Moreno Valley College Offers CyberPatriot Summer Camps
By Dianne Anderson
It’s the real stuff of what SyFy used to be made of – strange names like the Ztorg Trojan, phishing, ransomware attacks and viruses that monitor keyboards stroke by stroke.
Credit card or other sensitive data can be easily hacked through third-party remote access. It can sneak in with just a string of bad, ugly code, which is exactly what kids hope to find at the upcoming free coding camps held at Moreno Valley College.
Students will turn out in droves in the battle to master good cybersecurity hacks that could follow them in jobs for a lifetime. The one week beginners camp for 6th through 9th grade starts Monday, July 15. Advanced camps for students 7th through 12th grade start July 22.
Dr. Melody Graveen, Dean of Instruction, Career & Tech Ed, said the program was designed to give students the opportunity to see themselves in a collegiate environment.
She wants them to think about pursuing one of the hottest fields that cut across nearly every sector and industry.
This time around, she is ready for about 250 participating students, double the number last year when the response was so big they had to cut it off at 117 students. The year before that they were at 27.
“It was 50% of boys and girls last year. That was very exciting to see an equal number of boys and girls both showing up for camp,” she said. “We absolutely would love to have more people. I will find more rooms if I need to.”
Students do not need to be from Moreno Valley to participate.
Camp action may resemble their favorite blockbuster series where dozens of young hackers face off, typing furiously to detect small data breaches that now happens regularly in government, hospitals, and the electric grid.
Earlier this year, they hosted the Mayor’s Cybercup statewide competition, where the energy was high. It was real time through the internet and in the cloud, and high tech equipment was not needed.
“Which is part of the equity piece. There was a [unexpected] glitch in the system when we first started, and the students figured it out. It was incredible to watch them,” she said.
Growing cyber-threats today require that everyone gets equal access to technology that is advancing at high speed. Often, she said many are lower-income students lag behind, or have challenges because they lack reliable internet at home.
The competitions and their student STEM success center come by way of a federal grant that provides the camp at no cost to the students. She is also extending an invite for coders or computer techs of color to come out to speak with the students. A healthy lunch is provided between the morning and the afternoon session.
It is geared toward benefiting Latinx and African American students, and to get more women into coding.
“We want to be able to have speakers come in so our students can see people that look like them doing these jobs, and say I can do that too,” she said.
Students not only learn to work with code, but understand how to identify threats and risks, how to detect hack attempts, and spot errors in code.
Kids that may have not been able to get into the beginners’camp can try again the following week. Advanced camp, mainly for students that have completed beginners camp and cyber competitions also have the opportunity to move up to the next level.
Some faculty are leading the program, and she is inviting interested coaches from other schools to come join in the fun.
Once they get through the class, there are also resources to get students to continue their coding journey. At least a couple of students have since moved on to the Cal State University, San Bernardino cybersecurity program.
At this stage, she finds that students easily grasp complex concepts. They have literally grown up with computer language, many have handled cell phones from the crib.
But as technology expands, it also opens the door to more cyberattacks, such as Target, which is just one among many in recent years.
“The breach went through the air conditioning [software] system,” she said. “The more we become a society with our alarms hooked up to our cell phones and the Internet of Things, those are the kinds of things that we have to think about.”
For more information on camps, contact firstname.lastname@example.org