CSAW Summer Program for High School Women

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Summer Program Blog

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cryptography and the Caesar Cipher

by Julia Gaberlavage

Today at CSAW summer camp, we started off a day of encryption by learning how to convert binary into the hexadecimal system. We then jumped right into using the Caesar cipher. After exchanging and decoding notes with our partners, our group made bracelets with beads representing our names in hexadecimal. Afterwards, we began using Python to execute a series of instructions. Our day concluded with decoding documents using a Python program to solve the Caesar cipher.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Session 2 Begins!

by Cynthia Jules

Today was a fantastic start to the program, and I was a little sad to leave. We were given a thorough rundown of the school's history and a fabulous tour of the campus that was most informative. Through various "Ice Breakers", led by very enthusiastic staff members, we were all able to feel comfortable and get to know each other. The classroom environment was completely awesome. We laughed a lot, which made the whole learning process better. We learned about the basics of a computer and learned a lot of technical terms. We learned a bit of coding and I thoroughly enjoyed the "The Little Man" activities. My favorite part was learning the LMC system. I enjoyed the random fun facts and learning about so many women that played a part in computer science. I hope tomorrow is even better than the first day, and I am really excited to be in the program.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Day of Session 1

by Anokhi Sachdev

Today was that was bittersweet day everyone was waiting for -- it was a Friday, 24 hours away from the weekend (though it didn't really matter much, considering it was summer vacation), the day we were going to get our checks, the day our newly-learned CS skills were to be put to the test; but it was also our last day of camp at NYU-Poly, the day we'd bid goodbye to our new but close friends.

The skills of cybersecurity we acquired in our two weeks of camp shone with Marc's CSAW challenge. We broke up into groups to tackle on each part of the challenge, groups applying their knowledge of Wireshark, Python, steganography and much more! The room was filled with the sounds of our collaboration, fingers flying and furiously drumming against the keys on the keyboard, and determination filled in the air as we all worked to crack the challenges presented to us. After lunch, our groups reported our findings to the class and demonstrated our courses of action that we had in order to retrieve the evidence we presented. We were all filled with pride; we were in awe of how much we had learned and what now we were capable of.

We also had lots of fun on our last day -- we played our last of icebreakers, a unique version of Follow the Leader, and we even had played Seven-Up, enjoying and cherishing the fun we had with everyone. Even at our last lunch, we did not let the idea that it would be our last lunch at camp register in our minds, and we treated this lunch with fun and mischief like every other lunch we had together.

Our final day at camp ended with a small dessert party, the handing out of the certificates. And then came the moment we had all been dreading. Saying goodbye.

When we first came last Monday, some of us had prior knowledge of CS, while some of us didn't. Similarly, some of us were nervous about coming to camp and meeting new people, while some of us were excited to make new friends. But as these two weeks flew by, we were all willing to help, in spite of whether or not we knew the material being taught. Helping and working with each other brought us tremendously close, along with Meghan's icebreakers. But now, it was time to end our time together; it was a very heartbreaking idea.

There were the bittersweet goodbye hugs, and promises to meet again for the camp's pizza party in roughly three weeks. We were sad to leave our newly-made friends, but the ending of this camp didn't deter us: we had already started keeping in touch through social media and we all promised to continue to do so. And as we walked through the halls and out of the building, a piece of our hearts was left behind in NYU-Poly's Jacobs Academic Building, on the 7th floor, in Room JAB777.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

News about Networks

by Vivian Lam

Our first lesson was taught by Mrs. Galante, who taught us about the importance of networking. Networking is another aspect of Computer Science in addition to programming. Mrs. Galante taught us about the different aspects of networking, such as having a unique MAC address, the differences between public and private networks, the purpose of Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDN) and the importance of IP addresses. Afterwards, we were able to identify our IP addresses and even try "pinging" our neighbors and various websites.

After a short break, we continued our lesson and learned about Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN). We also learned about network hardware such as routers and switches and the bridge between what we learned earlier that morning and the hardware that allows it to function. This connection was further illustrated through the game we played, Stone Tablets, that showed us how networks communicate and the difference between reliable messengers and fast messengers.

We ended the day with some more work on the CSAW challenge, and we had lots of fun working on the virtual machines. Overall, the day was full of opportunities to develop our understanding of how computers communicate and the relationship between networking and computer science!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fun with File Systems

by Gabi Brick
Group photo on Monday, July 14

We started off with Tehila, a PhD student at NYU-Poly, explaining what an operating system is and its functions, including keeping thing secure. We learned that computer scientists practice abstraction with the "Black Box" to keep things as simple as they have to be. The operating system also practices scheduling algorithms, such as FIFO (first in, first out), Round Robin (taking turns), and priority (most important gets done first and so forth). We also learned about the file allocation table (FAT), which stores the "ingredients" and "tools" for a certain program to execute. With this new knowledge, we were able to make some delicious treats: S'mores! Because, really, what is camp without them?

After lunch, Emily took us on another mystery mission, by teaching us about alternate data streams, introduced to make NTFS(New Technologies File System) and HFS(Hierarchial File System) compatible. Alternate data stream allows data to be put into existing files without affecting the physical attributes of a file, which may allow a bad guy to put in secret messages into files which we would think are harmless. As to what we found, that is to be kept top secret.

To end the day, a super cool United States Secret Service Agent came to talk about her job and the role cyber-security plays in keeping the government safe. We may not all be lawyers or judges, but we may be able to substantially help law enforcement through our newly developed cyber-security skills!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Google Trip and Image Tricks

by Gabi Brick
Google trip on Friday, July 11

On Friday, the group went to visit the place where every programmer -- forget programmer, everybody -- dreams to work: Google. Joel, a former Poly professor, was generous enough to introduce us to three women who worked there and later presented us with a tour of the fourth floor with his colleague Sam. From these five "Googlers", we learned that the road to Google is tough and frustrating but extremely worthwhile...

Bright colors, bean bags, a game room, a lego room, a wall of historic computers, a huge kitchen, and micro-kitchens everywhere (and to top that, all the food is FREE). Add to that amazing people, tech talks, events, lounges, massage chairs, a slide, a rock wall, and the ability to bring your dog to work and you've got yourself something that sounds like a dream, but is actually found in any Google location.

Later, Professor Memon taught us about how cameras capture images, how images are presented in lossy versus lossless compression, and how these topics may relate to steganography: the science of hiding information, some may say in plain sight. For instance, the second letter of each word in a phrase may be part of a message. Also, the number of spaces in a news ticker could prove to be a message.

Overall, Friday was just that: Friday. It was a day of excitement and interesting information that we could take home with us for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crypto Challenge!

We started off the day with a look at binary and how counting in base 2 isn't that different than counting in base 10. We experimented with adding in base 2, and then relaxed with an icebreaker led by Meghan.

When Thomas intercepted Linda's message to Swaad, we realized why cryptography is a useful tool in real life as well as computer science. We tried encoding our own "secrets" by hand, using the Caesar cipher with letters shifted by three spaces. Then we discussed how to convert the technique into an algorithm.

Along the way, we discussed using hexadecimal to hold letter representations using ASCII so that a computer could store and transform our secrets into ciphertext. We then broke into groups to start some hands-on efforts to make - and break - the Caesar cipher. Successful groups were rewarded with clues to find something that every good computer scientist should appreciate: chocolate!

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