Feature Stories

Generating New Cyber Talent

TACC debuts two cybersecurity summer camps with funding from GenCyber

TACC's Education & Outreach team hosted two new cybersecurity camps this summer. GenCyber@TACC introduced students to cybersecurity concepts; GenCyber@TACC Level UP focused on more advanced cybersecurity topics.

In a world that is more digitally connected than ever, students must learn the risks and the responsibilities of technology and how to protect their online data.

In 2023, the Education and Outreach (E&O) team at TACC hosted two new cybersecurity camps — GenCyber@TACC and GenCyber@TACC Level UP. GenCyber@TACC introduced students to cybersecurity concepts and how to improve their online safety habits. GenCyber@TACC Level UP focused on advanced cybersecurity students looking to explore cyber challenges and apply critical thinking to cybersecurity ethical principles, IT policies, and governance.

GenCyber@TACC campers pose for a selfie after hearing from TACC Cybersecurity Education Specialist Nikki Hendricks (right). Hendricks taught lessons on the dangers of cybersecurity threats and malware.

The new cybersecurity camps were made possible by funding from the national GenCyber Program. GenCyber seeks to ignite and sustain cybersecurity interest at the high school level to build a competent, diverse, and adaptable workforce pipeline.

Senior Training Coordinator Edgar Garza led the curriculum and educational activities for both camps.

“Since so much of cybersecurity involves relationships, we included several team-building activities like geocaching landmarks at UT Austin, so students could work together,” Garza said. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS devices to find objects.

William Brown-Lewis of Harker Heights High School in Killeen said that attending a camp like this may seem intimidating, but is a lot of fun. “I learned about Python and discovered tools on how to build a better resume.”

“GenCyber@TACC introduced me to important topics related to careers in technology,” said Julianna Hernandez of Austin Achieve High School. “My time at camp helped me discover what I want in a tech career and what to expect.”

Breaking down the numbers at the 2023 GenCyber@TACC camps!

500+ Applicants

59 Participants

42% Female Participation

42% First-generation college aspirants

26% increase in competency confidence in python scripting for cybersecurity

Of the more than 500 students who applied, 59 students were selected to attend the camps: 42% were girls; 42% were first-generation college aspirants (children of parents who do not hold college degrees); and 76% were students eligible for free or reduced lunch at their schools.

“Students felt empowered and accepted during their time at camp, which helped them excel with their projects,” said E&O Program Manager Dawn Hunter. “Students are the main source of online information for their families. The cybersecurity information students learn will not only protect them, but also their families.”

Cesar Sepulveda, a previous TACC camper and current UT Austin senior who works at Activision, concluded: “Being a TACC camper opened my eyes to a world of possibilities in STEM, which led to working at Activision. You get to meet interesting people and the TACC E&O team stays in contact and works to help you achieve your dreams.”

Learn more about TACC K-12 Student programs and opportunities.