The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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College of Engineering Program Helps Local Girl Scouts Earn Cybersecurity Badges

Code making up a blue silhouette of a person on a white background

On February 8, some 70 Girl Scouts participated in the Engineering Girl Scout Day, run by our Equity and Inclusion Office in the College of Engineering under the leadership of Assistant Dean for Diversity Paula Rees, Ph.D. Members of the UMass chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) led the day, working with the girls in small groups to earn their Girl Scout cybersecurity badges. “In fact,” says Rees, “there were almost as many SWE volunteers to help throughout the day as there were Girl Scouts!”

The Girl Scout participants included 12 Daisies (kindergarten through grade 1), eight Brownies (grades 2 and 3), 27 Juniors (grades 4 and 5), 14 Cadettes (grades 6, 7, and 8), and nine Seniors (grades 9 and 10).

The Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors completed all the requirements to earn their three cybersecurity badges: Cyber Basics, Cyber Safeguards, and Cyber Investigator. The three groups each did slightly different activities to meet the requirements of the badge.

All groups learned a little programming with Scratch and made “functional suncatchers.” They also learned about computers, how they talk, and the Internet. In addition, the Girl Scouts studied: strong passwords; the difference between public and private information and how to stay safe online; and how to spot phishing websites, phone calls, and emails.

The Cadettes and Seniors worked on their “Think Like a Programmer” journey. The Cadettes built their own computers and then programmed in both Scratch and Python. The Seniors discussed how some applications can be very invasive of privacy, particularly those focused on women’s health.

The Girl Scouts then were able to participate in HackHER, attending the opening ceremony and keynote speech and also two workshops: How To? Bose Frames and Sound Touch APIs; and Sketching UX: Designing a Homepage. They then visited with companies at the Career Fair.

The event’s keynote speech was delivered by Renu Chipalkatti, a graduate of UMass Amherst's College of Information and Computer Sciences and a member of the prestigious advisory board. She is a passionate intrapreneur who led innovation and new business development programs at Verizon. Previously, she served as the global head for New Business Incubation at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, where she was responsible for the development and commercialization of new products and services.

The mission of the Equity and Inclusion Office is to assist under-represented students in achieving their academic goals by offering services and programs that include seminars, academic assistance, and access to undergraduate research and scholarship opportunities. (March 2020)