Convention lets kids learn about ‘white hat hacking’ | Lifestyles

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BLOOMSBURG — Kids ages 7 to 17 are invited to learn about “white hat hacking” at a special conference hosted by the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum this Saturday.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Arts & Crafts Building on the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, and will feature guest speakers, workshops, and STEM work stations. Doors will open at 9 a.m.

Participants will learn from ethical hackers, information security professionals, and educators, and will have a chance to win prizes.

According to museum director Ginny Weibel, “Students will learn how to code, program, work with robotics, make electrical circuits, break codes and ciphers, engineer rockets, and learn about internet safety.

“We also take the term ‘hack’ loosely at our conference,” she added, “so kids will learn things like financial hacks and healthy eating hacks.”

Hak4Kidz began in 2017 and was created to complement BloomCON, Bloomsburg University’s annual digital forensics, cybersecurity, and hacking conference, which each year hosts a variety of speakers and features unique workshops and cybersecurity challenges. BloomCON will be held virtually this year. The BloomCON Hak4Kidz event was canceled last year due to COVID shutdowns.

Webel said attendance at the conference grew from 40 people in 2017 to more than 400 in 2019.

Dubbed as “Pennsylvania’s only kid-friendly hacking conference,” Weibel said “you’d have to go to Washington D.C. or Chicago to get to a similar conference.”

The museum, along with BloomCON leader Dr. Phil Polstra, worked with Dave Schwartzberg, founder of Hak4Kidz in Chicago to bring the program to Bloomsburg.

“The need to get kids interested in STEM-type jobs is undeniable,” Weibel said. “The Pennsylvania Department of Education reports that there will be a 9 percent growth in STEM-related jobs in the state by 2026 – that’s over a half million jobs.” The department also reports, she said, that in 10 years, 71 percent of all new jobs in the state will require computer science skills.

“Having a conference of this type in our region adds so much…