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Robot wars at Old Union

Instructor with students

For one week in July, the Old Union was the scene of robot wars, disemboweled computers, security breaches, and other information technology mayhem. This year the School of Information Technology joined the Center for Math, Science, and Technology’s (CeMaST) Illinois Summer Research Academy to offer a weeklong camp introducing 32 high school students to various computer topics.

Fifteen of the students came from Chicago, many of them through our partner schools in the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP). Two students from Decatur were veterans of our annual Cyber Defense Competition held each April. Other students came from the northern suburbs of Chicago, the Quad Cities, Normal, and elsewhere in Central Illinois.

Seven full- and part-time faculty members taught students about programming, robotics, cyber security, social networks, and how to take apart and put together a computer. Some students had little experience with computers; others could not remember or imagine life without them. All had a great time.Students working

Most students spent the week at Manchester Hall, but some local students commuted to class during the day and fun and games with the rest of the students at the academy in the evening. Activities included movies, bowling, and a LAN party.

The academy in general is a way for high school students to gain skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields through hands-on projects. Many of the students work on research projects with Illinois State faculty. The IT portion of the academy is intended to build interest in the field and hopefully propel some students into a rewarding career in computing.

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