Arizona Students Trained For Careers in Cybersecurity

July 30, 2014

Dozens of high school students and their teachers attended a UA camp at the Biosphere 2 to learn about the field of cybersecurity.

This summer, high school students from various cities in southern Arizona participate in the GenCyber 2014 Summer Camp, a residential camp held at the UA's Biosphere 2.

Led by Bill Neumann, a UA management information systems professor of practice, the camp provided a hands-on introduction to cybersecurity. Over the course of the two-day camp, students learned about the highly complex and rapidly evolving profession of protecting U.S. companies and agencies from hackers, phishers and newly emergent threats.

In addition to learning about emerging security issues, students learned about computers, network basics, cybersecurity tools and techniques. They also learned how to assess threats and vulnerabilities in systems and also how to defend their own personal computing processes.

Several UA undergraduate students in the Eller College of Management served as interns during the camp and supported the high school students in their learning and exploration. The camp was held in partnership with the National Science Foundation, and had a strong focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – fields.

Two students shared their experiences: Mariam Nikola, a management information systems and operations management double major, and Anna Schuh, an Honors College student majoring in geology and pre-business in the Eller College of Management.

Q: Why did you take an interest in serving as an intern this summer?

Nikola: As a management information systems major, I figured it would be a valuable learning experience to work at a cybersecurity camp. I also love working with kids and being a camp counselor, so that was a bonus.

Schuh: I had an internship last summer as well. However, that was the summer between high school and college, so I was not really a UA student yet.

Q: As you interacted with the high school students, what were some of the most important teachings or information you wanted to impart?

Nikola: Aside from teaching cybersecurity, it was great to share our own college experiences and answer any questions they had about the application process, or just college life in general. It's one thing to hear it in a presentation from adults, but it's more relatable to hear it from college students who are experiencing everything first hand.

Schuh: It was important to me to show them that we, the mentors, weren't much different from them. We got through high school as well and are now working towards our goals and careers. I wanted to make sure they knew how soon they could be where we are now, and that they should take every opportunity they get to expand their horizons. This internship taught me a lot about how to set an example and be responsible.

Q: Can you share a memoriable experience? 

Nikola: Camp in general was a memorable experience. I most enjoyed the "minute to win it" games. The kids were super competitive and were eager to be the team to win the trophy. Seeing each group work so diligently on something as silly as bouncing pencils into cups was really enjoyable.

Q: How do you envision that this internship will help you in your academic and professional development?

Nikola: All of the information from camp is very applicable to what I myself am learning in class. It's great to have the opportunity to teach this information to younger students because it helps me solidify the fact that I understand the material.

Schuh: This internship has taught me crucial leadership skills as well as the ability to work well with others, whether they are colleagues or superiors or customers. These are essential skills to have for a future in business as well as science. I was also able to make important connections that will be helpful in my more near-term future in the Eller College.

Q: What do you want others to understand about your experience?

Nikola: This was probably the most fun I could have had at any internship. Neumann put together an incredible program and I am so lucky to have been a part of it. If there's a camp next summer, I am definitely signing up.

Schuh: It was a great experience and the people I worked with definitely played a huge part in making it such a success. Especially Neumann. Neumann, the MIS department and the ECE (electrical and computer engineering) department have gone to great lengths to make this camp educational and enjoyable for all people involved. 

Here are a few photos from the camp:

Bill Neumann, a UA management information systems professor of practice, said the camp was an important introduction to the high-demand field of cybersecurity.

During their downtime, students played active and imaginative games.

UA electrical and computer engineering student Fabián de la Peña Montero walks students through an exercise in which they learned how it is possible to hack into a password-protected system.

Salim Hariri (center), an electrical and computer engineering professor, teaches students about the "Internet of Things," also known as IoT and "Cloud of Things," which references highly intelligent and interconnected devices and systems that operate via an Internet infrastructure – the next generation of  smart applications, devices and systems. Consider being able to fill up a shopping cart and the cost being automatically deducted from your bank account or having a wearable device that informs you when that you are dehydrated or need a nap. That's IoT.