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GenCyber Program Educates Wyoming Youth

July 26, 2018
Three girls examine a microbit programmable computer.
Three participants in the Laramie GenCyber camp code a micro:bit programmable computer in the Enzi STEM Building on the UW campus.

A group of youngsters from the state will be well prepared for the future of technology, thanks to outreach efforts by the University of Wyoming.

Mike Borowczak, the UW Department of Computer Science director of cybersecurity education and research, administered the state’s first-ever GenCyber camp with UW School of Teacher Education Associate Professor Andrea Burrows. Teachers and middle and high school students attended the free weeklong educational camps this summer to learn about computer science. The events were hosted in Riverton (July 2-6) and Laramie from July 16-20.

“Over the course of two weeks, we ended up reaching about 80 students and about a dozen teachers,” Borowczak says. “These participants received hands-on instruction from university faculty, as well as a number of computer science and mechanical engineering students. Each week concluded with an open house where friends and family were invited to see what the participants were able to develop, based on their new knowledge in cybersecurity, computer science and programming.”

The National Security Agency (NSA) and National Science Foundation (NSF) jointly awarded UW with a $100,000 grant to fund the camp in order to increase interest in cybersecurity careers nationwide; help students understand safe online behavior; and improve teaching methods for cybersecurity content in K-12 curricula. Attendees learned with hands-on activities in areas like password cracking, robotics, medical devices and data mining.

Participants were able to take home a College of Engineering and Applied Science 3D-printed badge containing a programmable micro:bit, moto:bit and NeoPixel LED ring. Borowczak says UW will apply for another GenCyber grant for 2019 and hopes to partner with teachers from around the state to implement a slightly different model that enables a broader reach.

“The program was amazing,” Borowczak says. “We learned quite a bit about what our participants are capable of, which is quite a bit. Our participant and parent feedback has been extremely positive, and we've made some lasting connections in at least two Wyoming communities.”


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