AIM Institute Accompanies Underserved High School Students on a College and Tech Field Trip to Minnesota

Posted on - Community, Tech Education, Youth

As a not-for-profit partially funded by the Department of Education, the AIM Institute provides free tech education to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it. To that end, AIM staff accompanied 37 Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson High School students on an educational field trip to Minnesota last week as part of AIM’s Upward Bound program, which helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in their precollege performance. 

On Friday, students headed to Minneapolis to visit the University of Minnesota. They attended an admissions presentation and went on a scavenger hunt.

Tanya Jacha, director of Upward Bound programs at Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson high schools in Council Bluffs, said the experience was eye-opening for students, familiarizing them with a college environment and teaching them how to navigate a university campus. The scavenger hunt also gave students practice with the invaluable skill of asking questions.

Jacha said: “A lot of my students asked me, ‘Is it okay if we ask people for help?’ That’s the point. We want you to learn how to do that.”

The group then headed north to Duluth, where they stayed the night at Edgewater Resort, a combination hotel and waterpark. 

The following morning, students visited Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior. They learned about historic shipwrecks and the importance of the lighthouse, as well as the evolution of the technology controlling the lighthouse, and the limitations posed by the curvature of the earth to visible light distance.

“It was pretty cool to learn the tech behind that,” Jacha said. “And Lake Superior was incredible. It was absolutely beautiful.”

The students then took a Science cruise around the shore of Lake Superior, learning about the lake’s hydrology. Because the AIM Institute is passionate about tech education, students even got a private tour with the ship’s captain to learn about radar and navigational instruments.

Following the cruise, the group visited the Great Lakes Aquarium, where they learned about local fish and rivers. They even got to touch freshwater sharks and see some electric eels (which they did not touch).

On Sunday morning, the final day of the trip, the group returned to Minneapolis and toured the Science Museum of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Jacha said that, unlike a lot of Science museums, which are geared more toward younger kids, the Science Museum of Minnesota targets high school students and adults, featuring attractions like virtual reality and other hands-on science and technology activities. 

Ultimately, the trip gave students valuable cultural experiences and tech education they would not have had otherwise, thereby furthering AIM’s mission to grow, connect and inspire the tech talent ecosystem.

Moreover, students had the chance to travel far from home—itself a vital developmental experience they would not have experienced without AIM’s help.

“A lot of the students have never been anywhere outside of Council Bluffs, so it was nice to be excited about something other than silos,” Jacha said.

The 2019 AIM Heartland Developers Conference Brings Tech Talent, Businesses, Bigfoot Together

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community

The 16th annual AIM Heartland Developers Conference drew over 700 attendees to Omaha last week and covered a range of topics relevant to the modern developer in 45 breakout sessions, 3 keynote speeches, multiple hands-on workshops and a panel discussion.

Technical presentations on trending topics such as machine learning, data hierarchy and regional cloud automation coincided with softer-skill discussions of emotional intelligence, leadership and avoiding job burnout.

The conference launched with a keynote speech by Arun Giri, AVP Lead Engineer-Enterprise Architect of Union Pacific. Giri discussed the engineering challenges caused by Union Pacific migrating from a monolithic, mainframe-based transportation-control system to a more modern system based on microservices.

Other keynotes included Principal Business Consultant for Roan Associates Consulting Rodney Verhoeff’s speech on emotional intelligence, and CEO Kyle Tut’s presentation on blockchain technology.

Breakout sessions offered attendees the chance to dive deep into specialized topics.

Amy Sand, a front-end developer for Fusion Medical Staffing, found Bryan Trogdon’s “Let’s Talk Conversation Design” the most interesting session she attended. Conversation Design is a design language based on human conversation and is forecast to play an increasing role in business development.

“By 2020, 50 percent of companies will be conversation-first instead of mobile-first, so I think it’s interesting to start brainstorming ways we can bring that into our current development,” Sand said.

Students and professionals mingled with representatives from 40 businesses recruiting for tech talent.

Ben Eisenberger, a Full Stack student at a local code school, said he came to network, ask questions and gather insights from industry experts. His favorite presentation was Sam Kirkland’s breakout session, “How Buildertrend Is Migrating a Million Lines of Code to React.”

For attendees, the chance to meet with a wide range of recruiters was a significant benefit of HDC.

“I’m kind of at this crossroads with what programming language do I want to learn next, and what do I really want to do,” said web developer, digital marketer and UX designer Patrick John Stevens.

“It’s like having a whole bunch of mini-job interviews with no pressure,” Stevens said.

Women in Technology

Playing off the HDC theme of Out of the Woods, Thursday’s lunchtime panel discussion Not Out of the Woods Yet: Women in Tech addressed ways to make technology a more inclusive place for women. Levi Thiele, Vice President of Program & Resource Development for the AIM Institute, moderated the discussion. Panel speakers included Nancy Williams, Co-Founder & CEO of No More Empty Pots; Susan Courtney, Executive Vice President, Operations, Business Process and Shared Services of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska; and Kate Brown, Vice President & Chief Information Officer of OPPD.

Thiele began by citing a Department of Labor study that found women comprise 57 percent of the professional workforce overall, but only 26 percent of the tech workforce. Moreover, 2 out of 5 women in tech would leave the tech field in less than 5 years, never to return. The most oft-cited reasons? Women felt a sense of social isolation and exhaustion from trying to over-prove themselves on the job.

Panel speakers unanimously stressed the importance of female mentors for women at all stages in their careers. Such mentors can offer invaluable guidance and support.

“It gets exhausting having to prove yourself over and over again,” Williams said. “Know that you’re running your race, and no one else’s.”

Here are some other highlights from the panel discussion.

Brown: “How do we get an environment where people feel welcome and free to be their authentic selves? It’s got to start with the culture that we create.”

Courtney: “Women don’t have to take whatever’s handed to us. I’m a huge proponent of women and girls learning to trust ourselves.”

Williams: “Know what you want. Be clear about what you value and what you want out of life. You’re not going to know everything, but know what resonates with you.”

Video Games, Prizes, and an Afterparty

This year’s HDC featured a gaming room with vintage consoles and old computer games. Participants could take a rest from conference activities and enjoy Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, or navigate the 8-bit world of Space Invaders on the Atari 2600. The room was a big hit with Kiewit’s Antonio Amaya, who spent the conference scouting new tech talent.

“Obviously it’s nostalgic for those of us who are old enough to appreciate the technology from that era,” Amaya said. “But I also think that it’s beneficial for some of the younger generations to get exposure to previous technology, to understand the limitations and how far technology has come in terms of tools and ideas.”

On Thursday evening, attendees packed the Buildertrend headquarters to enjoy a Mesh party sponsored by Deliveron. Attendees played pool, ping-pong, card games, bag toss and foosball while enjoying complimentary drinks and refreshments. The conference’s mascot, Tech Squatch, made an appearance and took selfies with several partygoers.

The conference wrapped up with a prize giveaway, with Tech Squatch distributing gifts to lucky recipients.

Overall, as in previous years, the 2019 AIM HDC was packed with opportunities to learn, network and have fun in the name of tech. Attendees who have come to the conference year after year likened HDC to a college reunion for developers.

“I’ve been in the industry in Omaha itself for a little more than 25 years, so there are a lot of familiar faces here,” Amaya said.

Originally published in Silicon Prairie News, Sept. 9, 2019

The AIM Institute and Congressman Don Bacon to Host an App Inventor Workshop for Students in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District

Posted on - Community, Tech Education, Youth

Sept. 4, 2018

OMAHA – The AIM Institute is hosting an introductory level App Inventor workshop with special guest Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02) for middle school and high school students in preparation for the 2019 Congressional App Challenge (CAC). This free workshop will be held Saturday, September 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on the seventh floor of the AIM Exchange Building at 1905 Harney St., Omaha, It is open to any student attending middle school or high school in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District.

The App Inventor workshop will help students learn the basic building blocks of coding mobile and computer-based applications. The workshop is one of the AIM Institute’s many educational initiatives designed to grow tomorrow’s tech talent workforce.

“It’s important to spark an early interest in STEM because technology interacts with everything in our daily lives, and its influence will only increase in the future,” said Erin Lasiter, Executive Director of the AIM Brain Exchange, which offers free technology education to youth.

“Moreover, jobs in technology are some of the highest paying jobs out there, which is especially important to help break the cycle of poverty that affects many of the youth in our community,” Lasiter added.

A stronger tech talent workforce is also good for business in Nebraska, making tech education a key interest of Rep. Bacon, who has been promoting the 2019 Congressional App Challenge since taking office.

“Getting our middle and high school students interested in STEM through a fun competitive challenge is exactly what will spur them to pursue a career in these fields,” said Rep. Bacon. “I’m thankful the AIM Institute is hosting this workshop to help students who want to participate in this challenge.”

The Congressional App Challenge is an annual coding competition held to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. Contestants develop a unique software app for a mobile, web or other computer-based platform. Winners will be invited to attend the annual House of Code award ceremony and STEM convention held in Washington, D.C. and possibly receive other prizes.

To be eligible for the Congressional App Challenge, students must register and submit their completed apps by November 1, 2019 along with a short video demonstration.

Visit for more details on the CAC, or contact Sam Ficenec at or 402-938-0300.

To RSVP for Saturday’s event, visit


AIM Institute Media Contact: Erin Lasiter


Phone: 402-345-5025 ext. 126


Congressman Bacon Media Contact: Danielle Jensen


Phone: 402-938-0300