By Jess Clarke, contributing writer
Led by Norwich CSIA majors and alumni, NU’s first-ever GenCyber@NU summer camp brought a fun, innovative approach to immersing 20 standout high school juniors and seniors in cyberdefense and cybersecurity. During their first days at the week-long camp, teens wired bananas to circuit boards to play a video game and assembled their own computers.
Katya Lopez ’15 co-directed the camp with Prof. Peter Stephenson, NU’s recently retired cyber-czar and director of the Center for Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics.
While many campers arrived well-versed in programming languages and other facets of computer science, Lopez says “they didn’t know the inner workings of a computer.” Building their own computer enabled them to gain “a better understanding of how the machine they get to do all this great stuff on works.”
The computer project was a highlight not just for the campers but their parents, Lopez says. “I still receive emails from the parents telling me how every day their children use the computer they built.”
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency, the free GenCyber summer camps were held at some 30 universities and colleges across the country this year, marking the second year of an expanding program that aims to interest young people in a field with an insatiable need for talent.
The overnight, all-expenses-paid camp at Norwich was the only program at which students built a full-size computer and where campers were instructed mostly by university or college students, Lopez says.
That reflects Norwich’s strength in cybersecurity. Ranked #2 by the Ponemon Institute for cybersecurity in the US, Norwich programs are consistently ranked among the best in the nation for cybersecurity education.
“It proves that we produce leaders, and we produce people you wouldn’t normally expect to be leaders who rise up to the challenge,” says Lopez, who now works as a digital forensics consultant in Ellicott City, Md., while pursuing an online Norwich Master of Science degree in Information Security and Assurance.
GenCyber@NU was designed for students interested in information security, digital forensics, cyberattack defense, and personal online protection.
Lopez says campers were immersed in classes and lectures based on those taught at Norwich. “Campers got a real college-level education for the week,” Lopez says.
Topics ranged from the Linux operating system and hacking to digital forensics and forensic analysis. Campers learned basic concepts of programming, forensics, and cryptography through gaming, modeling, and simulation activities.
One exercise involved a digital forensics case based on the notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Teens looked for digital clues to reveal the duo’s next crime. “They learned how to explore inside a computer. What to do. How to think like an investigator would. They were able to see that what they were learning could be related to real life. It wasn’t just textbook knowledge,” according to Lopez.
“The camp was very successful,” says Huw Read, associate professor and director of the Norwich University Center for Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics. “It certainly highlighted to all involved what is possible for a career in the field.”
Norwich will apply to host GenCyber again next summer.
GenCyber@NU garnered national media attention, with Norwich featured in an article written by the Associated Press. That article, shown here in the Washington Times, appeared in about 200 news media outlets across the country and globally in India, UK, Singapore, Philippines, Canada and many others. That story previewed the camp ahead of time.
Vermont Public Radio visited campus and covered the camp in this story.
If you know of any standout high school students who you think would be a good fit for this summer program, please email Prof. Huw Read at firstname.lastname@example.org with their name and contact information.