COD Extends Cybersecurity Experiences to High School Students, Teachers Through GenCyber Camps
By Mike McKissack
More than 140 middle and high school students and teachers had the opportunity to explore careers in cybersecurity and get hands-on experience in various cybersecurity fields through GenCyber cybersecurity summer camps hosted by College of DuPage.
Aimed at increasing interest in cybersecurity and diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, the GenCyber program provides summer cybersecurity camp experiences for students and teachers at the K-12 level. Funded through grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency, the camps explored a variety of topics, including cyber ethics, data security, privacy and security, and safe Internet browsing habits.
St. Francis High School sophomore John Gerdeman is undecided about the exact career direction he wants to pursue, but said he is drawn to the idea of law and order as well as helping people and would like to work for the government in some capacity in the future. The Warrenville resident said he chose the camp to learn about cybersecurity and to get a sense of possible careers in the industry.
“This camp was very enlightening, particularly for those interested in careers in cybersecurity, computers or law enforcement,” Gerdeman said. “It’s important today to have good technical skills and getting this inside view into cybersecurity will help when it comes time to decide on a career.”
Naperville resident Isabelle Schopler plans to pursue cybersecurity as a career and is currently deciding between joining the military or attending COD for two years to earn her general education credits before attending Purdue University. Heading into her senior year at Neuqua Valley High School this fall, she said she was pleased with her experience at the camp.
“I really enjoyed the camp,’” said Schopler. “I like learning about all the different areas in cybersecurity and the camp included fun and educational games and activities, as well as great tips for everyday life.”
Megan Stepniewski attended COD for two years before heading to Loyola University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Heading into her first full year as a middle school science teacher at St. Joseph’s in Downers Grove this fall, she praised the topics covered, particularly the business of cheating.
“I was intrigued by the lucrative business behind cheating,” she said. “I know cheating and plagiarizing happen and I have many processes in place to counter that, but I was shocked that some students actually make money off of it and of the importance of being extra careful when we incorporate technology into assessment,” she said.
Stepniewski said there were additional benefits from the camp that she will be able to bring to the classroom this fall.
“I can see using encryption techniques to make lessons more engaging and general internet safety techniques for researching and investigations in science,” she said. “I also was very glad to have some hands-on time with the Raspberry Pi and hope to use that when I set up a tech club at the school.”
Mike Salazar, a former tech industry professional, who begins his career teaching computer science this fall at Lake View High School in Chicago, said he participated in the camp to catch up with any changes in the field as well as to prepare for teaching computer science.
“I loved it. The camp exceeded my expectations. The facility was great; the materials were enriching and the staff was excellent,” he said. “There is a lot out there to be aware of and yet there is a small percentage of the community that's aware of the dangers. In addition, we as country are way behind in nudging our youth into this field let alone in training them to compete in this field.”
Salazar said he was impressed with the camp and the College.
“The instructors were awesome and the campus was incredible,” he said. “I would urge anyone thinking of attending GenCyber to go. And if you live in the area, attend College DuPage. They offer an array of courses I wish I could take if I didn't live so far away.”
Designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education through 2022 by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, College of DuPage’s Center for Defense Education is dedicated to the development, promotion and support of education, collaboration and innovation in security technologies and management, information security assurance and digital forensics across multiple academic and professional disciplines.
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