ITMO.KIDS Technopark Gives Children a Glimpse of Future
ITMO.KIDS – a technopark for children where they can learn about the professions of the future in a game format – has been recently opened at ITMO University. School students of any age will now have an opportunity to engage in robotics, game development and animation, bioinformatics, optics, natural sciences and entrepreneurship on a tuition-free basis. Following the first session, dedicated to robotics and circuitry engineering, Alexei Schekoldin, head of ITMO.KIDS, expanded on this new educational project.
The idea of a technopark for children was brought up barely two and a half months ago. Implementing it didn’t take much time, mostly due to many different parties showing interest in the new project. After launching of the website, its curators made arrangements with heads of different ITMO’s departments and school principals and received positive feedback.
“ITMO University aims to foster talented and able specialists, so we have to attract active school students since their early years. We want to show them the different paths available to them, so that they have the opportunity to advance their talents to the maximum. This is a priority for not just our university, but the state in general. For children, this is a great opportunity to learn something new, and for us – it is a way to promote science and engineering as a career choice”, explains Alexei Shchekoldin.
Who can participate?
Lectures at ITMO.KIDS will be interesting to children of different age. Originally, the idea was to focus on teaching students from grades 1 to 8; yet, high school students also proved to be interested in the project, so the authors of ITMO.KIDS developed classes for this age category as well. ITMO University also conducts the ITMO.STEP program aimed at students in grades 8 to 11 which offers free educational courses organized by ITMO students.
“As younger kids don’t have sufficient knowledge of such fields as physics, chemistry and other fundamental sciences, we conduct our lessons in a simple, interactive format, trying to involve every kid in this process. There really is a demand for career guidance amongst schoolers, as many don’t know which university to apply to and what to do in the future. We think that launching a project to meet this demand is only logical. Not much time passed from getting the initial idea to bringing it to life, as everyone understood how important it is. Surely, there were issues, but nothing a good team couldn’t work out,” says Alexei Shekoldin.
Anyone can come to the classes after making an appointment on the website. ITMO.KIDS also works with schools that regularly request visiting lessons that can attract even greater amounts of students.
Tracks and formats
As of today, there are several tracks at ITMO.KIDS. Children have an opportunity to get lessons in robotics, bioinformatics, game design and animation, try themselves at optics, natural sciences, nanotechnology and even school entrepreneurship. The tracks are supervised by ITMO University’s specialists, both professors and students.
The lessons come in several formats, amongst which are lectures, workshops, courses and tours. The most popular one is open lectures, where young technicians are given the fundamentals of a particular field and early career guidance. If they become interested, they can advance to workshops, where they get the opportunity to try doing something with their own hands. This “something” can be a robot or some new device – telescope, microscope, etc. The project’s authors are now developing a science show with live chemical experiments.
“When talking about robotics, we have an introductory lecture that takes about an hour. During this time, kids learn what robots are made of, the different types of robots and how they work. After that, one can sign up for the workshops where they get a chance to work with microcontrollers, sensors and actuators. We plan to conduct the introductory lectures every two or three weeks,” comments head of ITMO.KIDS.
ITMO.KIDS website and personal profiles
The project’s website includes a network of personal profiles for different types of users. Thus, there are “teacher” profiles, “parent” profiles and “student” profiles. Parents can use their profiles to track their child’s progress and leave feedback and comments. Teachers can share informations and sign their students up for different lectures. Naturally, the website also features a schedule of the upcoming events.
Benefits for future applicants
ITMO University’s ITMO.START website showcases the different benefits and provides information about pre-university activities. ITMO.START is supposed to help the students prepare for admission, and in certain cases get special benefits such as additional points for their Unified State Exam results. Participation in ITMO.KIDS is also recorded in ITMO.START.
Is it possible to transfer a project from ITMO.KIDS to ITMO Technopark?
ITMO’s Technopark focuses on more “mature” projects, yet, if some project is really promising, ITMO University possesses the necessary infrastructure and facilities to help a child’s project grow into something more serious.