East Central Community College in Decatur has received a $74,646 grant from the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation to offer free GenCyber Camps for girls this summer in four locations throughout the college’s district.

The grant is part of the National Security Agency’s GenCyber Program 2019. The free camps for girls entering grades three through five in fall 2019 are designed to get more females interested in careers in the computer science industry.

“This grant is important because it allows us the opportunity to get more girls interested in computer science at an earlier age and hopefully that translates into more women in the field of cybersecurity in the future,” said Ken Ethridge, computer science instructor at ECCC and Cyber Warriors GenCyber program director.

According to the National Center for Women in Technology, women earn 57 percent of all undergraduate college degrees, but only 18 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer and information sciences. According to the Center for Cyber Security and Education, women comprise only 11 percent of information security workforce.

“We hope through exposing young girls to cybersecurity this summer we will promote a diverse and cyber literate workforce for many years to come,” said Ethridge.

With the grant, East Central will sponsor four Cyber Warriors GenCyber Camps this summer:

• June 3-June 7 on the ECCC Campus in Decatur

• June 10-14 at Choctaw Central High School in Choctaw

• June 17-21 at Newton Municipal School District in Newton

• June 24-28 at Louisville School District in Louisville

Each camp will provide hands-on learning activities that will allow participants to learn cybersecurity vulnerabilities, cybercrime, and how attention to safe online behavior is crucial to their personal safety. Campers will be taught computer programming with Microsoft Surface Go hybrid tablets and laptops; Finch and Sphero robots; Modular Cubelets robots; and Lego Mindstorm EV3 robot kits. Guest speakers will introduce the campers to computing careers, with particular attention to cybersecurity and the importance of continuing education.

All participants will receive a Sphero robot to take home to continue learning. Each camp is limited to 20 students.