North Central welcomes Hacker Dojo to network the neighbourhood

Aaron Hampton, executive director of Hacker Dojo is encouraging community involvement to take part in the array of services offered for computer programming at the dojo. The mural artwork painted in the dojo is done by Regina artist Robert Lopez Lopez. Photo by Joseph Bernacki

Starting this spring, North Central is set to welcome the Hacker Dojo to teach sophisticated computer programming, free of cost, to help network a community.

Aaron Hampton, executive director of the new non-profit business, has a rich background in technology and has many goals to update an older neighbourhood with internet and computer resource access.

“We’d really like to bridge the digital divide to uplift the community to help support it and network it together,” said Hampton.

“There are a lot of people that, given the access, can do great things here. A great asset to the whole community, to the city, that’s just been neglected.”

Hacker Dojo, which received funding from the community initiative fund from the provincial government, will offer four programs to its members.

Certification tracks in game development, network engineering, security and cloud computing are all available to learn at the customer’s own pace.

“The average computer science-oriented person can learn how it works in six-12 months, it’s a lot easier than having to go through a four-year degree,” said Hampton.

Rene Dufour-Contreras, the dojo’s project manager, worked as an employee at Talking Dog Studios for 10 years prior to teaming up with Aaron.

Developing interactive products for advertising and e-learning using virtual and augmented reality for businesses, Dufour-Contreras will now primarily work with students in the game development program.

Dufour-Contreras emphasized the opportunities available for people to learn in the city.

“I hope once you’re there, you won’t want to leave,” said Dufour-Contreras.

“Come down and see how cool it is, we’re going to be doing game tournaments, workshops and I’d ask you what you’re interested in and go from there.”

Membership is free and gives the customer access to email, web-hosting and access to the certification track programs listed above.

The Hacker Dojo located 2911 Fifth Ave. is open to anyone seeking internet access, social media instructions or one of the four programs offered in advanced computer science. Photo by Joseph Bernacki

The dojo will offer youth workshops near its launch and Hampton hopes the community takes part to help put individuals on track towards high-paying jobs.

“Those certification tracks, if people go through them those average salaries are six-figure incomes,” said Hampton.

“Our cloud computing certification track is an Amazon Web Service certification and those are really high in demand.”

Hampton’s journey to set up shop in Regina has been a long one, but he has roots in North Central alongside having multiple citizenships. Hampton moved to Regina around age 12, after living in Boston and Alaska.

“I grew up around here and there is a strong aboriginal focus in the community and I’m Chickasaw, so I’m southern and I identify with the struggle in that,” said Hampton.

Before Hampton brought this service to Regina, his passion and entrepreneurial background led him to work extensively in network engineering and security design across California, the stock exchange and casinos in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t go to school for technology,” said Hampton.

“I ended up going to California to work for a network engineering company that paid me to take every top level certification that most people take after their masters, their Cisco Certifications, those industry standard tech certifications and they put me in a multi-million dollar lab with all this high end equipment.”

Hampton and Dufour-Contreras are seeking tech-savvy volunteers to help teach and coordinate programming at the dojo.

Charles Belhumur, an environmental systems engineer, has worked with computers for over 20 years. He is open to a flexible approach as a volunteer.

“I want to find out what people in the neighbourhood want,” said Belhumur.

“For the last 20 years I’ve taken computers and I’ve rebuilt and refurbished them for kids. I imagine a lot of the older people want to learn email and social media to stay in touch with younger relatives.”

Hacker Dojo is tentatively scheduled to open in April at 2911 Fifth Ave.

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