Author: Mikaila Fluth

On June 19th, a hundred middle school girls arrived at Dakota State University for an exciting week of activities. At 8 am, they reached the campus, where they were warmly greeted and provided with name tags, camp t-shirts, room keys, backpacks, and laptops for the week. After settling into their rooms, the girls had a chance to decorate their backpacks and meet fellow campers, fostering new friendships.

The morning continued with an inspiring lineup of keynote speakers, including Lt. General Maria B. Barrett, the Commanding General of the United States Army Cyber Command, Governor Kristi Noem, and Jose-Marie Griffiths, the  President of DSU. The campers were privileged to witness the signing of an Educational Partnership Agreement between DSU and Army Cyber, setting the stage for a week of insightful learning experiences. Following this, Shurronne Davis, the Chief Information Security Officer of Peraton, delivered a captivating talk, igniting curiosity and enthusiasm for the days ahead.

In the afternoon, the girls kicked off their classes, with three sessions in the morning and three in the afternoon. The exciting array of classes included Cryptography, where they delved into the world of encryption, Programming with a focus on basic Python, and Soldering, where they crafted nightlight bugs.

At 4 pm, an engaging challenge was presented by Spheros CEO Paul Copioli. The girls formed teams of two, with one group defending their candy (acting as servers) and the other team attempting to reach it (hackers). It was a thrilling experience that combined learning with fun and creativity.

In the evening, the girls were treated to a campus tour, exploring the beauty of DSU while also getting the chance to decorate their dorm room doors, making their living space uniquely their own. The camp had started with a burst of enthusiasm, promising an action-packed and enriching week for these talented young girls.

The second day at camp was an exciting one for the girls as they attended various educational activities. Their morning began with attending classes, where they eagerly absorbed knowledge on different subjects.

In the cryptography class, the girls were introduced to distinct types of ciphers, learning about the fascinating world of secret codes and encryption. This was followed by an engaging programming session, during which each camper created their own virtual store, setting prices for their imaginary products, nurturing their programming skill.

Concepts and ethics took center stage as the girls explored the meaning of ethics and faced thought-provoking situations to judge the ethical implications. It was a valuable lesson in making principled decisions.

The Human Factors session proved to be eye-opening as campers learned about social engineering and the various tactics employed by hackers. Understanding these techniques raised awareness about cybersecurity and staying safe in the digital world.

In the Artificial Intelligence class, the girls discovered the diverse applications and types of AI, sparking curiosity about the ever-evolving field of technology.

Digital Forensics had the girls excitedly exploring Oxygen Forensics, where they simulated investigating a fake person’s digital footprint. Unraveling clues and uncovering information provided an exciting glimpse into the world of digital investigation.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the escape room challenge. The girls collaborated to find five hidden passwords cleverly concealed within pictures and documents. It was a thrilling race against the clock, putting their problem-solving skills to the test.

In the evening, the girls enjoyed a well-deserved treat at Dakota Cinema, where they sat back and watched the entertaining movie “Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase.” Laughter and excitement filled the theater, providing the perfect end to a day filled with learning and adventure.

The second day at camp left the girls inspired, knowledgeable, and with memories that would last a lifetime, solidifying the bonds of friendship and curiosity for the exciting world of technology and its endless possibilities.

On the third day, the girls had a thrilling Breaker Day, where they got hands-on experience by disassembling a hard drive. During their classes, they made exciting progress, completing their Python stores, engaging in a captivating game of cipher Clue, delving into the methods forensics teams use to access phones, exploring ChatGPT, and gaining insight into online information discovery.

As the evening approached, they enjoyed delightful moments making s’mores, playing yard games, and expressing their creativity through neon painting.

The fourth day marked the conclusion of their classes, filled with action-packed activities. The girls played an exciting game of capture the flag, learning about the intricate ways hackers decode passwords, and participating in a spirited game of jeopardy.

In the afternoon, Citibank and Interstates hosted two thrilling challenges—an escape room with ten intricate locks requiring cleverly found clues and Interstates’ run code run, where the campers collected and assembled pieces of code hidden in plastic balls.The evening turned into a showcase of talents as thirty girls performed skits, songs, poetry, and musical performances in an entertaining talent show.

On the fifth and final day, the girls tidied up their dorm rooms, returned their laptops, and packed their belongings. The last activity at camp was an egg drop challenge, where each girl crafted a protective container for their eggs and then eagerly watched them descend from two and three stories up. It was a bittersweet day of farewells, as the campers departed with cherished memories, new knowledge, and lasting friendships forged during their incredible camp journey.