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What Interests High-School Students? 842

Posted by Cliff
from the speak-out dept.
Jim Willis asks: "Our IT Division happens to be populated with some civic-minded people who are interested in making time available for local high-school students interested in science and technology. Question is, we're not sure the best way to do it. We're mulling around the idea of sponsoring a robotics competition or some sort of programming fair/competition. Unfortunately, we've been out of high-school long enough to not know what excites students about technology. Slashdot readers (esp. those of you in high-school): Where should we focus our attention and donate/volunteer our time?"
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What Interests High-School Students?

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  • by glrotate (300695) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:46PM (#11086739) Homepage
    Involve one of the three and you're ok. Two and you're set.
    • Best of Both Worlds! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cjsnell (5825) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @01:42AM (#11090175) Journal
      You are absolutely right. Back when I was in high school (89-93), the geeks in the Computer Club made a fortune with a matchmaking program they wrote. For a small amount of money ($3-5 IIRC), students would fill out a survey regarding what characteristics they were looking for in a date (bookish vs non-intellectual, blonde hair vs brunette, conservative vs. liberal, etc.). They also filled out a section that described themselves. The club members then entered the forms into a database and wrote an application to find three matches for each person. A few days later, every participating student received a printout with three potential matches.

      It was hugely popular and made hundreds of dollars for the club's coffers.
  • How to make their Sims peeps stop pissing themselves?
  • Sex (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edremy (36408) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:47PM (#11086749) Journal
    Better/faster ways to find more porn
  • Burn things. Especially fun things like cesium.
  • sex (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lanboy (261506)
    As I recall... I was a walking hormone.
  • Get some activities with prizes like free mp3 players and such.
  • video games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:48PM (#11086788) Homepage Journal
    They like video games, a lot. If you can include games in it in any way, they'll be all over it.
    • Re:video games (Score:5, Informative)

      by frenetic3 (166950) <houstonNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:52PM (#11087804) Homepage Journal
      I've usually found technically minded kids from 7th grade through high school get a kick out of making computer games, even very crude, simple ones. I had a class in high school where we'd write simple programs and build things with Legos and motors, etc which turned out to be fun even for people that usually wouldn't be into it.

      On the programming end, PyGame [pygame.org], an API for writing games in Python based on SDL should provide the gentlest introduction while still having kids do real "programming". And it's all free as long as kids have access to a computer lab. DirectX/C++ is usually too much for newbies to handle, but beginners can usually do some basic work in Python.

      An element of competition may help increase interest -- I know this is way beyond anything you'd be planning and the scope of what high school kids could handle but here we have a game/AI programming contest (6.370) [mit.edu] which provides a base platform/game engine so people without much game programming experience to still make something useful.

      Lego Mindstorms [lego.com] probably also work in giving kids something "technical" to play with, but might be expensive for a volunteer project (unless you can get funding or have the kids buy the sets.)

      I'd say start small -- many kids are elated to even get draw a ball bouncing across the screen, and it may spur their enthusiasm to learn on their own from there. Just tell them they can learn to make computer games.

      -fren
    • A better approach (Score:3, Interesting)

      by beaststwo (806402)
      Since the idea seems to be to stimulate interest and thought, I think a better approach if to present truly "off the wall" problems for the kids to deal with. I think back to the old British Junkyard wars where they had people do things like grind coffee using only wind power.

      Maybe "off the wall" projects might be like the following:

      • Create a machine to make waffles automatically, without human intervention
      • Create a system to predict a person's shoe size using seemingly unrelated measurements, such as
    • Re:video games (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AndrossUT (721573)
      I am a real, live, high school student. I think a game development club would be very cool, very educational, and produce a pretty huge turnout. Not only would it attract the technically minded kids who are always tinkering with computer whatnots, learning all sorts of coding languages, and posting game dev club ideas on slashdot, but it could also draw out the artists, the writers, and some other kids who are just looking for something to do after school. I know I have been pushing some of these more techn
    • I can vouch (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Atario (673917)
      I'm a professional geek, and it's how I got in computers in the first place. "How do these video games work?" "Well, there's this thing inside called a computer..." And the rest was history.
  • by Telastyn (206146) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:49PM (#11086793)
    Duh.

    Providing your time [and more likely, some sort of facilities support and supervision] is more than enough. The best thing you could probably do is simply provide the environment for them to be creative and learn.

    • Think about what you're saying. That idea works great if the students are mature and interested in learning. How do you sort the genuinely interested students from the ones who just want to sit and download hiphop music videos from Yahoo?
  • Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:49PM (#11086806) Homepage Journal
    Somebody from the "Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State eGovernment and Information Technology Division" posing a question to Slashdot.

    This is a new high for /. me thinks, to say nothing of the value of having knowledgeable (or atleast technologically aware) geeks in Government offices.

    Hope the assumption here isn't that /. is full of highschoolers though (not to bilittle them in any way whatsoever).

    • This is a new high for /. me thinks

      You overestimate the significance of titles in government.

      The fact that a government worker found Slashdot and was able to post a coherent message that doesn't seem to have been passed through four or five "supervisors" is much, much more interesting.

  • by Nailer (69468) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:50PM (#11086811)
    What interests high school students?

    Breasts.
  • pr0n. Plain and simple.
    It's a joke, but you know it's true...
  • Yes... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ether3k (687383) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:51PM (#11086837) Homepage
    I'm in High School, and am currently enrolled in: Multimedia III, which is a class where you do a bunch of crap with computers in. Such as: Reason, Cinema 4D, Flash MX, etc. :D I love it, as do many others. But that suggestion about Car Audio... Cha-ching. :)
  • That's easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lev13than (581686) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:51PM (#11086841) Homepage
    High school nerds are only concerned with one thing: using computers to get the girl [imdb.com]. Just make sure you put the contacts on the Kelly LeBrock doll, not the rocket.
  • Graphics I would guess. (I'm three years out of high-school), especially if related to video games. Of course, lining up a bunch of Alienwares and having a huge lan-party is probably not what you have in mind, but maybe showing some examples of simple 3d animations, or guest speakers who work with making video games.
  • A serious suggestion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Art Tatum (6890) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:52PM (#11086853)
    Since everybody else in this thread seems to be focusing on the silly (though, sadly, accurate) let me suggest that you perhaps get involved with a home-school group or a *worthwhile* private school. You're much more likely to get the sincerely interested kids. You could also have interested public school kids come out. Apparently, that's now allowed, though I don't have all the legal details.
    • Damned cool idea to embrace private schools and homeschoolers, although the latter might be a bit of a pain to hunt down (compared to finding the Schools section in the yellow pages).

      However, this guy is from the state gov't, and, assuming they're using any resources from their employer, it'd be a big mistake to be exclusive about it. I'd say contact both sorts of schools and have them bus kids to your place for a quick 5 minute tour (preferably over lunch/when they won't get in the way), and then tuck 'e
    • As a student at a public high school, I think there would be a very high interest (and quality of submissions) if you sponsored a contest of some sort. A robotics competition would be fun, but poorer schools (and many private schools, which usually tend to have less money) would be at a severe disadvantage. Perhaps a programming contest (though this would also require computers) or a purer math/physics competition would be good.

      I know here in Illinois, there is a math league math league organized by the

  • by elf (18882) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:52PM (#11086864)
    Try contacting your local schools and ask them what they're looking for. You might find that they have programs set up already and that there are rules you'll need to follow to participate.

    Ignore the cynics posting here, you'll find plenty of kids interested in science and projects. Play top your strengths though, don't get involved in stuff that doesn;t relate to what you do or know.

    You might consider something simple like a lecture on networking, followed by having them help set up a lan.
  • Sex, Drugs* and Rock n Roll

    *In my case my drug was DnD. In those days, I had an 5th level Elf.

  • When I was in High School (graduated in 96), I had very little real world experience with technology. We programmed on 286 PC's in Pascal, and I did personal research in C for my senior year. There was no realistic connection to outside technology and what was going on in the world. I found myself experimenting with using EMS/XMS memory, and interfacing with the PS2 mouse using pascal, and meanwhile out in the rest of the world, windows 95 was getting ready to be released. I was working closer to the hardwa
    • I should expand on this. When I say something useful, I mean connect them to something they can't get in school. Embedded hardware. The poster mentioned robotics, that is a start. I know that my high school was a little behind the curve in the computer dept, and I skipped out on physics until I got to college, but some of this sounds a little above the head of a high schooler. So it will have to be simplified a little for some.

      If you had tried to explain robot vision to me in High school, I would have deve
    • Sounds similar to my situation: an abstract CS degree (in 1982) and more than the usual curiosity for low-level stuff. I ended up doing embedded work for the Navy, as a GS-855-12, Electronics Engineer, Computer Science Specialty.

    • I was in the same boat. Luckily, I made sure to get experience in PHP before I left college.

      Try getting into some sourceforge projects and put them on your resume. That looks good. And write little programs in your spare time and show them to prospective employers. That's how I got a great job.

  • Enough with the joke posts, true as they are. Me and my friends do BEST robot competitions, build rocket/robot things, etc. We're very tech minded. Stuff like that, things that involve science, technology, but not in a nerdy un-fun way. You're not gonna want to make it TOO formal or class-like, we'd shun away. Things that seem like fun projects are great, and I certainly would go for em. As well, IT programs in general would certainly arouse my, as well as some other (non-aforementioned) friends who are int
  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:54PM (#11086895)
    I am a high school student, so I beliewe I am qualified to answer you.

    First, be forwarned. I don't mean to sond cynical, but there is not a whole lot that has to do with science and technology that would excite most students. Even if it does, a lot of people are too scared of being called a "nerd" or a "geek" and thereby having their social status for the rest of the four years ruined to show that excitement.

    There are, however, some. I don't think that a robotics competition is a good idea, however. I don't know about most schools, but at mine there are not a lot of people interested in robotics. Besides, it would take a lot of work, and a lot of the most brilliant people are inherently lazy.

    I think the programming fair was a great idea, however. Every time I write a program to do the simplest thing on my TI-84+ graphing calculator (such as convert celsius to fahrenheit for instance) people gape at me with awe and amazement and ask, how did you DO that? This includes jocks, socialites, and various other groups of people who would normally not be caught dead showing an interest in the "nerdy" fields of computers or technology.

    If you put on a programming fair, you are not going to be able to teach anyone computer programming in a day, but you will spark their interest. Give away a few CDs with C tutorials on them or something, and maybe, just maybe, a few kids will try them out.

    Also, expect the bit-head population to turn out in force at your fair. You can even put some of them to good use, having them help the newbies who have no idea what's going on.

    In conclusion, programming fair=good, robotics competition=bad.
    • by elhaf (755704) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:01PM (#11087051) Homepage
      You're in high school, and you can actually write? I mean, without abbreviations or anything? How did you DO that? Really! That's quite an impressive writing piece for something you just whipped up for slashdot. You've restored my faith in the school system.
      • Thank you :)

        I really don't like it when everyone assumes that we are all stupid, ignorant, lazy, and badly behaved. That is a large portion of us, but it is not all of us. That is why I try to write and speak as properly as I can. It's also why I don't like stupid things like 1337. It disgusts me so much what some people are doing to the reputation of the rest of us, so I try to combat it as much as I can by writing and speaking properly. I even use full words in text messages.

        So please, everyone, don't t
    • I definitely look fondly on the days of zoning out of math class and programming my TI-83 not too long ago. It was definitly a cool way expose some "non-programmer" friends to the idea of programming. Possibly a way to widen the appeal for today's students is to expose them to some programming toolkits for cell phone platforms. With that, you definitely broaden your appeal from "math students" to "all students".
    • It really isn't that hard to program TI basic, all you have to do is read the book that comes with the calculator and you really don't even need a tutorial. When I was in middle school I made RPGs for the calculator when I was bored during class. If you are still doing that in high school though then I'd say you need to challenge yourself more.
    • by Jensaarai (801801) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:29PM (#11087472)
      Ok, I'm a College Freshman. I call shenanigans on the post above. Was he seriously suggesting that teaching the 1 or 2 kids who know how to muck about with a calculator in a "fair" is better than some sort of robotics convention? Are you sure you're a high school kid?

      How many different versions of "Robot Wars" and "battle Bots" are there on TV? How many pop culture references towards fighting robots have been made in just the past couple years alone?

      If you want wide appeal, robots are the way to go. Anyone will watch a robot do stuff, and the geeks would love to learn to make one. My science teacher in Middle-of-nowhere, New Mexico was able to offer a high school robotics course, and the kids loved it.

      Just have a couple fighting robots, then show they can be done for other stuff, etc, and you're guaranteed to garner interest IF it is promoted right. (Link up with the school's student council to get them to promote it.

      Sorry, but playing with a calculator won't appeal to that many people.
      • The problem that the original poster understood (and that you're not getting) is that robotics is hard compared to programming. There's simply too much knowledge required to make something that actually does something.

        As he was saying, you get a lot of bang for your buck with programming. You can make something that'll impress people within a day's work.

        There is an exception, though - I think that if you stick to lego mindstorms or other canned robotic solutions (so that in general what you're talking a
    • As another high school student I also feel responsible for responding to such a narrow-minded post. I think it truly depends on how many people you are trying to reach out to. If you want a small group of mostly computer-savy people then certainly, both robotics and programming will grab their attention. But what I've found with my peers is that they still don't know how to use a computer. My school is almost entirely mac, but the rest of the school has no idea how to use anything other than windows, and
    • by DJDutcher (823189) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:51PM (#11087795)
      You know the TI-85 has the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit built into it. :)

    • Wait. Let me get this straight:
      Robotics competition = people scared of being called nerds and geeks


      Programming fair = people NOT scared of being called nerds and geeks
      That just doesn't add up. I mean, when's the last time you saw a tv show [battlebots.com] about battling programmers? ;)

  • Research into haptic input and output devices.....you know....for um......pr0...err....grams....pr0grams, yeah, thats it.

  • Nuff said.
  • FIRST Robotics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IncomeThax (826888) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:56PM (#11086935)
    Being a highschool student involved with science\tech I would suggest becoming a mentor for a FIRST Robotics team in your area. It's a great way to help the kids, and the community in general. the website:http://www.usfirst.org/ [usfirst.org]
  • Serious suggestion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MesiahTaz (122415) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:56PM (#11086939)
    I'm 21, so I haven't been out of high school too terribly long. The world wide web seems to appeal to just about everyone so I would suggest a web development contest of some sort -- preferrably data-driven sites. None of this MS FrontPage crap.

    I wish my school had held some sort of PHP competition. Will it attract everyone? Certainly not, but I doubt you would want to. A great many high school students ARE just focused on scoring, rims and car stereos.
    • by The-Bus (138060)

      A great many high school students ARE just focused on scoring, rims and car stereos.

      That, sadly, does not change upon graduation.

      I would think doing a variety of topics to reach different people would work. My votes would go to:

      • Programming for cell phones (games, etc)
      • Programming for video games. Specifically, have someone model a room or the school in UnrealEd (very easy to use -- haven't used it in 5+ years so don't know how many advances there have been)
      • Programming for cars. Can you optimize the
  • Hacking 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbickford (652870) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:57PM (#11086948) Homepage

    At least when I went to high school hacking was perceived as cool somehow. Even kids that know nothing about computers may be attracted to learning how people hack into systems without authorization. Tell them about tiger teams. Talk about breaking crypto. Explain how hacking isn't just limited to breaking into other peoples computers. I was the kinda kid that was always in saturday school and detention. I would never have been attracted to computers unless I knew that I could do "fun" stuff with them.

    For added effect wear a mohawk.

    • Re:Hacking 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @08:07PM (#11087957)
      That's a really good idea.

      Give some information on (innocuous) cracking tricks, and with a stern warning "don't take this knowledge back, the school knows we taught you this so you're the first suspects", set them loose on an isolated network of Windows computers with random patches and a firewalled HTTP-only connection (so they can look up techniques). At the end of the round, you get points for the number of computers (possibly including yours) that you have either hard-disk or shell access to.

      That would actually be pretty cool. I'll try to convince our computer club to host one, if we can get an isolated network of trashable machines. (You'll need to wipe the disks after the round; otherwise, you'll be using a pre-cracked computer.)
  • I graduated about three years ago. My friends, who were a pretty nerdy bunch, got very excited about chemistry and robotics tinkering, but this may have just been a product of our excellent, very charismatic chemistry teacher/tinker. Robotics stuff will always draw big crowds, especially since it requires a synthesis skills. However, it also requires a lot of capital.

    If you're looking for something a little more computer oriented, I found that the schools in my area, the bleeding heart of silicon valley,

  • I imagine those students flipping burgers for minimum wage would be interesed in somthing more worthwhile if given the chance.
    • Pay them to do something. Scan in all the old public documents at the courthouse.
    • Interview retired people and publish the results on a website to teach life lessons and life stories.
    • Have them put together a program to teach Stepmania [stepmania.com] to the elderly.
  • Really..
    My suggestion would be ant-weights..
    ant-weight battlebots are cheap and fun..
    there is a ton of practical application on industrial design (i.e. autocad), electronics and soldering, programming can be done as well. And they are remote controlled and are a hell of a lot of fun. Not too mention it is not something they will be made fun of as battlebots are on television all the time :)
    Here is a few links
    http://historyagent.com/joeldg/&label=robot
  • Take them to work with you for a day .. I think i almost creamed my pants the first time i walked into a data center. Show them what it's like to be a developer or admin or network guru. Explain there is more to computers than games and IM. It would decently cool if it was the day of a meeting .. Let the kid sit in .. Yes .. I know meetings suck .. But most of us have to do them in the real world. And sometimes they are interesting. Show them around, what you do, what makes your job interesting/mundane
  • Instead of thinking about what interests them the most, try thinking about what you can get the most people involved in. A robotics competition would be nice, but many students may not have the financial resources to put together a decent robot. In competitions like this, it's often the person who puts the most money in who wins. A programming competition would be nice. Leave it open, let them choose their own language/platform/whatever. They'll have a lot more fun, and you'll get a lot better projects
  • Porn. That's my guess.

    When I was in high school, we spent hours downloading .GIFs from local adult BBSes at 2400 baud, eventually filling a whopping 40 megabytes.

    Assuming that trend has continued, and I don't see why it wouldn't, that means your average adolescent male today should have roughly 6 terabytes of porn. Perhaps you can interest them in the future of high-density data storage and high-resolution displays...

  • When I was in high school my friends and I made movies for projects, and it was really fun and we learned a lot about the stuff we wrote for.

    With digital video cams dropping in price, as well as good video editing software available for every platform (including those Macs the school is trying to get rid of), kids could make their own movies about stuff they're learning about in school.

    But be sure to encourage them to be as creative as possible. A couple people tried to copy us and it usually ended up as

  • Seriously. There is something for everyone here.
  • When I was at school many many years ago, there was a science club.

    The stuff that used to get us interested was Van de graaf generators, lasers, nice explosions and smelly chemical reactions too esoteric for regular chemistry lessons. Anything that sparked, smelled or zapped was great fun. Muxcking about with electric motors, car engines etc,

    Are things really that different now? I doubt it? But I also doubt that these are the kinds of things you are really thinking of doing.

    Disclaimer. I am 40. Eek
  • by Specter (11099)
    Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology: http://www.bestinc.org/MVC/

    Future City: http://www.futurecity.org/

  • I spent many hours writing programs to demonstrate aspects of science. In particular, the students loved a dog breeding program which demonstrated Mendelian genetics. Of course, I quickly realized that I preferred programming to teaching teenagers, so here I am.

    Even if you're not a developer, there's tons of free educational content out there. Gathering the good stuff together and showing teachers how to integrate it with their coursework is a noble goal.

    Getting the teachers involved and enthused a

  • Porn.
  • What Interests High-School Students?

    The opposite sex, generally. Fitting in and being accepted. Graduation, maybe, as a distant third.

    ... what excites students about technology.

    That's easy, too. It's pr0n, to judge by the large and no doubt representative sample of high schoolers we see here on /.

  • The New Mexico National Labs (Los Alamos [lanl.gov], Sandia [sandia.gov], the universities (NMSU [nmsu.edu], UNM [unm.edu], etc) and others came together in a rather awesome program [nm.org] about 13 years ago. The Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge Program gives high school students access to modern supercomputers to do scientific programming projects. They are given mentoring and instruction by volunteers as well as volunteered CPU time and access. Schools lacking net access are provided it by the participants, etc. After all their work, there is a c

  • - Make you own gun.
    - Blow stuff up.
    - Make your own beer.
    - Anything involving eavesdropping and/or a hidden camera.
    - Anything that crashes.
    - Animals that do tricks.
    - Anything that'll get you a lot of cash quickly with no work.
    - Make ice cream out of lab chemicals
    - Construct a death ray
    - Etc.
  • Then it's flat top, dirty bob, coppin' a feel
    Grubbin' on the livin' room floor (so sore)
    Yeah, they send you off to college, try to gain a little knowledge,
    But all you want to do is learn how to score

    Some things never change. The rest of that is here [uiuc.edu]


  • Nothing makes a male teenager's day like getting a glimpse down some girl's blouse.
  • Kids that want extracurricular tech stuff will do it on their own, on time already available. I'm co-president of a school sanctioned robotics team, and founder of a school sanctioned computer science club. Kids that are interested in technology join. Overall we have over 50 members in a high school of about 350 kids. Anyway, the point is that if kids are interested in technology, they will, in general, seek it out themselves. I'm 16 and already work at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

    - dshaw
  • As someone in Engineering who has been involved with highschool recruiting/outreach, I've got to point out -- don't forget about the girls. Often, science and technology types (usually guys) assume that only boys are going to be interested in things like computer science, physics, engineering, etc. As a result many high school career councilors don't even point out computer science or engineering as career paths for women, even though there are many scholarships available to students who go that route. Stud
  • by bacomage1 (736588) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:14PM (#11087244)
    I'm a senior in High School in an affluent suburb of NYC. If I were to try to engage a large number of other high schoolers like mysel, I would gear it towards creativity/design. Most of my friends are fanatics for pirating software: all of them have Macromedia Dreamweaver and Flash, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, Encore, and Audition, Fruity Loops, and Maya. However, few of us have a damn clue how to use any of em. If you could find a way give instruction in a few of these, a lot of students would be very interested.
  • From working in IT in a school district (a large one, I may add), I know one thing that high school kids love to do with technology:

    Put spyware on every lab machine they can!

    We also had a student steal the ID making machine, the camera, the printer, and the monitor. Yet he left all of the supplies (printing ribbons, cardstock, and the very necessary proprietary cables) behind. I think it is going to be the world's fastest illegal ID operation ever.

  • Your mom.
  • You should think about taking part in Dean Kamen ( inventory of the segway and the one axle wheelchair)'s FIRST [slashdot.org] with a local highschool

  • by phunster (701222) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:18PM (#11087309)
    My experience over the years trying to volunteer my IT and Network Security expertise to the local school system has been very disappointing. Most recently our Board of Ed decided every kid in the high school should have a laptop. Many of us felt strongly that the decision was made without the proper research and thought. They had visited one single school and decided to adopt that school's plan verbatim.

    The results have been poor, the kids have had a field day loading porn and games onto the computers. The school has accused many of the kids of using the laptops to cheat. They have had to hire three full time employees to fix the laptop's OS (Yup you guessed it, Windoze). They never looked at any other operating system, and they blew off any suggestion of evaluating Open Office, though they could not tell us why they absolutely needed Microsoft Office. When I suggested desktops instead of laptops so that the image could be reloaded nightly as other schools do, I was rebuffed. They actually implied that I didn't want the kids to have computers. They assumed that every kid would have a printer that worked with the laptop (A Sony model that doesn't show up on the Sony site or Google.) Tests have had to be postponed because teacher's computer's have failed, imagine they don't have back up machines for the teachers. Once they realized that they would have to provide printers for at least some of the kids they scrambled to get a printer on the network, no luck so far. The laptops sound is software controlled so the first 15 minutes of each class is spent listening to 20 or so laptops booting up. I could go on but I think you get the point.

    In short it has been one disaster after another. Tonight my wife and I will be attending yet another Board of Ed meeting. I will be announcing the formation of a committee to elect a competent Board of Ed. Maybe then you kind folks can come here and help us clean up the mess.
    • I resent this. I'm a teacher. School board members are not educators. They have more to do with local government, each other, and whatever other social networks exist in their school system than they have to do with kids. These inefficiencies you describe have really nothing to do with education since those people in some other setting would behave the same way.
  • by Zycom (720889) <ZycomOne @ g m ail.com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @08:10PM (#11087988)
    The first thing you need to do is focus your target audience a bit more.

    Want the real hardcore, shy away from the sun geeks?
    Go for the programming contest, and they will come. The audience is going to be fairly small however.

    Want a bit larger geek crowd?
    Go with robotics, there are more science and tech topics involved so you will get a bigger crowd. If you feel like giving up several months of your life, mentor a local FIRST team. The kids will appreciate it. You can even get a taste for it first by helping out at a local competition.

    Want to do something that will interest every teenager with a passing knowledge of computers?
    Do something with HTML and some basic web design. Emphasize ways to pretty up their Xangas and LiveJournals.

    Looking for more science than tech?
    Sponsor a science fair. Offer prizes, maybe pose a problem and have the entries focus on a solution.
  • Some suggestions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @08:22PM (#11088119) Homepage Journal
    No chance of these being seen, at this late stage, but here goes...

    • Micromouse - Yes, the long-time favourite of cheese fanatics. :) Build a robot "mouse" that can navigate through a wooden maze, without looking over the walls (or going through them), to get to the center in the shortest possible time. Some of the earliest (and best) "mice" were purely mechanical, no CPU of any kind.
    • The Great Egg Race - Created by the archtypical Mad Scientist, Professor Heinz Wolff. Build a machine from whatever you like that can carry a raw egg as fast as possible over a course, without dropping it. Powered only by one small elastic band. Very simple, minimal geek-factor but a real challange.
    • Core Wars! The Return of the Red Code.... Yes, you too can win the contest by writing a program that will kill all competing programs. There's an excellent "arena" for running tournaments called King of the Hill (KotH).
    • CRobots - A cross between Core Wars and a Robot Death Match. Write a program in C that can move a virtual robot around an arena, "shooting" at rival programs while avoiding being shot. This is easier to write for than Core Wars, and the interface is a lot better, but conversely it is less of a challange.
    • The Science Lab - This is something my father ran in a science lecture recently. It seemed popular with the students. Basically, you are given a bunch of fairly basic materials (iron ore, copper ore, sawdust, sand, clay, that sort of stuff). With a little effort, you can make bronze, steel, glass, pottery, etc. Add some lemons and you can make simple batteries. What you'd have here is a contest to see which person/team could become the most "advanced" in a given time, with everyone starting at the stone age.
  • Ask Them, not Us (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @09:44PM (#11088848) Homepage Journal
    Knock on your next door neighbors door. Tell them what you are planning on doing and that you need sugestions. Ask them if you can ask their teenage son/daughter and use their sugestions. Repeat with any and all neighbors you know of with highschool kids.
  • each other (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rpillala (583965) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @10:07PM (#11089026)

    High school students are interested in each other. You'll notice that having a nice phone and sending little text messages is cool. It's not the phone that's cool.

    If there's some technology that allows them to monitor who's going out with whom every day you'll see kids snap it up.

  • Physics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toetagger1 (795806) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @10:20PM (#11089129)
    The thing that taught me the most in highschool was physics. Most students take it anyways, and doesn't take very complicated or timeconsuming, nor expensive ideas to get people interested. Here are the things I did, or wish I did:
    • Build towers or bridges out of balsawood that then compete in a wieghtbaring competition
    • Bottle rockets with parachustes, the longest one to stay up wins
    • Catapults, crossbows, slingshots, ...
    • remote controlled cars
    It doesn't take too much to involve technology into these:
    • modle the structure using CAT or similar, and try to predict how much it can hold, before you build it
    • use a chip to determin when to release the parachute
    • predict the trajectory, maybe even measuring and including wind speeds
    • use AI to stear the remote controlled cars
    • That said, my favorite in high school was the pumpkin chunkin competition in delaware, just after halloween.
  • Student interest (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dark_requiem (806308) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @10:35PM (#11089223)
    Having left high school in the past few years, I'd say you have no chance whatsoever of gaining the interest of those who would not already be interrested in the idea of any geekfest. A programming competition, robitics fest, whatever. The geeks will show up, the others will not. Simple as that. If a kid has reached high school with no ambition towards technology (or intellectual advancment of any kind), they will not be swayed by any advertising you might try. If they have developed for 15 years or more with no interest in the way the world around them works, they are lost to intelligencia everywhere. Only those with a previous interest in learning and self-betterment will attend. For those, set up any geeky event, and they will be there in force, whether it's robitics, programming, or physical sciences, they'll be there.
  • I used to be a highschool substitute teacher, so I would usually see the students at there worst (or best, depending on how you look at it).

    From what the students told me, here are some ideas to get them interested in science/computing:

    Network security: Present a challenge to the students to get past whatever "web-minder" or "net-nanny" type filtering scheme the district has installed so they can get to the more, er, colorful websites. (I was very surprised and delighted to see a group of inner-city students circumvent the filtering measures the school had so they could browse the pages of low-rider magazine online. When I caught them, they were a little scared, until I told them "I won't tell on you if you show me how you did it". They showed me, and man those kids were bright.)

    Physics/bio-chemistry: While many people will look down on this, kids are going to smoke weed, and no amount of force-fed DARE propaganda can stop them. Now, you have to be very careful about how to present it, but interesting projects might include Bon..er, "water-pipe" construction, asking the kids "What chemical reaction is going on when the smoke is filtered through the water?", or "What is the best diameter for the main shaft of the pipe for maximum efficiency". I once found a student going over extensive notes, with diagrams and calculations for the design of his custom water-pipe.

    Of course, neither of these could ever be seriously put into play in a public school, but for a great deal of motivation for some students is found in the desire to do something they shouldn't be doing. I for one learned quite a bit about computer software trying to get pirated games to run when I only had 640k of base memory to work with. The games themselves were incidental, it was the fact that I could take any number of cracked games and get the old DOS to run it which made the process interesting to me.

    I think you'd get a lot of students interested if you can somehow create the illusion of misconduct in the exercises.
  • by sscanf (131650) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @01:07AM (#11090050) Homepage
    1. I am a FIRST Lego League coach for middle school. Its great stuff and kids love it. Tons of work. I have also assisted with the HS FIRST robotics competition. Also great stuff. In both cases it can be difficult to rope in the less geeky but its possible. Some find the geek inside and thrive. Its cool to watch.

    Stuff I think about doing later:

    2. Teach them how to program a microcontroller and use it to control motors, leds, etc. (STAMP or OOPIC are pretty easy). Build something fun.

    3. Get a group of kids and head to the dump. At our dump there is always a pile of old PC's and monitors, every one I have ever left with has worked fine. Have each kid find an old junker or two to work on. Bring it back to class and help each work through getting it to come back to life, then hand out the fedora CD's (or whatever). Teach them how to set it up as a web server/web development platform/firewall/whatever.

    4. Profit!

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