Parkland offers high school students intro to technology

Parkland offers high school students intro to technology

CHAMPAIGN – It's not often that students are asked to destroy their UFOs.

But the command came frequently in a game-design computer class, part of Parkland College's fourth annual Tour IT career information program for high school students.

"I like to play video games, so I figured I'd learn some basics," said Devon Kuhn of Cissna Park High School. The sophomore moved his hands quickly to keep a computer dot bouncing toward bricks he needed to shoot down on the dot's way to the UFOs at the top of the screen.

"It's more complicated than I thought it was going to be," he said.

Kuhn was one of more than 200 students from 16 area high schools who took part in the free information technology tour. Though all of the classes dealt with computers, students chose two hourlong courses from a wide array of subjects.

While a hardware class dissected a computer, an animation class designed a three-dimensional apple. While some students learned about network security, others got a taste of computer programming.

"I want them to get that computers – there isn't just one thing you can do," said Samantha Fiscella, program manager of the event. "There are so many opportunities."

Programming instructor Ann Blackman said many of the students she met that day had never set the commands for a computer to perform an action. "We just do a little hands-on example of what it takes to make that happen," she said. "When they get it to work, it's like, 'Wow. This is cool.'"

Fiscella said game design dominated many students' interests, with animation following behind.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School sophomore Corey White got to try both. As a video game enthusiast, he wanted to learn more about how the games are made. "I learned how to design characters," he said.

Jenni Sage, a Parkland student in computer science and information technology, volunteered to show the students around the keyboard.

For her, the goal of the day was getting students "introduced to the material and, more important, showing them how it can be used," Sage said, "showing them that it's not just fun and games, and you don't have to be a genius to use computers."

In the hardware class, Josh Coburn of Rantoul Township High School stared at the many pieces inside a computer. "I'm supposed to take this apart and then put it together," he said, starting the process of dismantling the system.

The first student in the class to complete the task would win a prize.

Hardware instructor Jeff Cox, Parkland's networking and support specialist program director, said building confidence along with computer know-how is the goal.

"They can walk away from here knowing that they can be doing this stuff," he said, adding that he hoped the career fair especially drew more women and minorities into the field, since both are underrepresented.

Rantoul student David Brooks Jr. is already sure of his interest in computers, and plans to study the field in college.

On Thursday, though, he stayed focused on getting his computer back into one piece. "I may not win this contest, but I'm going to make sure this computer works," he said. "There's so much. I mean, I open it and it's just like going to another dimension."

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