Vancouver students send coded messages to Canadian astronaut in space

Grade Six students Biduni Siriwardana and Jona Katro were the first to have the message they coded beamed to the International Space Station on Thursday. Canadian Space Agency

A group of Vancouver elementary school students got an out of this world experience on Thursday when they sent coded messages to Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques in space.

Saint-Jacques answered the Lord Selkirk Elementary students’ many questions live through a big screen from the International Space Station.

The students were participating in ‘Code in the Stars,’ a coding event in partnership with Kids Code Jeunesse and the Canadian Space Agency, to get young kids excited about learning code and digital literacy.

READ MORE: Teaching coding in Canadian schools: How do the provinces measure up?

They presented the coding projects they created using Raspberry Pi devices.

Biduni Siriwardana was asked to send the first message to Saint-Jacques reading “You inspire us all.”

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“We really wanted him to know that we are really proud of him, his whole nation is proud of him,” she said. “He is showing the younger generation that we can accomplish so many things, even if they are so far away.”

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But the Grade Six student said despite beaming her message into space, she’s not sure coding is in her future quite yet.

“Actually no, i want to be a pediatric surgeon,” she said.

“But now that I’ve learned to code I’m caught between software engineer and pediatric surgeon. So now i can’t decide.”

Joshua Kutryk is an astronaut in training with the Canadian Space Agency and said getting kids hooked on coding is more important than ever.

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“Coding is a very important skill to have, I think it’s becoming more and more important every year that goes by. I studied flying engineering, I was a test pilot, but even there I spent a lot of time evaluating code and software,” he said.

“It’s really a fundamental thing in science and technology. So it’s an important skill to develop and an important interest to foster.”

Kurtyk spent Thursday afternoon delivering a presentation on his experience as an astronaut in training to Grade 10 students at the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.

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