Students receive hands-on experience programming computers, robots or drones

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FARMINGTON — Children took over classrooms at San Juan College’s Quality Center for Business this week to learn about cybersecurity and programming during the GenCyber Summer Training Camp.

The one-week session teaches coding as well as cybersecurity and will include guest speakers, including a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputy who investigates cybercrimes.

The camp is available through a grant from the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. It is intended to get children interested in technology-related careers.

This is the second year the college has received a grant from the NSA for the program. Last year the college received $71,000. This year, the NSA awarded the college about $22,000 more, according to Kathi Hail, a workforce development specialist at the Center for Workforce Development.

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Children learned about coding and cybersecurity during the GenCyber Summer Training Camp Wochit

San Juan College is the only New Mexico location that offered a GenCyber Summer Training Camp this year.

In one classroom, teenagers learned about networking and put together network cables so they could access internet on computers. Then they began putting together their programmable drones.

In another classroom, elementary school children learned about following directions before they began programming their Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer designed for teaching programming.

In a third classroom, middle school aged children solved puzzles before starting to assemble their robot starter kits.

“I really like working with computers and coding,” said Genevieve Paul, a seventh-grade student who had just finished solving a series of zombie apocalypse-themed puzzles this afternoon.

Paul said the easiest puzzle was one using binary code to figure out the code to an alarm to lock doors and prevent zombies from getting into a building.

Her teammates agreed that the binary code was the easiest puzzle.

“It was easy for me to understand,” said Eric Donaldson, a sixth-grade student on Paul’s team.

The middle school-aged children will also put together and program a robot over the course of the week.

Instructor Amanda Garcia said it usually takes students one afternoon and one morning to put together the robot. The tread wheels alone have 36 different parts.

“They’re very focused and they get into it,” she said of the students.

Each participant got to take home either a drone, a robot or a Raspberry Pi depending on their age.

While this week was the last section of GenCyber, children who are interested in robotics can enroll in the LEGO Robotics class later this month at San Juan College’s Kids Kollege.

There will be a one-week session for children ages 11 to 15 starting July 16. Children ages nine to 12 can enroll in a one-week session that starts July 23. For more information, go to sanjuancollege.edu/kidskollege or call 505-566-3214.

This year the Kids Kollege has seen record enrollment, according to Liesl Dees, the director for the college’s Community Learning Center.

More than 1,800 children have enrolled in courses. Dees said the Kids Kollege has never had more than 1,700 students before.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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