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Last updated: Fri. Jul. 25, 2014 - 01:50 am EDT

Campers solve real-life problems

Students aid local businesses, learn STEM concepts

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Local business men and women got help this week solving workplace problems with solutions offered by some of northeast Indiana’s best and brightest – gifted and talented teenagers.

It was the first year for TechCamp sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Tech Coalition, a collaboration of the city of Fort Wayne, Allen County, Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Atos and Ivy Tech Community College Northeast. The program connects high school students with local employers for future jobs related to science, technology, engineering and math – known as STEM – and information technology.

Throughout the week four teams made up of 20 tech campers from 14 regional high schools leveraged technology to win business problem-solving competitions at Easter Seals ARC, Lutheran Hospital, Do it Best Corp, the city of Fort Wayne and Allen County offices.

“The NEITC is excited to launch this tech camp program to the community,” said the coalition’s program manager Doug Arthur. “This program could make a big impact in connecting students and some of the region’s top employers.”

The students offered innovative ideas, and working with them brought hope for the future, Arthur said. “These students are two years away from voting,” he said.

Kolin Behrens, 16, a junior at Homestead High School, was named project manager of the Lutheran Health Network team.

“Helping solve the real-life problems that these businesses have has been very rewarding.” Behrens said Thursday.

When his team worked with local assessors and surveyors Wednesday, they noticed that their field equipment included a clipboard, tape measure and camera, Behrens said.

“We were able to offer the solution of a low-cost electronic tablet with a built-in camera and a case for the tablet that included storage for the tape measure,” he said. “They can take the photo and type the information and send everything with one click.”

Before, someone had to wait to receive the reports and then decipher handwriting, and there was room for error,  Behrens said.

Priscilla Baltazard, 16, a junior at North Side High School, was one of Behrens’ team members. Baltazard had just moved from New Jersey. What she enjoyed most was getting to know the area and the people.

“I’ve seen how they work together to make a stronger community,” Baltazard said.

Officials were also pleased with the pilot program.

“What I love about these students is that there are no boundaries - no in-the-box thinking,” City Utilities Director Kumar Menon said. “I was most impressed that these energetic, talented and intelligent young people worked well as a team and were able to think big.”

“Clearly, these bright students had good insights,” said Jim Haley, chief information technology officer for the city of Fort Wayne. “We expect this experience to be an important connection between our top young talent and the employers in northeast Indiana.

“The program also raised the consciousness of our students to STEM job opportunities around the region while introducing local companies and officials to some of our brightest young minds,” Haley said.  

In addition to Behrens and Baltazard, other participants included Lexus Biehl and Drake Heitz, Northfield High School; Justin Lovins, North Side; Cole Miller, Lakeland; Larz Engquist, Wayne New Tech; Divinity Craig, South Side; Devin Dubbelde and Hannah Ferguson, New Haven; Calvin Isch and Rileigh Wolpert, Adams Central; Sharon Sitton, Huntington North; Addison Gepfert, Concordia Lutheran; Ethan Bearman, Northrop; Trevan Parish, Keely Rodriguez and Robert Peck, Snider; Megan Heimann, Heritage; and Johanna Ashley, Viking New Tech.

The weeklong camp will culminate tonight in a “Shark Tank” competition at Ivy Tech where the students will pitch business plan ideas to 21 local celebrity judges, presenting ideas for new businesses that will leverage technology to hire people with disabilities from Easter Seals ARC.

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