Three high school girls work on a robot with wheels during a camp at a university.
Eryuanna Allen (center) works with two teammates during GenCyber Camp. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

GenCyber Camp introduces high school students to cybersecurity

The need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow every year by leaps and bounds. Currently there are more jobs than qualified professionals to fill them. Introducing high school students to the numerous jobs is one avenue that could eventually help fill the void.

The GenCyber Camp hosted by Augusta University and the School of Computer and Cyber SciencesCyber Institute was an opportunity for local students interested in the field to get a glimpse at what they may expect going forward.

Over 200 high school juniors and seniors applied for the camp, but only 30 were selected.

Matthew Nichols, a rising high school senior from Milton, Ga., has been interested in cybersecurity for a few years and was ready to learn more about what the field has to offer.

“I’m not super advanced in cybersecurity so I felt like I needed a bigger, fundamental knowledge on it,” Nichols said. “I felt like this place could really help me with that.”

“It’s nice to see a student who’s never programmed before run their first program and see that they can write a program that controls a physical device.”

Jonathan Sloan, instructor for AU’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences and GenCyber Camp director

The week-long event gave Nichols a wealth of knowledge as he was expecting to learn just the basics of cybersecurity. Instead, he learned about the CIA triad, cryptography, robotics, python programming and more.

“I was definitely surprised by the thunder board bot because I thought that was really cool. I didn’t realize you could go into the robot itself and actually program what it could do and exactly when you want it to do it,” Nichols said.

Two young men look at code on a computer screen
Matthew Nichols (right) works with a teammate during GenCyber Camp. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Eryuanna Allen, a senior at A.R. Johnson Magnet School in Augusta, is looking into a career in health care but wanted to expand her horizons and has always had an interest in the cybersecurity field. Allen thought the week was going to be a lot of programming, but it ended up being much more and has rejuvenated her interest in cyber.

“I used to be in Girls Who Code, but school got in the way of that, and I wasn’t able to take many computer science classes with the health care pathway,” said Allen. “I really like both and wanted to broaden my expectations and maybe tweak it a little bit. Maybe minor in something computer science or maybe go back to school after college.”

Allen was one of 11 female students taking part, the most ever in the nine years of the GenCyber Camp. Cybersecurity is still a male-dominated field, but more and more women are becoming involved.

“This has been a breath of fresh air – seeing so many people that are like-minded that actually want to do this and are passionate about this camp as much as I am,” Allen said.

Not only was there hands-on experiences, but “cyber stars” held daily discussions. Current and past Augusta University students, as well as industry partners, gave guest talks about the business and all the cyber world has to offer.

It helped give the students a well-rounded view of the industry.

“I have a better understanding of the path I need to take in order to do something in this field. A lot of the talks with the cyber stars did a really good job explaining what’s the next step for me. What can I do to ensure that I’m part of this field in the future? So I thought that was really good,” said Nichols.

Jonathan Sloan, an SCCS instructor and camp director, believes those participating learned something new they can use in the future. Not just about a person’s digital footprint and how to protect it, but plenty of hands-on experiences.

“It’s nice to see when a student writes their first program,” said Sloan. “There are some students here that have a lot of experience, and some don’t. It’s nice to see a student who’s never programmed before run their first program and see that they can write a program that controls a physical device.”

Two camp counselors look over the work of young three men on a computer
SCCS students Robert Franklin (left) and Justin Carney (right) instruct campers on coding during AU’s GenCyber Camp. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

He also thinks it may bring some of those participating out of their shell and be part of a team.

“A lot of people who get into cyber, they might be a little more quiet, so it’s great to get students out to where they can meet other people like them,” added Sloan. “Many think they are the only person who likes this, but they get to meet other kids who enjoy it, and they get a chance to work on a team.”

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at

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Avatar photo Written by Kevin Faigle

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