Visiting students ponder their next move as they
work on a project in a cyber camp lab.
On July 26, the Commonwealth Office of Technology visited Murray State University's (MSU) innovative CyberCave. The CyberCave is an interactive, hands-on laboratory for high school students seeking to explore today's cutting-edge telecommunications technology. MSU's CyberCave Academy just concluded another successful school year with the completion of four, one-week cyber camps and field trip visits by 22 high schools.
The CyberCave program is conducted by faculty and staff from MSU's Program of Distinction in Telecommunications Systems Management (TSM). The TSM program is interdisciplinary in nature, offering students courses in both technology and business.
MSU's CyberCave program offers two ways for high school students to experience the high-tech learning environment: one-day field trips and one-week cyber camps. For the field trips, teachers from high schools as far as two hours away bring their classes for special one-day visits to the CyberCave. During the 2005-2006 school year, 22 schools took advantage of this unique opportunity. The one-week cyber camps are more intensive, delivering five, full days of learning while the students live on campus at no cost. The extra time allows the students to engage in learning activities and assignments that provide a deeper understanding of telecommunications technologies. Both venues are getting rave reviews from the students who attend.
When visiting students arrive for a field trip, they are first led to a room that is painted like a dark cave. A laser light from the ceiling blazes “Welcome to the CyberCave” and rock music is played as the students are asked to grab a seat. In the cave, directed by John Hart, Marcia Combs and five student workers, visiting students become part of a simulated business network and learn how technologies such as telephony, e-mail and video transmission work.
With lots of hands-on activities, students learn how businesses use telecommunications every day. Fun activities include learning about personal digital assistants (PDAs) and competing to unravel encryption puzzles. The students also get a chance to play with a hand-made robot that can walk, talk and light up.
The Cyber Academy
High school students who visit the cave are also given an overview of the summer CyberCave Academy, which is an intensive five-day camp that includes extracurricular activities at night. Student participants in the CyberCave Academy stay in dorms on the MSU campus and enjoy three meals a day in a cafeteria, all at no cost. The week consists of five days of technology instruction that explore advanced technologies and entrepreneurship in areas such as biometric network security, network integrated robotics, video communication, wireless technology, advanced networking and multimedia exploration.
Technologies explored include:
- Video Conferencing - Using videophones and PCs equipped with videoconferencing software, students get a glimpse into this increasingly popular method of communication.
- Wireless Networking - Students configure a wireless network and examine related issues such as encryption, security, channel allocation and IP assignment.
- Pocket PCs - Students explore various applications of the HP iPaq Pocket PC with emphasis on wireless and security capabilities.
- Biometric Security - Fingerprint and iris scanners are used to demonstrate how biological features may be used to protect sensitive information.
- Telephony - Students set up their own telephone networks to gain a better understanding of how phones like those they use every day actually work.
One of the exercises used in the five-day cyber camp teaches students about local and wide-area networking. When students arrive for the cyber camp they are divided into four groups based on experience level. These groups then work in separate labs to construct their own local area networks (LANs), complete with a firewall and wireless access point. After successfully building a LAN, each team must establish a wide area network (WAN) before they can communicate with the other groups. Throughout the exercise, the students must download and install all software.
Students who attend a one-week session may come back the following summer to attend an even more advanced cyber camp, referred to as a second-year cyber camp. These advanced camps build on the knowledge gained in the first camp to offer more in-depth instruction. This past summer, three first-year cyber camps and one second-year cyber camp, each lasting a week, were attended by a total of 60 students. Next summer, MSU plans to again offer three first-year cyber camps and one second-year camp. All camps are open on a first-come basis to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.
MSU's CyberCave Academy was started in 2004 and is conducted by the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management (CTSM), which is headed by Dr. James Gantt. For more information about CTSM, visit www.murraystate.edu/tsm/ctsm/. The center is a part of MSU's Program of Distinction in Telecommunications Systems Management (TSM). For more information about MSU's TSM program, visit www.murraystate.edu/tsm/.