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Get 'Em While They're Young

Teens do hands-on activities and meet with guest speakers at the SIM camp in Memphis.

A group of I.T. people in Memphis are starting small with their efforts to get children interested in technology careers. With a budget of about $2,500 and just 16 students, the Society of Information Management sponsored its first summer IT camp for 12- to 15-year-olds.

Teens do hands-on activities and meet with guest speakers at the SIM camp in Memphis.

Teens do hands-on activities and meet with guest speakers at the SIM camp in Memphis.

The theory behind the camp is to get youngsters interested in technology "before they go to college, while they're still deciding what they want to be when they grow up," says John Oglesby, president of the Memphis SIM chapter and director of IT strategy at ACH Food Cos., a food manufacturer. The group aimed at kids younger than 16 because "once they get their driver's licenses, you won't get them to go" to these kinds of programs, he says.

The camp was held at a local library, with help from schools to recruit kids into the program. It was a big enough hit with students that SIM and the library are carrying it over into the school year, with four-hour seminars and activities one Saturday a month.

The camp had guest speakers and hands-on activities such as teams building their own Web sites. And each day featured what Oglesby calls a "BSO," or bright shiny object, like BlackBerrys and software to edit movies. The surprise hit: A demonstration using ping-pong balls to show how Bernoulli's principle works in disk drives. "Believe it or not," Oglesby says, "that disk-drive 'BSO' demo was the most popular with the kids. They loved it."

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