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Ask Slashdot: Hands-On Activity For IT Career Fair

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the craft-time dept.

Education 121

First time accepted submitter MConnolly writes "I participate in an annual career fair for High School Sophomores. I have groups of 10 — 20 students for 40 minutes a piece. In previous years, we've brought a bunch of retired PCs and challenged the groups to disassemble (down to the motherboard) and reassemble them in working order. Many processors and motherboards died, but everyone had fun. Most students today only have laptops and tablets. As a result, this knowledge doesn't translate into the real world anymore (perhaps you disagree). I'm looking for suggestions for an activity that will give the students some hands-on, real world experience that will benefit them immediately."

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CS knowledge does not translate into the real word (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44701511)

but the collgle system has pulled down the tech / trades schools a lot.

Group... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701789)

Masturbation. Sit in a circle. Put a cookie in the middle. You know the drill.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (5, Funny)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#44701825)

... but here's an exercise that will translate into the real world... Separate them into two groups, the "M" group, and the "E" group.

The Ms ties the Es group's hands up behind their backs. Then the Ms set themselves on fire, and have to coerce the Es to put the fire out with their hands tied up. If the Ms survive, they get more Es and go again. If the don't, they're replaced with a new M, preferably one from outside who has no idea what just happened.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702177)

Morlocks would never trust Eloi to save them from immolation.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (3, Insightful)

rwyoder (759998) | about a year ago | (#44702573)

... but here's an exercise that will translate into the real world... Separate them into two groups, the "M" group, and the "E" group.

The Ms ties the Es group's hands up behind their backs. Then the Ms set themselves on fire, and have to coerce the Es to put the fire out with their hands tied up. If the Ms survive, they get more Es and go again. If the don't, they're replaced with a new M, preferably one from outside who has no idea what just happened.

If I had mod points today, I'd change this from "funny" to "insightful".
It pretty much describes the miserable conditions of the company I just quit.
I won't give any names, but the filthy rich CEO has a thing for sailboats.
That experience left such a bad taste in my mouth wrt IT, that I am looking into going back to college for an entirely different career.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44704229)

poor baby... welcome to the real world, where puppies die and kitties get hit by cars

CS knowledge does not translate into the real word (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#44702261)

CS knowledge does not translate into the real word ...

How is that? I find the opposite to be true. I think the serious bugs that I've seen over the years tended to be at the data structures and algorithms level, i.e. core CS topics. Keep in mind that those job listings may not explicitly list CS topics but there is an implicit requirement for them if a CS degree or equivalent is listed.

I understand your sentiment. I recall the disparity between what I was learning in a CS program and the skills listed in job offerings. However 20 years later I appreciate what our dean told us at a meeting where he was soliciting suggestions from the majors. Many of the student requests were for classes that were commercially oriented. The dean explained that there is core knowledge that persists and there are languages, operating systems and platforms that are just implementation details. University classes should be about the persistent core knowledge. Self study, Junior Colleges and vocational schools are the appropriate venue for the implementation details of the day.

A common request was for a Microsoft Windows programming class, this was the early 90s. The dean pointed out that the CS department only gave us very basic instruction in C programming and the Unix operating system, and that we were expected to further develop our knowledge in these areas on our own time as necessary for future classes. Similarly, if you care to, MS Windows is something for you to learn on your own time. Windows based PCs are available and with an instructor's consent you may do some assignments/projects under Windows if you want to get some experience for your resume. You may use these systems for personal projects when they are unused, students with coursework related projects have priority. Again, this was the early 90s, not every student had a personal system.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a year ago | (#44702331)

How is that? I find the opposite to be true. I think the serious bugs that I've seen over the years tended to be at the data structures and algorithms level, i.e. core CS topics.

Those are all important CS topics, but they're not IT topics. IT isn't about finding and patching bugs, it's abut setting up and administering LANSand server farms, setting up and updating desktops for users and other practical skills. (Not that finding bugs isn't practical, it is, but it's a job for your developers and program maintenance staff, not for IT.) The skills you learn studying CS rarely if ever translate into what you're going to be doing in IT.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#44702727)

How is that? I find the opposite to be true. I think the serious bugs that I've seen over the years tended to be at the data structures and algorithms level, i.e. core CS topics. Those are all important CS topics, but they're not IT topics. IT isn't about finding and patching bugs, it's abut setting up and administering LANSand server farms, setting up and updating desktops for users and other practical skills. (Not that finding bugs isn't practical, it is, but it's a job for your developers and program maintenance staff, not for IT.) The skills you learn studying CS rarely if ever translate into what you're going to be doing in IT.

If you are interested in doing end user support and certain infrastructure work then yes a CS degree is unnecessary. However IT is a little broader than that. For example I know system administrators who do a little server side development as part of their job. Also some IT organizations may have a small development group for in-house apps and such. For larger organizations their business process or product manufacturing process may involve some custom equipment and involve some in-house development/maintenance. Its not unheard of to find software developers in an IT department, it depends on the company and the nature of its business.

Re:CS knowledge does not translate into the real w (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703095)

I would caution any high school student thinking about studying computer science at university. I would, however, advise them to study some computer science (introductory programming, programming language concepts, algorithms and optionally data base theory, and artificial intelligence) as part of their university degree in another science (anthropology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, forensic science, mathematics, medicine, physics, zoology) or engineering (civil, electrical, mechanical). Realistically, I would advise these students to learn a trade and enjoy can stable career which cannot be outsourced and which encourages entrepreneurship. They can always earn a university degree on a part-time basis while gainfully employed and save lots of money and stress over student loan debt.

Untrue, lots of examples (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | about a year ago | (#44703349)

CS knowledge absolutely drives the real world. Sure, big data or HTML might not be sexy things for an IT booth, but there's plenty of real-world ideas:

- Make 2 groups: one to write real-world instructions, the other to enact them. Have them write down how to tie shoelaces, that's always fun and eye-opening.
- Programmable robots. Lego Mindstorms isn't expensive, and you've probably been waiting for an excuse to buy this yourself for years :)
- Any math or logic games. You've heard of the water buckets to fill X with Y water using what's on hand.

And that's only the software side. You're right that most hardware isn't easily modified these days, but if PC towers are boring there's always home and personal electronics. Taking apart, cleaning, and reassembling everything from laptops to your old xbox still needs IT experience. It might not make you more employable, but it'll give your kids a chance to think twice about what they can do to prolong the life of their digital stuff before it gets tossed.

Write some code (3, Interesting)

bwhaley (410361) | about a year ago | (#44701531)

Come up with a few simple programming projects that students can run through. There's something magical about writing code and seeing the computer execute exactly what you told it to do. Write a Ruby Sinatra or Python Flask app and show how to access it from the command line. This will teach them what a web server is and how to write simple code at the same time.

Re:Write some HUMAN code (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#44701611)

You've got teams, right? Make it a pictionary type of game with each team broken into halves. One half of the team is given a task to complete (build a tower out of wooden blocks, move a pile of color balls into color-coded piles, sort numbered cards, etc) and must write simple code (perhaps limit their operations to a fixed list) that the other half of the team must execute in programming order to complete. Take turns writing and executing, with points for success.

Re:Write some code (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year ago | (#44701729)

The only problem I see with this is that a career fair should have some kind of social component to it, and the act of coding is very much solitary. Yeah, you can have teams and discuss what to do, but it will still come down to having someone sit down and write code. Not very exciting for average people, and definitely not a good way to attract them.

Re:Write some code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703171)

Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) is the first computer programming language students at the high school level should experience first-hand. People forget the amazing applications developed with BASIC and anyone can learn BASIC syntax in a weekend and then practise writing applications (trivial to advanced) during the remainder of the year if they are so inclined. For your 40-minute sessions talk about the realities of software development, not the rosy fantasy painted by "The Social Network".

Maybe something with networking? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701533)

Get an old wireless router, reset to factory defaults, have them connect to it via laptop and configure it for secure wireless, which they can then connect to with their laptop/tablet.

Re:Maybe something with networking? (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#44701583)

This could be a cool idea. Give each group 4 routers which are configurable as APs, give them each a specific channel they have to work on, and see who can bounce access the farthest and still maintain 1Mbps link with a cell phone. Make them each go in different directions so they don't really know how far everyone else has made it.

Re:Maybe something with networking? (3, Funny)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#44701903)

Give each of them a VM , and unleash some worms and viruses on your little cloud
http://xkcd.com/350/ [xkcd.com]

Linux vs Windows installation (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701549)

Have a side by side install Linux vs Windows. See who finishes faster.

Re:Linux vs Windows installation (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | about a year ago | (#44701791)

With everything working?

Re:Linux vs Windows installation (1)

Wintermute__ (22920) | about a year ago | (#44702249)

With everything working?

Define working.

Re:Linux vs Windows installation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702547)

Define working.

Windows removed, Linux installed.

Re:Linux vs Windows installation (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#44704797)

Able to play Farmville with sound via wifi.

That's the baseline for most people these days.

Teach them *about* Unix, Cobol, Oracle and SAP (1, Insightful)

attemptedgoalie (634133) | about a year ago | (#44701575)

There are a million web people.

If you can dig in and work your way into a position that supports and codes for these kinds of environments, you're likely to have a job for 40 years.

Yes, mobile devices are shiny.

But you need big telecom, big transaction processing and big power to make that happen. And that happens on big systems.

I know my department has a number of DBAs/developers that will be retiring over the next 5-10 years. There are no competitors for our business systems due to the regulatory framework, so it will be maintenance and upgrades. Maybe a migration from Oracle to SAP and back, depending on the management regime.

Something to throw out there.

Re:Teach them *about* Unix, Cobol, Oracle and SAP (1)

IANAAC (692242) | about a year ago | (#44701877)

Maybe a migration from Oracle to SAP and back, depending on the management regime.

Something to throw out there.

That seems a bit much for a 40 minute session, no?

A modern software equivalent to hardware teardown might be to install/configure beyond basics some server software and could probably go a bit further to pique career fair attendees' interest, given the time limit.

Re:Teach them *about* Unix, Cobol, Oracle and SAP (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a year ago | (#44702551)

Maybe. But installing Debian on a VirtualBox machine and then setting up a quick-n-basic LAMP server can be done, especially if you give them really good documentation.

Career Fair (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701577)

What in the lord's blazing hell does this have to do with careers?

Re:Career Fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701647)

+100000

Re: Career Fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703385)

It's a bit of a misnomer, 'career fairs'. Especially for sophomore high school students.

You'd be better served showing how people of different higher ed. degrees, science vs. engineering vs. economics vs. education vs. 'whatever', have overlapping tech knowledge demands. A little 'scripting', a little DB knowledge, and the ability to know your way around different computing environments and interfaces.

All of this revolves around how information is stored, retrieved, reported, and formatted. EVERY career profession has these basic tenants. Specifics are left to the individual fields, and work. Show a little about how they can be different and why.

Career Fair? Unless it's poaching the gifted and talented kids, these are just stop gaps to say they attended a workshop probably mandated by the state.

Teach them to be leakers... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701589)

Teach them how to stuff a bunch of data onto a few thumbdrives and leak it to the press. With as much positive media that Snowden is getting, I figure that it's a burgeoning career field with lots of perks in third world countries. It just means that you need to have no integrity and to go against any and all agreements as well as ignoring the use of an Inspector General or other organ that actually holds people accountable.

Crack WEP (2)

Prime Mover (149173) | about a year ago | (#44701603)

Set up a dummy WEP-secured AP and teach them how to get on. Check out http://www.securitytube.net/groups?operation=view&groupId=9 for a good instructional video. You'll have to provide a few Alfa cards though. Have them work in teams of three or four and you won't need many.

Seriously. They will learn not to run WEP on their own APs nor to trust WEP APs in the wild. And since most people don't run WEP anymore, you aren't really setting them up for a life of criminal hacking. But it is just devious enough to entertain kids (and some adults).

Re:Crack WEP (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about a year ago | (#44702211)

From there you could point them at http://www.try2hack.nl/ [try2hack.nl] or something.

a few ideas: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701605)

Why not do the same with laptops and tablets?
Why not do it with a server (you know, the kind you put on those racks)?
Why not do it with a robot arm?

vm demo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701641)

You could bring in a computer with vsphere or hyperV... then build some kind of IT infrastructure before their eyes. Then tell them that the same kind of software runs the xbox one.

real world example (5, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44701653)

Walk an offshore admin who speaks maybe 500 words of english and has had only hours of training, through creating a Windows Server 2008 VM and configuring an ASP application under IIS. For extra credit, repeat using SUSE and JSP/Tomcat. Simulate an accurate communications channel by having the person playing the offshore admin stand outside by the freeway using an analog cell phone, doing the work on a 1990's era laptop balanced on an ironing board connected to the net by an old Telebit modem that drops often.

Arrange so the student can see the actions being taken, but has no control over the process. The student fails the test if he touches the keyboard.

If the student decides to forego a career in IT and takes up bartending instead, he's passed the test.

Re:real world example (3, Funny)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44701781)

Seeing the actions being taken? That's cheating. Their only feedback should be the person on the phone describing what they see on the screen.

Re:real world example (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44701817)

Seeing the actions being taken? That's cheating. Their only feedback should be the person on the phone describing what they see on the screen.

Oooh. Good one. I insist they share their screen so I can watch them work, but that's even better.

What I was trying to simulate was the condition where you see him start to do something really disastrous (examples: "drop all tables;" "rm * .tmp" instead of "rm *.tmp" and you say "don't execute that command" and get the answer "yes I am being executing that command" and you grab the keyboard to wrest control, which could get you fired in some companies. (Because you're not supposed to do anything as root, ever again, because the contract says so.)

Re:real world example (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44701985)

This whole exercise reminds me of an experience of trying to do telephone support for a guy setting up the control system for one of the signs on Times Square in NYC. I spent about 3 hours troubleshooting over the phone, and the system finally came up about 5 seconds before the "big boss" who paid for the sign showed up to take a look at what all his money purchased.

I've also taken calls from freeways and sports arenas during the middle of a game (when cell phone coverage drops to nothing due to everybody at the event having a cell phone and overloading the local towers).

Yeah, I can relate as I've done all that and more.

Re:real world example (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44702105)

This whole exercise reminds me of an experience of trying to do telephone support for a guy setting up the control system for one of the signs on Times Square in NYC. I spent about 3 hours troubleshooting over the phone, and the system finally came up about 5 seconds before the "big boss" who paid for the sign showed up to take a look at what all his money purchased.

I've also taken calls from freeways and sports arenas during the middle of a game (when cell phone coverage drops to nothing due to everybody at the event having a cell phone and overloading the local towers).

Yeah, I can relate as I've done all that and more.

Kudos to you sir, for going above and beyond. But that's kinda the opposite of what I was suggesting. You were *providing* admin assistance, and in the case I was proposing, you are trying to get the ill-trained offshore admin to provide the admin assistance that you are not contractually allowed to do yourself.

That being said, successfully providing assistance remotely over a bad cell phone connection having no access yourself and working with someone with access and no training, is the mark of a Real Administrator.

Re:real world example (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44702321)

why should you care as likely you are now a temp / contractor and you will just get the OT / added job to fix there mess up.

Re:real world example (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44702933)

why should you care as likely you are now a temp / contractor and you will just get the OT / added job to fix there mess up.

Because I like to think I have a life, and I really don't want to put in another 30 hour day.

Re:real world example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703231)

Just have the students visit a call centre for any of the software companies (Microsoft, Oracle, et. al.). This will be their future if the study CS or IT or pretty much anything these days. Welcome to Hell, Resource CS230232932943291392/1.

The word(?) "IT" is too broad. (3, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#44701661)

Is this IT as in "desktop support", or "IT" as in managing PB-scale Oracle RAC data warehouses?

Easy. (1, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#44701669)

Let them dis-assemble and re-assemble iPads.

It's much fun and many will die too.

Re:Easy. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701741)

How you like those balls slapping off your chin? And you pay for the "privilege" of it!!! LOLZZZ!!!!!

Move data from one table to another one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701683)

Except:

Don't tell them what the data represents, make the two databases completely incompatible in data types, cripple their access to anything remotely useful in the way of tools, give them 15 minutes while somebody with pointy hair stands right behind them making stupid suggestions and then when they can't do it, fire them.

Root devices (1)

socz (1057222) | about a year ago | (#44701695)

Have them root their devices. It's not necessarily an easy thing to do, and in some cases requires CLI. It will show them a high level view of the different thing a person needs to even be able to root a device (vulnerability, code, communicating with the device etc). Talk about the ethics involved in rooting the device (yours vs theirs mentality). Flash a custom "ROM."

Success can be measured by those who successfully flash a ROM without bricking the device. This will give valuable real world experience that can at the least, teach them the perils of bricking a device. Better yet, could help them save big bucks by not bricking one of their own devices. Might even get some of them interested in computer security, vulnerability discovery/patching, and some may even start a business to root devices for customers!

But don't underestimate the ability to assemble and understand a PC down to its memory and CPU. Maybe you can have different teams cooperate to be part of a work place environment. PC building, network building, and "support" getting devices imaged and/or up and running on said network.

Re:Root devices (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about a year ago | (#44702507)

That sounds like a wonderful idea! If submitter starts now, they can get in a couple revisions of the release of liability forms drafted up, while researching how to root/jailbreak at least half a dozen of the most common devices and gathering the requisite software.

It's a fun idea, but not something I'd want to put into the hands of a bunch of 15-16 year olds when there's a distinct chance that some of them will brick their devices, and when irate parents may go after him to fix their kids' mistakes.

Real world (2, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44701701)

Teach them how to say "Would you like fries with that, Sir/Madam?" in your choice of any language other than English. They'll learn more...

Desktop computer (1)

avandesande (143899) | about a year ago | (#44701709)

The demise of desktop computers is greatly exaggerated. However, demonstrating virtualization, pushing policy and installations might be a little more modern activity.

Career option (1)

pjwhite (18503) | about a year ago | (#44701713)

Have them:
Dismantle a desktop PC.
Take apart a video monitor (CRT or LCD).
Tear down a hard drive.

Congratulations -- they're qualified to be a computer recycler.

Re:Career option (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44701863)

Take apart a video monitor (CRT...

I do not recommend this without a signed agreement.

Teach them to file TPS reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701717)

Hands-on, real world experience is a contradiction. In the real world, filing worthless TPS reports is a career.

Re:Teach them to file TPS reports (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a year ago | (#44704361)

TPS: Take Prozac Soon. (and you thought it was Team Project Status or was it... umm.... has anyone seen my red stapler?)

Cisco Fun (2)

daedlanth (1658569) | about a year ago | (#44701757)

Show them the Cisco Packet Tracer and explain how the internet really works fundamentally. If you need more show them Wireshark. That should fill up 40 minutes nicely and could be made hands-on easily in a moderately equipped computer lab.

Re:Cisco Fun (1)

pnutjam (523990) | about a year ago | (#44702931)

Walk them through an arp poisoning or arp flood attack with etherape visualizing the traffic. Showing people real life exploits can be eye opening and educational.

Hobby kits (5, Insightful)

jonyen (2633919) | about a year ago | (#44701855)

If you can get your employer to help pay for it, you could have the students work with Raspberry Pis or Arduino boards, and then they can take it home afterwards. Students love free stuff and being able to continue to tinker around with it after the workshop would enable this to be an invaluable learning experience.

teach them about https and security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701871)

Setup two boxes. One standard box with internet access and another one on the same LAN with driftnet.

Encryption will be the singular most important aspect of their future computing lives.

Regular Expressions. (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about a year ago | (#44701873)

Get some computers with Notepad++ installed on them and a file that has some various lines of text. Teach them about pattern matching and regular expressions. It doesn't really require any previous knowledge, and it makes you kind of think like a programmer. It's very useful even if you only have a basic knowledge of it, especially when tearing through log files with grep. Some of the students might not find it interesting at all, but I think you'll find that regardless of what you do.

Re:Regular Expressions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702357)

I like this idea but I don't know if Notepad++ would be the best tool for teaching in this context. KDE 3 used to have a graphical regex editor in the development package. I used to use it when I was still learning regular expressions and I encountered particularly complex expressions. The graphical representation really helped to clarify what each piece was doing and how it all fit together. I don't know if that editor ever got ported to KDE4 or if it was abandoned but I imagine there are similar open source programs available.

hands-on, real world experience that will benefit (0)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year ago | (#44701933)

1. hands-on: spark plug....basic auto mechanics. 2. real world: 40 y.o. married female with 2 children and 1 dog. 3. benefit: cars, cash, MILF's....the list goes on and on.

Real world experience? (4, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#44701935)

Have them a few 60 hour weeks; tell them they're the company's most valuable asset; reduce their raises/benefits, because the company is being "competitive" (while the company is posting good/record profits and paying shareholder dividends); lay them off because the company is "right-sizing" and/or "moving in a new direction" (while the company is hiring junior people); hand them some unemployment forms; escort them from the building.

Did I miss anything?

Re:Real world experience? (2)

mordejai (702496) | about a year ago | (#44702939)

Did I miss anything?

Nope, you've just described my average Friday.

Build a website (1)

sys_mast (452486) | about a year ago | (#44701949)

Go down to basic HTML. Build a functioning website.

Figure out what gives you the biggest visual impact in the smallest time. Short sweet simple HTML code.

A page, make copies of it and modify to be separate pages, with basic menu.

Then put it on a web server and surf that new corner of the web.

Can be as short/long as needed.

Oh...and color, lots of color on the page.

Future Hands On (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702027)

Identify a Business Problem, Gather the Requirements, and then identify the appropriate Cloud Service.

Not sure why you think you need something new... (5, Insightful)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | about a year ago | (#44702049)

... as you said students today have laptops and tablets which are completely self enclosed and not-user-serviceable at all, fostering the idea that a computer is kind of a 'magic box'.

Having a complete teardown/reassembly with some explanation will show the kids that computers are not these black boxes, you can point out what/where the RAM is, the CPU, storage, NICs, port controllers, network cards (if the PCs are older especially) etc. etc. etc.

Everybody can do virtualization stuff at home already, try to let them do something that they would not be able to do on their own. Configuring an AP sounds 'cool' but really it's just a matter of again staring at a screen and changing some checkboxes, doing something hands on with hardware is a lot more fun IMHO.

Re:Not sure why you think you need something new.. (3, Insightful)

aheath (628369) | about a year ago | (#44702239)

I'd also consider adding a disassembled laptop, phone and tablet. You can then relate the components of the disassembled desktops to the components of the disassembled devices.

Re:Not sure why you think you need something new.. (1)

sdoca (1225022) | about a year ago | (#44703519)

Agreed. I'd mod up both parent and grandparent if I could.

networking activities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702057)

Just show up with a wifi router and a laptop, assume the students will have their own iphones, androids, or laptops. Via the wifi router, have them do networking exercises involving connecting to the network, scanning the network for devices, and performing a basic vulnerability assessment (i.e. after IDing the device and OS, google for publicly known vulnerabilities against it). This quick and dirty exercise will demonstrate networking principles and basic network security tasks.

Re:networking activities (1)

pnutjam (523990) | about a year ago | (#44702951)

I like this, maybe try a man in the middle attach where you replace all SSL certs with self signed. Show them how to notice this in a browser and test various apps to see how the app reacts.

Real Programmers Don't Eat Quiche (1)

jacobsm (661831) | about a year ago | (#44702241)

Have them debug a z/OS StandAlone dump with IPCS. That'll get their juices flowing.

Cable untangling (1)

nadamucho (1063238) | about a year ago | (#44702291)

Tangle a bunch of old parallel port and VGA cables with CAT5, CAT5e, and CAT6 cables, plus SATA and some DVI. Time them to get you the SATA cables and 3 CAT6 cables.

Project Euler (1)

cosm (1072588) | about a year ago | (#44702295)

If the crowd is STEM-ey, let them compete to see who can finish the most Project Euler [projecteuler.net] problems in a set time limit using their own language of choice.

Still applies (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about a year ago | (#44702309)

As a result, this knowledge doesn't translate into the real world anymore

I thought teamwork still applied in the real world?

Keyboard navigation (2)

Kevin108 (760520) | about a year ago | (#44702319)

Have them open a browser and navigate to Slashdot with just a keyboard. That will vex the average user but is simple enough in reality and they'll leave having learned something useful.

Have them press... (4, Funny)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year ago | (#44702345)

Ctrl+Shift+T. It's kind of like the Ctrl+Z of the Internet. This will increase their knowledge base, and then train them in its use. After that, maybe have them lookup new keyboard shortcuts or even *gasp* create new ones!

Ctrl+Z (2)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a year ago | (#44704371)

Control-Z as in "suspend job" (UNIX) or as in "end-of-file" (CP/M)? You want to suspend the internet or end it? [[ confused ]]

Set up hands on troubleshooting excercises (2)

aheath (628369) | about a year ago | (#44702359)

You could set up hands on troubleshooting exercises that focus on issues that the students are likely to encounter in real life. This could include troubleshooting a network connection when "the internet is broken." This could also include troubleshooting a printer that won't print. You could start with the basic questions such as: "Is the cable plugged in at both ends." You could form teams where the problem is the same but the root cause of the problem is different. This type of troubleshooting will teach the students how to fix the problems that they might encounter while using computers.

real world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702377)

Have them Configure outlook for an exchange account. Then share contacts calendar and specified mail folders with one another.

VI Editor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702399)

Familiarize them with the VI editor.

I still don't know it and it screws me over on boxes without nano or a package manager to apt-get install nano or yum install nano or w/e.

Build something from source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702443)

Another interesting project, teach them to build something from source, how to manually fetch extract and satisfy dependencies, and use compiler flags.

If it's on Windows, have them do it using the cli compiler; have them setup their library $PATHs appropriately using both the GUI and CLI.

Preferably have a second session where it's done on the other OS/environment so that they can get a feel for similiaraties and differences between them (and gain an appreciation for the File Hierarchy Standard and Unix way of mapping/mounting partitions "OMG no drive letter!").

Data Center Tycoon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702411)

Some kind of simulation, Data Center Tycoon, which gives the students the ability to experience relevant problems ("Developer Group H running out of disk space again") and address them in accellerated real time. This would allow them to particpate without the learning curve of a programming language or router configuration. The simulation doesn't have to be computer based, it could be a tabletop excercise, or even something like a board game.

Try them on LFS (Linux from scratch) (1)

dominic.laporte (306430) | about a year ago | (#44702499)

1 ) It does not require any hardware
2) make it so that it feels like a Game/Competition.
3) Instant gratigfication !!!

Tech support simulator. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44702509)

Have a bank of phones that people can sit at and try and deal with a nightmare user at the other end.

Re:Tech support simulator. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703301)

Have a bank of phones that people can sit at and try and deal with a nightmare user at the other end.

ROFLMAO Best answer yet.

Set up a lan (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44702519)

Set up a lan. Takes some thought, but hardly impossible, even for neophytes. For extra credit have them set it up with dhcp, smtp, and named servers.

Spot the Young Manager Among Them... (1)

Petersko (564140) | about a year ago | (#44702541)

...and his job will be to convince the others in 40 minutes that the "Strategic Partnership Initiative" is not outsourcing, and they shouldn't be alarmed.

Cater to their interests (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44702583)

We just hired a fresh out-of-college CS graduate who knows nothing about programming, and I've been mentoring him, so I think the experience here can relate.

There's not enough details in the post about what kind of environment you have, or the amount of time you have with each group, but consider: what's a favorite pastime of teen males? Yep, gaming. So what I did for our college hire is give him programming assignments that were fun. One was to build a game where Superheroes were assigned abilities based on ability type (to teach inheritance), were assigned to battle via implementing an interface. Abilities had partial implementations (to teach abstract classes) setting certain types to have no damage, for instance, or to offer no protection. I wrote all the test cases and the implementation(s) had to pass all tests without modifications.

It was a lot of fun for me to write, and a lot of fun for him to implement because the idea was practical, concrete, and relevant to both our interests.

That's a lot to cover for a high school sophomore, but the key takeaway is to cater to their interests, not yours.

Q3 Arena (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703185)

Why not have them set up a LAN and a Q3 Arena server.

Your hometown in Minecraft (2)

surfinokie (828073) | about a year ago | (#44703211)

I just recently was responsible for a piece of a math and science night at my son's school and by far the biggest hit was the model of Hawai`i Island in Minecraft that I built from a digital elevation model from ISS data. The kids loved it, the parents didn't hate it, and I had a helluva good time with my son building it. With the age group you're working with, you can walk them through identifying data needs and data sources, moving data amongst different tools and formats, and then doing something fun and visual with it at the end of the day. Your hometown might not have active volcanoes in the backyard like mine, but you get the point.

Unrecoverable by design .. (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#44703285)

"In previous years, we've brought a bunch of retired PCs and challenged the groups to disassemble (down to the motherboard) and reassemble them in working order .. Most students today only have laptops and tablets. As a result, this knowledge doesn't translate into the real world anymore"

That's because the manufacturers design them that way, making them ununrecoverable in the process, all the while preaching their 'green` credentials, fifty dollars to change a battery, come off it. I see students who expereience of electronics being reduced to wiping a touch screen as the equivalent of that 'Doctor` whose entire knowledge consisted of consultant colored slides in some magic little black bag [wikipedia.org] .

Real world hands-on experience .. (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#44703309)

"I'm looking for suggestions for an activity that will give the students some hands-on, real world experience that will benefit them immediately".

Open Source Linux Boards Under $200 [linux.com]

"The following Top 10 community backed Linux boards are listed in alphabetical order, with links, price, project, and processor. They are described in more detail in the slide show below (click on View Gallery)."

Show how tech can by used to liberate or enslave (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#44703403)

I originally wasn't going to post this because I thought it would sound too preachy, but, based on some other responses here, I think it could be appropriate.

There is a digital civil war coming [falkvinge.net] as we transition out of the industrial age and into the digital revolution. Giving the next generation a solid fundamental understanding of digital technology is critical to ensuring the future belongs to them. They should learn that computers exist to serve the user and that any attempt to subvert this is oppressive and tyrannical: DRM, encryption that hides the keys from you, locked bootloaders, aggressive warranty voiding policies that presume user user liability, etc.

How this translates into fun IT fair stuff ... programming is a good start. Web programming languages give a pretty good bang for the buck for instant results a long you've setup the server environment before-hand. Although, really, if you've got a Linux box setup, getting Apache and PHP running can be done in a single apt-get command and 10 minutes of configuring.

That said, any interpreted programming language with a nicely readable syntax is probably a good choice.

How would taking apart old laptops or cheap knock-off tablets not be relevant? Maybe compare and contrast PC-style systems and SOCs to demonstrate the sliding scale between compactness, capability and performance. See if you can find a way to contrast the generally crippled suckiness of mobile platforms with the endless capabily and vast software ecosystem of a real desktop system. Show them why all their base shouldn't belong to Apple and Google.

Maybe come up with some sort of creative blockade to mimic DRM that they have to tweak around with the system to bypass.

Just get them interested enough to see that computers should do what they say, when they say. Addict them to that incredible feeling of control over a machine whose only job is to say, "yes, master," and not, "I can't let you do that, Dave."

Re:Show how tech can by used to liberate or enslav (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703563)

There is a digital civil war coming

"Vahjinya, by god, sir, is gonna be programmed by Vajhinyins. In COBOL."

"General Lee, I have no partition."

/dev/urandom (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | about a year ago | (#44703543)

+ Give them a hands-on demonstration of setting up a webserver in Linux.

Mount a Big Switch On a Board (1)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about a year ago | (#44703613)

Get them to turn it off and on again.

arduinos linked to blink in a sequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703615)

a box of teensys or arduinos with bright LEDs doing something.

Too much of a range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44703987)

There is too much of a range for a SINGLE activity to please all students. High schoolers can range from barely able to use a mouse or directories (Thanks IPAD), to the few ones who have complete and unknown access to the entire school's network and servers. Having a range of challenges would allow students to pick the one they feel they will have a chance at completing, without bringing extreme boredom to the more skilled ones.

Send them to my elderly aunt's house (1)

SigNuZX728 (635311) | about a year ago | (#44704197)

and have them teach her how to use her Windows 8 convertible. Please.

Perhaps you could (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44704443)

Have them masturbate to some furry porn. It's a realistic goal for them to aspire as an IT professional, and is most definitely hands-on.

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