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North Hills

Hampton Middle School class earns top score in FBI contest

| Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, 3:15 p.m.
Hampton Middle School eighth graders in Hartley Kennedy's class finished first in the FBI's safe online surfing challenge. He looks over the work the students are doing as they learn how to safely work online on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton Middle School eighth graders in Hartley Kennedy's class finished first in the FBI's safe online surfing challenge. He looks over the work the students are doing as they learn how to safely work online on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
Hampton Middle School students in Hartley Kennedy's eighth grade computer class finished first in the FBI's safe online surfing challenge on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton Middle School students in Hartley Kennedy's eighth grade computer class finished first in the FBI's safe online surfing challenge on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The eighth-grade computer science class at Hampton Middle School received first place in a monthly national youth competition titled “Safe Online Surfing,” or SOS.

Sponsored by the FBI, SOS is an outreach program geared to teach youth about cyber safety through a series of games and activities, said Hartley Kennedy, the middle school computer science teacher.

Students from different schools compete to reach the highest scores every month. While he said they've participated in the online competition previously, this is the first time they attained the top score, 94.81.

But more important is they learn valuable tools along the way.

“It's really easy to misrepresent yourself online. So kids my age have to be careful,” said Manya Kodali, 13, who participated in the contest.

She learned not to put personal information in a user name or online.

And the person you meet online can be lying about their gender, age and why they are there.

Dylan Mitchell, 14, said the contest “reaffirmed what I already knew about staying safe online,” adding “kids should think before you say anything, because once it's online, it's permanent.”

Winning this contest was also a great way to celebrate national computer science education week, which was Dec. 5-11.

The contest taught the students smart and safe ways to deal with cyberbullying, surfing online or talking in chatrooms. They also learned about email etiquette or ”netiquette,” said Kennedy, of Indiana Township.

He said it's important to ”start right now” while they're young so they can truly realize the dangers and mistakes that can be made online.

Another online site Kennedy said the classes visit is code.org, which Kennedy said was developed and supported by big names like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Kennedy has taught computer science education for 20 years at the middle school and added it's important to get females more involved as computer science has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

Overall, what they're doing now is teaching students ”computational thinking” to prepare them for the future.

“We don't even know what careers are going to be yet,” said Kennedy.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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