Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wonder of science on display at annual technology summit

Competitions, workshops and exhibitors plug youth in to potential careers

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Star
Team Challenge members Marcel Gamers (facing), 14, of Upper Marlboro and Gerard Cooper, 15, of Largo try to connect the last few wires of their project during the computer building competition at Saturday’s Patriots Technology Training Center Youth Summit at Largo High School.
Kettering resident Delante Mallette struggled to keep his two wide-eyed children from wandering out of view Saturday at the 11th Annual Youth Summit on Technology at Largo High School.

Mallette’s son, Robert, a ninth-grader at Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro, kept running off with his friends to prepare for a computer building competition.

His daughter, Diamond, a fifth-grader at Riverdale Baptist, occupied herself with operating remote-controlled robots brought by one of the exhibitors.

Mallette, pulled between watching one child or the other, said he was at least happy to see that both were showing such a strong interest in science.

‘‘I wanted to expose them to the different technologies here and hopefully it will spark an interest,” he said.

The family was just three of the more than 600 people who came to the Largo school for the annual youth summit, which is sponsored by the Patriots Technology Training Center, a Seat Pleasant-based nonprofit that engages students in higher-level thinking through competitions, technology summits and informational events, according to its Web site.

The summit, which lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., featured more than 25 exhibits manned by volunteers and employees from companies and government agencies, and several parent and student workshops.

The day ended with a biomedical-themed game show, the computer building competition, a raffle and door prize giveaways.

Pre-registration for the event was required. Student registration was $25 for members of the training center and $35 for non-members. Parent registration was $10. Registration at the door was $40.

‘‘Our main focus with this was to bring students and parents together to learn about technology,” Patriots President Thurman Jones said of the summit.

Some of the exhibitors on hand included IBM, the National Institute of Health, the Navy, the Air Force, the CIA and the Mitre Corporation, a systems engineering company based in McLean, Va.

The workshops focused on programming, aviation, engineering, computer networking and helping parents find scholarships and financial aid for children interested in a science-related career.

Mitchellville resident Levonia Moore, a lead information systems engineer for the Mitre Corporation, talked with many students interested in engineering.

‘‘I spoke with students about careers in engineering and how they could prepare themselves for college and an engineering field,” Moore said.

Upper Marlboro resident Mamie Ryan, a senior sales specialist for IBM, had students participate in an engineering activity where they received a piece of paper and a piece of tape and, with them, had to build a structure that could stand for five seconds.

‘‘I talked about the definition of engineering, the different types of engineers and what [students] need to do to prepare for engineering careers,” she said. ‘‘... [The summit] exposes them to things that they would otherwise not be exposed to and it exposes them, through one-on-one interactions, to people in scientific fields.”

Upper Marlboro resident Dave Julian said he wanted to get information about helping to pay for college for his son, Lucas, a fifth-grader at Longfields Elementary School in Forestville. Information available included a catalog of science- and engineering-related scholarships and financial aid providers.

‘‘This has been very helpful,” Julian said of the summit. ‘‘I’ve gotten a lot of information from the agencies here and also some good information about college financial aid.”

Lakiyah Boyd, a sixth-grader at Robert R. Gray Elementary School in Capitol Heights, said she had a good time learning how to program robots.

‘‘I wanted to come here and play games and make stuff,” Boyd said. ‘‘It’s been fun.”

Students Francis Marchitelli, Hashim Muhammad and Robert Abendroth from New Hope Academy in Landover Hills placed first in the biomedical-themed game show competition.

For more information on Patriots Technology Training Center, call 301-925-9350 or visit www.patriots-ttc.org.