Selena Snyder and Michael Havard work on a mock website

Michael Havard, a software engineer with Express Scripts, and Selena Snyder, 16, confer on changes they made to a mock website at the Xtreme IT! Summer Academy, a UMSL program that teaches high school students about information technology.

A group of St. Louis-area high school students got a whirlwind tour of area businesses last week in an effort to introduce them to the intricacies of information technology.

The group, comprising 19 teens from nine high schools, took part in the Xtreme IT! Summer Academy, a program begun four years ago by Vicki Sauter, professor of information systems at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Sauter said she started the program to give prospective UMSL students more exposure to information technology.

“Our goal is to help high school students to see the rich opportunities that are available to them if they pursue an information systems career,” she said. “All businesses are increasing their use of information technology, so students can combine a career in information systems with other interests to get a more fulfilling career path.

“For example,” Sauter continued, “if they have an interest in health care, students could combine that with IS to help develop business intelligence systems for better health care delivery. There are a wide range of opportunities available to the students and lots of jobs.”

During the program, the students toured various IT operations at different companies and organizations in the St. Louis area, including Ameren, Boeing, CommVault Systems, Edward Jones, E-Scrap Processing, Express Scripts, IBM, KPMG, MasterCard, Microsoft, Schnucks, Simutronics, Spry Digital, St. Louis Metropolitan Police, TALX and Worldki. At each site they were shown different ways that information technology was applied.

The students were sophomores, juniors and seniors from Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Confluence Academy, Eureka High School, Francis Howell High School, Hazelwood Central High School, Marquette High School, Soldan International Studies High School, Vashon High School and Webster Groves High School.

“We kept them on a tight schedule,” Sauter said.

On June 12, the students moved into Oak Hall on the university’s South Campus. In addition to taking the daily tours, they had some get-acquainted and team-building activities in the evenings.

At the end of the weeklong program, the students formed teams. Each team was responsible for a technology-based presentation on the theme “A Smarter Planet.”

“They had to come up with ways to develop better health care, better education and ways to make St. Louis a smarter city,” Sauter said.

The groups also built sculptures around the theme using discarded computer parts. The parts included computer mouses, memory boards and wiring.

Even though their time was rigidly scheduled, the students said they enjoyed the program.

“I learned how to make connections and the processes you have to go through to make those connections,” said Selena Snyder, 16, a junior-to-be at Confluence Academy. “It was a little jam-packed, but it was a lot of fun.”

Sauter said this year’s students were very impressive.

“We’ve had good groups, but this was an especially smart group,” she said. “Very smart.”

More information:

Jack Crosby

Jack Crosby

Jack Crosby Senior Information Specialist 440 Woods Hall University of Missouri-St. Louis One University Boulevard St. Louis, Missouri 63121