(Probably) the northern-most tech event in the world: Microsoft Finland brings coding, mixed reality and more, to girls in Lapland

Lapland landscape

Ask someone outside of Finland to point to Äkäslompolo on a globe, and you’ll more than likely be met with a blank stare – unless they’ve already had the pleasure of visiting the small, tranquil snow-covered village themselves.

A quick search online reveals that it’s located in the municipality of Kolari, in the Finnish part of Lapland, where temperatures can reach up to a frosty -35°C. As it lies above the arctic circle, Äkäslompolo also only sees a few hours of daylight during the peak of winter – ideal for viewing the awe-inspiring majesty of the northern lights.

The village also recently hosted the Arctic Girlz in Tech event, which saw 50 girls aged 15-16 come together for a day of inspirational workshops.

Hosted and created in a partnership between Microsoft, Junior Achievement Finland and the European Social Fund, the event brought together representatives from all organisations, with one aim in mind – to inspire and encourage a passion for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects in the next generation.

Girls using HoloLens

The day itself introduced the girls to a host of different technologies, and workshops including Microsoft’s HoloLens – a mixed reality headset which overlays virtual 3D images into the view of the real world, with the ability to manipulate and interact with these objects in an instant.

Attendees were also given a course in entrepreneurship, encouraging them to build and work towards their business aspirations, driven by technology and ICT-related ideas.

Sessions which saw them create their own 3D pets also took place, in addition to small-group mentoring discussions with experienced female ICT business leaders. This is particularly important, given the strong need for more female role models in STEM fields, alongside the need for more real-world examples.

Jenni Pulska, Digital Learning Coordinator at Junior Achievement Finland, states that:

“Role models have a huge impact when you want to encourage young girls to pursue technology, science and mathematics. If there is a woman in a traditionally male profession, you get this ‘wow feeling’.”

“Workshops make a big difference. They help girls to see in practice what you can do with technology, and you see technology boosting creativity. We’ve received really good feedback from both teachers and students.”

Girls around a Surface device
Photo: Pete Huttunen / Municipality of Kolari

No tech event would be complete without some coding workshops thrown in for good measure, and the Arctic Girlz in Tech event was no different.

Kodu Game Lab – a program designed to let children build their own games via a simple visual programming language – was also used to show off the basics of coding – a digital skill whose importance has grown, and will continue to grow, significantly.

Kaisa Kylä-Kaila, Coordinator at the European Social Fund sums up the day: ”We need more events like this where students have a chance to try technology out,” driving home the importance of encouraging the younger generation to prepare themselves for the world of tomorrow.

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