IBM Finds Signs Of Talented Youth At AITP
April 30, 2012 Dan Burger
There was something happening here. Aaron Bartell has presented dozens, maybe hundreds, of technical sessions on the local user group circuit and at the notable IBM i conferences like COMMON, DevCon, and the RPG & DB2 Summit. His audiences are diverse, but one thing they aren’t is young. As he looked out at the attendees of his most recent session, he was struck by the change in landscape. Everyone was young.
Bartell was presenting a session called “Introduction to Android Development for RPG Programmers” in a classroom of about 40 interested college students at the AITP National Collegiate Conference. The AITP is the Association of IT Professionals. The National Collegiate Conference is that organization’s biggest event of the year. Attendance for the recent show in San Antonio was 538 student attendees.
“It was fun to see that many young people interested in the platform,” Bartell said. “The first question I asked was ‘How many are here because you thought I was going to teach you how to play role playing games?’ A couple people raised their hands. But at the end of the session I had some of the programming students, who had never heard of RPG or IBM i, approached me and said ‘All right, you sold me. I like what I’m hearing. Now how do I get onto a machine?'”
Bartell had to admit he didn’t know of a place where students could get free access to IBM i, but he does know that he’d like to push some buttons at IBM to take care of these interested young people that are thinking of developing the next social media sites. They won’t be doing it on IBM i, if they’ve never heard of it or have no access to it is his point.
Overall, Bartell described the conference as “a cool atmosphere to see all these students really excited about technology and some of them excited about IBM i.”
IBM did have a booth at the conference. And COMMON did, too.
In addition to Bartell–who is not employed by IBM, he works for Krengel Technology–there were several of IBM’s top technical folks on hand to present sessions and make a positive impression for Big Blue. Tim Rowe, the business architect for application development on IBM i; Barbara Morris, a member of the RPG development team; and Kushal Munir, development manager for Rational Development Studio for i, were on hand.
“If you are going to a developer conference, those are the people you want there, because they are right in the trenches,” Bartell said.
Gateway Technical College, with its three campus locations in the Greater Milwaukee area, won a conference support award for 33 students and faculty at the event. The IBM i-related programs at Gateway include programmer analyst, Web programming, networking, and computer support services.
There were 10 students from Jim Buck’s RPG program, which is based at the Gateway campus in Kenosha. You’ve read about Buck in the IT Jungle before (See the Related Stories at the end of this article.) He’s also the president of the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professionals Association (WMCPA).
“We have a very strong AITP student chapter in the Milwaukee are,” Buck said. “And the kids raised money all year long, plus the college kicked in some money for this AITP conference. The AITP has always been very supportive of students.”
This was the first time there were IBM i topics on the conference agenda. Buck did a lot of lobbying to make that happen. In previous years IBM’s involvement was limited to the mainframe and COBOL.
In addition to the IBM i sessions, there was also an RPG programming contest that required students to take a Web query and implement it as a Web application. They were graded on documentation, functionality, and page layout. Gateway took three of the top four awards in that category, with a second place award going to Mid-State Technical College-Wisconsin.
Talking about the interest in mobile applications, Buck says a lot of employers don’t understand the enthusiasm young people have for mobile computing. “Students are excited about mobile and being able to connect to systems they don’t even understand yet,” Buck says. “The thing about these students is that they don’t see things in terms of ‘we can’t do this.’ They want to know ‘How do we do this?’ They ask questions that some of the older workers don’t ask.”