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Renowned 13-year-old coder from Iceland speaks to Pace High students

Olina Helga Sverrisdottir spoke about the importance of having a strong self-image

Olina Helga Sverrisdottir speaks to Pace students inside Msgr. Pace High School’s Innovation Center.

Photographer: Photo by Hedda Falcon

Olina Helga Sverrisdottir speaks to Pace students inside Msgr. Pace High School’s Innovation Center.


MIAMI GARDENS | On Sept. 25, students from Msgr. Edward Pace High School’s Academy for Emerging Computer Technologies listened and chatted with Olina Helga Sverrisdottir, a 13-year-old coder from Iceland, in the new Innovation Center at Pace High School. Sverrisdottir was a 2013 runner-up for the Digital Girl of the Year – Europe award, and is an assistant instructor and designer at Skema Education. She also won competitions held by the FBI and Carnegie Mellon University when she was just 11 years old.

Sverrisdottir started programming at the age of 9 by using the programming language Alice. She credits her mother, Rakel Solvadottir, for getting her into programming. Solvadottir, who accompanied her daughter to the event, owns and operates Skema Education in Iceland, which is dedicated to teaching children as young as 6 how to program and code. Her company is expanding to Redmond, Washington as reKode Education.

During her speech, Sverrisdottir talked about the importance of keeping a good self-image in order to succeed, especially when dealing with the challenges of working in programs such as Unity 3D. She acknowledged that programming, coding, and other technological pursuits are usually thought to be male activities. To help remedy this, she has launched her own blog, techolina.com, that revolves around getting more girls into tech.

Olina Helga Sverrisdottir (standing second from left in second row from front) poses for a group photo with students from Msgr. Pace High School's Academy for Emerging Computer Technologies.

Photographer: Photo by Rene D. Basulto

Olina Helga Sverrisdottir (standing second from left in second row from front) poses for a group photo with students from Msgr. Pace High School's Academy for Emerging Computer Technologies.

Students from the Academy of Emerging Computer Technologies asked Sverrisdottir questions ranging from what programming language was worth learning (she answered C++) to what her favorite video game was (Minecraft). When asked how learning programming could be helpful, she said it builds critical thinking and problem-solving skills. “(Programming) is a challenge and you have to really think to look and find a problem,” she said.

Bianca Diosdado, vice president of IT Recruitment & Staffing at Octagon Technology Staffing, also accompanied Sverrisdottir to the event and fielded questions from students regarding careers options in technology. She, Sverrisdottir, and her mother all agreed on one basic idea: everyone should know how to code.

Following her talk with Pace students, Sverrisdottir gave the keynote address at the Geeki Girls’ “Geekiwood” conference at Florida International University Sept. 27. 

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