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PSLA Students Practice Coding Skills at First-Ever Hack-a-Thon

Two male students wearing masks sit at a computer, typing. There was a hacking incident at Le Moyne College recently, and PSLA at Fowler students knew just what to do.
In partnership with Le Moyne’s ERIE 21, PSLA students studying Cybersecurity, Computer Forensics, and Geospatial Technology were invited to the first-ever Hack-a-Thon, an opportunity for them to reinforce their coding skills and content-area curriculum in a fun and engaging way.
Their challenge? In teams of two, they were to use ‘Scratch,’ visual coding software, to develop an original project of choice, relating to the themes of cyberbullying, online safety, or social media. The teams collaborated to generate ideas about a problem that they could address relating to one of those topics.
One group developed a fully functional trivia game using social media statistics they had researched. Another created code that showed a scene where students were talking about cyberbullying and how hurtful words can be, even online. A third group created a software app that led users through a series of steps to properly select and download a safe ad blocker.
Timothy Sass, a sophomore in the PSLA Cybersecurity program, created a game that users could play which ended with suggested steps to increase one’s online safety. He described the Hack-a-Thon as a good introduction to beginner coding.
“I’ve always loved working with computers, ever since I was really young,” Timothy shared. “I think studying cybersecurity is really cool because you’re able to find new creative ways to protect data and get around these preventions. I personally would have preferred more of a challenge at the Hack-a-Thon – actually having to access another device or try to hack something. But I’m looking at possibly majoring in some aspect of cybersecurity at college, so I appreciated that the experience was hands-on and gave me the feel of being in a real college class.”
In addition to the Hack-a-Thon itself, students also enjoyed a campus tour, meeting with Cybersecurity students and staff, and even a lesson in programming.
Geospatial Technology student Nevaeh Farmer said the experience of being on the college campus was the best part of the day.
“It was a very fun experience and I learned a lot actually working together as a team,” Nevaeh said. “I learned that it’s okay to make a mistake – that’s how you learn – you try things and you figure it out. It felt really good to be at Le Moyne College, to meet the staff and to see what kind of classes they have there. I would like to attend school there one day, so the best part of the day for me was to see the classes and tour the campus! I have the intention of continuing in this pathway because I hope to be a cybersecurity manager for a bank one day. My dream job is protecting information and preventing people from sharing private information with those it shouldn’t be shared with.”
“The Hack-a-Thon provided critical experience to students interested in pursuing a career in any computer-related field,” PSLA Geospatial Technology Instructor Jessica Teifke said. “It was a very exciting, thought-provoking and fun day for the kids! Students received real-world exposure to teambuilding, innovation, deadlines and troubleshooting. They also engaged with career professionals in a college campus setting, participating in various hands-on innovation challenges. It was an experience they certainly learned from and hopefully will continue to build on when they return to PSLA.”
In addition to developing their technical skills, Hack-a-Thon organizers, and teachers, also hope the event will help students develop when it came to college and career readiness.
“The campus tour at Le Moyne was another important part of the field trip,” PSLA Computer Forensics teacher Jared Alpha said. “The majority of the students in attendance are in 9th grade, so for many of them, this was their first campus tour… they got their first taste of a college campus environment! It was a great opportunity for the students. Not only did they put their knowledge of programming in to use, but they also had to research and learn about cyberbullying and online safety in order to incorporate it into their projects. This was very important to the students in my Computer Forensics CTE pathway, as investigations may arise as the result of cyberbullying and/or online interactions. The real-life connection helped to shed some light on what this pathway will prepare them for in the coming years.”
“We know that employees who possess problem-solving skills are highly sought after by employers,” Ms. Teifke added. “This opportunity supported our students to develop not only these in-demand problem-solving skills, but critical thinking and effective communication as well, helping to bring them to the next level of college and career readiness!”
#SCSDGivesThanks to the team at Le Moyne College and ERIE21 for organizing this experience to help PSLA at Fowler students gain college and career readiness skills!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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