In 2021, Protective Life Corporation was chosen to be one of 13 host sites for the Mark Cuban Foundation’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamp for high school students. Everyone loved it so much—both the participants and the volunteers—that Protective is thrilled to be offering the Bootcamp again this fall. Keep reading to find out why this is such an incredible opportunity and apply by September 1.
Nuts and bolts of the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp
- What: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamp, designed by the Mark Cuban Foundation + hosted in Birmingham by Protective Life Corporation to introduce students to basic AI concepts + skills at absolutely no cost to students
- Who: underserved 9th-12th graders in the Greater Birmingham Area
- Note: no prior computer science, programming or robotics experience is required
- When: 4 consecutive Saturdays beginning October 22 + ending November 12, 20 hours total (5 hours each Saturday)
- Deadline: September 1, 2022
- Cost: free to selected participants
- Apply—for students +/or parents/guardians. NOTE: Parents can apply on behalf of their high schooler, but only students can participate in the camp.
How the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp works
- The Mark Cuban Foundation reviews applications and selects participants.
- Selected students show up at the Protective campus on the first Saturday.
- Protective provides lunch, a laptop (for the duration of the bootcamp), volunteer mentors + meeting space.
- The Mark Cuban Foundation provides content, including a live feed—Mark Cuban himself usually kicks off the event every week with a message + often brings guests.
- The bootcamp is held simultaneously in other cities.
- Individual cities break into their own tutoring sessions.
- Livestream with other cities is going the whole time, so participants can see some participating students in other cities.
Protective’s trained volunteer mentors are knowledgeable about data science—not only do many of them work in IT, but they also go through the entire curriculum themselves so they can help students quickly understand material that’s normally taught at the college level.
What students learn at the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp
- What AI is + is not
- Where they already interact with AI in their own lives
- The ethical implications of AI systems, including:
- TikTok feeds
- Smart home assistants
- Facial recognition
- Self-driving cars
- And more
Guest speakers for the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp
According to the folks at Protective who were involved last year, the Mark Cuban Foundation does a great job bringing in guest speakers from across the US with different backgrounds from different industries who can show how AI is used to solve common business problems.
By “bringing in,” they mean in a live virtual meeting—not actually in the room with the students, who are in multiple locations across the country.
- will.i.am, a rapper, talked about how he uses AI in music production, and offered the students a rare opportunity to pitch an idea to him that if selected, he would fund.
- A woman in healthcare who used AI to identify a rare form of cancer talked to the students about her work and answered questions.
After getting exposed to these real-world examples, students perform an exercise where they use AI in their own way, for example, to build facial recognition software.
The impact on students
“This bootcamp gave me the opportunity to discover the potential that AI has to revolutionize our world, but more importantly, it helped me see that I have a place to make an impact and contribute to that progress.”Sarah S., Protective employee volunteer, 2021
Jasmine Wright, Sr. Analyst for Tech Support at Protective, who was a volunteer mentor for one of the four Saturdays, said the Bootcamp definitely inspired students to pursue a career in IT.
“Not only do they get a chance to use the technology themselves, but they also get a chance to have time with the guest speakers—people in industry that are using it. They’re also able to interact with their volunteer mentors who are working in the IT field. So they get exposed from different angles throughout the program.”
Andrew Becker, an IT Architect who works in innovation at Protective and volunteered two of the four weekends, said the best part for him was the kids’ excitement:
“The kids were very involved, and they were very excited to hear about the different applications of AI and machine learning, whether it be computer vision or Natural Language Processing (NLP).
It’s a really unique opportunity for our students. AI and machine learning really is becoming a big part of our industry. I think it helps our high school students learn that this is a potential opportunity out there.”
Why Protective hosts this unique opportunity
“Time and time again, Protective sees that collaborating with others often enables us to broaden our impact. The Mark Cuban Foundation’s AI Boot Camp is a prime example of that. The four-day introductory workshop, held at Protective’s headquarters, can help train the next generation of artificial intelligence leaders while providing a unique opportunity for underserved high school students. We are pleased to help put on this camp, which connects students with tech mentors, local organizations and even college scholarships, and exposes them to unique technology to which they may not have otherwise had access.”Lori Dixon, Sr. Associate for Corporate Giving, Protective Life Foundation
Thinking of applying?
To anyone who is thinking of applying, Andrew Becker, who is this year’s site leader at Protective, says:
“Definitely take the opportunity to apply, and if the opportunity shows up to go to this boot camp, do it. It’s a great learning experience.
I spend a lot of my day-to-day job looking at AI and machine learning, and going through that bootcamp, I definitely get to see even more things that are new and exciting that I may not have seen otherwise.”
Big thanks to Jasmine Wright, Sr. Analyst for Tech Support, Protective, Lori Dixon, Sr. Associate for Corporate Giving, Protective Life Foundation and Andrew Becker, IT Architect, Emerging Technologies Team, Protective, and this year’s site leader, Andrew who all have a hand in bringing this boot camp to Birmingham area students.
Are you a 9-12 grader or the parent of a high schooler who wants to learn more about AI? Apply to the no cost Mark Cuban Foundation Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamp by September 1.