Ysve Balverde is eyeing a career in medicine some day, but she also believes having computer knowledge will only help in her future aspirations.

“The fact that this is a growing field — that electronics and technology are growing — I feel like it’s necessary for [my] future to have a basic knowledge of computers,” the 16-year-old from Katy said.

Before this week, she knew nothing about coding, but after attending the ninth biannual TEEX Cyber Innovation Camp in College Station, she has understanding of Python programming language and knows how to work various instruments with the Raspberry Pi computer.

She and her project partner for the week — Veronica Riley, 13, of Caldwell — developed a motion-sensitive camera to be used in teens’ bedrooms to detect the presence of parents. Before camp, Balverde said she couldn’t imagine creating something like this.

“It’s shown me different areas [of technology]; not just using your phone, but looking at what’s behind your phone, and how to modify and make different,” she said. “... Making something out of smaller pieces is just so amazing. I’ve even learned you can make your own ‘Alexa’ from Amazon Echo.”

Twenty-one high school students honed their skills this week at the camp, which provides them with all the tools and training they need to program computers, work with sensors and cameras, make games and music, and have a greater knowledge of cybersecurity.

“Really, we call it ‘Cyber Camp’ because the students are interacting with computers,” said camp instructor John Romero, an assistant director with A&M’s Cybersecurity Center. “We start them each with a Raspberry Pi computer, which is a fully capable credit card-sized computer. It’s special because it has 40 pins that can interact [with the computer] to make something happen in the real world.”

Through several hours each day from Monday through Friday, the students worked with their complimentary Raspberry Pi to manipulate heat sensors, cameras, motion sensors, lights, buzzers, robotic cars, game controls and more. The Texas A&M Engineering Extension’s Cyber Readiness Center provided students with all materials needed, and the TEEX and A&M instructors offered tutelage and assistance as the kids brainstormed.

By the end of the week, the students had each created a working prototype for a project that would be submitted to Instructables.com for a chance to win a $300 Amazon gift card.

Oleg Pittman, 16, a Midway High School student from Waco, already thrives on working with computers. At home, he’s developed his own video game and online escape room, having taught himself how to code using online tutorials. Pittman, who is blind, must analyze the code through speech synthesis, and he moved to the United States from Ukraine several years ago without a complete proficiency in English. But he’s been able to excel at programing on Microsoft Windows operating system and just completed a junior level computing course at his school as a freshman.

He codes for about 13 hours each weekend and dreams of attending the University of Texas in Austin to become a computer scientist.

As computer literate as Pittman is, he was able to garner new skills through Cyber Camp with TEEX this week.

“When I came in on Monday, I didn’t know anything about Linux [operating system],” he said. ”I don’t want to say I’m a pro now, but [through camp] I can Google anything and figure it out, which is a good skill to have. And if don’t understand something, I ask the instructors for help.”

Pittman’s final project for the week was a thermostat that adjusts a home’s temperature using motion detectors, determining when the home owner is present or away from the house.

The camp is held twice each summer and accepts a limited number of students through applications and a teacher recommendation process. There is an admission price, but TEEX does provide some scholarships.

To learn more about Cyber Innovation Camp, visit teex.org/Pages/events/cybercamp.aspx.

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