A key focus of the Cyber Innovation Center is to build a regional work force around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

In recent years, CIC efforts resulted in global technology companies such as Lockheed Martin providing a “foothold” to bring in jobs by establishing a regional office in Bossier City. But CIC officials say as industry grows, there is a need for more student interest in those fields.

“As a nation, we’re not providing enough STEM graduates,” CIC Assistant Director GB Cazes said.

To help solve this problem and to support anticipated local industry growth, the CIC developed an educational model set to be rolled out nationwide.

The model started with a cyber discovery camp that immersed six high school students and two teachers in cyber applications and programs, the social implications of cyber security and exploring cyber career fields.

The camp served as a catalyst to add more camps for younger students, develop professional development for teachers and redesign high school and middle school curricula around project-driven learning environments. The national rollout of the model begins this summer with a cyber discovery camp at the University of Baltimore.

“Our goal over the next 10 years is to reach over 2 million students and 15,000 teachers nationwide,” Cazes said.

Students tend to be more interested in the end uses of technological products and services, Benton High School math and physics teacher Marvin Nelson said.

“Activity- and project-based learning curricula like robotics classes in middle school and cyber science and NASA threads physics in high school help students learn about the technology behind the devices and systems they use every day and work to generate interest in STEM fields,” he said.

Recently, the CIC contributed $20,000 to send students from five area high schools and Louisiana Tech University to compete at the Shell Eco Marathon Americas in Houston, CIC Executive Director Craig Spohn said.

The competition challenged 99 high school and college students from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil to design, build and test energy efficient vehicles.

Nelson, who led the Benton High School team, said his students started on their vehicle in August and worked closely with the staff at the Northwest Louisiana Technical College on its engine.

The team placed 14th in the competition’s prototype category at 672 mpg. A joint team comprised of Airline and Haughton high schools placed 23rd in the same category at 230 mpg, while North DeSoto High School placed 28th at 94 mpg.

Parkway High School competed in the battery electric category and placed 19th overall at 34 miles per kilowatt-hour.

Nelson said students came away with “a much larger view of technology, technical education and the challenges that high-technology industries are facing.”

The CIC plans to sponsor student teams again and set up several local camps and workshops for this year to “engage students with technology,” Cazes said.