Learning about engineering, computer science, and the humanities does not seem like a typical summer camp but for the past week, sixty students and twenty teachers from around the region were immersed in these topics and relished the opportunity! These students were not in a lecture setting but rather an interactive, project-driven learning environment where robotics, computer programming, cryptology, architecture, cyber ethics and technical writing activities helped provide a reason for learning – context for the content.

On Monday, May 28, ten high school teams from ten regional high schools descended upon Louisiana Tech University’s campus to check in for the fifth installment of Cyber Discovery. Cyber Discovery is a dynamic professional development program that culminates in a week-long, residential camp for six students and two of their teachers from participating schools. The experience allows students to explore the world of cyberspace while teachers learn new techniques for engaging their students in science, technology, engineering and math. The end result is preparing the next generation of cyber citizens.

This year’s participating high school teams were Airline, Benton, Bossier, El Dorado, Evangel, Haughton, North DeSoto, Parkway, Ruston, and West Monroe.

Throughout the week-long experience, students participated in a series of challenges that ranged from robotics challenges, a cryptographic treasure hunt, creative writing assignments, evening cyber film sessions, and dynamic team discussions. Each event was carefully designed to prepare teams for the

Final Cyber Challenge, the culminating event of the camp. The Final Cyber Challenge, held on Saturday morning, included a large obstacle course complete with historic landmarks and a layout similar to a circuit board. Teams had to navigate the course while competing for scarce resources (marbles) and return them safely to their customized cyber fort. The teams with the most marbles and total points from the week were named the winners of Cyber Discovery 2012.

After a long, grueling week Ruston High School emerged as the first place winner and was awarded a $1,250 technology award. Haughton High School placed second and earned $750, while Parkway High School earned $500 at third place.

Sierra Williams from Airline High School shared that she truly learned the meaning of  there is no “I” in team: “My team could not just put one team member on a project. When we worked together, we ended up succeeding.” Sierra also said, “I wasn’t expecting to learn about cryptology and propaganda and it was so fun!”

While students benefit from the integrated curriculum and challenges, the main focus of Cyber Discovery is the high school teachers. Teachers participate in two professional development workshops led by university faculty prior to the week-long camp and then guide their students through the camp challenges. The collaborative partnerships between the high school teachers and university faculty and the camp experience then empower the teachers to implement the Cyber Discovery lessons into their classroom and impact students semester after semester.

“Cyber Discovery camps offer students and teachers a tremendous opportunity to advance science and technology education which ensures that our country continues to serve in a leadership role,” said Paul Pratt, Chesapeake’s Director of Corporate Development. “Chesapeake truly believes in the value of these types of education initiatives and is extremely proud to partner with the Cyber Innovation Center to support similar activities that enhance our students’ understanding of math, science, engineering and technology.”

GB Cazes, Cyber Innovation Center Vice-President stated, “Report after report indicates a great need and shortage of a cyber and STEM literate workforce. Cyber Discovery helps address this need by engaging students, high school teachers, and university faculty. The regional impact has been phenomenal.”