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Young Achiever: Lilia is cracking the code

Lilia Matcham (Photograph supplied)

There is a saying: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” It perfectly describes the fortitude of nine-year-old Lilia Matcham.

The Francis Patton Primary School student was introduced to computer programming last September through a coding course offered at her school by ConnecTech, thanks to sponsorship by Hamilton Insurance Group.

It sparked a burning curiosity in the youngster and opened her eyes to new career possibilities she had not yet considered.

“I’ve definitely learnt a lot about coding and am excited to use what I know now to make different types of computer games,” Lilia said.

“My hope is that people all over the world can one day use my games.”

Lilia was only 6 when she first started playing around on her mother’s iPad.

She did not understand the science behind how computers worked at the time, but through her school’s coding classes has learnt how to build simple games and apps, which have honed her design, logic and problem-solving abilities.

Junior coding instructor Chloe Baron, of ConnecTech, described Lilia as “focused”, “great at working independently” and “very creative”.

She was selected as one of several high-achieving students who finished the 2018-19 academic year with good grades and had demonstrated passion and a keen understanding of programming.

The P5 student said: “Coding is really interesting and lots of fun, but it’s also harder than I expected.

“I feel like the classes have helped me to use more of my imagination and improved my vocabulary.

“I’ve been introduced to lots of new words I never knew before. The instructors tell us what they mean and I keep using them until after a while they just become normal.”

One of those new words is “sprite”, which describes a static image or animated graphic that is designed to be part of a larger digital scene.

The first computer programme Lilia created was a dress-up game that allowed the user to change which outfit the sprite was wearing.

“That was the only thing I knew how to do at that time because my coding skills were still really basic,” she said.

“It was really exciting to finish that project and I immediately wanted to make more games. I’ve recently made a game and called it Pink Dot.

“The sprite will hide a key and the rules are you have to get to the treasure box, but there is a pink dot in your way.”

Lilia is one of more than 600 students from 18 public schools on the island who have been introduced to coding through ConnecTech and Hamilton Insurance Group’s partnership, which began in January 2018

The programme aims to boost cognitive skills, facilitate creativity and encourage young people to think outside the box.

It is part of Hamilton’s commitment to invest in youth digital literacy in Bermuda.

Lilia has working extremely hard to get better at coding.

She said: “Practising is the one thing you can do to improve because you won’t get good at something overnight. My parents say you have to apply yourself and put your heart into it.”

As well as thriving in the classroom, Lilia plays the piano, guitar, violin and drums.

She composes her own music through a Garage Band App, which allows her to put together short bars to create a longer song.

She entered one of her latest compositions entitled Circus Magic into a YouTube competition for children and was told in March that she had been selected as a finalist.

Lilia is also a budding artist and her painted stones can be found in her father Peter’s art space, The Bridge House Gallery in St George. They sell for $4 each, with the money raised going towards her college fund.

She said: “My dad tells me they are the most popular item at his gallery, but that’s probably because they’re the least expensive.”

Nadia Arandjelovic is a public-relations consultant for Hamilton Insurance Group, the Bermudian-based holding company for Hamilton Re, the Class 4 property casualty reinsurer