They are the next generation of the technology industry. They are elementary and middle school students today, but years from now these youngsters may be producing technology that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Avnet aims to spark that interest in technology as it once again partners with Junior Achievement of Arizona’s BizTown in Tempe, Ariz. This is another opportunity for Avnet to nurture the students’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
JA BizTown is a mock city where fourth, fifth and sixth graders learn economic concepts, workplace skills, as well as personal and business finances. Avnet is currently running two technology shops in JA BizTown, where students receive hands-on technology industry experience. They are mentored by Avnet employees and parent volunteers. During their day in this simulated town, the kids learn about free enterprise and work readiness through active participation. Their hands-on tech industry experience is made possible by Avnet’s corporate partnership and a $40,000 donation.
For a second year Avnet donated more than $41,000 in funds and equipment, including laptops, furniture and a video game experience, and also created an exposed wall-mounted computer equipped with interactive lights to teach students about which component works when they press keys on an interactive computer with exposed internal parts.
“Junior Achievement of Arizona is honored to renew our partnership with Avnet through its two JA BizTown shops. Not only does the support enable thousands of students each school year to experience JA BizTown, but the shops give students exposure to important STEM career opportunities,” says Anne Landers, a Junior Achievement spokeswoman. “Avnet’s support extends to employee volunteering, as well, which is equally important to our students’ experiences.”
Last year more than 25,000 students from 269 Arizona schools and two Las Vegas schools participated in this unique hands-on educational experience.
Prior to their day as JA BizTown ‘citizens,’ the students spend time in their classrooms exploring career options, interviewing for jobs, and creating business plans and marketing campaigns.
“When the students arrive, they already know their job responsibilities, how to write a check, make a bank deposit and what company they’ll be working for that day,” says Toni Ramsey, Avnet’s community involvement program manager. Some of the other companies that are represented at BizTown include American Airlines, State Farm, Cox Communications and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
During their time at one of Avnet’s tech shops, the students learn about the inner workings of a computer and soon discover how to do such tasks as fixing a faulty hard drive. “They get exposed to how a computer is put together and learn its components,” says Ramsey.
There’s also a working laptop at both Avnet tech shops that runs a Minecraft game. And since all the stores in BizTown sell something, Avnet’s tech shops sell computer time for students to play the game. That’s one way Avnet’s shops make money. The other is from a student computer technician helping other students understand how a computer works. After that student instructs five other students and they demonstrate what they’ve learned, Avnet’s tech shop makes $25 (in BizTown money). Ramsey says the revenue the tech shops produce goes toward paying off the mock business loan.
The students get two breaks during their one-day stay at BizTown. During the first, they rush to the bank and cash a paycheck, while also finding time to eat their lunch. The students use the second break to go around BizTown and spend the money they’ve earned.
“Every single time I’ve volunteered at BizTown I’ve seen the kids get that ‘aha moment,’” says Ramsey. She describes the children opening up a computer for the first time and being able to match the components inside to the ones that are displayed in large scale on a tech shop wall. “When the kids walk away from the Avnet tech shop, they are more familiar with a computer, what’s inside of it and how it works.”