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December 9, 2023

Cyber camp students learn to isolate security threats

Courtesy of Jan Janes, Gavilan College:

Classroom lights off, ear buds in, cybersecurity students basked in the glow of monitors for two weeks, learning and executing commands on different operating platforms.

Thwarting the bad guys. Hardening computer systems from attack. Working as teams in friendly competition with simulcast programs at community colleges across the state.

Gavilan College hosted two weeks of cybersecurity training in an area wide consortium of California community colleges. The concept was developed by CyberPatriots, initially as a single competition in Orlando, by the Air Force Association. In 10 years it grew to more than 4,400 nationwide teams. Instruction is geared to middle and high school students to inspire them to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

New and returning students collaborate

For new student Indraja Babu, learning was deep. She attended basic cyber training at a San Jose location. “We learned to secure images, change user status and admin, download firewalls and search files for bad content,” she said. As the first week progressed, students also learned to check for malware, botnets, spyware.

“This week we are using the terminal to execute what we learned the first week,” said Babu. “Harder but more efficient, we are writing scripts to do all the tasks.” An eighth-grader at Chaboya Middle School, she is exploring career paths and trying different things. This fall she wants to build a team with a group of friends and participate in the fall competitions.

Returning student Jess Fan, a GECA student entering his junior year, is learning the new tools: Packet Tracer, Wiresharp and Autopsy. The three programs allow cyber sleuths to create network topologies, analyze network packets and perform digital forensics on computers. Fan would like to pursue a career in programming, looking at AI data analysis, and perhaps work at Google.

“I would also like to found my own company,” he said. “I have already started a project, Jade AI, with people on the internet testing it. I’m also glad to be back in cyber camp after six weeks of summer school statistics.”

Keeping it in the family, brother Jack Fan also returned for the advanced cyber training class. A GECA student entering his sophomore year, he enjoys cyber camp as a hobby. “The highlight of cyber camp for me is the competitions,” he said.

Gavilan teams: to be feared

Students competed internally on content review. Points are scored based on speed and accuracy. Each Friday, teams formed to compete against students at other cyber camps. With 30 teams competing during the first week, Gavilan placed fourth.

As week two closed out, Computer Science instructor Alex Stoykov kept an eye on the standings. “We’re beating Monterey Peninsula College so far,” he said. “Which is my goal.”

“We have a friendly competition with them,” he said, “They beat us during basic week. I am hoping to return the favor this week. We are competing against 20 teams, doing pretty good so far.”

Student instructors bring commitment and talent

Gavilan student instructors Marisol Arredondo and Jeron Wong taught cybersecurity at other community college locations during the summer, then taught locally the past two weeks. Four other Gavilan students helped as student assistants, doing work that will help them with their careers.

Wong, a 2018 Gavilan graduate with a double AS in Science Programming and Math, served as Computer Science Club president. Each Thursday, club members met at lunchtime to learn JavaScript and other programs.

“This is my first experience teaching cybersecurity,” he said. “It’s challenging to keep a range of students learning all the content, accelerating the beginning students and keeping advanced students engaged.”

During internal competition, Jack Fan, seated, was first to get the correct answers.

Instructor Jeron Wong (l) checks out his work as other students raced over to see.

“This fall CS club president Jeron Wong transfers to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” said Stoykov. “The top five computer science schools in the world are MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and UIUC. And the club vice president Daniel Chavez got into Berkeley!”

As the advanced week competition closed, Gavilan held the lead until the end, placing fourth after three Diablo Valley teams. And beat MPC.

Gavilan College offers a range of transfer and associate degrees and certificates in Computer Science and Information Systems. Fall classes start in three weeks. Contact Career Education Counselor Jessica Weiler for more information.