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EMU Foundation

Gifts Inspire Teens to Explore Technology

by Jeff Samoray

Thanks to a partnership between AT&T, ITC Holdings and EMU's Information Assurance program, more youth are being turned on to the cyber security and information assurance fields.

In 2013, AT&T and ITC Holdings each generously gave $10,000 to support two Information Assurance outreach programs for area middle and high school students: Cyber Quest and Digital Divas. Both programs opened up a world of exciting career opportunities for students who earn degrees within science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The gift funds helped publicize the programs and pay for supplies, equipment and student lunches.

Students who participated in Cyber Quest learned to apply security to embedded logic controllers and construct a wind or solar generation device to power a cell phone. EMU Information Assurance and Computer Science faculty members taught the students how to ensure the security of their device and how to keep it from being compromised. About 180 students participated in these camps, held throughout the academic year at EMU and at area high schools.

The Digital Divas event, held last May at EMU, addressed the issue of attracting young women into the cyber security field. Nearly 450 area middle and high school students participated in breakout sessions featuring speakers from General Electric, Google and EMU information assurance and computer science students. Some of the topics included computer animation, cyber bullying, sexting and stalking.

Skip Lawver, retired associate professor of Information Technology and former Information Assurance program director at EMU, helped launch the programs in 2012 after obtaining a three-year outreach program grant from the National Security Agency. He says both programs encourage youth—especially young girls—to explore the field of technology.

"We're not going to make it as a country if we don't expose young ladies to careers in information assurance and cyber security," Lawver says. "The world is constantly evolving in terms of technology, so there's a great need to stay ahead of the learning curve. If we start attracting students to the field at an earlier age, we'll produce future college graduates who will immediately be productive upon entering the workforce."

Don Keller, director of academic operations for EMU's College of Technology, was also involved in running the Cyber Quest and Digital Divas programs. He says these outreach efforts will help meet the demand for a highly skilled and diverse technology workforce.

"Only one in 12 cyber security and information assurance professionals is a woman," Keller says. "That's a tremendous gap that needs to be filled. Through Cyber Quest and Digital Divas, we hope to show youth that information assurance and cyber security are wonderful fields to join. These skills will help keep our state and nation strong." n

EMU Foundation is located at 112 Welch Hall, 850 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197 Phone: 734.484.1322