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From Hour of Code to DigiKids: How Microsoft Belgium engages, inspires and empowers the next generation to get coding

When Microsoft Belgium moved into a new office attached to the Brussels Airport in October 2018, the team shared a vision to help make the airport community a thriving hub for digital skills and a source of inspiration for Belgium’s youth.

Through the DigiKids program, the team are well on their way to achieving precisely this.

The journey to DigiKids started in 2017. Inspired by Microsoft’s 2016 Hour of Code Minecraft tutorial, the Microsoft Belgium team embarked upon a mission to deliver the tutorial directly to schools across Belgium. Understanding the critical need to keep children interested in STEM subjects, highlighted by Microsoft’s 2017 European Girls in STEM study, 77 Microsoft employees gave the 1-hour, introductory coding course to over 1,400 children, across 15 schools.

Once ensconced in the new office, the team’s shared vision of inspiring young people inspired them to do more to open their doors to educators, students and youth educators across the country.

Giving young people a first-hand taste of what Microsoft does – to inspire, empower and enable them to engage with technology and develop their own digital skills – Microsoft Belgium joined forces with SNCB/NMBS, the national railway company of Belgium, and Brussels Airport Company to launch DigiKids in November 2018.

DigiKids, which is in its second year, combines public transportation via SNCB/NMBS with a visit to Microsoft’s offices, in-house coding lessons and a behind the scenes tour of the Brussels Airport – leading to a fun, informative, ‘out of the ordinary’ day. Taking place every Friday of the school year, DigiKids enables more students to benefit from Hour of Code – using Surface Go – and more Microsoft employees to get involved. 32 sessions are planned over the course of the next year, with an estimated 800 participants aged 7-12.

Thomas Kersten, Communications and Philanthrophies Manager, Microsoft Belgium and DigiKids Project Lead says, “It feels really good to kick-off this second year and see the huge interest that Belgian schools have in participating. For each DigiKids day that we announced for 2019-2020, we have about 10 school requests. With DigiKids, Microsoft is clearly filling a gap by giving access to digital skills to schools and underserved communities, but also showing thought leadership and community building capacities at a national level”.

Thomas continued, “The Minecraft: Education Edition tutorial is a great opportunity to even go further and introduce a key target group to Artificial Intelligence, through a much-loved game”

This year, Microsoft has launched a new Minecraft tutorial to mark Computer Science Education Week (9-15 December) and Hour of Code 2019, based on a real-life AI for Earth projects that protect our ecosystem.