Just before the annual Iowa Technology Summit welcomes businesses to Des Moines, an expected 250 Iowa high school students will have the Technology Association of Iowa’s attention for the day.

Those students will attend the inaugural Iowa High School Tech Summit on Sept. 30 for free — giving them a chance to explore what a career in computer science might look like for them, said TAI President Brian Waller.

“If you think of TEDx-style events, we are using the exact same production value that we are putting forth into the [Iowa Tech Summit],” Waller said. “The idea is to give the students a fun, interactive technology engaging event as if they were at TEDx or a South by Southwest panel.”

That means interactive sessions between speakers and students, lunch, technology giveaways and ice cream provided by Wells Enterprises, manufacturer of Blue Bunny in Le Mars — Wells CIO Ryan Schaap currently sits as board chair for TAI.  

Most current signups are juniors and seniors, but freshmen and sophomores are also encouraged to attend, Waller said.

“We learned that college-age kids, as well as high school kids in Iowa, have very little knowledge of IT or the technology industry in Iowa. What we wanted to do is try to find a forum that we can engage the students at a younger age,” Waller said. “There’s a global war going on for talent, and ever more so in the tech industry.

“We want them to walk away with an experience like they’ve never had before.”

The tech summit will host speakers Eddie Etsey, Ben Milne and Antoinette Stevens, who can speak from three different aspects of technology careers, and the event will be livestreamed online, with at least one watch party scheduled in Cedar Rapids for students who can’t travel to Des Moines.

Etsey is the director of sports and information technology at University of Iowa Athletics, and was recently named a Catalyst by TAI. Milne, founder and CEO of Dwolla, has been a board member of TAI and Stevens, senior detection and response engineer at Cisco Meraki, was previously chair of TAI’s diversity and inclusion committee.

“All three were really purposely [chosen] because of their story, because of their skill set, because of where they fit into the Iowa tech industry,” Waller said. “I think students are going to be really interested to see that they can take a passion of, maybe, athletics or a career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, and turn that into an IT or technology-based job.”

TAI will also officially launch TechStream, a new initiative based on the former HyperStream program that will act as a central database for students, parents and counselors to find computer science clubs and activities across the state. The program has been in development for almost six months, and will lead TAI’s renewed advocacy for students to explore computer science classes and careers in their future.

“We feel like once you understand what the industry is about, you’re going to want to pursue something in the tech field,” Waller said. “I think you’ll see that this is going to be more consistent with some of the stuff we will work on in the future.”

9:16 a.m.: This story corrects the name of Ryan Schaap, CIO of Wells Enterprises and current board chair of the Technology Association of Iowa. We apologize for the error.