Jobs are the No. 1 topic of national discourse and the upcoming elections. That’s no surprise, given the national unemployment rate at last glance was at 8.2 percent. Nonetheless, some job opportunities do exist for people who are in the right place at the right time with the right skill sets. And Avnet is enabling college and university students to develop those skill sets further, compete for scholarships, and network with some of the leading names in high tech at an event called Avnet Tech Games.
The most recent Avnet Tech Games took place this past weekend in Tempe, Ariz., where more than 185 students (on 75 student teams) from 11 Arizona community colleges and universities came together to compete and to meet with representatives from Avnet, and others from tech leaders such as Accenture and Cisco (News - Alert).
“The Tech Games is really about keeping jobs in America,” says Teri Radosevich, vice president of community relations and public affairs at Avnet, an Arizona-based company that is one of the world’s largest distributors of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology.
This spring marked the seventh annual Avnet Tech Games, which was held at the University of Advancing Technology. Seven competitions were held on site and open to Arizona college and university students.
That included the Accenture (News - Alert) Green Data Center Challenge, for which students created and delivered to a panel of judges PowerPoint presentations on their ideas and cost structures for making legacy data centers more eco-friendly. For example, one three-member team talked about employing technology that cools computing equipment by submerging it in mineral oil; freezing water at night and using it to cool the data center during the day; insulating floors and ceilings; centralizing cooling for efficiency gains; and using motion sensors for lighting to lower energy requirements.
Meanwhile, the Cisco Expert Battle had four three-member teams of students design, deploy, troubleshoot and repair networks that were similar to a small office configuration. And the Robot Race Obstacle Course involved 10 teams of three students each programming Lego MINDSTORMS robots to maneuver different courses.
Other on-site competitions were Building the Fastest Computer; the Digital Design Challenge, which involved creating, validating and documenting an FGPA design to work on a provided circuit board; Patch Panel Madness, which entailed building a working data network using a provided network diagram, cabling, patch panels, switches and racks; and Solar Scrimmage, which invited students to design, build, test and present a solar-powered system that could move water from one bucket to another.
The Tempe event also featured several other areas in which students could learn about technology and participate in activities. That included the Avnet Express Chevrolet Volt, which enabled attendees to learn about technology used in the vehicle; the Fastest Geek race to build a mini computer; and more.
The work of college and university students outside of Arizona was also on display at the event, which has a related effort called the Spring Virtual Avnet Tech Games. The virtual games this spring included the Android (News - Alert) APP Showdown, in which students developed Google Android apps using Google’s Android SDK and Open API; the Green Video Competition, for which individuals created short videos on environmental initiatives at their colleges; Kevin’s High Tech Home Makeover, for which students designed entertainment-, health- or work-related solutions for Kevin Olson, an Avnet employee and Avnet Tech Games champion who was paralyzed in a car accident; and the Microsoft (News - Alert) Digital Signage Design Challenge.
Winning students – whether participating onsite or in the virtual games – received up to $1,000 in scholarship money. Faculty got $200 for leading teams and an additional $300 for each winning team. Since the games began in 2006, Avnet Tech Games has awarded more than $225,000.
Radosevich explains that the spark for the Avnet Tech Games involved the meeting of an Avnet employee and a person involved with the Arizona community college system, who mentioned that the tech industry typically worked with K-12 students and university students, but not so much with community colleges. That led to the launch of the Avnet Tech Games, which initially involved only students from the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. The program has since expanded to include both college and university students in Arizona and across the nation.
This is just one example is how Avnet and Arizona’s community colleges have worked together to create a more qualified tech workforce. After realizing that the tech curriculum at many area colleges was 30 years old, representatives at Avnet and Chandler-Gilbert Community College joined forced to get a National Science Foundation grant to upgrade the curriculum. The effort started with the Maricopa Community Colleges system, but that curriculum was later shared with universities in the state. The organizations went on to win a second NSF, which was used to bring updated curriculum to colleges throughout the Southwest.
Edited by Jennifer Russell