Students test their gray matter at Summer Institute

Jacque Kashindi of Agua Fria High School (center) is setting up a secure socket shell configuration to allow the rest of his team to get into a router at the recent Cyber Lopes camp, part of the 2018 Summer Institute.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

S’mores are no more -- at least they're nowhere to be found at this camp. Instead, it’s all about laptops and coding at Grand Canyon University’s Cyber Lopes Camp, though you might spy a few Pringles, Baked Lays and Tootsie Roll bags in the background.

The computer-savvy junior and senior high school students at the Cyber Lopes Camp spent a recent Monday afternoon gathered around laptops like electrons orbiting around a nucleus. They were zoned in, with a steely focus, on screens of computer coding at the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range in GCU’s Innovation Center near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road.

“Type in this command for me,” said cyber student worker Steven Faulkner, one of the camp instructors: “# do sho ip interface brief.”

Lauren Thompson of Paradise Valley High School designs an inner tube in SOLIDWORKS as part of the Accelerated Innovation camp.

No, it doesn’t sound like s’mores at all, but for these Cyber Lopes campers, it might be just as fun.

This is the first year for the Cyber Lopes camp, one of a slew of free Summer Institute camps for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who stay overnight at GCU to experience campus life and explore academic programs, such as engineering, computer science, hospitality and business.

It also is the first year for the Summer Institute, with about 500 students signed up to participate in the 13 two- to four-day academic overnight camps. The institutes were organized as a partnership between ground admissions operations and GCU's colleges to promote the University's academic achievements and excellence to potential future students, said Zachary Smith, associate regional director of operations for Dual Enrollment and Program Recruitment.

Cyber Lopes is among five camps alone offered by the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Students also can build an AM radio from scratch in the Accelerated Innovation camp or build a functional traffic light with Raspberry Pi’s and breadboards in the Cypher Avengers camp Wednesday-Friday, June 13-15.

Outside of the science realm, those who want to stimulate their gray matter this summer also will learn about hotel development in the Hospitality at its Finest camp hosted by the Colangelo College of Business June 11-13 or hone their poetry and short story skills in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Pen + Paper camp. Or they might have executed a mock warrant and arrest in CHSS’ recent Justice Academy Camp.

Cyber Lopes concentrated on cybersecurity – an industry that has been a big focus for the university over the past couple of years as it looks to become a big player in cybersecurity education. GCU in the fall became the home of the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range – Metro Phoenix in the Innovation Center near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road.  It's where those interested in cybersecurity can practice their hacking skills, from password cracking to unraveling encrypted emails. GCU also has partnered with organizations such as the Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance and has added to its cybersecurity degree programs in recent months.

“Because of the industry demand, we wanted to do something in cybersecurity,” said CSET computer science, computer programming and information technology program specialist Daniel Hazy, who oversaw the goings-on at the Cyber Lopes Camp.

The 12 campers – Arizona residents with a 3.0 weighted GPA who applied to be a part of the Summer Institute – divided themselves into three groups, with students surrounding a fellow teammate who was busy trying to configure a secure socket shell. The SSH will allow the rest of the team to get into the same router.

“You only want a couple of people accessing this,” Faulkner told the campers of the SSH process. “… Now I’m saying five people can have access to this particular switch.”

The mission that the campers have chosen to accept: Set up a router and then connect switches to that router so that every camper’s computer can “ping” – or talk -- to other devices, such as their fellow campers’ laptops.

Cyber specialist Eric Roberts said the campers also will learn how to make a Trojan horse, a type of malware disguised as legitimate software.

“But it’s not,” said Roberts, since cyber criminals often use Trojans to try to gain access to a user’s system.

They’ll also learn about open-source intelligence – data collected from publicly available sources to be used in intelligence -- as well as web exploitation and how to gain access to a “target,” maintain access to that target and how to cover your tracks.

Hannah Marcotte, who attends Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, said she isn’t into computers as much as some of the others in the Cyber Lopes camp but signed up because “it seemed challenging.”

Her roommate for her GCU overnight stay during the three-day camp, Gabi Fulk of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, had some computer science experience before coming to the GCU campus.

“I took an AP computer science class. … That made me interested,” she said of spending a few days of her summer learning about cybersecurity. “I’ve been interested in different forms of cybersecurity. It just seems interesting.”

Just a few blocks down the road, the Engineering Building was bustling with groups of high school juniors and seniors delving into a bit of biomedical, mechanical and electrical engineering in the Accelerated Innovation camp.

Dr. Kyle Staggs showed students basic designing techniques in SOLIDWORKS, 3D drawing and simulation software.

“It allows us to do all different kinds of things,” said Staggs, who helped his group of about 20 students design inner tube shapes on the program. “The next steps are to teach them how to draw a bridge shape. Then we’re going to build it.”

He said it’s no fun to just draw a couple of boxes in software and have it go nowhere. There’s nothing quite like seeing a concept turn into a tangible thing: “You get to see the draft phase, then the implementation phase and the real-world testing.”

Lauren Thompson of Paradise Valley High School designed a colorful green-and-black inner tube on SOLIDWORKS and said it was her favorite activity of the camp so far.

Students in the Accelerated Innovation camp look at a polyvinyl alcohol cryogel.

David Kwartowitz, associate professor in engineering, started his biomedical engineering lab showing students one of his favorite substances: a polyvinyl alcohol cryogel that’s similar to skin and soft tissue.

“Here’s a nice, gooey, slimy sample,” he said with a smile. “It’s the same stuff, basically, slime is made out of except it’s a cryogel. In between the molecules, it has water, so it’s kind of springy.”

In the lab, Kwartowitz showed the students what the cryogel looks like under a special kind of microscope. He prepared dried samples of the cryogel, then coated it with gold as a conductor.

The students could see the material was made of carbon.

“What else might be in here?” he asked.

“Germanium,” said one student.

“Germanium – yes!” Kwartowitz said.

Students in the Science of Health and Research camp visited the cadaver lab and shuttled through a suturing clinic and mass casualty triage and forensics clinic.

While it seemed to be a busy week for CSET and the sciences in the Summer Institute, the ensuing weeks will include everything from the Honors College’s Young Leaders Summit to the Colangelo College of Business’ Art of Accounting and ADCamp to CHSS’ The Science of Behavior.

Silvia Medina of Phoenix, who was in the Accelerated Innovation Camp, is thinking of going into biomedical sciences or forensics. She’s hoping the camp will help her decide if that’s the career path she might want to follow.

“I do want to help people, especially in a hospital,” she said.

But most of all, what she enjoyed the most is making friends at camp and getting to stay in the dorms. She quickly bonded with three other students.

“I really liked touring (campus) with them. It’s good company,” she said.

You can reach GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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