High Schoolers Get Cyber Training at UC Berkeley

A cyber security program sponsored by the National Security Agency has wooed 23 high school students to attend a six-week course at the University of California Berkeley.

The initiative is part of a nationwide effort to introduce K-12 students to safe online behavior and spark their interest in pursuing careers in the field. All over the country, the GenCyber program is delivering summer cybersecurity camp experiences.

The UC Berkeley program, named "Cybear," was intended specifically for high schoolers. Students learn basic computer science principles, methods and uses for programming in Python, as well as best practices for security and privacy.

The students come from the San Francisco bay area, which covers a wide swatch of geography in northern California.

Their activities have included a field trip to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, a tour of the FBI offices in San Francisco and an international cyber warfare simulation.

The students have also built a model of the city of Oakland out of Lego blocks and Raspberry Pi units, which includes "smart city" features. For example, a smart sanitation system notifies the local waste management organization when it's time to pick up particular bins of garbage because they're full, thereby alleviating traffic in the city by keeping excess garbage trucks off the roads.

"It's great to work with everyone because they're from different schools and different places," said senior Neha Venkatesh, a student at Salesian College Preparatory, a high school in Richmond, in a university article about the program. "I was attracted to this camp because it was at Berkeley, especially since I want to study computer science. It's given me an idea of what it would be like to walk into a class here. It's like I'm actually taking a college class."

The course is free to students, and the university received funding from the NSA to cover class expenses.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.