Xtreme IT! participants work together to design a website during the weeklong summer academy at UMSL. Pictured (from L to R) are: Alex Porter, Josh Hill, An Nguyen (standing), Gary Le and Albert Andon.

After a week of learning the “ins and outs” of the information technology world, 20 St. Louis area high school students put their knowledge to the test by presenting Web sites they designed using skills they were taught during the Xtreme IT! Summer Academy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The academy, held last week, gave participants a look into the real world of information technology, from building Web sites to creating and editing video games to processing daily orders and operating servers.

During the academy, students moved into Oak Hall and spent their days visiting several local businesses, including Ameren UE, Express Scripts and Edward Jones, to learn about their information systems structure. Other businesses, such as IBM, Microsoft and HP, sent representatives to UMSL for work sessions and a Web conference to India. They also learned how to create, design and maintain their own Web site, which they did as the final part of the program.

An Nguyen, an incoming junior from Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis, said Xtreme IT! was a great experience. He heard about the summer pre-collegiate program from a teacher and since he’s interested in a career in IT programming, he decided to enroll.

“It’s been so interesting and educational,” Nguyen said. “I never realized how much of a role IT and programming play in major companies in their daily operations. Computers and programs do everything from orders to shipping to billing and processing; it’s really amazing.”

Xtreme IT! was started three years ago by Vicki Sauter, professor of information systems at UMSL, and Ray Creely, UMSL alumnus and former IBM executive, to introduce the field of IT to a younger generation.

“Enrollment in information systems programs is down while the number of jobs continue to increase,” Sauter said. “Soon a large number of baby boomers will retire and the problem will get even worse.”

In order to address the problem, two programs were created at UMSL: Xtreme IT! and Imagine IT!, which is a oneday program attracting nearly 60 students from several schools.

“Xtreme IT” is like Imagine IT! on steroids. It gives students an in-depth view of the field and of campus, but for a smaller number of students,” Sauter said. “So the students get to see the range of jobs in which they might be engaged if they pursue information systems. And they see the stereotypes of IS people clearly don’t hold. We hope that combination will make them consider IS as a field.”

This year’s participating Missouri students were sophomores, juniors and seniors from Soldan International Studies High School, Confluence Academy in St. Louis, University City High School, Clyde C. Miller Career Academy in St. Louis, Eureka High School, Roosevelt High School in St. Louis and Webster Groves High School.

The academy, which is sponsored by UMSL’s College of Business Administration, information systems faculty and the Information Systems Advisory Board, runs each July. Sauter said she’d like to see the program expand.

“We had 30 applicants this year, but were only able to take 20 of them,” she said. “So, I would like to see us grow the program. And I would like to see us  attract students from a wider range of schools. The camp is wonderful. To see how excited the students are when they see new career paths and applications is wonderful.”

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton