Teenagers learn programming, operating systems at summer camp

Jun. 23—Austin sophomore Sydney Brown said computer science never interested her until this month when the CyberPatriot Camp taught her to delve into the anatomy of computer operating systems, fix flaws in their security and protect Wi-Fi systems.

"Learning what's deeper into a computer, not just what works in a computer but being able to decode what's inside that computer, that was my biggest takeaway of the camp," Brown said. "(Decoding) was something I didn't know I could do."

Brown, who said she plans to use her new computer science knowledge on her own computer, said it only took her an hour to learn how to code proficiently.

The CyberPatriot Camp for regional high school students kicked off June 13 at Calhoun Community College's Decatur campus and meets on 10 weekdays through Friday. Shandie Laseter, computer information science instructor at Calhoun and director of this year's CyberPatriot Camp, said the main object of the camp is to familiarize students with the Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

"Throughout the camp, they learn how to identify vulnerabilities in both operating systems and then mitigate them," Laseter said. "As a group team, they have to go in and follow their guidelines and count how many vulnerabilities there are."

A computer's operating system is the program initially downloaded to the computer and manages all other application programs that are added.

This is the first year for Calhoun to partner with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce to conduct the camp, and Amber Fortenberry, director of talent development and recruitment at the chamber, said students can benefit from learning computer science at a young age.

"This is an ever-growing career field and career path," Fortenberry said. "There's a real need for it, regionally and in our community for cyber and (information technology)."

Brown was the only student from Morgan County while the rest of the students came from Madison County.

Two of those students, Eugene Park and James Norris, are sophomores at the Alabama School of Cyber Technology & Engineering in Huntsville. Although they are familiar with computer science, they said the camp was a great opportunity to learn specific details about how each operating system works.

"They're talking about doing a CyberPatriot club next year, so I wanted to get a head start on doing that," Park said.

Both students said they would like to enter the cyber workforce after they graduate high school.

"I've always wanted to be a game developer, but also cybersecurity because I would like something that's more stable," Norris said.

"I want to go into the cyber field but don't know exactly what I want to do yet," Park said.

The CyberPatriot program is a national youth cyber education effort run by the Air Force.

wesley.tomlinson@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438.