CybHER Rocket
Rocket Girls launched from the Sioux Falls airport on their way to their summer camp at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Rocket Girls camp to launch girls’ cyber careers

Academics, Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

Sixteen high school junior and senior girls will have a unique opportunity to launch their cyber careers at the first ever Rocket Girls CyberSpace camp, being held this summer at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The young women, 14 of whom are from South Dakota, will have the opportunity to explore digital forensics, programming, cryptography and many other technology concepts at the two-day camp.

“Our overall CyberSpace Camp mission is to help fuel the imaginations, confidence and capabilities of these ‘Rocket Girls’ as they begin to explore their own educational and career futures as leaders and pioneers in cyber and space,” said Kevin Manson, the camp’s co-founder. The camp curriculum will focus on online safety, privacy and ethics. Manson, a native of Watertown, S.D., is a security online community architect who is retired from the Department of Homeland Security.

“Our CyberSpace Camp launch team has been mightily inspired by pioneering women in cyber, such as the late Admiral Grace Hopper who named the first computer ‘bug,’ and Katherine Johnson, who was featured in the book and movie ‘Hidden Figures,’” Manson said.

Other women who have supported the creation of the first CyberSpace camp, and will be attending, include: Deborah Kobza, the camp co-founder and President/CEO of The Global Institute for Cybersecurity at the Kennedy Space Center; Dr. Tommie Blackwell from Huntsville, Alabama, the former director of the original Space Camps; South Dakota native Steph Manson; Dyann Bradbury, an insurance company cybersecurity executive; Elise Sachs Henry with K Sciences; Cynthia Hetherington, the Hetherington Group; and Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, associate professor of information assurance and forensics at Dakota State University.

Podhradsky said several cybersecurity professionals with “incredible field experience” have been instrumental in mentoring CyberSpace camp launch team members, including Derrick Donnelly, chief scientist at Black Bag Technologies, and former head of IT Security at Apple, and Gordon Angus, creator and former director of the Miami/Dade County Computer Forensics Lab.

Additional launch team members who will be assisting at the camp include: Bill Cheswick, the first person to map the internet; Dr. Rick Mislan from the Sanders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (NY); Mark Tobias, an investigative attorney and security specialist with; and Todd Hillis, director of cyber intelligence at iThreat Cyber Group.

Podhradsky will provide teaching experience at the camp; she and Dr. Pam Rowland, assistant professor of computer science/cybersecurity, have been volunteering their expertise with event organization. The DSU faculty members are co-directors of the DSU’s annual GenCyber Girls summer camp, the largest residential all-girls camp in the nation.

DSU’s CybHER program is one of the sponsors for the Rocket Girls camp. CybHER is an outreach program founded by Podhradsky and Rowland. Its mission is to empower, motivate, educate and change the perception of women and girls in cybersecurity fields. AT&T is providing for travel and lodging for the Rocket Girls.


“AT&T is fortunate to work with wonderful collaborators like Dakota State University on innovative STEM-related programs such as CybHER and Rocket Girls,” said Cheryl Riley, president, AT&T Northern Plains.


“Helping students, particularly young women, develop the skills they need to succeed in 21st century careers is a critical step to building the diverse workforce we need to power our company—and our country—for the future. Dakota State University has a track record of success, and this funding will allow them to provide students with the opportunity to thrive,” Riley stated.

Rocket Girls camp will also provide additional outreach opportunities for the young women. “Before the camp, we will be meeting by phone once a week to talk about curriculum,” Podhradsky said, “such as cryptography, forensics, or security concepts.” After the July event, they will reach out to campers with monthly calls, alternating between webinars, and a hands-on activities challenge, such as rebuilding a cell phone from a kit, and working with a Raspberry Pi (a small computer).

Plans are in the works to make it an annual event. For more information on the camps, visit; for more information on CybHER, go to