2016 News

GenCyber Camp Provides Tampa Bay Area Students a Hands-on Look at the Field of Cybersecurity

Students hack into a fake security footage system as they learn about cybersecurity principles at GenCyber camp

Tampa Bay area high school students explored what a career in cybersecurity entails as part of "GenCyber: Pathways to Cyber" camp.

(TAMPA, Fla., July 22, 2016) — Tampa Bay area high school students got a hands-on look at what a career in cybersecurity can provide them as part of GenCyber, a free cybersecurity camp offered in partnership by the University of South Florida (USF) College of Education and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity.

Funded through a $100,000 grant from the National Security Agency (NSA), the goal of the GenCyber program is to help students understand correct and safe online behavior, and to increase interest in the cybersecurity career field.

The curriculum for the program was developed through the USF College of Education and led by students from the Whitehatters Computer Security Club, who provided one-on-one training to student participants. The camp's director, Nathan W. Fisk, PhD, an assistant professor of cybersecurity education at USF, said the importance of providing this education to students while they're evaluating their career options is an important step when working to fill the growing need for cybersecurity professionals in the field.

"This camp is designed to foster awareness of cybersecurity careers and skills among high school students and teachers," Fisk said. "It's really meant to drive a new cybersecurity workforce pipeline. As we connect more and more devices to the internet, there becomes an increasing need for general cybersecurity awareness and more individuals who are actually working in the field."

Twenty students were selected for each weeklong camp. The first camp was held July 11-15, and a second session on July 18-22 at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor City Campus. Student participants took part in a variety of activities such as reverse engineering, learning about cyber ethics and participating in a recon challenge — an online scavenger hunt where students worked in teams by using clues and online searches to track down an individual of interest.

"The biggest thing that (the GenCyber staff) taught us was the importance of watching what you put online, and not putting out information that shouldn't be publicly accessible," said Tina Strock, a rising high school junior. "That's a lesson that I'll use for the rest of my life."

Jemon Golfin, another high school student who participated in the camp, said as a hands-on learner, the GenCyber camp was a great opportunity for him to explore a different side of working with computers.

"Unlike listening to a lecture or speech about how to do something, you get the chance to practice those skills yourself and build onto them," Golfin, who hopes to study computer engineering in college, said. "(The camp is) more than just listening, it's people talking about how to do something. You get the chance to practice it yourself so that you can build the skills."

The goal of the GenCyber camp, Fisk said, is to train students and teachers not only on the technical issues involved in the field, but also about the social positioning of cybersecurity, how they can secure themselves as they do work online and how they can educate others on practicing the same principles in other disciplines.

"The field of cybersecurity is something bigger than just technical knowledge. It's about people, it's about machines, it's about institutions and it's about all of these things working together," Fisk said. "Beyond the technical issues, we're trying to foster awareness of cybersecurity education as a potential career path, and we're doing that more and more here in the College of Education at USF."

The "GenCyber: Pathways to Cyber" program will also host a one-day teacher camp developed through the Florida Center for Instructional Technology in the College of Education on Aug. 1, to better prepare Hillsborough County Public School teachers for presenting cybersecurity content in their classrooms.

About the USF College of Education:

The University of South Florida College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (formerly NCATE), and is fully approved by the Florida Department of Education. The USF College of Education is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 100 programs in the nation, as well as in the top 20 for online graduate programs. The USF College of Education has over 51,000 alumni who are making a difference in the lives of children each day.

About the Florida Center for Cybersecurity: 

Created during the 2014 legislative session, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC²) is a shared resource for cybersecurity research, education and outreach across the state and beyond. The Center fosters collaboration between higher education, government, defense and business communities to share knowledge, resources and training opportunities that help mitigate cybersecurity threats and create opportunities for innovative solutions. Located at the University of South Florida, FC² is leading efforts to position Florida as a national leader in cybersecurity.