Archive for May, 2017

Career Day

May 26th, 2017 No comments

I gave a presentation at Career Day last week at Elementary School. While I find programming interesting and challenging, I don’t think it is all that exciting to a 5th or 6th grader. But we are all about having fun, so there must be a way! As with many things, I turned to Google. There are some great topics and ideas out there:

I ultimately decided on a variation of the sandwich approach. I went with butter instead of peanut butter because, while I am hoping for an engaging presentation, I’d prefer to avoid one that requires an Epi pen and ambulance.

Thanks to feedback from a colleague before the presentation, I made it a point to modify a couple of slides and points to reference women in IT. Women are just as capable as men of excelling in this world, but there seems to have been a decline of female IT personnel over the years. I have 3 young women who will be spreading their wings soon, and I want them to know that they are free to pursue whatever interests or callings they have.

I wanted to find a fun, catchy name for my presentation. After all, it’s what sets the tone for what is to come. I decided on “Code Monkey”, which is sort of a nod to the song by Jonathan Coulton and a nickname I’ve been given at work. I take it as a compliment and thought it was a fun way to get the kids’ attention.

“What Movies Think We Do” – I spoke about the heroic and vastly oversimplified use of computers to save the world.
“What Some of Us Do” – I had logos from popular electronics (Xbox, Playstation, Apple and Android). This slide generated some murmur and talk, which segued into the many different aspects of IT. Some enjoy programming, others enjoy the graphics side or designing the game (worlds, achievements, etc).
“What We Really Do” – This one showed 2 people in code windows, which is where I enjoy spending my time. But that window could contain graphics and rendering, a Visio layout for a data center or even a digital storyboard.
“What is Programming Like” – I like to compare programming, as well as other aspects of IT, to solving a puzzle. Our pieces might be different (code, graphics, plans), but we have to fit them all together just right. Inevitably there are some pieces that don’t fit the first time, so we have to find the “bug” and fix it!
“Let’s Write a Program” – I asked for a volunteer from the audience and we put together some pseduo-code to build a butter and jelly sandwich. This one was fun because we learned how literal computers are. You want to open the bread? You didn’t say how…so the bread is open and everywhere! You wanted to put jelly on the bread, but you never said to open it…so the jar of jelly is on the bread! We refined the program and the “programmer” eventually enjoyed the results.
“Who Can Be a Computer Programmer?” – I really tried to focus on the possibilities with this slide. I used an image with a very diverse group of people, and we talked about how anyone can work in IT. Some of the kids enjoyed drawing, so they could be graphics designers. Some enjoyed solving puzzles, perhaps they would like to code. Others enjoyed organizing things, they might like to work with a database. Boy/girl, race, religion…it doesn’t matter. Anyone with a desire and interest can do it!
“Where Can You Start?” – I highlighted a few websites with programming resources for kids., Tynker and Scratch are all popular and geared for kids. I saw a few writing the information down, hopefully they follow through.

I saw several other presenters that had some small trinkets or samples for the students. A chef brought mini creme brulees so the kids could use carmelize the tops. Another one brought mini tractors for the kids (he was an industrial equipment sales person). If I give this presentation again, I’d like to find some small jigsaw puzzles to pass out. Something tangible to remember the topic!

There were only a few questions, which I found surprising. I don’t know if the kids just didn’t think of any or if they were just not engaged. I had one girl ask about salary and a couple kids came up afterwards and said they already wanted to be programmers. I enjoyed giving the presentation and even learned some things while putting it together. I hope the kids learned something as well, and that I had a positive impact!

If anyone is interested, here is a link to my presentation: Code Monkey

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Happy Birthday

May 15th, 2017 No comments

So today is my birthday. I’m officially past the big 4-0. I haven’t done this in awhile, and am not fond of sharing personal info, but I’ve been wanting to get back to the blog and need to start somewhere…so here goes.

As time passes, I realize a quote from one of my favorite movies really rings true: “There’s no normal life, there’s just life. Get on with it.” (Tombstone, 1993) Life is far different than when I last posted 7 years ago. During that time, my kids have grown tremendously, I’ve had huge personal changes and I’ve learned that there really is no such thing as a normal life. You can choose to be happy, sad, angry, oblivious or anything in between. It is your choice. We have all made decisions; some we are happy with and others that we want a mulligan. But in the end, life really is what you make of it.

Ok, that’s enough. We have a busy summer ahead! With 5 kids to coordinate (elementary to high school age), it gets crazy. The summer camp schedule alone is nuts: band camp, church camp, choir camp, Boy Scout camp, diabetic camp, marching camp. We are also taking a huge road trip to Yellowstone, which has been in the planning stages for at least 6 months. Our summers (and lives in general) seem to get busier every year, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is what you make of it and we are going to have fun!

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