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Master the Mainframe Party

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:39 PM


If I had known how easy it was to get students together and host a Master the Mainframe contest programming party, I would have started holding them long ago. All it takes is getting organized to bring students together.

The last couple of months I've been traveling to college campuses around the U.S. getting groups of students together to host meetups for the IBM Master the Mainframe contest. I’ve especially enjoyed bringing groups of students to the z14 roadshows which allows them to meet real mainframers “in the wild."

Some of the students had started the contest before attending the meetup and were already deep into Part 2 of three total sections. Some had never heard of the mainframe and were starting the contest right at the meetup. All of the students enjoyed getting together to have that community support as they progressed through the challenges.

In one city, an employer offered an internship to whichever student finished Part 2 first. In another city, I was asked for the emails of every student attending because the employer wanted to interview them all.

A student in Columbus, Ohio, said "I never knew about the mainframe and now I just want to learn more." The look of surprise on a student's face in Philadelphia made me laugh out loud when they learned the IBM z14 has 32 TB of memory. In every city, the participants learned the importance of the mainframe to the modern economy and how the z14 in particular is a game changer with things like pervasive encryption and machine learning.

Host Your Own Party to Master the Mainframe

If this sounds like something you are interested in helping with, get started today by:

1.    Picking a school or a group of students. Approach your alma mater, local school (university, community college or high school) or student organizations (computing club, Girl Scouts, etc). Find some sample emails in our folder of MtM Goodies.
2.    Picking a date, time and location. You need a date when the students are available (hint: exam week is a bad time). You need a location with Wi-Fi access—some schools limit Wi-Fi access to certain websites or authorities, so be sure to test it yourself.
3.    Advertising it. You can modify the sample flyer we've put in the folder of MtM Goodies with your date, time and location. Post around campus. Send emails to faculty/teachers, student organizations or whoever you think would enjoy attending.
4.    Letting us know about it. If we know when your meetup is happening, we can make sure we have someone available to answer your questions. The students usually answer their own questions and when in doubt, they find their answers on our forum. But once in a while, you need the ability to talk to someone.

Optional ways to increase the visibility and make your event more special include:

  • Invite some mainframers in the area to join you. They can talk to the students about their careers, what the modern mainframe means to the world and why young people should consider careers in mainframes.
  • Invite potential employers to your meetup. For an employer, going to an event where inquisitive students are learning about something new in their free time is a terrific way to find self-motivated, go-getters to apply for their jobs. Bringing employers to an event makes the meetup much more interesting for the students. It's a two-way street of benefits for all involved.
Before the meetup, make sure every student:

  • Registers for the contest (they need to register at least 24 hours in advance so they have their mainframe ID in hand before the meetup)
  • Installs the pre-requisite software on their laptop. They will get the link in their registration email, but you can find out what’s needed at the Connectivity Guide.
  • Optional prep for you: You can go through the contest yourself by registering for the Learning System. Since the students answer their own questions for the most part, this is optional, but it’s fun to work alongside them.
Begin Today

Sign up today at—the worldwide competition is only open through Dec. 31. Meet the winners of the 2016 U.S. and Canada Master the Mainframe contest.

Misty Decker is program manager, IBM Z Academic Initiative.