Information Technology

Child programming robot
By Molly Hovden

Campus IT professionals gave their children a taste of technology careers through the inaugural Take Our Children to Work Day. At the April 28 event, 24 children programmed their own video game, navigated ball-shaped robots through a colorful obstacle course, and toured the College of Engineering.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day has been a national event for about 20 years, and this year several UI IT communities came together to organize interactive activities for the children of IT professionals. UI Women in Technology and UI Developers hosted this event, with support from the College of Engineering and Iowa Tech Chicks, a local IT users group. Families from across the university’s IT community participated in the event, which organizers hope to expand and offer again in the future.

Children Participating in Hour of Code Activity
“There are so many opportunities to learn more about STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) on campus, and we wanted these children to take advantage of them and to explore how fun and rewarding careers in IT can be,” says event coordinator Andrea Mascher, a Senior Database Administrator in ITS Administrative Information Systems.

Mascher says goal of the event was for children to leave feeling that computer science was not only a field they were able to pursue, but one that involves careers they would personally enjoy. Organizers also wanted to show the breadth of STEM and its many applications.

During the Hour of Code activity, each child was introduced to coding concepts through a hands-on experience of writing a computer program from start to finish.

Children Touring College of Engineering Electronics Lab
Through the Code.org website, they completed a series of increasingly complex coding challenges to create a custom Star Wars video game.

“It was especially gratifying to hear that several children that participated continued to write even more code at home,” Mascher says. “We hope that this event encouraged these children to envision themselves in a STEM career when they grow up.”

 At the College of Engineering the kids toured labs to learn about 3D printing, electronics, and laser cutting, and were inspired by a wall of patents held by UI engineers. To top off the day, they programmed Sphero robots, maneuvering rainbow, illuminated devices around a maze of paper tunnels.

“The Sphero robots, borrowed from Iowa Tech Chicks, were a huge hit—many of the children were asking to have their own robot at home,” Mascher says.

Photos courtesy of Andrea Mascher, Sarah Mascher Wallace, and Kaitlin Jones