Arlington Heights, IL - When seven year old, podcasting phenom Nate Butkus took the stage to kick off the annual Students Involved with Technology Conference, everyone knew it was going to be a unique and inspiring day.
"Kids have the power to do amazing things, so when a big group of us gets together, there's no stopping us," Butkus said.
Butkus has his own podcast called "The Show About Science" where he interviews science experts from all over the country. He had a clear message for his fellow students gathered at Westgate Elementary School in Arlington Heights.
"What problem have you heard about? the keynote speaker asked. "Could you be the person who figures out how to solve it? I challenge you to think big!"
That is exactly what the students did that day. As soon as the engaging Butkus stepped off the stage, students rushed to the classrooms, ready to lead sessions to an audience of eager peers.
"The SIT Conference is all about collaboration and the students showing off what they are passionate about," Jen Smith said.
Smith is a Communication Media Arts teacher for one of District 25's middle schools. She brought this conference to District 25 two years ago. There are many SIT Conferences held annually around the state and a student's attendance depends on where he/she lives. This one, set up by Smith and hosted by District 25, hosts all students from Northwest Suburban districts.
"The kids are in charge of teaching and learning from one another, and the adults step out of the way," Smith said. "The kids take it very seriously."
According to Smith, these students have taught themselves how to code their own websites, program their computers, and more.
"After attending just one of these conferences, you are surprised by what they have learned to do on their own," Smith said.
Don't tell that to Butkus.
"Some things can be to hard and complex for adults, but for us kids, our minds are growing and sometimes, the tangling path for grownups to solve problems is a straight line for us," Butkus said.