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Majors & Degrees

DSU hosts CTE ‘show & tell’ for area high school students

February 15, 2017

“Hearsay is not experience,” said Kara Schweitzer, regional education specialist with the South Dakota Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) division.

High school students hear a lot about the opportunities available to them with technology careers, she said. They may also have preconceived notions about the actual work they can do in those careers, but some of those notions may not be true.

To help regional high school students get a more accurate idea about technology careers, Schweitzer worked with Dakota State University instructor Rob Honomichl to create an information technology camp held at DSU on Feb. 13. It was all “geared to expose [the students] to a career path and what DSU does with that,” Honomichl said.

Sixty-three students came to the camp from ten different schools, as close as Madison Central to as far away as Eureka, S.D. Through four learning sessions the students were able to see and hear what is special about DSU’s College of Computing majors -- programming, cyber operations, computer game design, and network security/forensics.

“We’ll showcase what we do best,” he told the students at the introductory session, but invited them to ask questions about what they need to do to prepare for their careers, about the types of jobs available, and what a job will be like.

This is good, Schweitzer said, because students are not exposed to those details at the high school level, but are the exact things that can help the students make good decisions about their career goals.

The high school technology teachers were on board with this intention. 

“We want them to have an idea of the career opportunities in computer science,” said Brendan Streitz, technology coordinator at Flandreau Public. The camp allowed his six students to “see things they can’t see just in our own classroom” and “will give them a better idea if this is something they want to do.” Streitz is a DSU graduate in computer education.

Scott Headrick, Dell Rapids Public’s business math instructor, is also a DSU alumnus. He brought nine students to the camp because “This is an awesome deal for our kids,” he said, “to learn more about information technology… and to see how it all works.”

Honomichl also noted the importance of being exposed to the actual work involved with each major. To that end, the camp included sessions presented by DSU faculty, and several demonstrations with DSU students.

“One thing I really like is getting the (DSU) students involved,” he said, so there is that opportunity for the interaction between the high school and college students.

DSU freshman Griffin Egner talked to students about a programming project he and two classmates created, a square, wooden frame that held some electronics which were “the brain of a self-sustaining ecosystem for plants in a cube,” he said. More accurately he called it the basis of “a micro-garden on steroids.”

Egner’s partners, fellow freshmen Collin Rumpca and Michael Boyle, programmed the small computers called Raspberry Pis and Arduino boards to control the water, light, air and soil temperature, and pH for optimum plant growth in an acrylic box which would sit on top of the electronics. The gardener can drop seeds in soil, close the lid, and watch the produce grow. It can be programmed for different types of produce, Egner added, such as more heat and moisture for tomatoes. Taking it one step further, they could also simulate weather extremes to see what the plants do, “so it could be an experimentation device for plants.”

This was an example of what can be done to “bridge gaps between the biological sciences and technology sciences,” said Egner, a cyber operations major from Austin, MN.

Another demonstration dispelled a popular misconception about hacking and break-ins. “Digital is not the only way to get into a business,” said Andrew Kramer, a graduate student in applied computer science. He and fellow graduate student Eric Holm brought a collection of door handles and padlocks to demonstrate that for those working in penetration testing, breaking in can be physical, including picking locks, or even dumpster diving. “If they think it’s purely digital, that’s not true,” Kramer said.

He emphasized that this demonstration was not information taught in classes, but an out-of-class project. He also added that ethics are taught in DSU classes.

Howard High School’s technology instructor Lisa Wiese said the camp was an excellent way for students “to get the idea of the degree, and the career that goes with it.”