For the past two weeks, I spent my time learning from high school and middle school students. I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a technology camp called iTech Academy that Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology hosts every year. iTech Academy teaches students how to use different software, code, learn all about cyber crimes and dive deep into a device to figure out just how it’s programmed. It’s an amazing experience for kids at such a young age to practice and develop their technology skills.
I showed up on my first day of camp expecting to have to help the students through everything. I expected them to come to the camp not really knowing much about computers and programming, but just have a brief interest, and wanting to learn more about them and how they work. I expected their skills to be basic, and their knowledge of technology and coding to be slim.
Oh boy, let me tell you, I was wrong.
When I was in middle school and high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I spent most of my time in school doing - I’ll admit it - just enough to get by, and most of my free time was spent playing sports. I never messed around with the technology at home, or even knew what programming or coding was. Anytime I had a technology issue, I called to my dad, who I call, a “computer nerd” because his job is computer programming.
It wasn’t until the fall semester of my first year of college that I realized I am really interested in technology. I didn’t even switch from being “undecided” until the most recent spring semester. I am essentially turning into a “computer nerd” just like my dad.
The kids at this camp were way smarter than I ever imagined. To be completely honest, they probably knew more than I did. I had only taken two introductory courses for my major, so I didn’t have a super strong sense of what they were learning, just a simple idea. Throughout the weeks, they were asking me for help, but I was the one who was actually learning from them. I spent my days working the camp learning what the kids were learning, and using the questions they had to learn even more. Sometimes, they just needed me to point them in the right direction, or help them go through something they missed. Regardless, the entire experience was so eye-opening to me.
Instead of playing sports in their free time, they were learning how to program and create games. They were learning the in’s and out’s of privacy settings. They were learning how to fix computer bugs and studying cyber crimes.
At the end of the camp, the students were asked if they knew what they wanted to do when they got older. Dozens of hands went up and I heard different professions all across the board. From culinary to aerospace engineering, these kids were determined. They were attending iTech Academy because they thoroughly enjoyed learning about everything that technology has to offer. Stuff like this wasn’t even on my radar until about a year ago. It made me so happy to see kids doing the same kinds of things that I enjoy, and it was an incredible opportunity to be able to learn along their side during the past two weeks.