Cyber Stars shine at DSU: Training the next generation of cyber experts
It’s a hot, sweltering July afternoon, perfect for a round of capture the flag. A time-honored tradition that goes back many a summer camp, but this is Cyber Stars camp, so there is a modern twist. High school students from around the country are gathered around computers in East Hall on the Dakota State University campus, playing a digital version of the game that teaches them how to secure machines and defend cyber attacks.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors from over 20 states including Alaska, California, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas arrived at DSU Sunday to learn more about cyber security and computer science. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, over 180 students are attending the camp for free which includes all-day activities, supplies, room and board. Each day the campers delve into a variety of topics that help them better understand the world of cyber security and the importance it plays in our daily lives.
Courses range from projects on wireless networks to working with Arduino, Python and Raspberry Pi. While many may find these technologies a bit foreign, the students look right at home working on putting the computers together in cases, downloading software and playing games like Minecraft on their own Raspberry Pi. They are also learning more about password kittens and packet monkeys, which may sound cute and cuddly, but have very real world implications in regard to our networks and password security.
Even those with less technological experience can find a familiar activity in an afternoon elective class with Lego robots, students need no prior cyber security or computer science experience to join in this class or any of the courses. Many students commented that while they are computer savvy they wanted to come to the camp to experience something new and this was something different and fun for them.
“My favorite part is all the different technology that I haven’t used before,” said Zach Schatz, a junior from Sioux Falls. “This is my first experience with programming.”
When asked if this piqued his interest in cyber security and computer science, Schatz said, “I might be interested in technology, this camp has broadened my horizon.”