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Boreal Community Media

Kids getting a kick out of Student Technology Boot Camp

Aug 09, 2019 06:04AM ● By Editor
Hard at work at summer Technology Boot Camp are from L-R: Fiona Gergets, Hattie Kunze (standing), Even Nelson and Wyatt Hadely. Staff photo: Brian Larsen

By Brian Larsen of the Cook County News Herald - August 9, 2019

Joan Bernard was putting 10 junior high and high school computer technology students through their paces last Tuesday, August 6, at Cook County Higher Education.

“Shut your computer games off. Lunch is over,” she said. Twice. The second time with emphasis.

The games clicked off and spreadsheets appeared on the kids’ computer screens. Tristan Surbaugh, who is going into ninth grade, was a Scrum Master. “People let me know if they want to start or end a project or make changes to their project. When they tell me what they want to do, I make sure the post it notes are moved on the board,” he said.

The board was on the back of the wall, decidedly non-tech but it was a good way for the kids to see how their Customer Relationship Management project was going. 

Several of the kids will enter sixth grade this fall, most are older, but age didn’t matter, they were attending the first ever Cook County Student Technology Boot Camp and they were there to learn. Joan was there to assist, to help them along, praising every good idea and encouraging them to keep asking questions, to keep working together, and she was keen on teaching the kids a good work ethic.

Joan has a heap of experience. She was named 2017 Minnesota Educator of the Year by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. She currently teaches Computer Networking at Hennepin Technical College in the Twin Cities and holds several professional technology certifications. With a B.S. in mathematics and computer science and a master’s in education, plus more than 24 years experience in the IT industry, the kids were being taught by the best of the best.

Andrew Hallberg, eighth-grader, sat next to Tristan. He was a developer, coming up with ideas for the customer. Next to him sat Declan Gergets, learning the role of a Product Owner. “I communicate with the customer to check things off that they want and check for changes,” he said.

On the other side of the divider from the three boys was Hattie Kunzie, a junior to be. Hattie was the Scrum Master for her group. When asked what attracted her to the class she replied, “I want to go into tech security. A couple of years ago I saw a story about a hospital that got hacked and a lot of people’s information was stolen. I want to stop that.”

Even Nelson said he liked learning new information, and was enjoying the class. “I like to learn coding,” the earnest eighth-grader said.

“I’m more of a hands-on person than I am being amazingly good at technology,” quipped Wyatt Hadely, a developer. “But I like the class and I am expanding my computer skills.”

Up-and-coming seventh grader Ann Redix was working as a Scrum Master. She said she was learning just what a Scrum Master had to do, and added, “I like computers and someday I want to build my own computer.”

Fiona Gergets is going into sixth grade this fall. She was a product owner. When asked how she was doing, she replied, “At times it’s confusing, but I’m learning a lot. To be honest, I didn’t know about this class. My mom put me in it. But it’s good.”

“The class is fun,” said sixth-grader Wyatt Clay, a developer. “I’m learning a lot. Maybe someday I will go into this kind of work when I am older.”

Product owner Joao Santos said he liked just about everything he was being shown. “I like learning new things about technology and this is kind of new to me. I want to work with computers when I grow up.”

2018 CCHS graduate David Blackburn was there to assist Joan and work with the kids. A computer science major at U.W. Madison, Blackburn said, “I’m incredibly impressed with the kids. They are learning Excel spreadsheets, which a lot of adults don’t know. It’s incredibly important stuff to know and these kids are getting it.”

Hosting and organizing the five-day class was Boreal Community Media, Cook County Higher Education and Cook County Schools ISD 166 Community Education.

Boreal Community Media Executive Director Lisa Bauer said, “The Boreal board of directors are deeply committed to giving Cook County students an opportunity to learn and participate in the fields of technology.

“As we enter the second year of Boreal’s student technology internship program, we are pleased to build on this commitment with the Technology Boot Camp and are thrilled Joan Bernard agreed to be the lead instructor.”