A week-long cyber summer camp gave visually impaired high schoolers a taste of cyber curriculum and inspired them to pursue careers in the field.

The July 16-20 camp culminated Friday at the Louisiana Association for the Blind’s Low Vision Rehabilitation Facility in Shreveport.

Funded by L.A.B. and led by NICERC (National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center), an academic Division of the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, the camp focused on teaching visually impaired high school students relevant workplace skills in coding, circuits, and cyber as they build a robot.

Using NICERC’s Cyber Literacy content, students assemble and program a Parallax  Boe-Bot. Students altered a portion of the circuitry in order to build and take apart new circuits. They also installed a motor, microphone, ping sensor, and accelerometer.

“We started with a box of parts and in three hours we had a bot that was ready to roll,” said Dr. Chuck Gardner, director of Curriculum for NICERC. “This is an inspirational event for me to watch these guys come out here for longer than a school day for five days and embrace this.”

The aim of the camps is to give students an introduction to cyber skills and the confidence to pursue careers in cyber.

Dr. Chuck Gardner, director of Curriculum for NICERC, explains the circuitry of a Boe-Bot worked on by students. (Randy Brown/Press-Tribune)

“From students creating robot comedians to lunar rover bots equipped with talking alarms, lights, and sirens, these students approached every challenge like it was just a small inconvenience,” Dr. Gardner said. “When filling the thousands of vacancies in the areas of cyber, companies should take note of these students. They are ready for the challenges that come with filling those seats.”

Dr. Gardner previously taught the course in New Orleans to high school students and noted that installing and coding each piece of equipment was accomplished each year of a high school education.

“These guys accomplished these builds a day each, in five days,” Dr. Gardner revealed.

Monty Wells was complementary of his teacher when he said, “Chuck is an inspiration.”

Most students had robots that spoke by using text to speech, moved in a programmed pattern, and even used a ping to send out sound waves that guided its movement.

Aaron Helms was surprised by his robot’s understanding of place value.

“I have to give credit to the bot. It outsmarted me,” he said.

Dr. Gardener was especially impressed with one student, Trey, who he said “got it.”

Trey used math to make his robot light up in different ways and programmed a ping sensor to follow a maze pattern. He also programmed it to respond to speech and go in reverse using the ping sensor.

“There’s always a student who gets it. And that was Trey. I would introduce the build and he would take it five steps farther than I ever though he could. In five days he’s got the closest to the 1,000-line of code program I’ve seen in my five years of teaching this,” Dr. Gardener gushed.