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Cyber Security Camp Offers Teens Insight on Digital Forensics and Ferris Experience

Collin Versluis and Mary PowersA computer laboratory in Ferris State University’s College of Business bustled with life in the week beginning Monday, June 25, as dozens of high school students took part in the Cyber Security Camp, organized by the university’s Information Security and Intelligence program.

Assistant Professor of ISI Jerry Emerick said he initiated the camp instruction several years ago, in Grand Rapids, and this is the second year students have been offered training on the Big Rapids campus.

“Our participants are of high school age, 15 years old and up,” Emerick said. “Some have classroom experience in information technology and other disciplines, but we don’t require that of our campers. They get plenty to work on, in teams, during our time together. By having them study and investigate a crime scene, in sort of a ‘Capture the Flag’ presentation, our students can approach the exercise at their own level of ability.”

Collin Versluis, a home-schooled student from Walker, said he appreciated the way he was offered information in the Cyber Security Camp.

“I have the tendency to get into a particular program, like the password crunching available in Linux, and it really draws my focus,” Versluis said. “Being here exposes me to professionals who truly know every aspect of these programs. They can tell me both how and why things work as they do.”

Versluis took up his competitive instruction with Mary Powers, a high school student from the Detroit suburb of Northville, who said she found the camp in an online search.

“I have a great interest in forensic science and was looking for a hands-on experience,” Powers said. “The attributes of Ferris’ camp stuck out when I was researching my choices. This is all very new to me, but with Collin’s help, it has been a great experience.”

Around a dozen student teams were offered instruction on the digital forensic tools that are available, various research techniques and the process necessary to approach the cyber investigation, according to Emerick.

“By ‘gamifying’ the learning environment, we believe students can be exposed to cybersecurity and digital forensics in a more conducive format, rather than just offering them the information with written assignments,” Emerick said. “We are glad it has been so well received.”

Powers said this method of instruction was eye-opening.

“I definitely like the tech side of digital forensics based on my experience here,” Powers said. “That is what I was hoping to find out by participating in the camp.”

Versluis is in a dual-enrollment path, having tested out of his first year of college requirements as he approaches his final year of high school instruction.

“I had emailed a contact on the Ferris campus when I was searching for more training in this area,” Versluis said. “They suggested taking part in the camp. The instructors here know and explain the material equally well. They made it so we understood what we were entering into, which gave us incentive to do our best in the team investigation.”

Emerick said another aspect of their Cyber Security Camp is exposing their students to career opportunities, which were offered by experts in the profession.

“We had the director of security operations for Jackson National Life Insurance in on Wednesday, June 26 to meet with these students, along with that company’s college relations and internship coordinator,” Emerick said. “One of our ISI students, who is interning at Jackson National was also here, to give them a current student’s perspective. We hope this gave our campers an indication of what they might choose to pursue, by continuing in this field.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Collin Versluis, of Walker, and Mary Powers, of Northville, were among the high school-aged students participating in Ferris State University's Cyber Security Camp, offered Sunday, June 24 through Wednesday, June 27 on the Big Rapids campus.