PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo - SEPTEMBER 2004 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 1
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ON CAMPUS: Cyber Sentinels

By Robert Gardner

A 10-WEEK ACADEMIC BOOTCAMP IN N.Y. PREPARES THE NEXT GENERATION OF INTERNET SECURITY PROFESSIONALS.

The requirements for this summer course include the usual lectures, assignments—and weekly eight-mile runs. The Advanced Course in Engineering (ACE) Cyber Security Boot Camp, offered through Syracuse University and held at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., is not a typical undergraduate engineering course. Now in its second year, it is a 10-week, intensive immersion into cyber security issues with a focus on problem solving in a real-world environment. To that end, students spend time attacking and defending actual computer networks and work at an internship.

"Faced with a problem, engineers must develop a solution on time with no excuses, no extensions, and no exceptions," says ACE Director Kamal Jabbour of the course's teaching philosophy. The policy on late assignments: "One report late: zero; two reports late: good bye!" Such stringent rules mirror the unforgiving conditions students will face when trying to secure computer networks against hackers and terrorists.

The 2004 ACE class comprised 20 men and six women from 25 colleges in 17 states. Undergraduates and military personnel predominated. Over half the students were in ROTC programs. Among the civilians were fellows from the National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service Cyber Corps program, and other science and engineering students. All of them were interested in careers in the burgeoning cyber security field.

The ACE class week begins on Monday with a six-hour lecture covering a cyber security topic such as legal issues, security policy, digital forensics, or network security. The lectures are conducted by professionals from academia, industry, and the military. The students then get their problem for the week, the solution of which they must detail in a report due the following Monday at 8 a.m.; "not 8:01 a.m., or you get a zero," says David Aparicio, a 2003 ACE graduate and second lieutenant in the Air Force.
"I've never written or run so much in my life," Aparicio, a 2003 electrical and computer engineering graduate of Baylor University, says of his time in ACE. "I looked at all the reports I'd written over the 10 weeks and I had 210 pages." His hard work paid off: He was named class valedictorian and was tapped this past summer to testify at the House Committee on Science and Technology's hearing on Cyber Security Education.

To remind students of the value of leadership and the relevance of what they study, Jabbour showed a documentary about September 11. "I showed [them] the documentary as a reminder of why they are here."

Robert Gardner is Associate Editor of Prism Magazine.

 

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