2018 News

CyberCamp inspires high school students to explore careers in cybersecurity

CyberCamp students complete a challenge on their computers

High school students from across the Tampa Bay area participated in a week-long CyberCamp hosted by the University of South Florida’s College of Education, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.

TAMPA, Fla. (July 17, 2018) –  To encourage more high school students to pursue careers in the rapidly growing cybersecurity industry, the USF College of Education hosted a week-long cybersecurity camp at SecureSet Cybersecurity Academy in Ybor City.

The camp was hosted in partnership with the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, the Florida Center for Instructional Technology and Crimson Resolve, a computer and network security company located in Tampa. Led by USF instructors and mentors from the USF Whitehatters Computer Security Club, students learned about various topics in the cybersecurity field and participated in hands-on activities such as lock picking, a digital capture the flag competition and simulated cybersecurity exercises.

Nathan Fisk introduces students to a lock picking activity at CyberCamp 2018

Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Education, Nathan Fisk, PhD, introduces students to a lock picking exercise that is conducted annually at the camp. 

Chastity Smith-Pedersen said the camp has taught her that cybersecurity isn’t just sitting in front of a computer all day long. Now, she sees how many diverse roles and skillsets are needed in the industry, and she understands the importance of practicing safe internet habits in today’s digital landscape. 

“I’ve learned that you can’t think you’re never going to be hacked,” Smith-Pedersen said. “There’s a small chance that you might not, but there’s other chances that you will. You always have to be safe about what you do (online).”

The camp has inspired Smith-Pedersen to look into future career paths with the CIA or FBI. Encouraging this mindset is one of the goals of the camp, said Nathan Fisk, PhD, an assistant professor of cybersecurity education who developed the camp three years ago.

“If we can get to (these students) at a high school level, we can start introducing them to the field at an earlier level and get them hooked up into a mentorship pipeline earlier than they otherwise would have been,” Fisk said. 

Students participated in hands-on learning, networking and interactive competitions, experiences that teach students about the field in a way that goes beyond sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture or presentation, Fisk said.

CyberCamp participants meet with industry leaders during a cybersecurity workforce panel at CyberCamp 2018

Local professionals in the cybersecurity industry met with CyberCamp participants to share about their work in the profession.

“The camp is not just a space to teach kids about cybersecurity,” Fisk said. “It’s also an opportunity to start making stronger bonds between cybersecurity subject matter experts and our educational staff who really need to work together to make these bigger cybersecurity instructional exercises.”

Experts predict the amount of jobs in the cybersecurity will grow by nearly 30 percent through 2026, with a reported median salary for information security analysts at more than $95,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Filling this workforce need will require training not just cybersecurity professionals, but educational experts who can introduce students to the career path.

“We really need educational experts within the field of cybersecurity,” Fisk said. “That’s its own area of expertise, and we can create better cybersecurity education as we have these collaborative efforts at an interdisciplinary level.”