Rising eighth graders at Rachel Carson Middle School, Kinsey Clements (bottom left) and Kirsten Clements (top left) work with their partners, Monica Saraf (top right) from Nysmith middle school and Paola Henriquez (bottom right) from Chantilly High School to prepare for the mock cyberpatriot competition. More than half the camp attendees this year were girls.
Photo by Elza Thomas/The Connection
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Some students walked into the Chantilly High School cafeteria thinking the camp would be easy. Others walked in because their parents made them. The room slowly grew in size as both groups of youths converged. Every day for one week, these students, grades 7-12, were given the opportunity to learn about computer vulnerabilities, internet ethics, and types of software. Welcome to the world of cybersecurity.
Sponsored by Northrop Grumman, the Chantilly Summer Cybersecurity Camp allowed students from various schools in the region to explore the field of cybersecurity and other engineering careers.
“There is a critical shortage in this [cybersecurity] field because it is so new every day ... there is always going to be a need for people to secure cyberspace,” said Bonnie Wannett, career experience specialist and coordinator of the camp.
Due to the shortage of workers in cybersecurity and other STEM-related jobs, the camp worked to educate and interest the younger generation in such fields. However, that was not the sole priority of the camp's existence.
“We want them [camp attendees] to leave with an understanding of how this [cybersecurity] impacts us globally and down to individually. So we want them to have the whole range … whether it is encrypting a file or learning to secure your Xbox,” Wannett said.
Many of the students who attended had never considered pursuing a job in cybersecurity. Some wanted to focus on just programing while others still needed more time to figure themselves out.
“I program a lot and I really enjoy it. But as I got older I learned that on the internet, nothing is really yours … and that’s really freaky,” said Rajshri Dakshinamoorthy. a rising sophomore at McLean High School.
To teach students about internet safety effectively, cybersecurity instructors presented case studies, where students looked at real-life cyber ethics scenarios. Cases included the debates of Hollywood movie makers and edited clean flicks, Microsoft paying YouTube personalities for positive Xbox One endorsements, and whether or not vulgar comments from students on social media can be a reflection of freedom of speech.
“I like the camp because it is interactive. We get to do a lot of hands-on activities,” said Shweta Radhakrishnan, a rising sophomore at Oakton High School.
By the end of the week, camp attendees had to display the knowledge they learned in their classes through a mock-cyberpatriot competition. Cyberpatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program that holds competitions for schools throughout the country. Advanced and beginner students worked together to fix computer vulnerabilities and viruses, encrypt important files, and update old systems.