This summer, a select group of Ripley County middle school and high school students explored the field of cybersecurity at Air Force Association CyberPatriot Camp for middle school students and Python programming camp for high school students.
“The AFA CyberPatriot and Python programming camps reinforce lessons learned in school and emphasize the need for individuals with cybersecurity knowledge and skills, while providing students with an overview of postsecondary training required for careers in cybersecurity,” said Cheryll Obendorf, GPS Director. “The students involved in this year’s camp were fortunate to learn from individuals with great expertise in cybersecurity.”
Special guests to this summer’s camps, which took place the week of June 25-29, were Chief Jason Honeycutt and Command Sergeant Major Jason Schreiner from the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center’s Cyber Academy who spoke to students about the MUTC Cyber Academy and its importance in training individuals to protect the nation’s infrastructure.
Cyber Patriot Camp
Sixteen middle school students from St. Louis School, Jac-Cen-Del, South Ripley, and one home school student participated in CyberPatriot Camp. The highlight of this camp was a competition held on the final day of camp in which students worked to defend their computers from cyber attacks.
The CyberPatriot Camp was co-facilitated by Professor Joe Kennedy from Ivy Tech Community College and Professor Scot Cunningham from Northern Kentucky University. Those assisting in the classroom were Karen O’Neal, Vincennes University Early College Program; Jackie Huber, Batesville School Corporation; Alyssa Moorman, South Ripley High School; Brandy Hicks, Milan School Corporation; and, Jessica Imel, St. Louis School.
“I saw students who were on a level playing field, because they were with like-minded individuals,” commented Jessica Imel, St. Louis School. “I saw them grow and build their knowledge and get really excited for the possibility that they could actually protect something like national security.”
Python Programming Camp
In its pilot year, the Python programming camp was developed and facilitated by Cole Vanderpohl, a Hanover College Computer Science major, and Amelia Comer, AP Computer Science and Digital Electronics instructor at Jac-Cen-Del High School. Space was limited to five students from Jac-Cen-Del High School, Oldenburg Academy, and South Ripley High School.
“These camps are an exemplify the commitment of Ripley County’s faculty, teachers and community leaders who recognize great potential in our youth and are willing to make a commitment to help them develop that potential to its fullest,” commented Obendorf.
Genesis: Pathways to Success (GPS), Northern Kentucky University, Ivy Tech Community College, Hanover College, Vincennes University Early College, and local school corporations joined together to offer the camps. The camps were held simultaneously at Jac-Cen-Del High School in Osgood.
Last summer with support from GPS, this cadre of educators developed a pilot program, Cyber Camp 101, with funding provided by an Education Workforce Innovation Network (EWIN) grant to the Ripley County Community Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to establish a strategy to develop a workforce with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities required for careers in cybersecurity. After last summer’s successful camp, the team concluded that middle school students in Ripley County are ready to tackle the challenge of an official AFA CyberPatriot Camp, and an option should be added for interested high school students.
“It’s humbling to be a part of communities that put kids first over school rivalry,” said Brandy Hicks, Milan educator. “I am working with staff from all Ripley County schools in our second camp. It’s about uplifting all of our community and giving opportunities to all of our children.”
Ripley County students across every district are immersed into a full computer science and information technology culture. Starting as young as pre-K and kindergarten, students are developing digital citizenship, ethical behavior, problem solving and critical thinking skills. These character-building traits are emphasized as students increase knowledge in academic subjects such as algorithmic problem solving, network diagrams and hierarchy and abstraction in computing.