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Rocket Girls to learn cyber at Kennedy Space Center

Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

Being chosen to attend the 2019 Rocket Girls camp was “a dream come true” for Destiny Thunder.

Destiny ThunderThunder is one of 15 area young women will attend the second annual Rocket Girls camp July 10-13, at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, where she will get to meet young ladies like herself, those interested in cyber sciences.

“I like the idea that you’re the ‘good guy’ hacker, doing things for the right reasons,” said the Sioux Falls Roosevelt senior. 

The camp will feature workshops on cyber security concepts such as mapping the internet, forensic investigations, social engineering, cryptography, open source intelligence, and a computer breaker activity. Over a dozen national cyber leaders will speak at the camp, and the group will tour the space center, see the space shuttle Atlantis, and have lunch with an astronaut. “Every kid’s dream at one time was to be an astronaut,” Thunder said.

If it weren’t for opportunities like this, she said young women might not explore careers in technology.

The camp is free to the young ladies attending, through sponsorship by AT&T and Dakota State University’s CybHER program. This benefits students like Thunder, who has seen hardships in life. Her parents are incarcerated; she lives with her grandparents, and works part-time jobs to help provide for herself and her brothers. 

“I have no doubt that life is good, but it has not been good for me, and I didn’t think it would change until I could make those changes myself.” Being chosen for the camp “makes me feel optimistic,” Thunder said.

Fellow camper Lessly Ortega, from Storm Lake, Iowa, said the camp will help her demonstrate to people that young women like herself can “do something that makes a positive difference in the world.”

The camp gives Ortega the opportunity “to be surrounded by other girls and people who not only believe in me but will support me through everything, I know that I can finally grow and set out to be who I was meant to be.”

Lydia Rossetti Lydia Rossetti of Maple Grove, Minn. is also “grateful somebody thought to make a program for girls,” to explore cyber careers. There is a growing need for cyber professionals, and those working in the field are predominantly male. While the gender balance doesn’t need to be exactly equal, Rosetti said, it’s important to “make the field accessible to everybody, and then let it grow as it grows.”

Career fields such as medicine, law, or teaching have never interested Rossetti, she has always been interested in technology. “I’m advanced in math, and like new challenges,” she said, “and really like how technology works.” At Rocket Girls, “it will be so nice to meet other girls with common interests.”

Along with the workshops and field trips, over a dozen guest speakers will be at the camp, national cyber leaders including: Dyann Bradbury, director of IT-Security Risk Management at Ameritas; Deborah Kobza, president, International Association of Certified ISAOs (IACI); Cynthia Hetherington, founder and president of Hetherington Group and the 2019 CybHER Warrior award winner; Marcus Ranum, computer and network security researcher credited with a number of innovations in firewalls; Kevin Manson, a South Dakota native retired from the Department of Homeland Security, and now a partner with International Association of Certified Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations at the Kennedy Space Center; Michael Levin, retired U.S. Secret Service, founder and CEO of Center for Information Security Awareness; and Dakota State University’s Dr. Pam Rowland, assistant professor of Computer Science and Cyber Security. Rowland is also DSU’s Undergraduate Research Coordinator and co-founder of DSU CybHER.