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DSU GenCyber Camps are a family affair

July 20, 2022

Nuemans

Donna Neuman (center) and her daughters Qeleigh (left) and Ciara all attended a GenCyber Camp at Dakota State this summer to learn more about using technology.

Camping is a wildly popular summertime activity for many families, but the Neumans have put a distinctive twist on family camping this year.

Donna Neuman came to the GenCyber Teachers camp in early June. Her daughter Ciara followed, attending the GenCyber Co-ed camp for high school students, and daughter Qeleigh attended the GenCyber Girls in CybHER camp the week after.

These camps provide great opportunities, Donna said.

“When I went to high school the only technology opportunity was some programming, and to be honest, I hated programming.”

Now she sits in the GenCyber classes and is amazed by the opportunities, even with technology jobs that have not even been thought of yet.

“It makes me wish I could go back to school here.” While that is not the best option for her right now, she is happy that Dakota State is here “to help the kids, and that’s more important.”

Helping kids learn about technology was what brought her to camp the first time, a few years ago. She has been a teacher of English Language Arts (ELA) and will now be teaching math at Beresford (SD) Schools, and also coaches the Watchdog Robotics team. By learning coding and other technology, she has been able to incorporate circuitry and programming into the robotics club, and discuss algorithms in math courses. Technology can even apply to ELA classes with discussions about online safety. “It’s all about getting the information out there.”

Ciara brought some of this information home after her first camp three years ago. “She came home and put all this security on her phone, and started funneling emails, things that all came from what they learned at camp,” said Donna.

“It was a fun week,” Ciara said. This year she attended her first high school camp and appreciated the fact that college students taught some of the elective classes. These “near-peer” mentors also talked with the campers about what it is like to be a student at Dakota State. Ciara plans to come to DSU and major in something technology related.

Qeleigh, who would like to be an animator, said Python programming was one of her favorite classes. She also enjoyed an egg drop lesson designed to teach about securing data.

DSU’s camps offer all students an important knowledge base including both technical skills and ethics, and the professors are welcoming and available for questions, Donna said. Funded by grants from the NSA and NSF, the camps are free; plus, organizers are able to provide technology gifts for the campers, including a raspberry pi (a small, versatile computer). “You almost need a wagon to take all the stuff home,” she said.

The best thing about camp, though, is that the students “find their people,” Donna said. “It’s so important to find people to connect with.”

The Neumans will be some of those people next year, as all three plan to attend again. The family attendance will expand, as the girls’ brother will be old enough to attend the co-ed camp as well.

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