The NSA and the National Science Foundation funded a summer camp for high school students studying cybersecurity at Pace University in Pleasantville.
Ricky Flores, [email protected]

High schoolers got the opportunity to operate drones and cyberbots and learn about ciphers at a Westchester camp focused on cybersecurity.

The GenCyber program is being held for its second year at Pace University in Pleasantville. Camp Cryptobot offers students firsthand insight into the field of cybersecurity.

Thirty-three high school students, many from Westchester and surrounding communities, are attending the five-day camp. Students from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut also came to Pace for the program.

Only about half of those who applied were admitted to the free camp, which is funded by a $68,000 grant from the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. Pace University professor and the camp’s instructor, Pauline Mosley applied for the grant with a goal to “engage high school students in cybersecurity.” 

A week ago, high school teachers were invited to Pace to participate in a similar educational program. The two programs are designed to shed a light on the importance of cybersecurity in a time where computer hacking has become prevalent. 

Students attending the camp on Wednesday showcased what they learned by  completing a complex water robot challenge. 

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Using robots they created, students recovered balloons from the middle of the Goldstein Gym Pool. Inside the balloons: messages to decode.

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Students participating in “Camp CryptoBotÓ Cybersecurity Camp at Pace University try to retrieve coded messages from a downed drone in a make believe scenario at the pool at Pace University on Aug. 1, 2018. The program is part of the Pace UniversityÕs Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems cybersecurity camp for high school students from the trip-state area, which is which is funded by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation to help prepare young people for careers in the field of cybersecurity. (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

Through the program, students learned to decode different ciphers, which show them how different technologies work, according to Dawn Tucker, a SeaPerch underwater robotics instructor at the camp. 

“Students are learning decoding and encoding. Encoding to protect their messages, decoding to read other messages, and then that helps them understand how privacy works and how to make a secure code,” Tucker said. 

The camp places students in realistic scenarios in order to teach them these skills. 

“We create storylines that are close to what happens in the real world,” Tucker said.

The fictional scenario for this camp session: students are hired by Navy analysts, and are looking to identify hackers on the Pace campus. 

“It’s really to give them an open window into what possibilities for their future might be,” Tucker said. 

Artie DiBerardino, a senior at Lakeland High School, said the camp has been a valuable learning experience. 

“I’ve learned a lot of important stuff about buoyancy and how much testing gets involved with robots,” DiBerardino said. “I’ve been wanting to do robotic engineering for a while,” he added. 

For Elizabeth McDowell, a 10th-grader at Hendrick Hudson High School, the camp has been both informative and fun. 

“I built the motors [of the robot], so I had to do the wiring and the waxing, and I had to solder — and I’ve never soldered before, so that was really a lot of fun,” McDowell said. 

McDowell signed up for the camp at the suggestion of her physics teacher. 

“I didn’t take the intro to engineering class at school, but I was in physics and the teacher is the engineering teacher, and he was like ‘you know you should do it’.”

McDowell wasn’t sure if she would like it, but still decided to attend the camp. 

Now, however, she is signed up to take her school’s intro to engineering class for the upcoming school year. 

Twitter: ijkeane 

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