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>  News Releases >   2008 >   July

Local middle, high school students study robotics, cryptography at Dartmouth summer program

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/16/08 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin • (603) 646-3661

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Middle school and high school students in Dartmouth's area are getting an opportunity this summer to work with intriguing developments of both the future and the past, through the College's 2008 Summer Robotics and Security Program.

Sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth and held in Sudikoff Laboratory, the camp draws on the talents of Dartmouth graduate students to acquaint the younger students with fascinating aspects of the field of robotics and security.

Photo of robotics camp
Esra Kuehlert (left) and Claire Weaver, both rising 10th graders, use an Enigma E to encrypt a message in the Department of Computer Science' Summer Robotics and Security Program Camp I: Cryptographic Security for 10-12 graders. (photo by Patrick Tsang)

July 14-18, a new crop of campers with tackle the world of robotics. Professor Devin Balkcom and Dartmouth students will work in the robotics lab and explore the design, building and programming of robots.

"Last year the students worked with sensor robotics," said Suzanne Thompson, program director. "Robotics is becoming more ubiquitous. We're trying to stay very much on the cutting edge and exploring what's very, very current."

Students will have a set time to design and construct their robots. The robots then have to meet certain challenges and participate in a competition, she said.

"We're giving the students a different experience and that's exciting for us," Thompson said.

In June, an earlier group of students got to learn the history of cryptography and even break a code just like the Allied forces did against the Germans during World War II. Cryptography, or the study of secret writing, codes and ciphers systems, was a program available to students interested in the hush-hush world of espionage. Students spent a week learning how codes are created and broken and how a strong mathematical background lends itself to success in the field.

"The students were excited about something most students don't get excited about," said Paul Pollack, a grad student with a Ph.D in Math who served as a "math mentor" to the students.

Fellow math mentor Lola Thompson, a second year grad student in the Math Ph.D. program said "the camp is a great opportunity to see math differently than what you see in school," she said. "The students get to see it used in things we do everyday, like sending information over the internet. That's something a lot of people fail to realize."

"This was a way to expose them to the process to solving problems while getting their hands dirty too," said Apu Kapadia, a post-doctoral research fellow who's participated in the camps for three years.

Each year, the grad students and other volunteers that help with the camp assist in developing sessions for the next year, said Thompson. This year's cryptography came out of a session last year on cyber-security.

Doctoral candidate, Patrick Tsang, couldn't agree more.

"Seeing the kids learning is an experience for both of us," said Tsang, who is studying security with a cryptology focus. "We definitely have the experience of working with them and they have the experience of the camp."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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