Written by volunteer writer Amy Freeman
Sometimes, there’s information that you want to share, but you don’t want the entire world to have access to it. In an ever-more connected world, it’s essential that anyone who shares information online knows what to do keep that info safe and secure from prying eyes.
On October 23, TechGirlz volunteer Erica Boyles led an “Intro to Encryption – How to Protect Your Information” TechShop at Spreedly in Durham, NC, during which she taught a group of middle school girls the ins and outs of encryption and decryption using ciphers and codes. During the workshop, the girls learned how codes and ciphers can be used in communication both on and offline.
Erica first taught the workshop two years ago and says that she hopes to teach it on an annual basis. The TechShop took place during Cyber Security of Awareness Month and just a few weeks after Facebook revealed a massive security breach, making it a particularly timely topic.
Going into the workshop, Erica was impressed by the understanding the girls already had about what they should keep private online and why maintaining their privacy is so important. She loved having the chance to share her knowledge about substitution ciphers with the girls and believes that they left the TechShop with an even more thorough understanding of why encryption is essential and why it’s important to keep things private.
One of Erica’s favorite parts of the TechShop is the Desert Oasis game, as it gives the girls a chance to apply and practice what they’ve learned in the class so far. “You can really see the ‘light bulbs’ come on when they get to practice decoding the ciphers,” she says.
Erica also appreciates the collaborative nature of the TechShop. “I also enjoy getting input from the volunteer TAs. Everyone brings something unique to the table, whether they have technical backgrounds or not.”
When she’s not volunteering with TechGirlz, Erica is a Senior Associate Test Engineer at SAS Institute, a leading data analytics company. She’s been interested in computers and technology since her family got their first computer when she was a teenager. She says that she fell in love with “all things technology” after taking a computer science course in high school.
Erica encourages anyone with a “desire to see the next generation of young people learn more about technology and tech careers” to consider volunteering with TechGirlz. Looking ahead, she would love to keep working TechGirlz and also hopes to be able to work with younger kids, introducing them to the joys and importance of technology.
You can experience the excitement of leading or assisting a TechShop, too! Sign up to volunteer, today.