Giving Back – Canberra Grammar “Code Cadets”

See:  Code Cadets web page

“Giving Back”

I was honoured to be asked to present the QF32 story to the boys and parents at Canberra Grammar, Canberra, Australia in 2012.

I fronted 700 soporific boys immediately after their lunch time break – which is the acid test for any teacher.   It’s hard to compress a lifetime of stories  into 40 minutes.   I gave a longer presentation to the parents later that night.

I think it’s important that we “give back”  to the younger generations – as pay back for the interest and care that our forebears gave us when we were young and we were searching for mentors.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull  (Photo: iStockphoto)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Photo: iStockphoto)

I mentioned Richard Bach during both presentations.  Richard is the author of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” a famous best selling book of 1972.   In the story, Jonathan Seagull, was a non conformist bird who’s quest was to perfect flight.   His passion put him at the mercy of the entire flock who subsequently bullied, abused and then ostracized him for going outside the square and pushing the known limits.   Jonathan ultimately followed his passions, left the flock, perfected flight then returned to mentor, instruct and be the roll model for the other birds.

Richard Back’s book was an inspiration to me back in 1974 and I referred to Jonathan Seagull as a roll model during my presentation to motivate the boys to identify then follow their passion today.

“If you job is your passion – then you’ll never have to go to work”

2013 12 Dec QF1 SYD-SIN 009 (640x340)

Sunset over Western Australia, Sunday 9th December 2012. Courtesy Richard de Crespigny

Of particular interest to me was Matthew Purcell, the school’s new IT teacher.   It appears that Matthew runs his IT classes  much like the “Glee” classes we see on TV.    I met his software “Code Cadets” during the day and over dinner and left at the end of the night feeling that  I had just seen one of the most impressive groups of inspired young men that I had ever met.

Every one of the sixteen boys had made extraordinary gains in the study and practice of computer software – no more than that – mechatronics!   For example, Lochie Ferrier, a year ten student had a passion for motor bikes, electronics and cars.  He has started his own company that has loaded three applications (click here) onto Apple’s iStore.    He quizzed me about scram-jets  which is a topic that few except for  X-43 hyper-sonic aircraft pilots and Chuck Yeager would have any knowledge.   One of the “cadets” asked me about software and future technology engines that will launch satellites into orbit.  Another quizzed me about the fly by wire technologies of the Concorde and Apollo project!

Click here to visit the Code Cadets web site.

I was then told that Matthew was taking his Code Cadets to Silicon Valley in the USA to tour Apple and Google software labs!    My mind immediately flashed back to the QF32 story where I relived how my father organised a visit to the RAAF Academy that motivated me to identify then follow my passion, work hard to excel then join the RAAF as a pilot.  Matthew was about to do to the Code Cadets what my father did for me that changed my life back in 1972.

The thoughts that traversed my mind that day floated from the pleasure to be around well behaved, helpful, passionate, inspired and accomplished boys, to the importance of their having a mentoring and inspirational teacher, and the remarkable journey that they will embark upon that will undoubtedly change their lives.

Matthew has primed the passion and motivation in each and every one of these boys and I left feeling more impressed with his mentoring accomplishments than ever before.  It’s no surprise to discover that in 2010 Matt was awarded the ACT Microsoft Innovative Teacher of the Year Award, for innovations in the way he uses technology within his Software Design and Development classes.

I wish all the Canberra Grammar boys the best of success.  It was a life’s pleasure to meet them all, especially the “Code Cadets”.     I was pleased to “Give Back”  to them the favor that Richard Bach had given me thirty eight years ago.

The world will be in good hands when these young men live out their passions and take over the reins.


Courtesy Canberra Times

Update – March 2013

The Code Cadets returned from their California trip with remarkable memories from Apple, Google, Cisco and NetApp headquarters.      Thank you to all these wonderful companies for motivating our youngest generation!

The Code Cadets delivered a session on iOS development for beginners at the MacWorld/iWorld Conference, taking attendees through a step-by-step process for developing and building their own apps that can be sold in the iStore.   This session (that attendees paid $275 to attend) turned out to be the most popular at the conference!

I recommend the following links:

Update – February 2015

View the Code Cadets’ video of their USA STEM Tour in January 2015.

Update – April 2015

Here is proof that teachers can make a difference,

Code Cadets Matthew Purcell - 1

Code Cadets Matthew Purcell - 2

More Reading at QF32.Aero:

More Reading:

One comment

  1. Derek Lorimer · · Reply


    Great story. I am sure the boys will get a lot out of the trip. I went to the IBM i2 development lab in Cambridge UK in June (flying Cathy – had a missed approach in Hong Kong). The top developers are amazing. I felt a lot like a weekend tennis player running into Rafa Nadal.

    Hopefully we can hire some of these guys as we build our business here in Canberra.


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