Brian Case looked over his coding for his Arduino robot with deep concentration. The head of school at Westminster Schools of Augusta said learning the process was like learning another language, but students at his school and others will be able to pick up on much faster.
Case and a handful of teachers from the lower and upper schools at Westminster participated in hands-on learning experiences from the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center. Upper school teachers for students ninth grade and above learned to code and build robots, while lower school teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade participated in an egg drop where they built a device to successfully drop an egg without it breaking.
Based out of Bossier City, La., NICERC strives to organically grow the cyber workforce by integrating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons into everyday curriculum in K-12 schools.
“We began introducing students to career and degree opportunities that may not exist today, and solve a demand for a cyber-literate workforce. No matter what industry they’re going into, that’s where the demand lies for cyber,” said Kevin Nolten, NICERC director. “When we ask them what they want to be when they grow up, we want to make sure they have the best educated response.”
According to Fort Gordon Alliance director Tom Clark, the U.S. will have a 1.2 million employee shortage in cyber-related work if students are not groomed to take on these roles. Cyber security jobs coming to Augusta and Fort Gordon will be available to some students right after high school. Schools are preparing teachers to wrap cyber lessons into all forms of curriculum, not just in math and science classes.
“The subject-experts think about how they bring this into their classroom,” Westminster’s director of advancement Andy Lee said. Even subjects like art can be used to help teach cyber, according to Lee.
Upper school history and English teacher Whitney Diehl said she will be researching ways to integrate STEM materials into her class. Although she claims she is not inclined to the subjects, Diehl was able to complete the Arduino bot activity.
New curriculum development will not be solely up to the individual teachers. NICERC provides lessons for them to adapt into their teaching plans. Spanish teacher and Educational Technology Innovation Coordinator Kendra Sue Finch was able to find a lesson on biological weapons and cyber-attacks in NICERC’s curriculum to weave into her lesson on the smallpox epidemic.
Westminster is the first school in the Augusta area to adopt NICERC’s curriculum. Nolten said Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties are interested as well.