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USC Aiken Trains Teens at Cyber/Coding Patriot Camp

A camp for sixth through eighth graders at the university's Ruth Patrick Science Education Center covers a range of topics from password and file protection to malware, hackers, coding and robotics.

(TNS) — Learning how to code and about cybersecurity was the goal of the Cyber/Coding Patriot camp at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center this week.

John Hutchens, the director of special programs at the RPSEC, said the camp is for rising sixth through eighth graders. The camp is offered through the National Youth Cyber Education Program through the Air Force Association and teaches students about careers in cyber safety and cybersecurity, along with giving them a chance to work with coding. The students work with VEX Robots and write code so the robots can perform different challenges.

"This week they started out, (Monday) in the cyber camp they were learning about password protection, file protection, malware, hackers, things... that they may not be familiar with with the technology that they're using," Hutchens said. "(Monday) in the coding portion they started building their robots. One group built robots, one group worked with the scratch coding program to learn some basics about block coding."

The coding camp is being led by Amber Dobbs, a STEM teacher at Merriwether Middle School. She taught the third, fourth and fifth grade coding camp last year and had a lot of fun.

"It's really fun because I get to go a little deeper with certain things and do a little bit more of the fun stuff, not trying to push curriculum as much," Dobbs said. "It's more exploring. It's a different kind of set up, so it's really nice."

Dobbs said the campers were having a lot of fun. On Tuesday they started working on the code so the robots they built on Monday could move.

"A few of them told me 'we've never build a robot before' so they got to build them first and now they're going to get to learn how to make them move," Dobbs said.

Aarush Garg, a rising sixth grader at St. Mary's Help of Christians Catholic School, said he wanted to come to the camp because he wanted to learn about coding.

"I've learned a lot about cybersecurity and coding was really just having fun and doing some coding," Garg said.

For Savannah Warren, a rising sixth grader at Mead Hall, she said she's always had an interest in computers and coding, which is why she wanted to come to the camp.

"I'm having lots of fun, it's really interesting," Warren said. "(I've learned) how to make stronger passwords and I've learned a little bit more about coding so far. I'm learning cybersecurity too."

Hutchens said there are a lot of jobs where cybersecurity and coding are needed.

"The need for experience with cybersecurity and coding will only increase due to the growing number of organizations and universities moving into the field of cybersecurity and other technology fields," Hutchens said. "There are many tech jobs that go unfilled every day because of the lack of cyber and coding professionals. The CSRA needs a skilled pipeline of professionals to fill huge tech workforce and it's not going to end anytime soon."

The camp is also made possible thanks to a partnership with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

©2022 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.