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Cyber Discovery Camp
Cyber Discovery Camp


At the height of the summer, while many PSU students were away enjoying a break between terms, teams of high school students and their teachers arrived to participate in the university’s first cyberspace-themed camp.

Cyber Discovery Camp is “a catalytic event for engaging students and teachers in the history of cyberspace, ethical and social issues, applications, and the need for and use of security in cyberspace.1” The week-long camp was developed by the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), an organization with a mission “to foster integrated curricular experiences across multiple disciplines in primary, secondary, and post-secondary environments. ” The camp was funded through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The camp is an immersive, interdisciplinary learning experience wherein high school students and their teachers examine society, technology, and cyberspace, their overlaps, intersections, issues and concerns through a series of engaging challenges structured as a competition. The camp serves as a professional development program for high school teachers and a platform to inspire and excite curiosity, creativity, and innovation in students through problem-solving, critical thinking and communication.

Under the leadership of PIs Lois Delcambre, Professor, Computer Science and Gerald Recktenwald, Associate Professor and Chair, Mechanical Engineering, NICERC provided PSU a grant to host Cyber Discovery Camp during summers through 2016. That funding includes the cost of room and board for participating teachers and their students who stay in dorms on campus where many of the students gain their first experiences of life on a college campus.

For the inaugural summer, a veteran team of six subject matter specialists representing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and liberal arts disciplines from Louisiana Tech, the University of Baltimore, and Quinnipiac University with years of experiencing hosting Cyber Discovery Camps traveled to PSU to put on the camp’s programs in robotics, cryptography, and liberal arts. Delcambre and Recktenwald recruited ten faculty members from PSU  to observe the visiting team and learn the program. In the years to come, the PSU faculty will plan and lead the camp’s week of events.

According to Delcambre, when the students arrived they were immersed in activities including discussion sessions, hand-on engineering and computer science labs, a cryptographic treasure hunt, creative story-telling, and a final cyber challenge. They examined topics including ethics, propaganda, security versus freedom, the Constitution of the United States, and what it means to be a good cyber citizen. Each of the week’s activities was designed to push and challenge the students as much as the teachers’ conceptions of what their students were capable of accomplishing as individuals and teams.

The teachers, for whom the camp was meant to serve as professional development, witnessed ways in which interdisciplinary approaches to learning subject matters enriches both teaching and learning experiences. According to Ian Park and Mike Bedney, teachers at St. Mary’s Academy (history and math, respectively) who participated in Cyber Discovery Camp this summer, the camp provided a template for how to approach interdisciplinary instruction and examples of the practice in action.

“One of the primary goals of the camp,” said Delcambre, “was to get teachers excited about teaching, interdisciplinary instruction, and challenging their students. And we wanted to get the students excited about accomplishing things they didn’t think they could accomplish. Then we wanted the students and teachers to take that excitement back to school with them and get their friends and colleagues excited about interdisciplinary teaching and learning.”

“I think that was the most fulfilling part of the camp,” added Recktenwald. “I was thrilled to see young people get excited about something, pursue it and find meaning in it. I think it’s good to turn people on like that, to get them excited about something, see them respond to being called to do a difficult task, see them encouraged, and watch as their confidence grows. It’s a wonderful experience to see the light bulbs come on and people become empowered.” 

According to Park and Bedney, their team of students from St. Mary’s Academy, who took home the championship at the end of the week’s competitions, came back to school on fire, ready to share their experiences with other students and encourage others to get excited about technology, cyberspace and security. Bedney and Park, too, felt charged by their experience and feel more comfortable now breaking down the silos between subjects and approaching a more interdisciplinary style of teaching in their classrooms. While Cyber Discovery Camp is closed until next year, for those who participated, it is clear the experience has had a lasting, positive impact.

Authored by Shaun McGillis
Posted September 30, 2014 


3.The core faculty members from PSU are: Wu-chang Feng, Professor, Computer Science; Joshua Fost, Assistant Professor, Philosophy; Bob Liebman, Professor, Sociology; Michael Lupro, Assistant Professor, University Studies; Betsy Natter, Assistant Professor, University Studies; and Tim Sheard, Professor, Computer Science. The PSU faculty team also includes Wu-chi Feng, Professor, Computer Science; Anne McClanan, Professor, School of Art and Design; David Wolf, Adjunct Instructor, University Honors College; and Charles Wright, Assistant Professor, Computer Science.