Milwaukee Students Explore High-Tech Careers

May 9, 2014

Washington High School hosted its 16th iFair this month at Harley-Davidson, to interest students in IT and engineering. Some are already well on their way.

Welcome to Washington High School's iFair
Credit John Holman

Waves of students arrive at Harley-Davidson every hour from their respective schools. When the elevator opens on the sixth floor, a peppy i-Fair representative leads a cheer; then the kids fan out across the exhibition room.

This isn't Jalen Webster's first iFair, even though he's only in seventh grade. "I'm hoping to learn more about this field in technology. Hopefully they have some displays, like they did last time, and hopefully I learn more about those. I'd like to see all the other careers, because what if I see something else I didn't know about that sounds much cooler," he says.

Noland Dixon is also a seventh-grader, but he already knows what he wants to do in his professional life. "Lately I've just been interested in a lot of engineering projects and studies. I've even been to MSOE to some of the programs they have, and this is just one of them that I want to just try because I just really want to learn more about engineering."

Dixon says a few people in his family are engineers.  “And I just have been interested because I have always loved building things and being able to create things. I knew that engineering would play a big part in that," he says.

Even a treat for students attending the fair
Credit John Holman

Coreen Oestreich is staffing the table for Enterprise Systems Group. It’s a business communications company and has one of its phone systems on display.  She tells interested students the type of education they should pursue. "I usually recommend a four-year degree either in business management or telecommunications, computer science," Oestreich says.

One table showcases projects that Washington High students completed through Project Lead the Way, a high school program for those interested in engineering. Teacher Rachel Streff and her students are demonstrating one project for younger students. "They showing the middle-schoolers the different components of the robot, how they constructed it and then showing off the computer program and how they wrote the commands. And then they're letting the kids get to play around with it a little bit," Streff says.

She hopes the display pulls future students into the program. "A lot of the middle-schoolers have had a little bit of introduction to engineering, so I think they're excited to see how they can take that to the next level in high school and have a lot of fun with it," Streff says.

There were also college representatives at the iFair, including UWM, to inform high school students of the next steps into IT and engineering.

Dorothy Valentine is co-chair of the Washington High School Advisory Board. She’s also a 28-year veteran of Harley-Davidson and helps coordinate the annual fair. Valentine says it shows students that what they learn in math and science, they can apply to real life. "A lot of students don't know what all they can do. They think, 'Oh that's boring.' But, they don't actually know that behind that, someone has built a game board using the IT model, and that's exciting," Valentine says.

And, she adds, there's the promise of jobs in IT and engineering. "I know at Harley-Davidson they are always looking for engineers and Information Technology professionals. So these are open," Valentine says.

Maasio Mohamed knows he still has a few years to go before entering the job market. He’s a senior at Washington and is thinking about this summer, as he visits company tables. "I asked them what kind of programs they offer, also if they offer internships. That's my main goal is to get an internship during the summer, because you don't want to be just not doing nothing during the summer, get connected with people, because that's where everything is. If you connect, you will get somewhere," Mohamed says.