Friday, July 24, 2015

Need sources of "IT for youth" (not programming)

At a recent event there was a participant who posed a serious problem. She has plenty of resources available to assist young women who are interested in learning to code. She also knows plenty of young women who are interested in other STEM topics in general but not interested in programming. Young women who have tried to code but found it is not for them. Learning the basic concepts of programming in order to understand the logic is great and important but there are other aspects to the IT world than just programmers. This event participant was looking for ways to interest (or keep interested) young women in information technology with tasks other than programming.

I keep meaning to put together a panel presentation for conferences about how to contribute to or make a living with open source when you do not consider yourself a programmer. I know people that do design, testing, documentation, security compliance, administration, and community management. They all have technical skills with various levels of scripting knowledge or have formerly been programmers. At least one has done special programs with the schools (teaching the use of InkScape) and is hosting a summer intern to assist with her UX job.

My panel idea is focused around contributing to open source projects and is targeted more at adults. It is a starting point for ideas. However, there are other IT related projects that can be of interest to youth (and other non-programmers) interested in other aspects of computers.  [Note: these are US infinitives aimed to help a group in Florida]

I believe that the event participant is a system administrator who can script and work with devops but does not consider herself a coder - much like my background. She is looking for ideas on how to share the message with today's youth that there is more to computer science and information technology than being a programmer. Here are some of my thoughts:

Originally for Junior ROTC programs but expanded to any high school group.

USFirst - Teaches teamwork through robotics which involves design and electronics as well as the programming.

Kaggle - "The Home of Data Science" has competitions that teach data science concepts and contribute to all kinds of research. Many projects need some scripting (coding) skills but others are more about statistics, graphing, and visualization. Check out the tutorials section.

Also check out local meetups and ask for assistance presenting options to youth. Look for groups such as:

  • HackerSpace or MakerSpace or Makers groups
  • Any group inventing with Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or similar devices
  • Meetups entertaining wearable electronics topics.
  • Groups working with 3-D printers (perhaps even for a good cause like

If anyone knows of programs specifically teaching system administration or network administration to youth, let me know so I can pass on the links.



Stephen Smoogen said...

I don't know of any particular programs for youth. I have been reading D is for Digital by Brian Kernighan and think it needs to be a standard High School text book to start from as it keeps answering questions I get asked by Jr High and High School kids who use computers all the time but don't know anything of what is going on inside them.

SML said...

thanks! I'll look into that book. Another program that I am eligible to work with and keep meaning to do the training for is

SML said...

Raspberry Pi Jams!