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Akamai Inspires Girl Scouts Through Internet Technology Workshops

Akamai's next "Girls Who Code" summer immersion program is still a couple of months away, but in the meantime I wanted to tell you about our involvement with another fantastic organization inspiring girls to pursue tech careers - the Girl Scouts.

On April 3rd, nine Akamai women participated in the 4th annual Girls Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts STEM Conference and Expo in Framingham, MA.  The conference provides girls in grades 6-12 the opportunity to participate in three hands-on workshops of their choice from a variety of STEM fields, including computing, physics, chemistry, and biology.  The expo portion allows the girls and their families to interact with many more people from STEM organizations, to get a broad sense of the variety of future paths and opportunities available to them.  120 girls participated in the conference and expo.  We ran three workshop sessions, and stayed for the expo.

We ran two sessions of our "How the Internet Works" interactive workshop, which we had developed for this event last year.  The girls played the roles of client, servers, routers, DNS, spy, and "giant robot attack army" minions.  They learned a lot about Internet routing, DNS, security, and DDoS mitigations while having fun with squishy balls (packets) and stuffed animals (web content).  The denial of service attack was a big hit, as always.

We also ran a new "Secure Communications" workshop this year, developed and led by Security Architect Ariel Segall.  The girls learned how to think about whether a communication protocol is secure, and then worked in small groups to find ways to break and then fix sample protocols.  They were especially excited to find out that one of those protocols had actually been used in the real world a few years ago!  It made it very relevant to them.  The workshop was definitely a success, and I think we will run both workshops for our Girls Who Code girls this summer.

During the Expo portion, we talked to girls and their families about what Akamai does and what we do at Akamai, and we let them play with our "spinning globe" app.  The app provides an interactive visualization of our world-wide network deployment and traffic, as well as web attack mitigations.  And it looks really cool.  (Check it out on the Apple App Store!)  It felt like we were talking non-stop, but it was great to interact with so many people and to see them excited about what we do.  The point of the event was to raise girls' awareness of the many interesting STEM career paths open to them, and I feel we did our part.

I hope you will consider becoming involved in STEM outreach activities through your own companies and communities.  The tech world seems unnecessarily mysterious to a lot of people, yet has a large impact on their daily lives and is the source of many rewarding careers.  It is important that people from lots of different backgrounds see that they, too, can participate in building the communications technology that is transforming our world.   Participating in outreach is also really fun, as I think all nine of us will attest.   We are looking forward to participating in the Girl Scouts STEM Conference and Expo again next year.

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