RICHARDSON — High school students meeting recently at The University of Texas at Dallas School of Management vanquished the stereotype that teenagers use the Internet only to socialize and be entertained.
A group of 18 local teens put blogs, social networks, Twitter, video sharing, virtual worlds, Wikis, and the like to work at Web 2.0 Summer Camp. They spent the weeklong day camp exploring creative ways to apply the latest in information technology to business issues re-imagined as entrepreneurial opportunities.
The driving idea, according to camp director Dr. Mark Thouin, School of Management faculty member, was to walk participants “through a formal problem-solving methodology to address a handful of problem areas,” such as how to help organizations be green, reduce their healthcare costs, and market and promote their products to consumers ages 16 to 24.
Once beyond preliminaries, though, Thouin encouraged pedal-to-the-metal creativity among the campers — all soon-to-be juniors or seniors.
From as far north as McKinney and as far south as Cedar Hill, participants also came from Frisco, Richardson and Dallas. The Turner Twelve Organization, a nonprofit group that works to create first-generation college graduates, sent the largest contingent, a dozen Class of 2011 members, who are all enrolled at Lincoln High School in South Dallas.
All the participants “worked in groups to create, strategize, and implement the most effective way to deliver their IT solutions,” said Dee Ellington, the School of Management academic adviser who envisioned the camp and made it a reality.
Contemplating ways a make-believe company might reduce healthcare costs, Kyle Tyler, a recent transplant from California soon to attend Berkner High School in Richardson, proposed in a Tuesday brainstorming session that the company direct employees to Wiki sites about food that could both show them healthier eating alternatives and allow them to share their own.
One of Tyler’s teammates for the exercise, LaCira Boyce of Cedar Hill, suggested the company could set up its own healthcare blogs on behalf of workers.
Students came from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area to participate. Back row (left to right): Gwen Fleming, Ariel Sanders, Wendell Harris, Ivory Alexis, Anish Jacob, Kyle Tyler. Middle row (left to right): Jeniece Madison, Jeodecy Johnson, Mickendra Barrett, Damian Medrano, Dr. Mark Thouin. Front row (left to right): LaCira Boyce, Antionette Steverson, Kwanetta Davis, Tosha Coleman, Veronica Jacquez, Brandon Bostic. CREDIT: UTD
A third teammate, Brandon Bostic of Centennial High School in Frisco, offered that “the company could hold a clinic and get Twitter or Facebook to tell the employees about it.”
This thought processing capped a learning exercise in which the trio and their fellow campers, headquartered in a School of Management computer lab, had gone online in search of ideas to spark their imaginations.
Playing off the abbreviation for information technology, IT, Thouin keyed all camp activities to the theme of “Do IT Better!”
Web 2.0, however, refers not merely to technology — the latest applications, networks, services and sites available online. The term perhaps more importantly describes a new Internet era, one in which users, formerly able only to view and download information, now also can generate and contribute content as well.
“When it comes to IT, there’s opportunity everywhere,” Thouin, director of the school’s Management Information Systems program, told the participants in advance of a closing-day competition.
Divided into five teams, the campers vied to deliver the best Web 2.0 solution to a real environmental, healthcare, or marketing challenge. A panel of judges evaluated the content, delivery, time management, and overall impression of their presentations, which had to run less than 20 minutes.
The use of clever team names, choreographed speaker changes, catchy graphics and more hinted that the students had plenty of fun with the challenge. But they also took their final assignment seriously: “After much head hitting, hair pulling and nail biting, we went to the blog,” said Antionette Steverson.
Two groups created blogs, Dee Ellington recalled. One, she said, had responses from nine bloggers less than a day after posting its initial content.
“I expect big things from this group,” said Arthur L. Gregg, assistant vice president for multicultural affairs and director of the Multicultural Center at UTD. “Really, really big things.”
The culminating camp event came Friday afternoon when Thouin announced the winning teams of the competition. Each member of the third-place team, the Vans, got a UT Dallas T-shirt. Second-place finishers, the AJ’s, each got a $25 iTunes gift card. All four members of the first-place team, i.M.A.D., got a $50 Visa gift card.
The judges found “their solution was the most comprehensive,” Thouin said of i.M.A.D.’s ideas. They provided access to healthcare answers in a variety of cost-cutting ways, he said, including e-mail, text-messaging, and on the Web.
1st Place: i.M.A.D.
- Ivory Alexis, Lincoln High School, Dallas
- Mickendra Barrett, Lincoln High School, Dallas
- Ariel Sanders, Lincoln High School, Dallas
- DeAunté Offord, Lincoln High School, Dallas
2nd Place: The AJ’s
- Anish Jacob, Boyd High School, McKinney
- Antionette Steverson, Lincoln High School, Dallas
- Jeodecy Johnson, Lincoln High School, Dallas
- Jeniece Madison, Lincoln High School, Dallas
3rd Place: The Vans
- Kyle Tyler, Berkner High School, Richardson
- Brandon Bostic Centennial High School, Frisco
- LaCira Boyce, Cedar Hill High School
Source: University of Texas at Dallas