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.