Aurora camp makes cyber sleuths out of teenage math, computer geeks


AURORA| Even in the midst of summer, future watchdogs of cyberspace were hard at work at RangeView High School this week.

Rangeview hosted its popular Aurora Public School’s CyberCamp Program from last week, drawing math and science savvy kids from across the city. The summer camp is part of the larger CyberPatriot program designed by the Air Force Association. It encourage science and math learning during the summer and gives young science and math lovers a taste of the frontline work done by cyber security experts every day.

Rangeview so-called STEM teacher Randy Mills is in charge of the camp and also coaches the teams the school sends to national cyber defense competitions. The camps teach students everything from programming in different code languages to solar power to how to diagnose and repair a corrupted software system.

Mills is quick to brag about the Cyberpatriot teams from Rangeview, saying they’ve consistently ranked among the top teams in competition out of thousands of schools. And when it comes for preparing a young math and science lover for a career, these camps and competitions offer the best way to get big time companies to recognize young talent.

Advik Shrivastava, 11, is a rising seventh grader at Cherry Creek Academy and a lover of building robots. Part of the joy of building a robot or programming a circuit is seeing your work come to fruition, Shrivastava said.

“It’s really cool to be able to program something to do what you want it to do,” Shrivastava said. “It feels like you’ve done something that’s really hard. It makes you feel good.”

Mills said that Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace and defense technology company, has been the prime sponsor for the programs nationally because it helps encourage kids to consider fields like cyber security as an option to pursue after school. The camps are also staffed with the help of Colorado State University and University of Colorado at Boulder.

“If you want to be an engineer, look at who sponsors these camps: Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. All of those companies are within the Front Range,” Mills said. “In 2013 there were more than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs unfilled in the United States. These jobs are going to be there and they need trained people. And it allows these students to find careers close to home.”

Along with grooming the next generation of IT employees, the program works to encourage participation from groups that are under represented in the STEM industries. Mills said APS strives to increase participation with this camp and with the all-girls STEM camp in the summer.

Trinity Taylor, 13, is an eighth grader at Aurora Frontier and a veteran star of the girls STEM camp. Taylor said she loved the team aspect of many of the projects and being able to overcome challenges as a group. But one of the things she loves the most is figuring out a difficult code project on her own, even if some people don’t think girls can code.

“When you finish that code you’re really happy. If you keep getting it wrong, people want to tell you how to fix it. But it’s better to figure it out for yourself. You don’t want other people to learn from your mistakes. You want to learn from them yourself,” Taylor said. “People say girls can’t do it. But I’m a girl and I know I can do it.”