Artificial Intelligence Not Just For Computer Mavericks

Mark Cuban Foundation ‘Bootcamps’ introduce teens to basics, possibilities

Mark Cuban’s foundation is introducing underserved teens across North Texas and elsewhere to basic artificial intelligence concepts and skills.

“Tech is a bigger industry every day, and the younger you start, the quicker you start learning,” said instructor Ignacio Procel. “To get an entry-level job, it’s highly competitive, so any bit of experience you get early helps out.”

Procel is six months into his software development career with Headstorm, one of the 16 companies selected to host the free Mark Cuban Foundation Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamps in 2021.

Cuban, the Preston Hollow resident and Dallas Mavericks owner who first made his fortune in the tech industry, explains the significance of AI on the website

“I saw the impact of PCs. Then I saw the impact of local area networks. Then I saw the impact of wide area networks. Then I saw the impact of the internet. Then I saw the impact of mobile. Then I saw the impact of wireless. Now I’m seeing the impact of artificial intelligence. And it dwarfs any of those things,” Cuban said.

Headstorm employee and mentor Cameron Grover helps a camper during an artificial intelligence bootcamp, at their office in Addison.

His foundation provides curriculum materials, trains volunteers, recruits students in grades nine to 12, and coordinates the boot camps. It also works with host companies to provide food (from restaurants like Chick-Fil-A, Velvet Taco, etc.), transportation, and access to laptops and hotspots at no cost to campers.

Headstorm in Addison held sessions over four consecutive Saturdays in October and November of 2021.

Students didn’t need prior experience with computer science or programming to attend. During the camp, they gained hands-on experience building AI apps and learned how AI transforms society and powers many of the apps used daily.

Devin Wright, a senior at DeSoto High School, who hopes to study software development at SMU or another university, described the boot camps as an amazing experience.

“It has been an eye-opener because all of the things we are learning about AI, I had no idea of,” he said. “This is really going to help me get closer to my goal, which is being a game developer.”

Tani Nelson, a freshman at David W. Carter High School who hopes to attend an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), sees applications for possible careers paths such as law or real estate.

“I feel like AI has a lot to do with working cases when it comes to criminal justice or helping me land deals when it comes to real estate,” Nelson said. “It will help make my job easier.”

Instructors at Headstorm were pleased to see students getting exposed to technology that could shape their career choices.

“It’s not often in high school you get an opportunity to learn from industry professionals,” instructor Dan Peng said. “These kids are just starting to get into college, so they are all thinking about what major they are going to choose.”

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