Active Minds leader earns national recognition

Fourth-year Computer Science student Elizabeth Norman received an Instructor Recognition Award from Actua for her work with young people in northern B.C. through UNBC's Active Minds program.

January 26, 2023
A student standing next to a stone pillar with a hallway behind
Elizabeth Norman enjoyed sharing her computer programming knowledge with young people through the Active Minds program.

For the past three years, youth in northern British Columbia have benefitted from Elizabeth Norman’s expertise in computers, robotics and coding through UNBC’s Active Minds program.

The fourth-year Computer Science student have shared her love of technology during spring break and summer camps as well as weekend courses. Norman received rave reviews from the children she taught and this week earned the Instructor Recognition Award from Actua, a national organization committed to fostering science, technology, engineering and math education for youth six to 26. Norman received the award, and a $1,500 stipend, at the Actua national conference in Ottawa.

“This award feels like an incredible finishing mark on a long journey as a woman in computer science and acknowledges that my efforts towards sharing my experiences and knowledge have made an impact on youth in our region,” she says. “I am so grateful to the women I have worked with throughout the years that have pushed me to be my best self.”

Norman was hired to develop the computer science camps for Active Minds just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She quickly had to revise her in-person sessions into engaging virtual learning sessions.

She has since been able to run classes both in person and online and loves watching young people explore what’s possible with technology.

“Seeing faces light up as kids figure out problems and build their creations is the greatest feeling in the world,” she says. “I love it so much.”

Norman enjoyed working with youth in small groups and even one-on-one. She remembers working with one camp participant as they collaborated on the development of a video game.

“It was a great experience as I got an opportunity to do a deep dive into real programming problems that I normally cannot explore with a larger group of children,” she says. “It felt great to make a big impact on this camper and give him a great toolset in programming for him to use for his whole life.”

As Norman concludes the final semester of her studies, she says her experience working as a camp leader with Active Minds helped her both in her studies at UNBC and as preparation for her career.

“The computer camps have strengthened my skills as a programmer for sure, as you have to know how to program really well and how to debug well when helping children make their projects, otherwise you’ll both be quite lost,” she says. “The programs we use with kids are nowhere near as complex as the material I learn in class, but problem-solving is problem-solving no matter where you go and every little bit of practice helps.”