Hacking for Good: Educating the Next Generation on Cutting Edge Cyber Security

cyber security student

Ariana Hernandez Noyola is learning about how to legally hack a computer!

“I’m learning about jobs in technology that help others,” Ariana says. “There are good hackers out there, and they protect people’s information.”

Ariana is a part of a group of rising 7th and 8th grade students, who got a taste of what it’s like to have a career in cyber security at Forsyth Tech’s GenCyber Camp this summer. Designed for both teachers and students, it was made possible by an $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Security Agency (NSA).

Training teachers

The first week of the camp equipped teachers with the training they need to learn how to code, program a computer, and improve cyber security teaching methods they can take back to their schools.

Cyber security teacherTen Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ teachers kicked off the week by learning how to program a Raspberry Pi. It’s a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. For many teachers, it was their first experience with programming.

“It’s great for beginners who are learning how to code,” explains Elerod Morris, who teaches at Carver High School and is also an instructor at Forsyth Tech. “It’s very engaging and user-friendly software. We’ll be able to take this back to our classrooms, and develop lesson plans that are interactive and collaborative.”

“One of the most rewarding experiences of the camp is working hands on,” says Lakeyia Ingram, a career counselor at Carver High School. “To know something this small possesses so much power is pretty amazing.”

Teachers were also able to learn about increasing cyber literacy for millennials.

“This knowledge opens so many career paths for students,” Lakeyia explains. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help them explore their potential talents.”

Coaching students

teachers and students at the GenCyber eventTeachers used the skills and knowledge they’d gained from their first week at camp to guide 30 students during the second week of camp. Students from low-performing schools were given preference during attendance selection.

“We want to give kids a solid foundation and future in cyber security and related fields,” explains Dr. Deanne Wesley, department chair, Davis iTEC Center. “Many of these students don’t have a computer at home, so their access is limited. One of our goals is to increase diversity and interest in cybersecurity.”

Teachers also showed students how to program their own Raspberry Pi.

“I’d never heard of a Raspberry Pi, but I got excited when I learned we were going to be able to program our own computers!” Ariana says. “It will help me in school.”

“When you have to put it together from scratch, it really helps you learn how it works,” says student James Bowman.

Students were also able to learn how to use the handheld computers to legally hack.

“We have to teach the next generation of students how to defend our country against cyber attacks, which are happening more and more frequently,” Dr. Wesley explains. “The camp not only increases interest in cybersecurity careers, but is also a great way to help students understand correct and safe online behavior.”

“It gets me thinking about my future, and what I want to pursue in college,” James says. “I think a job in IT would be rewarding and fun.”

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