Best Buy & Target Sponsor BDPA & SPARCS I.T. Exploration Experience

Best Buy & Target Sponsor BDPA & SPARCS I.T. Exploration Experience

Youthful technology talent development was abloom on the beautiful Winona State University campus in Minnesota where picturesque bluffs mingle with the majestic Mississippi River.  The third annual I.T. Exploration camp blended the best of Winona with an introduction to postsecondary education, information technology (IT) skill development, career discovery, techie peer connections, and get-away fun!



For most of the sixteen young participants, this was their first official college campus visit (and stay). Dorm life, dining hall food, residence hall counselors, instruction from computer science faculty and students, interaction with admissions and diversity and inclusion staff members, and employer engagement, made for an exciting and exhausting week of summer learning.


Twin Cities BDPA campers prepare to board the bus enroute to pick up additional campers from the Rochester area

Twin Cities BDPA campers prepare to board the bus enroute to pick up additional campers from the Rochester area


BDPA Twin Cities and Southern Minnesota (Rochester area) collaborated to recruit underrepresented secondary students from their ranks and area communities to meet the challenges and excitement that technology learning has to offer.  According to Fredrick Blocton, BDPA Twin Cities president, “Our passion is coding, our expertise is in information technology. From high school students to young professionals, we provide educational services and mentoring to underrepresented ethnic groups in STEM.”   To learn about the Minnesota BDPA chapters, visit BDPA Twin Cities / and Southern Minnesota BDPA .



Students enjoyed designing and making 3D printed objects, security, circuit boards, Raspberry PIs, SNAP! Programming, animation, programming the Laser Cutter, and much more!  


For a closer look at camp topics, students, staff and surroundings, we encourage you to visit Winona State University IT Camp 2018.  Upon review of student evaluations, these sentiments were commonly expressed:


“I enjoyed working with others and having fun with the coding.”


“VR (Virtual Reality)”


“Getting to learn tons of new things.”


“I liked being shown the number of jobs that having IT experience could help with.”




Joan Francioni, Winona State University computer science department faculty, and camp faculty leader, shared her perspective:  "It is extremely rewarding to work with the campers and the college Teaching Assistants for this camp. The campers come to us with such a great attitude – very curious and open to trying new things. The TAs get some experience with teaching and mentoring in an environment where "fun" is as important as “learning.” Together we are able to create a magical space where people are not only learning about technology, but also learning about themselves and each other."


Camp Faculty and Assistants Flash Their Warm Smiles: Alyissa Sanders, Lok Mah, Joan Francioni, Matthew Farstad, Umsa Ghazanfar, Kevin Ker and Gabriel Rorig. Not pictured: Eric Wright, Bradley Erickson and Michael Grzincich


How is this amazing experience possible?  According to Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships at the Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence, “it takes a village of caring volunteers, engaged businesses, community-based organizations, and staff and faculty at Winona State University to bring this to life!  It’s an amazing collaboration.”


Special thanks to the following IT Center partners:


Volunteers make the world go-around!   

We’re grateful for program chaperones, recruiters, presenters, and coordinators:

  • Toni Adafin

  • Kayann Comeaux

  • Kelly Martin

  • Abby Price

  • William Smith

  • Michael Wulf

  • Alyissa Sanders


Others deserving our gratitude:

  • Blandine Berthelot

  • Elise Hanson

  • Ann Durley and the residence hall counselors


GET ENGAGED: Sponsors and supporters are needed!   

Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence partners with the Minnesota STEM Partnership to offer year-round opportunities for underrepresented high school students to develop their IT and professional skills, and  prepare them to become Minnesota’s next, best technologists. For more information, contact Russell Fraenkel at, or call  651.253.9438.