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    NIWC Pacific Volunteers Support Virtual CyberCamp for Local Students

    NIWC Pacific Volunteers Support Virtual CyberCamp for Local Students

    Courtesy Photo | 200619-N-ZZ999-005 Chula Vista, California (June 19, 2020) Sweetwater Union High...... read more read more

    CHULA VISTA, CA, UNITED STATES

    07.08.2020

    Story by Maison Piedfort 

    Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

    The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could not stop this year’s Air Force Association (AFA) CyberCamp, a weeklong curriculum and accompanying competition that gives local middle and high school students hands-on cybersecurity education and training.

    Typically in person, this year’s CyberCamp went virtual due to San Diego’s stay at home orders in response to COVID-19, with each student, teacher, and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC Pacific) volunteer working through the five-day camp remotely, June 15 – 19.

    In partnership with Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD), NIWC Pacific volunteers, such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Cyber Lead Yun Trinh, have supported the camp for four years by training teachers, creating instructive materials, and pairing mentors with students. Trinh acts as the liaison between NIWC Pacific and SUHSD, working with Dr. Jesus L. Ulloa-Higuera, SUHSD’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) Programs Coordinator, to help make the camp a success.

    “Without a doubt, the quality and success of our cyber camps can be directly attributed to the guidance, training, technical support, and collaboration of our partners from NIWC Pacific,” said Dr. Ulloa-Higuera. “NIWC Pacific mentors put a human face to cybersecurity so our students can learn firsthand what cybersecurity professionals do.”

    As part of the curriculum, Trinh and fellow NIWC Pacific volunteers Kevin Groarke, Angelica Sippel and John San-Miguel hosted a one-hour virtual guest speaker session during which students were taught the importance of cybersecurity and what a career in cybersecurity could look like. “Without the support of current and previous mentors, we would not have the strong relationship we do with SUHSD,” said Trinh, who led NIWC Pacific’s involvement in the camp for the second year in a row.

    Trinh’s team of volunteers provided online, interactive teaching supplements to keep students engaged, training materials for teachers, and technical support when necessary. The week’s curriculum included topics such as cyber ethics, basic cybersecurity principles and introductions to operating systems. The week concluded with students going head-to-head with fellow campers in a cybersecurity competition.

    “The most rewarding part of the week was seeing students having fun and applying what they learned throughout the week at the competition,” said Trinh.

    Trinh partnered with teachers including Monique Wood, who led this year’s camp, and five other teachers, to collaborate virtually on the camp’s curriculum. Wood, who teaches computer science essentials and English at Montgomery Middle School, communicated with students via email, a virtual education platform, and video meetings throughout the camp.

    “COVID-19 has definitely affected the way CyberCamp is run since the camp is typically hosted in person, which allows us to troubleshoot technical issues rapidly and with more ease,” said Wood. “Nevertheless, teaching it at a distance allowed students to learn so much more because they had to troubleshoot and install software themselves in ways they normally wouldn’t have to.”

    Wood noted that the cybersecurity field has less than 1 percent unemployment rate, which makes it a great scholarship opportunity and career option for students. “We can expose students to the content to give them foundational knowledge they need to go into these programs, persevere and succeed,” said Wood.

    Yolanda Tanner, NAVWAR STEM federal action officer and NIWC Pacific internship and fellowship program manager, pointed out that the emergence of the novel coronavirus highlights the critical need for future cybersecurity professionals. “The expanding virtual environment both highlights and accelerates the need to teach cyber skills,” Tanner said. “As virtual environments become more prevalent, so will vulnerabilities and the need to cultivate the interest and skills of students interested in pursuing cyber as a career.”

    This year the camp mentored 86 students from San Diego County: 33 from Eastlake Middle School, 30 from Rancho Del Rey Middle School, and 23 from Olympian High School. Each iteration of the camp was led by two instructors, SUHSD staff members, and supported by volunteers like those from NIWC Pacific. Summer cyber camps like the AFA CyberCamp are funded by a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grant that aims to provide educational resources with public schools that serve military-connected students.

    Hana, a soon-to-be ninth grade student, said her favorite part of the camp was being able to work in teams and problem-solving with computers while learning different concepts of cybersecurity. “The most challenging part was figuring out how to apply knowledge from the slides to the activities we completed in the labs and final competition,” she said.

    Dr. Ulloa-Higuera had nothing but praise for Trinh’s and NIWC Pacific’s involvement in this year’s virtual CyberCamp. “We appreciate the continuous support and collaboration of our partners from NIWC Pacific,” he said. “Yun’s leadership role this year has raised the bar for future camps. He provided invaluable technical support and guidance to our teachers, held dynamic online presentations with our students, and involved other NIWC Pacific volunteers in engaging, professional conversations with our students. Yun was the glue that made our camp thrive this year.”

    Together with SUHSD representatives and teachers, NIWC Pacific’s role in exposing students to the cybersecurity field – even in the middle of a global pandemic — ensures that the Center is doing their part to help cultivate tomorrow’s workforce today.

    As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Pacific’s mission is to conduct research, development, engineering, and support of integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, and space systems across all warfighting domains, and to rapidly prototype, conduct test and evaluation, and provide acquisition, installation, and in-service engineering support.​

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.08.2020
    Date Posted: 07.15.2020 14:37
    Story ID: 373580
    Location: CHULA VISTA, CA, US 

    Web Views: 74
    Downloads: 0
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