Cipher Avengers STEM Summer Camp is a Success!

students working on laptops

Heather Monthie, PhD
Assistant Dean, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Isac Artzi, PhD
Associate Professor, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Deborah Haralson
Faculty, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Romeo Farinacci, DM
Program Director, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

The Cipher Avengers STEM Summer Camp for high school juniors and seniors was a great success! During the four-day camp, students met with Grand Canyon University faculty and students to learn more about computer science and cybersecurity topics including cryptography, steganography, programming in Python and more.

Raspberry Pi

We started off with a demonstration from GCU information technology student Paul Rodriguez who showed students how to set up their own Raspberry Pi to do programming activities in Minecraft. The students had lots of questions for him on how they could do this themselves. Paul also talked about different ways he’s figured out how to use Raspberry Pi’s to solve problems, including feed his dog on a schedule!

Python Programming

Next, we started getting into Python programming. Some students had used Python before, but most had not. The students learned how to edit and merge images using code. Students took a picture of themselves somewhere on campus and created images of the mythical jackalope to combine the pictures together using code! This was a great exercise for them to really dig deep into the different ways they can use Python to design and be creative.

Recreating an Object

The following day, the students, organized in groups of five, took part in a campus-wide scavenger hunt. The objective was for students to become familiar with the GCU campus, while solving certain mathematical and computational puzzles at each station. Once the hunt ended, the students started the next activity on computer graphics.

Working in pairs, students were tasked to use a computer to recreate a drawing of an object of their choosing in the room: a bottle, a fidget spinner, a trash can. Some students made a great effort in trying to apply a mathematical model to a fidget spinner so they could recreate it in their program. The requirement was to use Python and turtle graphics and only 2D drawing tools to create a 3D drawing. This required good grasp of geometry, perspective drawing, some trigonometry and Python programming. The Project Based Learning approach proved successful and all students became engaged in planning, calculations and debating implementation approaches. Several asked to forfeit their lunch break so they could continue to work.

Cybersecurity Professionals 

Students also had an amazing and fun opportunity to meet with cybersecurity professionals and explore various hacks, threats and vulnerabilities prevalent today.

Additionally, students were given the opportunity to blend both information security and physical security as they were taught how to pick locks on a server rack with many students being successful. This four-hour event was a highlight of the summer camp for some who have been curious, interested or passionate about cybersecurity; and for two students, this was not their first time.

Several students commented that they loved the hands-on learning at the Cipher Avengers STEM Summer Camp. They were excited to get in and really do the work. Many commented that they were excited to go home and keep practicing writing code!

The College of Science, Engineering and Technology at GCU provides high-quality programs that help prepare students for the workforce. Want to learn more? Fill out the Request More Information form at the top of this page.

More About Dr. Monthie:

Heather Monthie, PhD, is an assistant dean and associate professor in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. With more than 20 years of IT and computer science education experience, Dr. Monthie focuses on developing technology programs and highly skilled technical professionals who are prepared meet workplace demands. She is a certified computer science teacher, an AP Computer Science Principles facilitator with, the education committee chair for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education and a pilot who enjoys sharing STEM education through coding and aviation. Prior to education, she worked in various corporate settings and healthcare IT. Dr. Monthie has a BA in computer science from Lakeland College in Kohler, WI, an MA in teaching from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and a PhD in information technology from Capella University in Minneapolis.

More About Dr. Artzi:

Isac Artzi, PhD, is an associate professor of computer science in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, where he teaches upper-level computer science classes, which require a strong calculus and linear algebra foundation. He is passionate about technology-driven education and a seasoned developer of academic and professional programs, for in-person and online delivery, including adult learners. Dr. Artzi has extensive industry experience in synthesizing concepts and methods in computer science, instructional design, business, Internet technologies and military training. He is an enthusiastic champion of knowledge as a right and not a privilege. He is a multilingual world traveler, teacher, research ​mentor, team builder and avid advocate of project-based learning. He holds patents in areas of software as a service. He is a proficient computer programmer (Java, C, R, Python, C++, C#, PHP, Objective-C, Swift, SQL) and user of most current business and scientific applications. Dr. Artzi’s formal education includes BS in mathematics and computer science, MS in computer science, PhD in instructional design, specialization certification in data science, ABD in educational systems development ​and additional doctoral coursework in business administration and physics.

More About Deborah:

Deborah Haralson has been a computer geek since elementary school, learning BASIC programming on her father’s Commodore VIC20. High school brought the technological bleeding edge, learning GWBASIC programming on an 8086 AT&T backplane box with no hard disk drive. While going to school for engineering, she discovered that her true passion was for IT and began working on Windows, DOS and Macintosh network clients, quickly graduating to network servers and WAN technologies. In over 20 years of experience in the IT field, she has worked for companies such as Honeywell, MicroAge and many others. Along the way, she has become proficient in a wide array of hardware, software and operating systems, along with an occasional stint as a PBX & ACD admin, DBA, trainer, webmaster and application programmer. Deborah has worked with Microsoft server products since the original NT 3.1 beta and has enjoyed the experience ever since then. Deborah is a published author and has authored/co-authored several technology books dedicated toward helping others navigate the jungles of the computing world. Having earned her bachelor’s degree in information technology and her master’s in adult education, Deborah enjoys finding creative ways to teach and learn.

More About Dr. Farinacci:

Roméo Farinacci, DM, CISSP, GSLC, CISM, PMP, is the program director at Grand Canyon University. He brings over 18 years of experience, including military service and employment in IT/cyber operations and management, consulting and education. During his more than 14 years of Air Force service, he managed various systems and provided support for COMINT, ELINT and SIGINT operations. Starting as an IT professional in the corporate sector, he worked his way into IT management before specializing in cyber security and holding positions as a security engineer, security architect and CISO. In his time at GCU, Dr. Farinacci has been focused on enhancing the classroom experience of students in IT and cyber security. He continues to work toward building a leading-edge cyber security program that will create graduates ready to enter the workforce and make a difference in today’s challenging cyber security environment. Additionally, he oversees the relationship between GCU and ACTRA program, providing industry professionals with hands-on training on cyber security techniques for securing and preventing hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.