Info Technology Conference Caters to Savvy Students
Oct. 29, 2009
High school and college computer sophisticates had a chance to show off their prowess in competitions that led to prizes —and possibly even job offers—at an information technology conference last weekend.
About 300 students participated in the annual Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Region 3 Student Conference at UT Dallas’ School of Management on the Richardson campus.
“The conference offered students who are serious about information systems a great opportunity to showcase their abilities and test their confidence,” said Dr. Mark Thouin, a School of Management professor and AITP campus adviser who hosted the conference.
Students and IT professionals networked with peers and listened to addresses from top industry speakers.
Targeting students, the keynote address came from Greg Schwartz, senior vice president and chief information officer at United Services Automobile Association (USAA). The San Antonio financial services company recently was ranked No. 9 in the country and No. 1 in the region in Computerworld's “100 Best Places to Work in IT 2009” rankings.
However, for students the biggest draw was a series of timed contests—from a few to 60 hours in duration—in which solo contestants or two- to four-members teams exercised their IT talents to find solutions to business problems.
“Participants attempted to solve real-world IT problems faced by companies sponsoring the contests and gained valuable experience in the process,” Thouin said.
A total of nine contests opened on three tracks: for high school students, for college undergraduates and for college graduate-level students.
Students who entered the challenges supplied their own laptops or notebook PCs, and depending on the contest, were expected to be knowledgeable in a variety of computer languages, such as Java, VB.net and C++; skilled in the core programs of the Microsoft Office suite, or able to run such development tools as NetBeans 6.1 or SQL Server Express.
“The yearly conference recognizes that the basic student knowledge base keeps expanding,” Thouin said, “and the contest requirements give those interested in IT a benchmark against which they can measure their own development.”
Undergrads had the most contest categories.. They could tackle challenges in application development, database design, network design, PC troubleshooting, systems analysis and design, and using Microsoft Office software.
Two contests, one in application development and one using Microsoft Office software, were open to high school contestants, and for them, top prizes were trophies and $100.
At the college graduate level, each member of the first-place team got a trophy and $100, too. The team members usually also get another perk, Thouin said, their résumés reviewed by contest sponsors, companies which, in years past, have been known to both hand out the cash and hire the winners.
Besides AITP and UT Dallas, conference sponsors this year were USAA; Argo, a Dallas-based financial services IT company; AT&T; Fujitsu Network Communications; Microsoft; Texas Instruments; and Wal-Mart Stores.