Cyber Camp Helps Teens Hone Security Skills

a group of students and faculty
Students and faculty from the USC Upstate Summer Cyber Camp are pictured at the Upstate Greenville campus.

Smart phones, Ring doorbells, home wi-fi, garage door openers, even baby monitors — the number of gadgets that are susceptible to cyberhacking grows by the day. As the technology advances, so does the need to educate future cybersecurity professionals.

Several area high school students got the chance to test their skills at the first-ever USC Upstate Summer Cyber Camp this June, held in the Upstate Crime Analysis Center (UCAC) on the Upstate Greenville campus. Using the AFA CyberPatriot curriculum, faculty presented the fundamentals of cybersecurity and highlighted the careers open to students interested in cybersecurity, IT and related STEM fields.

“The CyberPatriot program has a long history of inspiring young people to pursue STEM professions, and when we realized there were only three other sites in South Carolina that presented it, we realized we had a great opportunity on our hands,” said Michele Covington, director of the Upstate Crime Analysis Center. “Community outreach is a big part of USC Upstate’s mission as the regional comprehensive University, and we had a great week engaging with these talented area high schoolers.”

The CyberPatriot curriculum provides intensive lessons on computer hardware, cyberethics, virtual threats, security tools, and programing basics for Windows, Linux and Ubuntu. On the fifth day of camp, students competed against each other in the same CyberPatriot challenges as students all across the county.

The experience also allows high school students to learn from Melissa Davis, who directs the USC Upstate Cyber Lab. Davis noted: “I challenged the students in similar ways that I challenge the USC Upstate students I teach. They were able to experience what it’s like to sit in a college classroom and connect with content that could lead to a future career.”

Melissa Davis, director of the Cybersecurity Lab, instructs USC Upstate Summer Cyber Camp students.

USC Upstate Greenville also invited professionals, many of whom are Upstate alumni, to speak to students about IT consulting, cyber and intellectual property law, criminal justice and IT recruiting. Intelli-Net, a local IT company led by USC Upstate alumnus Derek Davis and a title sponsor of the program, encouraged students to explore internship and career opportunities with the business in the future. Program sponsor Kim, Lahey and Killough Law Firm demonstrated how cybersecurity impacts fields beyond IT.

Because of these two sponsors, USC Upstate was able to provide scholarships to ensure equitable access to the camp.

Derek Davis and several members of his team joined students for a celebration lunch at the conclusion of the program. “There is a lot of talk about connecting business to education,” he said. “This camp went beyond talk to facilitate actual connection. And it gave our team renewed energy for our work to see the field through their eyes.”

To secure a spot in the 2025 Summer Cyber Camp, contact camp coordinator Carrie Silver at and be among the first to receive registration information.

About CyberPatriot

The National Youth Cyber Education Program is a STEM program of the Air & Space Forces Association. It was created to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future. AFA CyberCamps are designed for high school and middle school students who are just getting into cybersecurity or who have cybersecurity knowledge and want to learn more. Camps are hosted by approved organizations and institutions that register with the CyberPatriot Program Office. Standard CyberCamp attendees do not need to have any prior knowledge of cybersecurity to participate. Some very basic knowledge of computer hardware (knowing how to use a mouse, browse the internet, identify common computer icons, etc.) is helpful but not necessary.