High school students from across North Dakota and from Minnesota came to the North Dakota State University to learn about cybersecurity. They weren’t attending normal college classes, though. They were learning in a fun and exciting summer camp environment. The students participated in activities and short courses related to programming, how to secure computers and networks. The GenCyber Camp that they participated in is funded by the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation and is free to participants.

The camp gives students a taste of the excitement and fun of the college experience and computing and cybersecurity in the hope that they’ll decide to go on to pursue additional education and even a career in these areas. Workers in these areas are in high demand nationwide as well as critical to national security. This is the reason for the creation of the GenCyber program. This was the second year that NDSU has held a GenCyber camp. This year, NDSU offered a residential camp where campers spent the night in NDSU dorms, allowing campers to attend from further away and to get more of a taste of the college experience. This is the first time a residential GenCyber camp has been held in North Dakota, though residential camps have been previously held in neighboring states.

“GenCyber combines the fun of a summer camp with the educational value of a course,” said Jeremy Straub, NDSU computer science assistant professor, who served as program director. “The students get to be hands-on with security hardware, networking equipment, virtual reality, drones and a ton of other cool technologies. In the process, they learn a ton – while having a ton of fun.”

Area students attending the one-week camp were from Carrington, Dickey, Enderlin, Jamestown, Kathryn, Litchville, Napoleon, Pingree, Spiritwood and Tappen. The camp had 60 students enrolled, all in their mid to late teens.

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Campers learned about core networking, security and programming topics most mornings and participated in electives of their choice in the afternoons. They learned about cybersecurity research being performed by undergraduate students just a few years older than them. They were challenged by a cybersecurity competition.

“Computing education and cybersecurity are of high importance in our society today,” said Kendall E. Nygard, chairman of the NDSU Computer Science Department. “Getting young people excited about these kinds of technologies is critical to the future of North Dakota and beyond.”

In addition to Straub, NDSU faculty and multiple NDSU students helped with the camp. South Dakota-based Dakota State University sent a delegation to help teach at the camp. NDSU plans to hold a similar camp again next year.