2020 News Stories

Virtual CyberCamp helps high school students develop cybersecurity skills, explore careers paths

CyberCamp group photo

Campers, volunteers and staff take a group screenshot to celebrate the end of USF CyberCamp, a week-long summer program for high school students with an interest in cybersecurity skills and careers.

TAMPA, Fla. (July 27, 2020) — High school students from across the state of Florida and beyond joined together for a week of online conversations and activities while exploring the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity.

Now in its fifth year, the University of South Florida’s (USF) CyberCamp gives high school students of different ability levels and backgrounds hands-on experience in cybersecurity principles while providing them with opportunities to network with industry professionals in the Tampa Bay cybersecurity community. Throughout the program, students worked together on cybersecurity challenges while getting a sense of what it’s like to be a cybersecurity professional.

Normally hosted at The Undercroft in Ybor City, this year’s camp was offered in a fully-online format in response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Instead of joining together in-person, students, volunteers and camp staff met online using video conferencing software and a Slack channel created to keep participants connected while completing activities.

Nathan Fisk, PhD, the camp’s director and an assistant professor of cybersecurity education at USF, says the online format allowed participants to not only focus on the technical skills they learned, but also on the connections they built with the large network of industry professions who supported the camp throughout the week.

“CyberCamp has always been a community-centered event, and while we were worried that we might lose sight of that going virtual, we had an outpouring of support from our volunteers,” Dr. Fisk said. “Using a platform common in the cyber workforce, CyberCamp was always on, with students ‘hanging around’ industry professionals and cybersecurity graduates throughout the week.”

Although students participated in the camp from home, they took part in a variety of activities to collaborate with others and practiced the skills they learned throughout the week, such as coding, networking forensics and social engineering.

“I’m still exploring, but definitely interested (in) the computer and software area for a career,” said Tosin Daudu, a high school junior from Tampa. “(CyberCamp) has helped me explore that interest by giving me more application of security and such for cybersecurity.”

One camp activity, the “OWASP Juice Shop”, was a favorite for many of the students. The activity introduced campers to fictitious company’s web application, which included numerous security vulnerabilities that visitors could easily manipulate with the appropriate skills. As part of the exercise, campers were asked to hack into the application to locate vulnerabilities and gain access to sensitive information.

“I enjoyed that it felt like you were going through an actual website,” said camp participant Noelani Hodgson, a high school sophomore from Land O’ Lakes, Fla. “I learned how much work and time goes into going through websites and how attention to detail is important when doing so.”

OWASP Juice Shop

Students participated in a simulation exercise, “OWASP Juice Shop,” to learn about potential security vulnerabilities of a web application. | Source: OWASP

USF CyberCamp was created to address the need for attracting more talented individuals to careers in cybersecurity, a field that expects faster than average job growth over the next decade. In a report released in December 2019, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, (ISC)², estimated that to meet the demand from U.S. businesses, the cybersecurity workforce would need to increase by 62 percent.

In addition to participating in hands-on activities, campers also learned about the history of cybersecurity and connected with industry professionals, who shared with students about their career paths and how students could also get involved in the field.

Katherine Barron, a ninth-grade student from Mulberry, Fla., signed-up for the camp because she realizes the importance technology plays in today’s world—especially with many students doing online learning—and wanted to use the camp as an opportunity to learn more about cybersecurity.

CyberCamp virtual careers panel

Cybersecurity professionals met with camp participants during the camp’s Career Panel to share about their professional backgrounds and to give students advice on how to launch their careers.

Barron knew she wanted to go to college and enroll at USF to follow in her older siblings’ footsteps. After participating in CyberCamp, she said she now has an interest in the cybersecurity field and is also considering it as a future career path. 

“I realized that I do enjoy cybersecurity,” Barron said. “I never really thought that it would be a career option before, but I had a really fun experience in these classes, which has me thinking about how if I take more classes and improve more, then maybe it could be something that I would be able to do as a career choice.”

Thank you to the volunteers and organizations that helped make USF CyberCamp 2020 a success!

CyberCamp 2020 Sponsors:

CyberCamp 2020 volunteers joined us from the following organizations:

  • Abacode
  • AFCEA Tampa St. Petersburg
  • Arete Solutions
  • Cyber Security Solutions
  • Infragard Tampa Bay
  • Jacobs
  • MAD Security
  • Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Inc.
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Pozytek LLC
  • Raymond James Financial
  • SAIC
  • ScySec LLC
  • Sigma Defense Systems
  • Spathe Systems, LLC
  • Walt Disney World