STEM camp cracks the code of students’ inspiration

June 06, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

Dr. Heather Monthie (right) helps a STEM summer camper with a programming exercise.

Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

The sounds of yowling kittens, angry elephants and even Star Wars’ Chewbacca filled the air Monday on day one of Grand Canyon University’s Cipher Avenger STEM Summer Camp.

These were the sounds of success.

The 30 high school juniors and seniors had been tasked with using code to add virtual animal noises and a sunset filter to a photograph. Each camper had been provisioned with a laptop, and each was fully engrossed in the activity.

“We are learning Python and JavaScript to host a server for a website and code it,” said David Gallmeyer, a Horizon High School junior.

David Gallmeyer, a Horizon High School junior, said GCU’s learning style suits him.

For Gallmeyer and the others in the four-day camp, which ends Thursday, the camp’s challenges thrill their eager minds.

“Normally, teachers hand out a textbook and tell us to read it and fill in the answers,” Gallmeyer said. “This is a hands-on learning experience. For me, I have to be active with my hands to learn.”

High school students flocked to sign up for the camp, which offers sessions on Python, Raspberry Pi and Cyber Warfare Range programming, a cipher scavenger hunt and a Student Union Gaming Event.

Spots were taken so quickly that GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances office created two more sessions for later this month, and they also are maxed out, said Amanda Hughens, K-12 STEM outreach manager.

Koby Caputo, a Liberty High School junior, was one of the first to enroll because he has an in: His sister Kaitlynn a GCU Christian Studies major, also works with Hughens in the SEA office.

Caputo already knows he’s going to GCU, and he can’t wait.

“It’s a super, super, super awesome school,” Caputo said.

Caputo has been tinkering with computers since he could walk, he said, and started up his own hosting program site, called IronHosting.

“I made websites for companies to use on my servers,” he said.

Caputo, too, far prefers hands-on activities.

“If you give me a project, I will learn from doing it,” Caputo said.

It’s the learning style the students will embrace in GCU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, said assistant dean Dr. Heather Monthie.  

“Do it to get better at it,” was Monthie’s advice in her remarks to the group. “Just start doing it.”

Jackson Coleman, a Saguaro High School junior, said he was thrilled with the camp’s challenges.

GCU’s engineering, computer science,  IT and natural science programs are flourishing with robust student numbers, hands-on curriculum and cutting-edge technology.

“We are trying to build more competence in the STEM fields,” Hughens said.

A key GCU goal is to help fill a gaping void in technology jobs by training top-notch students who can enter the workforce equipped with the latest information.

 “We are seeing a huge increase in enrollment in our science programs,” said Dan Hazy, Computer Science program recruiter specialist. “Why STEM? Because it’s intriguing and it’s constantly changing. You can be creative and build new things. It’s like solving a puzzle.”

He was preaching to a choir of STEM enthusiasts who had raced to sign up for the camp before it filled.

As students mastered new skills, a light shone in their eyes.

Jackson Coleman of Saguaro High School was quietly amazed when he successfully added a sunset filter to a photo.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Coleman said.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].


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