What do unicorns, farting dinosaurs, a tea-robot and biscuits have in common?

Meet Marcel van de Steeg.

Writing software applications is all in a day’s work for this clever software developer.

And when he gets home van de Steeg can be found building robots that will make you a cup of tea or dunk your biscuits for you, just for fun. He’s also a regular organiser and participant of game jam competitions, where entrants race to build new computer games over a weekend around a set theme.

Van de Steeg's skill, and enthusiasm for all things technological, will be shared next month with Year 10 pupils at Hamilton Boys’ High School. Marcel will teach technology faculty students how to write, publish and market a game in workshops being held in the classroom.

Van de Steeg'sclassroom visit is part of the Secondary School-Employer Partnership (SSEP) led by the Smart Waikato Education Business Network. His employer, Hamilton-based software specialist Company-X, has signed up to the partnership for three years.

“It’s all about better connectivity between those who teach the technology curriculum at secondary schools, pupils and their potential employers,” said Company-X director David Hallett.

“We’re very proud to be supporting some of the pupils who will, undoubtedly, become New Zealand’s next generation of software developers.”

Hallett, also chairman of the Waikato branch of IT Professionals NZ, said the partnership encouraged pupils to follow through on their dreams. If they chose a career in IT their eventual graduation will address the chronic skills shortage of software developers, and in the IT sector at large.

It also helped schools develop relevant technology lessons in their curriculum.

“Marcel was perfect for the job because he’s already doing similar work at his eight-year-old daughter’s Hamilton primary school,” said Company-X director Jeremy Hughes.

“I made games with my kids last year involving unicorns and farting dinosaurs using a Makey Makey controller,” van de Steeg said.

The Makey Makey allows kids to build their own game controller using Play-doh, fruit, bolts, wood, ketchup, or anything else that conducts, like buttons.

After his daughter presented her unicorn game and custom unicorn-shaped controller at school, van de Steeg was besieged with ideas from her classmates.

“Afterwards this shy little boy came up to me and I could see I’d lit a spark in his head. He asked me to make a game about tigers and elephants for him. I told him to draw me a picture of his game. Imagine my surprise when my daughter came home at the end of the day with a pile of pictures!”

“All the kids in her class had gone and designed their own games and custom controllers. There were soccer shapes, unicorn shapes, Batman shapes, you name it,” van de Steeg smiles.

Hamilton Boys’ High School head of faculty technology Simon Devitt said working with Company-X would give a good insight into industry practices and help create a more complete picture of the subject.

“This is our second year doing the SSEP and the students have really enjoyed the ongoing contact we have with the variety of businesses we are invited with,” Devitt said.

“They can hear how adults, other than just their teachers, reinforce important work skills and qualities, and the number of opportunities that are available to well trained and motivated people. The workplace visits we did last year helped to showcase what everyday offices and environments look like, as well as the client interactions and the importance of communication skills that were discussed. We are looking forward to meeting Company-X.”

After a similar visit, last year, one student said: “I learnt much more about how our IT lessons apply to occupations in the adult world.” Another added: “It was a good program that helped me find what I want to do as a job in my future.”