Middle schoolers learn the secret to business success

Rylee Green didn’t know about the many opportunities in information management when she was in middle school, but wished she did, so she could have gotten an early start. Now a senior computer information systems major, Green and others from DISC (the Department of Information Systems Club) hosted 86 middle school students from the Laveen Elementary School District at Secret Code of Business workshops this summer. Their goal? Creating life-long technology lovers and future Sun Devils.

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“We wanted to inspire these kids to consider a career in IT and also make college a goal for them,” said Green, the DISC vice president of corporate relations. “It was rewarding to watch the kids’ faces light up when they were able to understand a concept and then help their friends.”

“I wanted the middle school students to learn more about programming and all the amazing things they can do with it,” Green added.

This is the second year the Department of Information Systems offered the Secret Code of Business. Enrollment more than doubled over last year, and plans are underway to repeat the workshops in October, according to Karen Stark, student services coordinator.

The event started with a tour of the W. P. Carey School of Business and campus. Then students worked in teams to plan their dream vacations and present their ideas to the group. Next the middle schoolers played data games where they had to use math and statistics to win. The students also got to try out coding and learn algorithms on code.org.

Seventh-grader Orlando Meza liked coding. “My favorite part was coding because I gained great knowledge that I know will help me later in the future,” he said. He’s planning for a career as a forensic scientist.

Meza, a student at Maurice C. Cash Elementary School in Laveen, said he was surprised to learn that there were different types of programming languages like Python and JavaScript.

The W. P. Carey students who led the workshop were DISC members majoring in computer information systems and business data analytics. The goal of the workshop was to inspire the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who participated to consider higher education degrees in science, technology, engineering or math. The W. P. Carey School’s CIS and BDA majors are considered STEM programs.

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Green said technology-focused education will set the kids up for a successful future.

“Businesses are run by technology. Every purchase or sale creates data that the company then wants to make into useful information in order to make their business run more efficiently and more profitably,” she said. “Business people with the skills learned in our CIS and/or BDA courses are the ones who do that &dmash; they are the people who are both tech savvy and business savvy.”

And that’s the secret code of business: understanding and knowing how to use technology in business, Green said. The demand for skilled workers is only going to grow as business becomes more and more digital, she said.

June 21, 2016

Reaching kids at the junior high school age is critical, Green said. Like other languages, programming languages are easier to learn when you are young, she said.

Nada Sarsour, a student chaperone and second-grade teacher at Maurice C. Cash Elementary, said it was important for the students to see and hear that these careers are options for them.

“STEM careers are the future. Technology is advancing every day,” she said. “Any career path they end up choosing will require them to be comfortable using computers.”

Sarsour said the DISC members kept the junior high schoolers engaged and she enjoyed watching the students use the strategies they learned to play the data games and win. She added that the kids benefited from seeing examples of hardworking college students. “Our kids raved on about how they now cannot wait to be Arizona State Sun Devils,” she said.

Green said focusing on getting girls interested in information technology is especially important.

“According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 18 percent of undergraduate computer and information science degrees are earned by women,” she said. “We hope to interest these girls, and all the students, in computer information sciences at a young age.”

Day-Sha Valencia, an eighth-grader at Maurice C. Cash Elementary School, had fun at the workshop and said she was just happy to have the opportunity to attend. “My favorite part of the event would have to be when we played the coding games because some of them were very challenging but fun,” she said.

Valencia said she will use what she learned when she starts her own gaming business when she grows up.

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Facilitators were CIS and BDA majors from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Front row, from left: Vi Tranle,David Russell,Michael Syrjala, Triet Le,Michael Denis, and Reema Alhuwaider. Back row, from left: Prince Darko, Zhiyuan Xue, Emily Beck, Madeline Verette, Jason Lewis, Tyler Andl,William Herding, and Rylee Green. Not shown: Manoj Panikkar and Rashae Kacavenda.