(TNS) — A line of quadcopter drones hovered above the floor in a large room on campus at Cal State San Bernardino.
Several middle school-age girls intently worked the screens of their iPods and then one by one the drones dropped to the floor.
Welcome to camp “GenCyber” a week-long educational effort designed to introduce girls to the world of cybersecurity and other computer skills.
After the lesson on how to hack, the girls learned how to protect their drones against a hack.
“This is pretty cool. It just went down with a single stroke,” said Leah, 12, of San Bernardino.
The scenario is all too real.
In 2011 Iranian government personnel hacked into the recently developed RQ-170 stealth unmanned spy plane and controlled its landing to a spot where Iranian officials could examine it.
The cybersecurity camp was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency.
It was attended by about 200 primarily middle school Girl Scouts from across San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
“We hope to make it an annual event,” said Tony Coulson, director of the CSUSB Cyber Security Center.
Although the two federal agencies sponsor other GenCyber camps around the country, the one held here is the only one focusing on girls and is the largest one in the country, Couslon said.
For the Redlands-based Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, this week’s event is part of a push to introduce Girl Scouts to the world of science, technology, engineering and math, said Carrie Raleigh, who was recently hired to be the council’s first STEM program manager.
After learning to down the drones, the girls used the same software program to ward off hacking efforts.
Leah, whose favorite subjects are science and math, said she was amazed how easy it was to launch a successful hacking attack on a drone.
“I want to fly a drone again and someday own one,” she said.
One of the professors who teaches cybersecurity at CSUSB, suggested that technology be installed on all aircraft that would allow pilots to drop drones from the sky if they approach too close.
Vincent Nestler made that comment in response to the intrusion of two drones that caused the U.S. Forest Service to abort their aerial attack Wednesday on the massive Lake Fire.
For Aniayah, 12, of Rialto, the task of drone flying came rapidly, as it reminded her of a computer game she knows.
Drones were not the only high tech activity for the Girl Scouts.
Cybersecurity engineers for Google and Facebook were among the professionals to teach classes for the girls.
Lesley Piper, a Cal State San Bernardino graduate working in computer security for Mitre Corp., led a class in forensics.
Under Piper’s direction, girls used a Forensic Toolkit to find evidence of check fraud in the computer hard drive of an imaginary criminal.
Harley, 12, who will enter the seventh grade next fall, was writing software for a computer she built.
“I want to fly a drone, maybe for the Air Force,” she said.
In another room, a team of four girls from Riverside had a lead in a team competition game developed by Facebook engineers designed to test knowledge about program writing and computer security.
But at the last minute, an Upland team won and the shrieks of joy were loud and long.
©2015 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This article was originally published by the Center for Digital Education.