time to improving themselves, to applying their skills into fascinating projects. We can see such inspired high school students at local, national and international competitions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could support these young talents’ growth in the field? At SAP Labs Bulgaria, we do so with our GeekyCamp initiative. Every year we select a group of about 30 of the best high school students in Bulgaria. They receive training and mentoring from colleagues who volunteer to share their knowledge and experience. The students form teams and develop IT projects of their own choice.
SAP GeekyCamp has been held for 4 years now and the 5th edition starts this September. I have been a lecturer and a mentor since its beginning. Let me share with you some first-hand insights about the journey of our geeky campers: When we open the registration, there are a lot of applicants from all over the country and we need to ensure that we select the best geeks for the Camp. At first, their technical skills are evaluated via an online test. Then there are telephone interviews with those that scored best. It is tough to get a place in GeekyCamp, that is for sure.
The next phase of GeekyCamp is (as I call it) the accelerated learning phase. About 2 weeks before the school year starts, all participants gather in one of SAP Labs Bulgaria’s buildings where they meet their mentors, lecturers and peers for the first time. Everyone is excited. For the next 12 days the geeky campers attend lectures in the office daily. The topics are quite diverse – Version control systems, Java programming, Object oriented programming, Algorithms and data structures, Relational databases, Linux. We also cover some of the trendiest topics like Game development (this is one of the geeky campers’ favorite topics), Machine learning, Security, IoT, Android development, Web app development, Presentation skills and more. Each lecture is accompanied by a homework assignment. The students with the highest grades on these will get a reward for their efforts. Of course, we are not only learning, the fun is guaranteed by having various social activities together. The accelerated learning phase ends with a 2-day hackathon. After that the participants form teams of up to 3 people, choose a topic for a project and start working on it together with a dedicated SAP mentor. The boys and girls have the task to research and develop a solution for the next 5-6 months.
After several months of hard work, all participants gather once more to show their projects (The Grand Finale). This is a very exciting event for everyone. All students, lecturers, mentors, other interested colleagues and the jury are there. Each team presents their project (problem, approach to solving it and final product) and the jury has the difficult task to choose the 3 best teams that will be awarded.
Participants usually use their projects in other competitions and we are very proud to say that the winners from those competitions are very often geeky campers. Here are several prominent geeky achievements:
- The Bulgarian informatics participant in RSI@MIT (hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) during the last two years (2018, 2017) was from our Camp
- Geeky campers participated in EXPO Sciencе Europe 2018 (Gdynia, Poland) and EXPO Sciences International 2017 (Fortaleza, Brazil)
- The gold medals in the National Olympiad of Information Technologies (NOIT) for 2016 and 2017 were won by our high school geeks.
- In the list with achievements, we have various medals, certificates of excellence and awards at various national competitions: HSSIMI conferences and sessions, “John Atanassov” National Autumn Tournament, SoftUniada, etc.
Astonishing, isn’t it? 🙂
GeekyCamp not only deepens the knowledge of the young talents and provides mentoring from experienced SAP colleagues, but also gives a unique life experience. The atmosphere, the networking and the fun is something to remember. It is very common that some of the participants apply again on the next GeekyCamp edition because they want to experience all of that again.
And all of this is possible thanks to the volunteers from SAP Labs Bulgaria: all lecturers and mentors are dedicated professionals with deep expertise and are full of energy and enthusiasm. They enjoy being part of GeekyCamp and we are very grateful that the number of volunteers increases each year. GeekyCamp wouldn’t be possible without our passionate colleagues. Thanks, and keep up with the good work!