Google glasses, Instagram earrings and three dimensional holographic print options for smartphones were just a few of the ideas batted around the room Wednesday (Oct. 9) by high school girls exploring information technology (IT) possibilities.
More than 100 teenage girls from 10 Arkansas high schools spent the day at J.B. Hunt’s corporate offices in Lowell with mentors from Rockfish Interactive, Wal-Mart Stores, J.B. Hunt Transport, Tyson Foods, Acxiom and other local companies who need more IT graduates to fill future job needs.
“This event is about helping girls see the potential opportunities that exist in IT careers. There is a huge lack of female role models in IT professions. Just 26% of women chose careers in IT. We hope to change that,” said Eric Bradford, director for the Information Technology Research Institute at the University of Arkansas.
The first year event was well received.
“This is first year for this event and we’re excited about the interest from around the state. We had to turn some schools away because of limited space in this facility. But this is a great start,” said Carlan Pine, one of the event organizers from the UA.
Morgan Watkins a senior at Cossatot River High School, was of three young ladies to make the trip to Rogers on Wednesday. Watkins said she blown away by all the possibilities that IT can offer in career application.
“The panel discussion really opened my eyes about IT.” Watkins said.
The mentors for the event included tech professionals, marketing executives, project managers and systems analysts for a wide range of companies.
Bradford said studies expect there will be a shortage of 1.4 million IT professionals to fill open jobs by 2020 – a wide-open field for girls to pursue.
Simplyhired.com estimates IT graduates are some of the best paying jobs for the young college graduate. IT specialists pull in an average $65,000 annually, that’s $20,000 more than average college gradate salary.
The misnomer is that tech jobs are those where you sit in a cubicle and write code all day long, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of coding jobs, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Sarah Scott, an IT professional at Rockfish Interactive. Scott designs and markets specific mobile applications for some of the largest companies in the world, all from her office in Rogers.
Haley Cox, IT teacher at Rogers High School, said having an event specifically for girls is important given the shortage of females in the field.
“I see guys being more confident in my programming classes, the girls are more cautious and not as willing to ask questions as the guys. Removing the males from this group I see these girls asking more questions and getting more involved in the creative process,” Cox said.
Following the mentor panel discussion, the girls were placed in 13 groups and challenged to come up with a new social application or improve on one they already use. They were given 45 minutes to brainstorm their ideas and eat their sack lunch.
Instagram was the biggest favorite among the teens. Several groups sought to improve the social platform to include face recognition in lieu of log-in or live personal broadcasts that could be shared with various designated groups. Others wanted to add creeper protection with better blocking capability and voice controls that allows users to speak the text captions instead of having to type them.
One group wanted to totally revamp tagging with an app they called TagAlong. Their app concept allows an Instagram user to tag a certain product they want to buy, click on it and be instantly directed to the site where it can purchased.
Three-dimensional holograms were also a popular concept with the girls.
Abigail Stoops, a senior at Arkansas School for Math, Science & Arts, said her application would allow a consumer to scan their body into a three-dimensional hologram that could interface with online shopping sites like Amazon. A consumer clicks on the clothing they want and it’s projected onto their body image. They then can see what it looks like before making a purchase.
Another group took that concept further by allowing users to order product alterations and embellishments online as well. If a product doesn’t fit the way a consumer wants they can order the alteration or add embellishments like rhinestones – all the click of a button.
Another group said their holographic 3-D printer allowed consumers to click on the product you want to buy, send to printer with a Paypal add-on and the item would be in their hands in minutes.
While some of the ideas may seem a little far-fetched, organizers reminded the group that the iPhone is only six years old, Twitter is just 7 and Instagram —the crowd favorite — celebrated its third birthday just yesterday, Oct. 8.