iTech Academy brings technology to life for high school students

Fifty-seven high school students from schools across Pennsylvania spent a week at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) exploring innovative technology tools during the college’s first iTech Academy, which was held July 17-21.

“The goal of iTech Academy is to teach students to use technology to solve problems,” said Deyo Olorunnisola, director of recruiting for the College of IST.

Participants in iTech Academy attended workshops taught by IST instructors in which they were introduced to technologies such as Scratch, an educational programming language; Processing and Arduino, open-source programming environments; and Arduino microprocessor boards, open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware. The students used the tools to create projects, such as games and robots, that they demonstrated to IST staff members and their parents at the end of the week. During the camp, students also were given tours of Pattee Library and the Applied Research Laboratory on the Penn State campus.

“We’re broadening their perspectives and showing that IST is more than  technology,” Olorunnisola said.

Peggy Fisher, an instructor at the College of IST, taught workshops at iTech Academy that focused on open source code, animation, and the use of microprocessors to build and program robots. Fisher said that she enjoyed seeing how the students in her workshop acquire knowledge and apply the skills they learned.

“I enjoyed seeing the students build self-confidence in their abilities and just getting to know them one-on-one,” she said.

Miranda McChesney, a junior at Bellefonte Area High School who attended iTech Academy, said she is interested in pursuing a career in crime scene investigation and realizes that she needs a strong technical background to enter that field.

“I thought (iTech Academy) sounded cool because we were making robots,” McChesney said.

Nathan Held, a junior at Cambridge Springs High School and another attendee at iTech Academy, said that he heard about the camp while attending an Explore IST Day. While he hasn’t yet decided on a career, he enjoys technology, science and math. He said he appreciated the “openness” of the iTech workshops.

“(The instructors) teach you something but you can do whatever you want with it,” Held said.

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Last Updated July 25, 2013