QR codes are ubiquitous. Thanks to their elegant simplicity, they’ve made it easier than ever to show concert tickets, pull up restaurant menus, or access information we need, when and where we need it. But as with most simple solutions, taking a deeper look into the technology that sits behind QR codes reveals a far more complex reality.

But this complexity was exactly what attracted 19 curious high-school-aged men and women from across Switzerland to the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) this month for a pre-university week where they could learn the hidden secrets behind those enchanting squares.

Sponsored by Camptocamp and organized in partnership between the EPFL’s School of Computer and Communications Science and its Cours Euler, an advanced mathematics track for gifted students in French-speaking Switzerland, the “Decoding QR Codes” course, gave students the opportunity to master the creation of their own QR codes, and – perhaps, even more importantly – to realize that despite the demanding mathematics required, they were capable of designing them.

Dr. Romain Edelmann from the EPFL School of Computer and Communications Science and local high school teacher guided the class over the five-day course: “I was really impressed by how motivated and eager to learn the participants were,” he remarks. “Even though they had little to no background in programming, they were able to build a QR code generator from scratch in less than a week! What's more, the students were not intimidated by the complex mathematics involved in the project and even showed a deep interest in the more theoretical aspects that underlie it.”

More than ever, the IT industry is waking up to the reality that demand for digitalization far outpaces the development of adequately-trained men and women capable of addressing the challenges. For this reason, Camptocamp has made it a priority to invest in the IT talent of tomorrow through its commitment to several educational initiatives, including EPFL’s pre-university weeks, the Ecole 42, and by offering positions to interns through Switzerland’s apprenticeship program.

“Our industry needs people who are curious and courageous enough to look under the hood and truly understand the technical foundations of development and design,” explains Camptocamp Co-founder Claude Philipona. “That’s why at Camptocamp we believe it’s critical to support efforts to reach the talent of tomorrow and encourage them to consider a career in IT.”

As the course concluded on the last day, the students left with newfound knowledge about QR codes, but more importantly, with a sense of confidence in their ability to tackle complex technical challenges. Through their experience at EPFL, they learned that digital technology is not just about using smartphones and computers, but also about creating the technology that makes our digital experiences possible. Armed with this understanding, they now have a taste of what it could look like to pursue careers in IT and tackle the world’s next big digital challenges.