by: Kevin Rascius
IBM is reaching out and making a difference at Wethersfield High School. Science teacher Mr. Kess runs an interesting independent study called, “Mastering the Mainframe.” This independent study provides seven WHS students with the incredible opportunity of learning how to use mainframe computers and setting them up for future success in the field of computer science. The independent study gives students the chance to learn about these computer systems and gives students real-world application of this knowledge. The students access IBM’s mainframe computers through laptops and are advised by Project Manager Christopher Zack from IBM.
Mainframe computers are essential tools in the real world, they are used primarily by large companies for critical applications, transaction processing, storing important information, and so much more. As Mr. Kess said, “Mainframe computing is something that doesn't get alot of attention, but is a huge, huge part of the finance community.” 92 of the world's top 100 banks use mainframe computers, there are 30 billion business transactions handled by mainframes everyday, and they handle about 87% of all credit card transactions. “Mainframes are secure, they are fast, and the whole point is to crunch data. It’s incredible what mainframes do, they're in the background, we don't know realize what they do, but everybody touches them everyday when they make a credit card transaction or book an airline ticket.” (Christopher Zack) Mainframe computers are a key component of our everyday lives, yet very few people know about them. They handle our most important transactions and store the most vital information because they are fast, secure, reliable and dependable. Tests have shown that they can survive an earthquake with an 8.0 magnitude on the Richter scale, these are built to handle the extremes.
This independent study is very different from any other class at Wethersfield High School, as it culminates in a competition sponsored by IBM that can result in obtaining “Digital Badges” that acts as credentials to recognize students achievement and contribution. These badges are a tangible item that proves to potential employers that you have the skills to work for them. Project Manager Christopher Zack from IBM said, “Ideally, students will get those badges. The goal here is to complete the course, and earn the badges. The badges are an incredible thing to take away from this. This contest identifies the people who have the potential to be mainframers, and get their names out there as candidates to be mainframers.” In the competition, hundreds of students compete, and are asked to complete a multitude of challenges and projects on a mainframe computer. Successful students in the competition can earn these digital badges, and win other prizes such as Amazon gift cards.
With this independent study, IBM and WHS expose students to an amazing job opportunity in a rewarding and important field. These students are getting a free jump start on a potential career in the field of computer science, and IBM is getting a head start on training the next generation of mainframe programmers, and identifying possible future employees.
The independent study has just begun this semester, and Mr. Kess and Mr. Zack hope to make it into a half-year elective by the beginning of next year. As it is an independent study, students try to meet with Mr. Kess once a week but do most of their work in their own home. In order to do well in this class, students must be responsible and self motivated. While the course may sound difficult and very ¨techy¨, both Mr. Kess and Mr. Zack encourage anyone with any interest in the field of computer science to participate. The class can shed some light on what “computer science” means, and presents an amazing and free opportunity for all Wethersfield Students.
All in all this independent study and future WHS elective provides an incredible opportunity for students. If you are curious about computer science, enjoy a challenge and love the thrill of competition, this class is for you.
Written, edited, and produced by Wethersfield High School students, covering all news and events.