Summer Cyber Security Camp seeks to turn kids and teachers into cyber sleuths

This summer, middle school students and teachers will have the opportunity to receive a crash course in cybersecurity, thanks to a free summer camp being offered through Western on the Peninsulas.

Western on the Peninsulas operates as an extension of Western Washington University and this summer the office will offer a free Cyber Security Camp in Poulsbo which will serve as an access point for students and teachers looking to enter the world of cybersecurity.

According to Erik Fretheim, director of Western’s Cybersecurity Program, the camp has two key elements.

“The primary target, I would say is teachers, we want to help teachers learn how to teach cybersecurity,” Fretheim said. “We’ll spend the first week of the camp working with a group of 24 teachers of all levels — kindergarten through high school — and give them a lot of information and resources and hands-on practice to help them learn about how to go about teaching cybersecurity.”

The second element, Fretheim explained, sees teachers assisting in lessons and exercises for the middle schoolers as they learn about basic concepts of cybersecurity.

“They’ll spend that week working with us and learning, then over the next two weeks, each teacher spends two half-day sessions, actually hands-on working with what they had spent learning the week before,” Fretheim said. “While the skills are fresh in their mind, it gives them a chance to put those into action.”

“The ultimate goal is for these teachers to then teach their students a basic understanding of cybersecurity principles and ideas, and how to be safe out there on the net.”

As an added bonus, Fretheim said he hoped to pique students’ interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math.

“Hopefully as we’re teaching the students in the middle school camp, we’ll engage their interest in activity in cybersecurity — or, if not directly in cybersecurity itself, then into STEM,”

The camp, Fretheim said, works up to what he calls a “relatively-intensive cybersecurity curriculum.”

The lessons, the director explained included the melding of cybersecurity and marine sciences at WWU’s SEA Discovery Center in Downtown Poulsbo. By exploring the similarities between cybersecurity systems and defense strategies used by plants and animals in the natural world, Fretheim said students will begin blending concepts of cybersecurity with other disciplines. The classes will also see students tasked with securely delivering data to a database.

“We’ll be looking at measuring what’s going on in estuaries and things like that,” Fretheim said. “We’ll be looking then at how you transmit those measurements that they’re getting back from where they’re measuring, into a database — and do it in a way that’s secure and reliable and has integrity to it. So they’ll be working with encrypting the data and passwords and things like that.”

The application deadline for students and teachers hoping to participate in the camp is April 28. To apply visit cse.wwu.edu/computer-science/cybersecurity-camp-0.

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