Ask an Astronaut Episode 3, Featuring Guest Director Michael Wu, Hits the Internet Today

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

This week, we are joined by guest director Michael Wu. Michael is attending Summer Academy, a free, seven-week long summer program that continues the intensive academic support and tech education we provide our Upward Bound students during the school year. (Upward Bound is a federal TRIO program that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in their precollege performance. AIM coordinates Upward Bound programs at five area high schools.)

Michael plans to go to college for astrophysics and engineering. He’s also interested in directing and editing videos, so working on Ask an Astronaut has been a great learning experience for him. As this week’s guest director he helped write, record, and edit the episode, gaining technical knowledge of video editing software while also expressing his creativity and humor. Thanks, Michael!

Click below to watch this week’s episode. It’s packed with useful information about computer programming languages, vampire bats, and milking cows in space.


Don’t forget to email your questions to! And make sure to like the video, leave a comment, and share with your friends.

Highlander Code Camp Students Visit Hudl

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

Last Thursday, Highlander Code Camp students toured the Lincoln headquarters of Hudl, a video streaming service for athletes and coaches to review and improve gameplay. With over 1,900 employees and satellite offices in Omaha, Boston, London, Sydney, and Mumbai, Hudl is one of the Silicon Prairie’s most impressive tech entrepreneurial success stories. 

The field trip offered students an inside look on what working at a tech company is like. (It includes free lunch, a wall of Nerf guns, challenging work, flexible schedules, and plenty of vacation time.) They saw how the skills they learn during code camp—HTML, CSS, Javascript, and everything they need to know to design and build a sleek, functional, contemporary website—could lead to an exciting, rewarding career in technology.

Hudl staff gave presentations on what the company does, how players and coaches use the technology, the data they collect, and technical details about .TS files and the algorithms used in video streaming. 

One of the students asked which languages they would need to know to land a job at Hudl.

Engineering Director Matt Munger said it didn’t matter. Munger doubles as a hiring director and knows the company’s needs inside and out.

“Technically, you don’t have to have experience in the languages we use,” Munger said. “We mostly just look at your experience being able to learn new things.”

Most of Hudl’s products are built in C#, Munger said. Front-end development is Javascript and React. Hudl’s mobile-app developers use Objective-C (for iOS) and Java (for Android). The company’s Research & Development team works in Python on various machine learning endeavors.

Following the day’s first round of presentations, students had a lunch of chili and cinnamon rolls. Some Hudl employees joined the group to talk with students about what they were learning and what they wanted to do. 

Nelson, a Hudl software developer, related his experience getting into tech. “When I was in high school, I thought it was pretty cool how people could play games on their calculators.”

After lunch, students met with a panel of Hudl employees representing various departments. They heard about Hudl’s culture and what it was like to work for a large international tech company. Then they took a tour through the entire facility, walking past work hubs, meeting rooms, game rooms, and arcades. Several youth said the trip was cool and interesting.

“I think the students got a feeling of how a successful, newer business thrives, innovates, and keeps employees,” said Jon Larsen, Systems Engineer and Technology Experience Instructor for AIM Institute. “It could also inspire them to enter a career in information technology.”

The group was joined by Astronaut Tom, AIM Institute’s resident spaceman, technology enthusiast, STEAM advocate, and host of the Youtube video series Ask an Astronaut, which delivers informative science and tech-related content in a humorous way.

Ask an Astronaut Episode 2 is Live!

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

In this week’s episode of Ask an Astronaut, AIM Institute’s resident spaceman and STEAM advocate tackles the issues of space junk, what blastoff feels like, loneliness in outer space, and how much math you need to know to become a programmer.

With apologies to Pauly D of MTV’s Jersey Shore (you’ll have to watch the episode to get it), enjoy.

Don’t forget to like the video and share it with your friends. Also, subscribe to our YouTube page and hit the bell to get notifications on all of our fun and informative new content. And email your questions to to be featured in a future episode.


Upward Bound Senior Spotlight: Ayo Oludipe

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

“I love math.”

This is beautiful music to a schoolteacher’s ears whenever a student says it—and means it. Ayo Oludipe (above, left) means it.

The Papillion La Vista graduating senior loves math, chemistry, anything to do with science and she has worked hard at them. Her dedication is taking her to UNL in the fall to study Computer Science.

“I wanted to know what goes behind the scenes,” she said. “How I can use the same internet and someone next to me is having the same access to it.”

Oludipe said she has wanted to study Computer Science since she was twelve. She has developed skills in multiple coding languages, including HTML/CSS, Python, and C++.

Although heading to UNL, Oludipe was offered a prestigious Horatio Alger scholarship to Metropolitan Community College in recognition of her academic and personal triumphs. According to the Horatio Alger Association website, such scholarships are awarded to students who have faced and overcome great obstacles in their lives.

“Last year, I had a problem with bullying,” she said. “I was on my way to ROTC and some boys that I rode the bus with started talking down on my accent and my race and all of that.”

Oludipe is originally from The Gambia, a west African nation along the lower reaches of the Gambia River.

The experience of being bullied shook her. She didn’t want it to affect her senior year, however, so she joined an anti-bullying club at school. The club went around to area high schools, such as Central, Benson, and Bryan, to meet with likeminded groups and discuss the challenges they faced, how they responded, and how they might respond in the future. The experience helped her gain perspective.

“I didn’t tell my parents, because I thought I could handle it,” she said. Eventually, she spoke to a school counselor and some trusted friends, which she recommends to any student facing bullying.

In the future, Oludipe sees herself working in cybersecurity with a multibillion dollar company. She also wants to own a side business that entertains kids and gets them interested in programming, like a game center.

Oludipe’s experience in the AIM Upward Bound program has positively impacted her life in multiple ways. Upward Bound is a federal TRIO program that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in their precollege performance. AIM coordinates Upward Bound programs and provides free technology education through the Brain Exchange at five area high schools.

Upward Bound helped her master the college application process, select a school, choose a major, and pursue scholarships. The program also introduced her to students from different grades that she might not have otherwise had the opportunity to know.

“Most of the time, we only know who we know,” she said. “When we did the college tour, it was fun. Different personalities and different people came together, and right now we can say we’re all good friends. We bonded.”

AIM congratulates Ayo Oludipe on all of her hard work and dedication. We wish her success in college and beyond. Way to go, Ayo!

Women in Technology: Susan Courtney

Posted on - Community, Tech Education, Women in Tech

Susan Courtney didn’t go into tech right away. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Minnesota, she joined the navy for six years and worked as a naval flight officer. She took some classes to brush up on her programming skills, found a job in technology, and has grown into a major leader in the local tech community. For the past fourteen years, she has worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, where she is now the Executive Vice President of Operations, Business Process and Shared Services.

In 2012, Courtney received the AIM Institute’s prestigious Tech Leader award for her work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and her leadership in the wider community. She has also been a Women in IT Initiative task force member for UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology. Recently, the Women’s Center for Advancement honored her at the 2019 Tribute to Women luncheon.

Courtney encourages young people to drop their preconceptions about what a career in technology entails. It’s not necessarily as solitary as you might envision.

“There’s a big misnomer about what technology fields are available to people,” Courtney said. “They kind of think old-school, ‘I’m just gonna be fingers on a keyboard all day, every day.’ It’s really not like that.”

When asked whether, as a woman, she faced any challenges or obstacles entering the historically male-dominated field of technology, Courtney said: “I don’t know if I’d classify it as obstacles. It was pretty lonely. A lot of the time, pretty much maybe every time, I was the only woman in my computer science class.”

She said that didn’t necessarily bother her, as she wouldn’t have joined the navy if it did.

“I have been pretty fortunate to work for companies that see the value of the diversity of having women in technology,” Courtney continued. “In fact, most of the companies, certainly Blue Cross, would really like to see more women in technology, so they do what they can to push that forward.”

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Courtney is currently spearheading work on data and analytics to help improve customer experiences. She is also helping the organization transfer to a new core system to keep pace with the ever-evolving healthcare industry. She is not sitting at a keyboard all day.

Courtney’s experience is important for young women to keep in mind as they consider career options.  

“What I would advise women to do is to go explore. See if you can get some shadowing time or informational interviews with people in the field, because I think it’s going to be different than what a lot of people expect,” she said.

Ground CTRL to Astronaut Tom

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

The AIM Institute is excited to announce an enlightening new question-and-answer video series, Ask an Astronaut, featuring Astronaut Tom as host.

Ask an Astronaut gives viewers the opportunity to ask a real-life astronaut whatever’s on their mind. While the series naturally tilts toward all things STEAM, Astronaut Tom will answer literally anything—anything—as long as it’s not offensive.

The series is not just fun and interesting, it’s educational.

Students in AIM’s Upward Bound Summer Academy have the opportunity to help write, film, and edit videos at the AIM Brain Exchange, which offers free tech education for youth who would not otherwise have the chance to experience it. Ask an Astronaut gives students real-life video production training while laying a foundation of writing and editing skills they can build on. It’s the kind of program Astronaut Tom wishes would have existed when he was a rocket boy.

Email your questions to and he’ll get back to you in a future episode!

And be sure to check out Episode One, below.