Tennessee Tech cybersecurity camp impacting middle and high school students

Tennessee Tech’s GenCyber Camp made such an impact on Tate Seyler (left), he enrolled in Tech’s computer science program after graduating from Upperman High School.

COOKEVILLE – Approximately 40 students from across the state of Tennessee have gathered at Tennessee Tech this week to learn about cybersecurity at the 2019 GenCyber Residential Camp.

Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency, this will be the fourth year that Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC) has hosted the camp.

“The camp has made significant impact not just in our local community but also at the state and in the region,” said CEROC director Ambareen Siraj. “We are turning more young minds to cyber safety and cybersecurity career as we progress over the years.”

The students, who will be on campus today through Friday, will learn about cybersecurity using the Raspberry Pi single board computer, games illustrating cybersecurity concepts, competitions, and team projects. Throughout all of the activities, campers will learn key cybersecurity concepts, online safety, and careers in cybersecurity. Campers will also meet cybersecurity experts in government and industry.

“It is amazing to watch these young people grow both in communication skills and knowledge throughout the week,” said Eric Brown, CEROC’s assistant director. “These individuals begin their week as a group of strangers and end the week as members of highly functional teams with strong bonds.  We have begun to see some of our past GenCyber campers join us in the computer science program here at Tech.  This is the real sign that something awesome happened here.”

Tate Seyler enjoyed the GenCyber camp so much when he was in high school, he decided to attend Tennessee Tech. A graduate of Upperman High, Seyler just completed his first year at Tech in the computer science program.

“The camp was the deciding factor in choosing Tennessee Tech as my school. GenCyber solidified my decision to follow a cybersecurity path,” said Seyler. “I had the good fortune to meet some incredible upper classmen during my time in the camp and learn from their experiences.  My team counselor, Zach Wallace (graduate of the computer science program and CyberCorps SFS scholar), also helped me to better understand my opportunities at Tech.  My first year at Tech has been an eye-opening learning experience.”

CEROC is no stranger to these types of outreach events.  Throughout the year, in addition to its collegiate education and research activities, the center engages over 1,000 K12 students during programs such as GenCyber on Wheels, on-site presentations, career fairs, and visiting groups.  

“Our work in K12 is crucial to addressing future cybersecurity issues,” said Brown. “Many of the students with which we speak don’t fully understand what cybersecurity is. They think of that strange person that never comes out of the basement. In reality, cybersecurity professionals work in areas ranging from academia, law enforcement, defensive and offensive operations, and forensics. It is a joy to see young eyes light up and see the opportunities in this field.”

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