On Wednesday, 2 June 2021, Mandurah Catholic College welcomed guests including Fogarty Foundation Executive Chair Annie Fogarty AM and neuroscientist Professor Lyn Beazley AO to the launch of their Neurodiverse Hub, which evolved from a unique CoderDojo Club.
The Mandurah Neurodiverse Coderdojo has been operating for 18 months; this year it moved to the College, and it has linked up with Curtin University’s Autism Academy of Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) Program and Autism Research Group.
The club provides a program that uses technology, coding, programming, robotics, the Internet of Things and podcast production to support neurodiverse local young people.
At the launch, MCC CoderDojo ‘Ninjas’, as the young club members are known, led a tour of the College for Miss Forgarty and Professor Beazley, who is an AASQA ambassador, along with other guests including Professor Tele Tan, Head of AASAQ, Professor Sonya Girdler, Head of the Curtin Autism Research Group, and Dr Glennda Scully, CEWA Director Finance and Infrastructure.
The Ninjas demonstrated some of the coding and other projects they are working on, with the support of volunteer mentors, and shared some episodes from their podcast ‘Neurodiverse Tech and Talents – A Podcast about everything Neurodiverse, made by the Curtin AASQA Mandurah CoderDodjo Ninjas’.
Mandurah Catholic College Principal, Mr Chris Wallace said, “The College is very pleased to provide our library and IT facilities to support this inclusive community project, and for the program to be part of the broad range of offerings that occur at the College,
“MCC has focused on providing wonderful IT infrastructure and systems as part of the College’s approach to teaching and learning, so it is extremely rewarding to be able to share our facilities with the community in this way,” he said.
“As a Catholic school in Western Australia, the College is focused on providing Christ-centred, child-focused teaching practices, so the Mandurah CoderDojo and Neurodiverse Hub are welcome additions to our existing inclusive education, STEAM programming, and extra-curricular activities,”
Mandurah Neurodiverse CoderDojo Coordinator, Ms Michelle Wong said, “The program provides real life projects to develop problem solving and employment skills that are needed in a constantly evolving IT sector,
“I am so pleased to be able help neurodiverse young people to utilise their inherent skills and natural technological talents to be creative problem solvers, building a range of digital projects, whilst also developing positive social skills”.
The community program operating out of MCC is supported by a number of organisations, including Curtin University’s AASQA Program, BankWest, who provided laptops, Firetech who are providing the coding curriculum, the City of Mandurah, who purchased podcast equipment, and the Fogarty Foundation, who support the CoderDojo network state-wide.
It is hoped that the program may evolve further into a Neurodiverse Centre of Excellence, with future stages involving research programs, also using coding to develop social skills, and possible alternative pathways to Curtin University for students within program.
The Mandurah Neurodiverse CoderDojo operates on Saturday mornings during school term, from 10.00am – 12.00 noon, in the College Library. As the program is being delivered as a community outreach program operating at the school, all local neurodiverse adolescents are welcome.