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Left to Right - Kai Hutchence, Rene Dufour-Contreras and Aaron Hampton
Left to Right - Kai Hutchence, Rene Dufour-Contreras and Aaron Hampton

The North Central Hacker Dojo is changing lives, one line of code at a time

Just over a year ago, Aaron Hampton was driving through North Central Regina with his real estate agent when he spotted a “For Lease” sign in a window. Hampton, a passionate advocate for the technology sector in Regina, had an idea to create a community space for people to learn skills in tech. “I wanted to create a place where people would have access to free computer resources and see what they could learn,” says Hampton. Hampton set to work in the space at 2911 5th Avenue in Regina, and the North Central Hacker Dojo was born.

North Central Hacker Dojo

North Central Hacker Dojo

The non-profit organization is now open to the public from 3.30 to 6.30 pm Monday to Thursday, and is busy building relationships in the North Central community with the schools in the area. “We have reached out to schools to find students interested in learning about technology,” says Hampton. “We want to find kids to become members of the Dojo and help them find a path.” While anyone can join the Dojo, the programs are focussed on youth from ages 12 through 24. There are currently 12 members active in the Dojo, with more interest developing as school outreach grows.

“We’re still renovating our space and installing equipment,” says Rene Dufour-Contreras, Project Sensei. “Soon, we’ll be able to offer not only informal training, but also workshops and training for certifications in IT.” The Dojo focuses on weekly themes, and introduces members to tech of all kinds. Members can learn about everything from programming to 3D printing, graphic design to machine learning, web development to gaming and much more.

The Dojo is working with North Central youth to not only engage them in tech, but also to help change their lives. “This neighbourhood has a sad reputation,” says Jan Morier, Dojo board member. “There has traditionally been a lack of opportunity in this area, and this is a tremendous opportunity to make connections, build relationships and provide a bright future for the youth here.” Not only does the outreach get kids doing something in a safe place off the street, it also can provide a future career path. “Kids often decide by around age 14 what doesn’t interest them in terms of a career,” says Kai Hutchence, Dojo volunteer. “By starting early, we can show kids what technology can offer them now and in the future. We can build a talent pool by investing and engaging the young.”

It’s still early days at the North Central Hacker Dojo, but the business community can certainly help the Dojo with its mission. “Sponsorships are greatly appreciated,” says Hampton. “We’re self-funded now and applying for grants, but every dollar helps.” The North Central neighbourhood is not a wealthy one, so the Dojo is free to its members. “Sponsoring a member or purchasing technology are great ways to get involved,” says Dufour-Contreras. And, you can always donate your time, too. “Engaging with our youth at the Dojo is not only fun, it’s rewarding. Everyone in our community benefits when we help a young person find their path to a bright future,” says Hampton.

To learn more about the North Central Hacker Dojo and how you can help, visit thehackerdojo.com.