Sphero NewsAmanda Vaden
Embark on an IT Adventure with Iowa State University and Sphero

Students of all ages and stages in their computer science journey (and their teachers!) are always looking for fun, engaging ways to get involved and learn new aspects of the field. Whether they’re beginners and just getting started or more advanced and honing their skills for a specific future career path, there are many programs and opportunities available nationwide. 

Recently, Iowa State University’s (ISU) IT-Adventures program collaborated with Sphero to offer coding and computer science exploration to local high school students through Sphero RVR programmable robots. Through the IT-Adventures program, participants are exposed to various areas of learning through hands-on projects and collaboration with others.

In this blog, we’ll explore what ISU’s IT-Adventures program is and how you and your students can get involved. 

What is IT-Adventures?
The Iowa State IT-Adventures STEM, IT and robotics program for high school students logo.

IT-Adventures is an extra-curricular STEM program offered by ISU that’s designed for high school-aged students who are interested in learning more about the world of IT. Through hands-on learning and group/team-based learning, students learn how to work together in several areas of learning, including robotics, smart-IT, and cyber defense. 

What Will Students Learn through IT-Adventures? 

Students can choose from any of the three avenues to learn and participate, as long as the advisor of the club offers to teach and provide guidance in that area. A club advisor does not have to be an IT/computing teacher, as advisors are mostly there to help keep students on track. If students have questions that their advisors cannot answer, they are encouraged to do the research themselves. However, advisors are more than welcome to reach out to IT-A Support Staff whenever they need.

The three areas of focus are: 

Robotics

Designed to be the program’s gateway, IT-Adventures Robotics, featuring Sphero RVR programmable robots, is ideal for students who are interested in mechanical engineering, which appeals to those who want to build and physically create.

Smart-IT 

Take your IT learning to the next level. The Smart-IT avenue introduces participants to programming, but they will also see how their programming performs in the real world through a robot or another physical object. 

Cyber Defense 

The most complex and advanced avenue, Cyber Defense introduces an entirely new way of thinking and new concepts. It’s also perceived as the most challenging level because students can’t always see how an issue in their programming or building plays out, like you can with a physical object or robot. Students can see when they have a program in their programming when hackers—the red team—compromise their systems.

What are the benefits of joining IT-Adventures?

Students who join the IT-Adventures program can expect a highly-engaging learning environment full of hands-on learning and group/team-based learning. The program is designed to be fun, inclusive, and easy-going -- no student is left behind if they do not understand a concept. The IT-Adventures program encourages students to use the resources and tools available to them to find their answers. Every student is encouraged to ask questions and learn how to solve problems. 

Advisors, teachers, and students will gain access to a free curriculum, teaching plan, and full IT-Adventures staff support as they journey through the material. While the program runs throughout the academic year, IT-Adventures support staff is reachable year round. 

Additionally, the program has been redesigned to reuse the required materials, making the program much more sustainable for all and for years to come.

IT-Adventures is a great way for students to learn about something newer in the world. It’s a laid back, flexible program designed for students to learn at their own pace and as a team. The program teaches other life skills, like team work, how to ask questions via inquiry-based learning,  and how to research, in an inclusive setting that sets them up for success in the next chapter of their lives. 

Ultimately, IT-Adventures was developed to be a space for students to celebrate their curiosity for robotics, smart-IT, and cyber defense through fun, creative activities. Unlike some other similar programs, IT-Adventures celebrates the full journey—the learning process—and not just winning the race.

Who Should Join IT-Adventures

IT-Adventures is ideal for any group of high school-aged students (grades 9-12) in Iowa who are interested in robotics, cyber security, and/or smart-IT. Before joining, students will need to form a club with an advisor, like a teacher, troop leader, or any adult mentor, to guide students through the learning process. 

Grade Levels

IT-Adventures is ideal for students in grades 9-12.

Qualifications

Any student who is interested in robotics, cyber security, and/or smart-IT and has formed a club led by an adult advisor.

Location/Timing 

The program starts in early September, generally aligned with the beginning of the fall semester. The program culminates at an in-person event in April 2022 that is held on the Iowa State campus. This event is not required to attend, but it is a celebration of technology and a successful year of IT-Adventures.


How Can You Join IT-Adventures?

The IT-Adventures program runs during the academic school year on a semester schedule (fall and spring). Clubs should be ready to get started the week of September 7, 2021. The in-person IT-Olympics—which is the culminating event to the IT-Adventures program—is scheduled to happen on April 23, 2022 on ISU’s campus in Ames, IA. 

To learn more about IT-Adventures and how your students can get involved with the program visit: http://www.it-adventures.org/ and http://www.it-adventures.org/clubs/

To register a club, please visit: http://www.it-adventures.org/clubs/

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