Cybersecurity Workshop at Unity High School

3/10/20 | IGNITE Panel at Oakland Unity High School | by David Reynolds

On March 10, 2020, Oakland Unity High School hosted its third IGNITE workshop on
the topics of cybersecurity. Nearly three dozen female and non-binary students attended this
event -- a testament to the motivation of our students and their interest in STEM careers.
The session began with a hands-on workshop led by Richa Avasthi, Luna
Frank-Fischer, and Kevan Dunsmore of Expanse. After students watched an informative
video introducing the history of encryption and the basics of modern encryption, they were
introduced to the day’s challenge: a treasure hunt! However, unlike the treasure hunts they
had experienced before, this search required them to discover their inner cryptographers.
Students had to work through a series of encryption and decryption tasks in order to locate
the participants with the other portions of their clue, which could then be combined to access
the final step of the quest. It was a complex activity, but one that students enjoyed
enormously. It was especially great to see that the sense of competition did not stop students
from collaborating and sharing their own progress. Unity is always proud to see its students
sharing their learning, especially in the midst of such a dynamic lesson.

After the workshop, our panelists shared their perspectives on forging a career path in
computer science. Richa and Luna were joined remotely by Amber Williamson. With a variety
of paths into the cybersecurity field, the panelists expressed that no one needs to know
exactly what they want to do, so long as they follow their interests and passions at every turn.
It’s always amazing to see our students engaging directly with industry role models who can
reinforce that STEM careers are within their reach.

This event provided the most valuable possible type of learning: hands on experience.
By working closely with the panelists and the tools provided, our students saw that what may
seem a daunting career is already well within their reach.
In their reflections, several of our young women commented that the session was a
great blend of learning and fun. They also commented on how attainable the panelists made
careers in STEM sound.

Thank you to IGNITE, and especially to Richa, Luna, Amber, and Kevan for taking the
time to share their experiences and advice with the next generation of cryptographers!

After attending this event:


of girls/non-binary students are more interested in STEM


of girls/non-binary students want to study harder to attend college and further their education

Here's what the students enjoyed most:

The scavenger hunt was really fun. It inspired me to decode and encryption. - Grade 10

I enjoyed decrypting messages. - Grade 10

I enjoyed the scavenger hunt. Something as complicated as coding can be fun, so it has inspired me to keep coming to Ignite workshops. - Grade 10

What I liked about today's event is that is was some sort of scavenger hunt. What inspired me is that more females are becoming involved in these fields. - Grade 10

A highlight is when they talked about how they got interested in [cybersecurity]. - Grade 10