COEUR d'ALENE - University of Idaho-Coeur d'Alene and the Air Force Association's CyberPatriot program this week hosted CyberCamp, a high-tech cybersecurity program for middle and high school students.
Karen Thurston, business development analyst for U of I, brought the five-day summer camp to life with the goal of educating youths on cybersecurity and garnering their interest in future careers that involve technology.
"The idea is to get them to learn about security, such as keeping them from clicking emails they may get, things like phishing links," Thurston said. "My hope is that they end up smarter about cybersecurity and find an interest in this for a career."
Thurston, who has a master's in computer science, said U of I wanted to initially focus on cybersecurity only, but expanded the program to include more fields of technology related to online safety.
Col. Bill Moore, president of the Inland Empire Chapter of the Air Force Association, was a guest speaker during camp Wednesday.
Moore spoke about the association's CyberPatriot program. CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program. It was conceived by the Air Force Association to inspire high school students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future. ?
"We are here to show kids an opportunity for a career. That's what one of our main goals is here," Moore said.
Employees of the FBI were on hand to speak to students and give a presentation on technology-related careers within the organization.
Tami Dirks, FBI staff operations specialist, works with the Coeur d'Alene field office and said she was glad to be working with local students.
"These kids are great. I think it's fascinating that they are learning about cybertech at such a young age," Dirks said. "I think we need to get more involved in the community. From kids to the older people, we need to help sponsor that mentorship between them and us."
Four of the students taking part in the camp are siblings. The Osborns, who are home-schooled, said they are enjoying the experience of the camp.
Kirsty Osborn, 14, said she took a few classes earlier during the summer in photography but the CyberCamp was exciting.
"It's really fun, I've enjoyed getting to learn more about cyber safety," Osborn said. "I haven't done a lot on the Internet but this class will prepare me for when I do."
Simon Miller, Kellogg School District tech director, is the instructor for CyberCamp. Miller will teach a few high school classes this coming school year in Kellogg, and said he will be taking practice lessons from this camp back to his students in Kellogg.
"It's important the kids learn about being good digital citizens, being proactive and even looking at careers," Miller said. "This is really a good camp to prepare you for a career."
CyberCamp and the CyberPatriot program are making their way to public schools, organizations and local groups. U of I and the Air Force Association are hoping to bring this education to students throughout Idaho and Washington. For more information, contact Karen Thurston at (208) 664-7024.
Lindy Osborn, 15, left and her sister Kristy, 14, play a guessing game Wednesday during the Air Force Association CyberCamp at the University of Idaho Coeur d'Alene Campus.