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First Rocket Girls Camp Welcomes 14 South Dakota High Schoolers

DSU Media Relations

The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is hosting the first Rocket Girls Cyber Space camp later this summer for high school junior and senior girls. Of the camp’s 16 initial participants, 14 are from South Dakota. That’s largely thanks to a partnership between the new camp and the CybHER program at Dakota State University. 

The intense two-day Rocket Girls camp will teach students about digital forensics, programming, cryptography and other topics related to cyber security. They’ll also learn from major industry professionals like Bill Cheswick—the first person to map the internet.  

One of the camp’s cofounders is Watertown native Kevin Manson. Manson is retired from the Department of Homeland Security and specializes in cyber security. He says this camp will pioneer a new STEM paradigm he calls STEM(+).

“And STEM(+) adds a new and very heavy focus on three items," says Manson. "One is online safety, the other is online privacy, and online ethics.”

And the intent is to give the students as much practical experience as possible. Ashley Podhradsky is an associate professor of digital forensics at DSU, and one of the cofounders of the CybHER program. She says the camp is entirely hands on.

“They even have phones that they’re going to have to assemble and make from different components, so. It’s all hands on, it’s all geared towards helping support their interests,” she says.

Podrahdsky says the two-day RocketGirls camp is followed by year-round mentorship through regular webinars with the students. These sessions will include more hands-on challenges and information on college and scholarship programs from around the country. She says the program will also work on outreach and recruitment for next year’s camp.

The Rocket Girls CyberSpace camp launches in late July.