There was a special guest at Dakota State University in Madison Tuesday. Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson stopped by to talk with campers attending the school’s GenCyber: Girls in CybHER Security camp.
Wilson is no stranger to KELOLAND, she was once president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. On Tuesday she visited a camp that zeroes in on her world of science and technology.
125 kids are taking part in this summer camp, now in its fourth year.
“I did it last year, and I had a bunch of fun, and I met really cool people, so I’m doing it again, plus I like coding,” camper Awin Leonard said.
“We have programming class, basic cybersecurity class, we do a course on phishing, and then we have a lot of good plain fun. We fly drones, we play with robots,” co-director and DSU faculty member Pam Rowland said.
This camp is just for girls; a far cry from what cybersecurity looks like in today’s workforce.
“Only 11 percent of the workers in cybersecurity right now are female, and so there’s just a great opportunity and it’s an awesome field to be involved in, so the camp shows them that, and shows them how fun it is, and how they can be a part of all the problem solving,” Rowland said.
KELOLAND News asked Leonard if she thinks it’s important for girls to learn to code.
“It can be a necessary skill for a job when they grow up, or just as a thing to say, ‘I can do this, I’m smart,'” Leonard said.
Secretary Wilson is here to encourage these campers to stick with it.
“She reached out to us and asked if she could come visit our camp, and we said absolutely, we would love to have you,” Rowland said.
This year’s camp isn’t over yet, but at least one camper is already looking to next year.
“I’m really really hoping I can go back,” camper Avi Margheim said.