YooperCon K12 comes to NMU

Bobby Caron, left, and Enzo Stabile, both seniors at Marquette Senior High School, take part in the Pi-Top computer exercise at Thursday’s YooperCon at the Northern Center. High schoolers from across the Upper Peninsula learned about topics related to cybersecurity. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — In an increasingly complicated digital world, it helps to know how to keep cyber things safe from hackers.

That was the main purpose of Thursday’s YooperCon K12, which brought in high schoolers from across the Upper Peninsula to the Northern Center at Northern Michigan University.

Participants learned about a variety of topics, including:

≤ Hack a Car;

≤ Exploit Bugs;

≤ Defend Networks;

≤ Protect Your Data;

≤ Develop Programs; and

≤ Jump Start Your Career.

Liam Goetz, an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Employment Pathways VISTA, and Matthew Jaquez, an AmeriCorps VISTA member on the recruitment and training side, were involved in Thursday’s event.

“YooperCon is basically a ‘cyber day,'” Goetz said.

About 300 students from across the U.P. had the opportunity, he said, to take part in different “cyber-enabler activities” such as auto-hacking, Pi-Top programming and password cracking, among others.

“There’s a general cyber safety course and things like that as they come here for the day to learn more of the cyber-enablers to help spark that interest early on to get them into ‘the cyber’ as a career field,” Goetz said.

Jaquez said he and Goetz helped plan and organize the event, along with Doug Miller, director of the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute located at NMU.

It’s been a monthslong process.

“We pretty much have been alongside him,” Jaquez said. “We’ve planned the whole thing when it comes to what activities need to be here. How do we organize students? What steps need to go into planning to make this actually happen?”

The institute offers non-degree and industry credentials related to careers in cybersecurity, an emerging field, according to NMU. It also augments NMU’s existing cyber defense bachelor’s degree and provides career exploration and training opportunities with U.P. K-12 school districts and postsecondary institutions.

Goetz said the students listened to a panel of cyber professionals during lunch, and during the morning and afternoon split into smaller groups for breakaway sessions and various activities.

Jake Elzinga, a senior at Marquette Senior High School, attended the afternoon session to learn about the Pi-Top — kind of a chassis for a laptop.

Earlier in the day, he and others learned how to hack devices that connect to the internet — not that they ever would, of course.

Elzinga acknowledged having an interest in cybersecurity for a while, although he’s moving out of the field.

He pointed out, however, that it’s good to have some knowledge of cybersecurity as a background.

“I think I’m going to do computer programming, and that’s definitely a big part — knowing how to secure your code, how this all works,” Elzinga said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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