Tumo Time: Gyumri students get orientation for beginning of hi-tech training

The new Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri will open its doors to students aged 12-18 in September, enabling them to learn skills that they will need in pursuing their future career goals. Six orientation sessions have been held and about 800 students from Gyumri and surrounding villages have enrolled so far.

Nare Avagyan, the head of the center that officially opened on May 25, says that Tumo will help identify the talented children of the region.

“How to discover these talents? Well, Tumo will give that opportunity, because children will learn what they are interested in, nothing will be imposed on them,” says Avagyan.

The first Tumo center (Tumo Yerevan) was founded in Armenia in 2011 by Sam and Sylva Simonian who fund the center’s educational program through the Simonian Educational Foundation. The Gyumri Tumo is a partnership project with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Simonian Educational Foundation.

Since its opening, the center in the capital has provided thousands of students aged 12-18 an open environment where they can use the latest in digital tools, learn from media professionals, and explore the intersection of technology and art.

Gyumri’s Tumo is intended for up to 1,000 students. Avagyan says that the number of applicants is growing and so they have decided that besides daytime classes they will also have courses in the evenings.

“Children in Gyumri are distinguished by their vivid imagination. Usually children start asking questions after we present what courses we have, but here they seem curious even before that,” Avagyan says.

Gevorg Margaryan, 14, says his dream for a center like Tumo to become available in his home town has come true. He says before that it was impossible for him to attend courses at Tumo in Yerevan several times a week considering the two-hour drive to the capital.

“I have chosen programming, I want to become a programmer in the future,” says the teenager, who has enrolled for relevant courses at Tumo in his native Gyumri.

Gevorg’s mother Gohar Karapetyan who came to the orientation meeting at Tumo along with her son, also considers the availability of such an environment in the city to be important. “The stage of development in Gyumri is slow, so there is a great need for programs like this one. Our kids will no longer be loitering in the streets, they will be able to gain new knowledge and learn new skills,” she says.

Tumo works towards specific learning targets organized around four focus areas: animation, game development, web development, and digital media. In addition to instruction in its main focus areas, the Tumo curriculum covers a set of supporting technical, artistic and professional skills. These include computer programming, 3D modeling, 2D graphics, robotics, drawing, music, writing, online literacy and communication.

The center’s head says that the supporting skills are closely linked with Tumo’s main focus areas and help children better master them.

According to the Tumo curriculum, children do exercises by themselves, with a coach’s help or guidance. “They pass three levels and in the meantime they are also free to explore other areas. In general, studies in one area through exercises and training courses takes two to three years. Of course, a given child’s ability also matters greatly,” Avagyan says.

Coaches at Gyumri’s Tumo are hired from among local specialists, but classes will be conducted by specialists from Yerevan. Also, guest lecturers from different countries will be visiting Tumo to share their knowledge with students.

No fee is required for attending Tumo. The center is open to everyone regardless of their initial skills or knowledge, with age being the only restriction.

Initially, the center will operate in the premises of the Gyumri Technological Center, and in the future it will move to the nearby building of Gyumri’s old theater (the former People’s House building) after its renovation.

Last October, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its establishment, Shant TV launched a nationwide telethon to raise funds for the establishment of a Tumo center in Gyumri, the city from where the TV company originates.

A total of $300,000 was raised for the purpose. But donations, in particular from AGBU, have continued, multiplying the opportunities of Gyumri’s Tumo and contributing to the center’s future development.

Avagyan says she hopes in the future Tumo will be available in all cities and towns of Armenia. Today besides Yerevan and Gyumri there is also a Tumo center in Dilijan, where 300 children attend classes. Also, a Tumo center for 1,000 students is going to open in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert in September. Tumo Stepanakert is also a joint project of the Simonian Educational Foundation and AGBU.

Originally published: 8 July, 2015