Published: Saturday, November 17, 2007
'We are IT': Pupils learn what 'IT' is
Getting Lego robots to
respond to commands was just one project.
By HAROLD GWIN
YOUNGSTOWN The senior high and middle school pupils huddled around computers in a room on the Youngstown State University campus were working against time.
They had only 50 minutes to complete a computer program that would direct a small "Turtle" Lego robot around a designated race course.
Unfortunately, they learned some of the difficulties of writing a computer program. One wrong character in the line of instructions prevents the program from transferring information from the computer to the robot and it won't move.
That's what happened to the first group of 16 pupils who visited Dr. Robert Kramer's lab in Meshel Hall on Friday as part of the "We are IT" information technology conference at YSU.
The pupils weren't discouraged despite the setback and not seeing their robots run.
"It's OK," said Annie Partika, a ninth-grader from Lowellville. "All computers have problems."
"It's good. I like working with computers," said Carly Conklin, another Lowellville ninth-grader.
Some 100 high school students and middle school pupils from the region turned out for the event designed to introduce them to careers in information technology, science and engineering.
Information technology is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country, said Dr. Alina Lazar, associate professor of computer science and information systems, who coordinated the program. One of the primary goals is to interest young women in the field of information technology, she said.
The field is dominated by men with women accounting for only 15 percent of those in the field, she said.
Brian Wilster, an eighth-grader from Western Reserve, said his father, an electrical engineer, sparked his interest in information technology.
His father, Tim, has taken Brian to work with him in the past at Middlefield Cheese.
"I thought it was really cool," Brian said, noting that his dad built a robot that packs cheese at the plant.
The campus visitors go to visit a number of labs in addition to the Lego robot facility. They were divided into groups to work on bridge design, building 3-D models, writing secret codes and more.
This was YSU's second annual conference on an initiative launched by Ohio IT Business Advisory Network. Lazar said 18 colleges across Ohio were having similar events Friday.