Tech Camp Assignment – Shape the Future

An awards ceremony capped last week’s Tech Camp at Central Campus.

Tech Camp 2013 wrapped up last Thursday at Central Campus, in the building that used to house Tech High School, home of the Engineers. But this was not about the past, no way. In fact nothing could be further from it. Tech Camp is all about what comes next.

When 22 hand-picked students from nine DMPS middle schools gathered last week for three intensive days of collaborative technologizing it was the realization of a vision first hatched when Tony Kioko from Principal Financial Group and David Kessler of Source Allies had lunch together several months ago. They what-if’ed about a partnership between the public schools and community stakeholders that would position sharp kids with limited resources for a brief but hi-def glimpse of how their personal futures can help chart the course for THE future. They wondered together about developing a “link between learning and application.”

Both found support at their workplaces and their employers reached out to identify other corporate partners. Eventually the idea was carried to the attention of Deb Mishak, the DMPS Gifted and Talented Coordinator. It sounded like an answered prayer to her; just the sort of public/private collaboration the district is always seeking, particularly as its emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming grows.

And so Tech Journey was born, a nonprofit “aimed at inspiring young people to take an interest in technology by offering an engaging learning opportunity,” as the organization’s website puts it.  

“According to the Iowa Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council information, STEM jobs are expected to grow by 16 percent over a decade in Iowa (57,830 jobs in 2008 to 67,330 by 2018). However, just 11 percent of 2011 ACT test-takers expressed an interest in STEM careers. Providing technology opportunities and exposure to youth will help encourage them to pursue a career in expanding technology fields,” the website goes on. “While there are opportunities to learn about technology basics in school systems…there are no local in-depth opportunities for youth with limited resources to explore technology. In addition, there are very few avenues for IT professionals in Des Moines to directly engage youth and encourage them to pursue a technology career. Tech Journey, Inc. was formed to help students with limited resources pursue careers in technology. Tech Journey is organizing a unique summer technology camp experience in the Des Moines area which will connect youth to technology professionals and real-world technology application.”

That’s all web-speak for the conversation between Tony and Dave as they chomped sandwiches and slurped soup along with some tantalizing food for thought over lunch that day last winter. Another way of putting it all would be to simply say, “Imagine…”

Besides Principal and Source Allies, other corporate supporters jumped aboard including Bankers Trust, Visual Logic, Mumo Systems, Edward Jones, FBL Financial Group, Signature Consultants and Verizon Wireless.

The 8th graders who participated this summer are being viewed as Tech Camp’s first class and they’ll all be invited back as they advance through high school. Principal donated the laptops that were at their disposal last week and will continue to be for in-school use.

“Tech Camp was a fabulous opportunity for these kids to meet real-world IT professionals and do hands-on work,” gushed Mishak who, along with DMPS Secondary GT Consultants Stephen Loew and Edward Pilkington, serves on the Tech Journey Advisory Board. “They were exposed to everything from software development to an actual 3D printer this week.”

Where does Tech Camp go from here? Straight ahead and straight up – into a future that promises to be as bright as everyone connected with it can imagine – yeah, that bright.

For more information about Tech Journey and how to get involved click here:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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