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Perth teen among the youngest-ever to pass complex global software exam

Media release

A 15-year-old school student who lives with autism has become one of the youngest-ever people to pass an international exam for software testers, which is so challenging it is usually taken by university graduates and IT professionals.

Sam Bateman and Jolon Theodore Martin. Picture: Yasmine Phillips

Willetton Senior High School Year 10 student Sam Bateman passed the globally accredited exam, the foundation level of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), with support from Curtin’s Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA).

Fellow coding and programming talent Applecross Senior High School Year 12 student Jolon Theodore Martin, aged 17, also passed the ISTQB exam, which provides certification for software testers across the globe.

Launched in 2016, AASQA is an Australian social innovation initiative with the vision of harnessing the special talents of people with autism by providing high-level training, education and work placements in the information and communications technology industry.

AASQA Founder and Director Professor Tele Tan, from the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Curtin, said the exam, which tests the knowledge of the fundamental concepts behind software testing, was so challenging that it offered young people with autism an alternative pathway to tertiary education.

“I am delighted that Sam’s dedication and talent has been recognised with this exciting achievement as he is among the youngest people ever to pass this globally accredited and challenging exam,” Professor Tan said.

“Sam, Jolon and their fellow students are well on track to carving out successful careers in ICT and engineering, having spent months studying for the foundation level exam via an e-learning platform donated by industry partner and software quality assurance leader Planit. The students were also mentored by senior AASQA members who are themselves qualified ISTQB certified testers.

“It’s great to see the ICT and engineering industries acknowledging the strengths of young people on the autism spectrum, recognising the fact that their skills will be utilised to help the industry remain technologically competitive. For example, BHP which donated the examination fees for this ISTQB program has also supported an internship program with AASQA, providing further work integrated learning opportunities for our students.”

Sam’s parents Amanda and Doug Bateman said they were thrilled with their son’s achievement and praised the AASQA program for offering children with autism alternative pathways to tertiary education.

“Sam experiences some difficulty in certain subjects at high school, especially English, which could have prevented him from taking all the subjects needed for university entrance,” Mrs Bateman said.

“The certification received by Sam for passing the ISTQB exam, along with the other skills he has developed through AASQA, are helping him to build a portfolio for his high school graduation, which can be used to apply for alternate entry into university, if necessary.

“It was a great opportunity for Sam to learn about the exciting new field of IT which he found to be very interesting and allowed him to develop invaluable new skills for a future career.”

Jolon said he was very grateful for the opportunity to sit the ISTQB exam with the support of AASQA.

“I was able to use the skills and knowledge from my work experience at Bankwest, which was also organised by AASQA,” he said.

“In Year 10, I also did work experience with fourth-year students at Murdoch University and was able to reflect on the exposure to software testing and quality assurance in the exam. I hope to use this qualification to help me get into a computer science course at Curtin University next year.”

The Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance is a collaboration between Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Faculty of Health Sciences and has partnerships with BHP, Bankwest, Woodside, Deloitte, Planit, rerisk Pty Ltd, ACS Foundation, Department of Training and Workforce Development, Autism Association of WA, Autism West, Therapy Focus, CoderDojo WA, AASQA@Kalgoorlie, Willetton Senior High School, the Ian Potter Foundation, Bennelong Foundation and the Rotary Club of Willetton.

The International Software Testing Qualifications Board is a worldwide organisation that has regional testing boards including ANZTB supporting the Australia and New Zealand testing communities.