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Bright Idea: The Mark Cuban Foundation Introduces Students to AI

CSL Behring sponsored a virtual boot camp for Philadelphia high school students interested in learning about artificial intelligence.

Screenshot of a virtual boot camp about artificial intelligence featuring Mark Cuban

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a key driver in technology but most high school students don’t know much about its foundational concepts. To address that, the Mark Cuban Foundation (MCF) is offering AI boot camps for high school students. CSL Behring recently sponsored the foundation’s Philadelphia boot camp, a virtual gathering that hosted 20 students over four Saturdays in October and November.

“It was a great opportunity to expose a group of students to AI and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which they may not get in their schools’ daily curricula,” said John Thompson, Global Head of AI and the Rapid Data Lab for CSL Behring. He learned of the boot camp program on LinkedIn and was instrumental in CSL Behring sponsoring the workshops for Philadelphia students in grades 9-12. It was one of 15 camps in 16 cities.

Thompson said he hopes the Philadelphia students walked away thinking, “this is within my grasp, this is possible for me, this is a career path I can do. I could be building artificial intelligence software. I could be programming AI systems. I can really do this.” Thompson and nine CSL Behring colleagues served as counselors for the event.

“One word that comes to mind when I think of this camp is ‘motivating,’” said Khera, a participant. “Seeing different kids of different ages and races just like me, gives me motivation and knowledge that my dreams aren’t impossible and I can keep pushing to become what I want to be in the future.”

Cuban, a well-known entrepreneur, owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and appears on the ABC reality TV competition "Shark Tank." His philanthropic foundation supports causes and empowers communities in Dallas and beyond. MCF provided the boot camp’s curriculum materials, trained volunteers, recruited local students, coordinated the events and provided access to laptops and hotspots for students.

CSL Behring sponsored the Philadelphia AI boot camp as part of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Representation in tech is essential. When recruiting for students to participate in the boot camp, we partnered with underserved communities and tapped into our local partnerships with the Urban League of Philadelphia and local high schools,” said Aneesa Bey, Early Career Development Program Manager, who helped coordinate the training.

Screenshots of 10 people who assisted with AI boot camp.
Pictured here, in the top row: Adam Russell, Kierthi Swaminathan and Leon Moscherosch; in the middle row: Meredith Kasian, Paul Exter, Lohit Bhandari and John Thompson; in the bottom row: Prajakta Pitale, Mark Baker and Aneesa Bey. Not pictured: Christian Spuckti and Jasmin Senior Bostic