CyberCamp opens up opportunities

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A new camp being offered on the Texas Woman’s University campus this week is such a good idea that we don’t know why others haven’t organized similar efforts.

The Air Force Association has partnered with TWU on a CyberCamp project to teach local high school students about cybersecurity and how to protect a system online.

But more important, the camp could help promote STEM careers, officials said, by attracting young people who might not otherwise consider entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The camp has been successful in that regard by helping attract more females than ever before, said Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch of the AFA.

TWU professor Jian Zhang met Skoch at a workshop last year, and they decided to team up for AFA’s first summer camp. Zhang wanted to learn more about cybersecurity to bring back to her classroom, and Skoch wanted a smaller college campus that could promote female participation.

Camp attendees are spending their week learning different aspects of cybersecurity. One session was on the ethics of cybersecurity and others cover topics including security breaches and weaknesses that students must detect and correct.

The AFA conducts a national competition for cybersecurity defense, and roughly 17 percent of participants are female. For this camp, nearly half of the attendees are girls.

The national competition is what the group is known for, since thousands of high school students participate each year to work to defensively block hacking and other security violations to online networks.

However, North Texas is underrepresented in the competition, Skoch said.

“We would love to see more North Texas schools participate,” he said. “We’re very optimistic about Denton, and we’re even more optimistic about the entire state of Texas.”

Don Edwards, chairman of TWU’s Mathematics and Computer Sciences Department, said he hopes the camp will help get the attention of area high school students to encourage more participation in the competition.

“It’s pretty much a male-dominated competition up to this point, so our hope is to inspire some of the young ladies who are attending the camp,” he said.

School representatives and Skoch say they hope additional camps will be offered at TWU and other college campuses in the future.

That’s a great idea. We like promoting interest in the national competition for cybersecurity defense. Considering the talent and enthusiasm of our young people, there’s no reason for North Texas to be underrepresented.

But we’re even more interested in encouraging young people — male and female — to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Those are key fields in another competition, one that has worldwide implications, and we need to be grooming young minds to win it.


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