LITTLE SILVER, NJ - For two weeks in July, students were able to attend a free camp introducing them to the vital field of cybersecurity. The program, called the GenCyber Jersey Blues 2017 Summer Camp, was funded through a grant provided by the National Security Administration in partnership with the National Science Foundation. Its purpose is to attract more students to study STEM, and in particular to the growing and important field of cybersecurity.
The grant was written by Brookdale engineering and technology professor Michael Qaissaunee who worked with Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) technology Professor Mandy Galante in developing the program last year at the camp’s debut. Both Brookdale and RBR have well developed and long-standing programs offered to their students in the study of cybersecurity. Camp instructors included both Professor Qaissaunee and Peter Geiselman from Brookdale and Mandy Galante and Jeremy Milonas from RBR.
The two, one-week camps extended from July 17 through July 28 and covered major areas of study that build to the field of cybersecurity including computer hardware, networking, cryptography and secure authentication. The students were introduced to the major principals of the industry and participated in competitions. A bit of levity was introduced to this serious subject matter via a campus-wide scavenger hunt for eight routers. Clues to their locations were delivered via student tablets and phones and reached as far as the Monmouth Museum at the edge of campus. The grant enabled 40 students to attend the camp with an emphasis placed on those who are under-represented in technology. According to Mandy Galante, that meant female, African-Americans and Hispanic students.
She reports, “I was delighted we fielded a very diverse group with over half being female. It has been my quest to engage more females in the technology field. I always thought if you could capture their attention before they become entrenched in other areas in high school, they would be willing to study STEM, and they would be very good at it.”
One of the camp attendees, RBR rising sophomore Tess Hintelmann of Little Silver, was one of the girls who knew nothing about the subject and ventured beyond her comfort zone. Tess is a dance major in RBR’s Visual & Performing Arts Academy and applied to the camp to explore other possible areas of study in college.
She commented, “This was something that excited and interested me, as you read about all kinds of cyber-attacks on our country and corporations like Sony and Disney. Everything is online now it is so important to have people countering it.”
RBR rising sophomore Kaylin Hernandez-Perez from Bradley Beach, did know something about computers before attending the camp. While in middle school, she developed an affinity for learning to wire and code under the mentorship of one of her teachers. She specifically applied to RBR for its renowned Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) and came to the camp to further her knowledge.
She stated, “I learned a lot of new things in the camp, like networking and eavesdropping on networks. I really want to do this for my future.”
Marie Davidson from Shrewsbury, is also an RBR AOIT student hoping to hone her skills in the cybersecurity field this summer. Her familiarity with some of the subject matter enabled her to help her fellow campers in grasping the material.
She adds, “As technology advances, I feel more people need to be able to figure out the best ways to use it every day and to make it more efficient.”
Several seniors attended from all around Monmouth County and beyond. Most came with an idea of studying computer science in college next year.
Rumson Fair Haven rising senior Calvin Bruno of Fair Haven read about the camp in the local newspaper. He stated, “I had always thought about studying computer science in college but never had a course in it. Then I attended the camp and learned how to program and learned about cyber security and that confirmed that I want to do this in life.”
Eric Gulich drove over an hour each day from Bergen County where he will be a senior at Bergen Tech in September. He found the camp listed on a cyber security website.
He commented, “I have taken computer science at school but never had anything on cyber security. While most of it was a refresher, the cyber security was new and I wanted to see if I liked it.”
Dean Motasis of Matawan was delighted he found out about the course, as he had not been able to find anything like it in the area before. He intends to study computer science in college.
He stated, “This camp is a great opportunity for all people. We went over the basics of many important subjects like networking and even opened up a computer. We learned about cyber protection and did decoding and encryption. I feel that all of things will be needed so much more in the future as technology is everywhere and getting into everything, like cars. Everything that depends on computers can also be exploited by computers and cyber protection is going to be needed.”