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Tech Jamming 

When I was a kid, October meant one thing: Halloween. I loved picking out my costume and savored every piece of candy I collected.

These days, another event defines October for me: the annual Vermont Tech Jam, which is Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27. I've helped plan this job fair and tech expo for the past five years.

I like working on it because it gives me a chance to meet a lot of seriously smart, innovative people who work for Vermont's fastest-growing companies — firms such as Dealer.com, MyWebGrocer, BioTek Instruments, MicroStrain and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. More than 60 of them exhibit each year.

The Tech Jam is a particularly valuable opportunity for young people. Each year, we invite middle and high school teachers to bring their students; more than 500 teenagers from all across the state attended in 2011.

I've watched countless students approach exhibitors' displays, their eyes wide. They say things like, "I had no idea there was something like this in Vermont." I love that they're learning to see their world in a new way.

The Tech Jam offers Kids VT an opportunity to explore science, technology, engineering and math education, aka STEM, and the impact technology has on kids' lives. This month, in "Teen Transformers," Megan James follows up with the Essex High School robotics club we wrote about in last year's Tech Issue; in April, they qualified for the biggest youth robotics competition in the world. They'll be competing closer to home this spring, at the University of Vermont's first-ever robotics tournament.

"The Games Girls Play" explores competition of a different kind: video games. We asked women in the Champlain College game-design and animation programs to recommend games that feature strong female characters.

Parents of younger kids should check out the "Project", a preschool-level science experiment from the Montshire Museum called "cabbage-juice chemistry," and Kids Beat, in which Kate Laddison notes that Childcare Resource is now offering "STEM-inars" on building math and science skills in infants.

There are plenty of nontechie stories, too. Lindsay J. Westley visited a class that teaches art appreciation ("Art Of"), and asked local dads how they talk with their kids about politics, a subject that's unavoidable in this election year ("Go Ask Dad"). Kids VT writers also gave rave reviews to the Green Mountain Freestyle Center ("Fit Families") and the Farmhouse Tap & Grill ("Out to Eat").

Lastly, the Tech Jam isn't the only event we're organizing this month: On Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21, Kids VT and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra are teaming up to present a kid-friendly classical-music concert series, with performances in Colchester, St. Albans and Middlebury. We hope you'll bring your young music lovers to see "A Symphony of Whales." They can wear their Halloween costumes. There could be candy, too.

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