You never know where a spontaneous conversation will lead. For JB Systems owner, Jerry Bauer, and Black River Falls High School principal, Tom Chambers, a chance encounter on a sailboat last October created a unique opportunity to introduce high school students to the world of programming.
“We just happened to land on the same sailboat,” says Tom. “In the process of skimming over Lake Pepin, we struck up a conversation about the needs in the IT area, the potential in our youth to fill those needs, and how we could work together make it happen.”
Their answer came in the form of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Non-traditional Occupations Focus grant. Since applying for and receiving the grant, JB Systems and the Black River Falls High School TechWorks program have partnered and worked together to teach students marketable IT skills, such as:
- Basic and intermediate database design skills
- Entity Relationship Diagram skills
- Basic database queries (MySQL)
- Basic HTML skills
- Basic PHP programming skills
Additionally, students will be creating a documentary detailing their experience with the program, as well as talking about the importance of having STEM resources available in middle and high school. Another facet of the program will require students to help lead a 2-day Code Camp this June. The camp was organized and facilitated by the STEM grant students.
So far, the program has been a hit with the kids. “At each new meeting we’ve had, we’ve added participants,” says Tom. “Moreover, the students have been very engaged. They’re interested in the information, challenges and opportunities that Jerry, Tyler and Traci have presented to them.”
Given our history of diving into community projects, #TeamJB was eager educate the youth at Black River Falls High School, and to spread the word about the amazing opportunities that exist in IT and web development. We were also excited to show students that they don’t have to leave for Silicon Valley or large cities to find a tech job, but that these opportunities exist right here in the Chippewa Valley.
Two of JB Systems’ web developers, Traci and Tyler, spoke highly of the partnership. “I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to work with these students,” says Tyler. “It’s great for them to gain real project management experience as well as get an idea of how the programming side would look.”
Traci shares a similar sentiment. “It’s wonderful to see kids getting relevant experience in an industry where text books will always be behind the curve of current technology trends,” she says.
The program especially encourages young women to explore coding as a career. According to GirlsWhoCode.com, 74 percent of girls are intrigued in STEM related fields, yet less than .5% of them pursue STEM related majors in college. This is a statistic JB Systems and Black River Falls High School are hoping to change.
With the JB Systems – Black River Falls partnership off to such a great start, Jerry and Tom are already making future plans. “I see this project as just a start to expanding our IT training for students and as an augmentation of our STEM projects to encourage more students, especially females, to explore and experience the many opportunities in STEM careers,” says Tom. “We plan to apply for the next round of funding to continue the project that we’ve started to simplify our parent reporting system for student information and hopefully expand the project to more avenues of coding and design.”
What started as a sailboat ride with Jerry and Tom, has continued with a successful STEM program, a handful of educators and professionals eager to teach, and a group of students excited to learn. We’re setting sail toward the horizon, toward a bright future of talented young programmers contributing to the Chippewa Valley’s blossoming technology community.
To learn more about this story, contact #TeamJB.