A team of five St. Joseph’s Academy students competed in this summer’s Analysis & Investigation through Cyber-based Scenarios (AICS) Camp and finished first in the seven-team field. The annual week-long competition is held at Louisiana Tech University and supported by the Cyber Innovation Center and a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant.
Team members were rising juniors Brennan Cascio, Noelle DeFee, Allee Rogers, Madison Roy and Faith Woods.
AICS immerses participants in the cyber world, challenging them to hone their analysis and investigative skills through a variety of activities. Teams wrote four essays during the week focused on how individuals think and how they analyze both people and situations. Teams also participated in a cryptography treasure hunt. Instead of being given clues, students looked for and manipulated features in the source code of websites and used the python coding language to crack passwords.
Much of the camp focused on determining the who, what, how and why behind various scenarios. Students were placed into the role of a Department of Homeland Security analyst, receiving an abundance of information to wade through in order to piece together what happened, who caused the problem, why they did it, how they did it and what the U.S. government’s response should be. They then put together a briefing presentation to give to a panel of “DHS agents” responsible for “briefing the President” on the situation.
Roy said the experience exceeded all expectations. “I learned so much, from critical thinking to programming, and I am already applying these new skills to my daily life,” she said. “The analysis skills I learned at AICS really impacted my world view and the way I look at problems. Throughout the week, we analyzed scenarios, wrote papers and examined source code to find hidden content and learn more about web development and security. I enjoyed all of these aspects, but my personal favorite part was the online treasure hunt through source code. The process of learning a little more each day to help solve the puzzle was fascinating, and I’m so glad that I got to see it all come together.”
Faculty member and AICS chaperone Aimee Cronan expressed her pride in the team’s winning efforts. “We definitely had a powerhouse team again this year,” she said. “I’m so proud of their performance in camp. We are grateful to the Louisiana Tech professors who put on this camp. The amount of information prepared for just one scenario was amazing. On top of that, they were there helping the kids every step of the way, from when we started at 8:30 in the morning until we finished at 9 each night. I’ve never seen college professors relate to high school kids as well as they did.”
Alexandra Hedrick Arceneaux, faculty member and trip chaperone, said she especially enjoyed seeing the students make connections between STEM and humanities disciplines. “The girls learned so much, and I felt I was learning along with them,” she said. “It was an amazing opportunity for our girls, and I can’t wait to join a new crew next year. Our girls also really connected with the professors, which made this is a great networking opportunity for them going into college. It also opened the girls’ eyes to future career opportunities and to see what our country needs in terms of workforce and technology.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt