Earlier this week Microsoft announced the winners of the 2010 Windows Phone 7 "Rockstar" Award. Two high school students from the Advanced Technologies Academy in Nevada won it. Now this is pretty impressive as most of the 131 teams from all over the world were made up of university students. Of course I am a huge believer that many high school students have some pretty impressive skills. They also often have wonderful imaginations. It sounds like that combination is what contributed most to their win. I was reading their answers to the competition’s questions and answers section and one answer stuck out to me.

Question:
Who most influenced your interest in technology (teacher, parent, family, friend, etc.)? (Optional)

Answer:
We believe our middle school computer teacher, Enrico Branchini, influenced both of us the most because he was one of the first people who sparked our interest in technology and computers.

Now I know a little about the school they attend and the faculty there and it’s a great place. But clearly for these two young men their interest started earlier – back in middle school. They had a teacher who they do not hesitate to name who sparked their interest in technology and computers. make no mistake about it middle school is a critical time for students. It really is a time when many of them develop the interests and decide, consciously or other wise, where they will go educationally in the future. For this reason, among others, middle school is a great time to inspire students into computer science and other fields. My hat is off to Enrico Branchini and teachers like him who have a positive influence on their middle school students.