AIM Institute’s Cybersleuth Camp Teaches High School Girls about Technology, Cybersecurity, Digital Citizenship

Posted on - Community, Tech Education, Youth

Last Friday, 18 high school girls graduated from the AIM Institute’s 2019 Cybersleuth Camp in an afternoon ceremony at the AIM Brain Exchange. About 40 people attended the graduation to show their support for the next generation of tech talent.

AIM’s Cybersleuth Camp is a weeklong cybersecurity camp for girls that seeks to raise interest in cybersecurity careers. Funded through the GenCyber program—a joint initiative of the NSA and the National Science Foundation that promotes digital citizenship, safe online behavior, and cybersecurity education—Cybersleuth Camp is a key part of AIM’s mission to grow, connect and inspire the tech talent ecosystem.

Throughout the camp, graduates engaged in a variety of tech activities. They built Raspberry Pi computers (which they were allowed to keep), learned Linux, flew drones, operated robots, built fortresses out of Legos, and took pictures and videos to document the experience. Representatives from the FBI and the NSA gave presentations on cybersecurity complete with sobering statistics and disturbing anecdotes about sexting and human trafficking. 

AIM Brain Exchange Executive Director Erin Lasiter praised the girls for their diligence and willingness to learn.

“They dove in and they didn’t give up, even though it was very difficult sometimes,” she said.

AIM’s Instructor of Technology Experiences, Lana Yager, echoed Lasiter’s admiration of the young women.

“Using the Hokey Pokey, we learned algorithms. The girls took all the lines of the song—I think there are about 80 lines—and scrunched it down to five lines,” she said. “These girls are real troopers. We’re really proud of them.”

Zipporah, a student in the camp, said her favorite activity of the week was taking apart computers. She also recognized the increasing relevance of cybersecurity in an ever-evolving world mediated by technology.

“Computer safety is more important to learn nowadays,” she said.

Each graduate received a diploma and the Raspberry Pi computer they had built. The ceremony concluded with cake and lemonade in the Brain Exchange’s Cortex room.

As part of the AIM Institute’s mission to facilitate a more diverse and sustainable tech career pipeline, the AIM Brain Exchange provides free technology education to youth who would not otherwise have the chance to experience it.

Highlander Code Camp Graduates Ten Students, Ushering in New Wave of Tech Talent

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

Last Friday, 10 students graduated from the Highlander Code Camp, a joint venture between the AIM Institute and the community revitalization organization Seventy Five North. For 7 weeks, students living in or attending school in North Omaha and receiving free or reduced lunch took intensive classes in the fundamentals of web design and development. They learned HTML, CSS, and Javascript with the help of Interface Web School instructor Kent Smotherman. By the end of camp, each student had built their own website.

Over 70 people attended the ceremony at the Highlander Accelerator Building, a community space in North Omaha featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and higher education satellite campuses. Attendees included family members and friends of the graduates, community supporters, and a representative of congressman Don Bacon, who invited graduates to participate in the 2019 Congressional App Challenge, an annual coding competition meant to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM.

Seventy Five North Project Coordinator Kashya Burrell addressed the audience, underscoring the momentous accomplishment Highlander students had achieved. 

“Coding is not easy,” Burrell said. “Thank you for helping support the future tech talent community and some of the most creative individuals I have known.”

AIM Brain Exchange Executive Director Erin Lasiter also gave remarks. (The AIM Brain Exchange offers free technology education to youth who would not otherwise have the chance to experience it.)

Lasiter advised students to meet adversity head-on. She incorporated multiple quotes about achievement in her speech.

“You have worked hard these past seven weeks to achieve what you set out to do,” Lasiter said. “We are all so proud of you.”

After receiving their diploma, each student gave a presentation on the website they built, explaining why they made certain choices and what obstacles they had to overcome in developing their site. 

Students’ websites were developed on topics ranging from volleyball to photography to Fortnite to the Buffalo Bills.

One student made a touching memorial about his seven-month old niece who lost her life to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. His website integrated photos of his niece with information about SIDS.

In his presentation, he said working on the site offered a reprieve from grief, and that his time in Highlander Code Camp revitalized his worldview.

“Because of various experiences and challenges, I didn’t really care about anything. Now, I’m learning that that’s not the way to go,” he said. “This is not about the past. The future’s ahead of me.”