Koogler Middle School teacher Pamela Arzu, right, assists Shiprock High School teacher Ann Iron Moccasin Thursday at San Juan College in Farmington as part of the New Mexico Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge Summer Teacher Institute.

FARMINGTON - Two statewide computer institutes, one for students and one for their teachers, continues today through Friday at San Juan College.

The two-week workshops have brought 25 middle and high school teachers and more than 40 students from around the state to the campus.

While their teachers are attending the 8th annual Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge Summer Teacher Institute, students are at the new Cyber-Defenders Institute.

Both are sponsored by Los Alamos National Lab. The lab's Department of Defense Programs Office is funding the new student program.

Students were selected to attend after submitting an application. Their selection was also based on grades, a letter of recommendation from their teachers and their own personal letter.

They are being paid a stipend to attend and daily per diem, as well as getting computer-related textbooks and the use of laptop computers.

Gina Fisk, of advanced computing at Los Alamos National Lab, is leading the Cyber-Defenders Institute.

The objectives of the student institute are to encourage participation in the annual New Mexico Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge and to teach students about cybersecurity.

New Mexico Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge is held at Los Alamos National Lab in April. The yearlong competition among student teams begins in October. It is designed to increase knowledge of science and computing and to expose students and teacher to computers and applied mathematics and to instill in students an enthusiasm for science.

Prizes for winners include scholarships and savings bonds and computer equipment for the schools.

The students are learning C++ programming and UNIX and working on a cybersecurity research project with LANL staff. The cybersecurity focus is part of the lab's effort to "grow their own" cybersecurity professionals for the future.

"We're teaching cybersecurity to create a pipeline to develop high quality cybersecurity professionals. It's an important and newly-developing field with the increase of computer viruses and worms," Fisk said.

She also runs the college-level Cyber-Defenders program.

"We want to focus on cybersecurity to get them excited about it and eventually get talented people into the field. The kids seem very excited and seem to be having a good time," she said.

On Friday the 10 teams will be giving presentations of their research to parents, LANL scientists and the college level Cyber Defenders from throughout the U.S.

"It sounded like it would be an awesome experience. I like computers. The world is made up of computers, and I thought I could learn more about them," explained Candice Nelson, 15, of Bloomfield High School.

"It's pretty cool and we're getting a lot of assignments and then we practice it and practice it until wešre really good at it," she said.

"I'm loving it," said Sarah Winslow, 15, of Clovis High School. "The first time I tried C++ I had no idea what I was doing. But now it's become so simple for me. I'm sure enjoying it. Itšs going to be fun talking to my dad and understanding what he's talking about."

Her group is creating a program that will simulate how long it will take for a worm to find a computer that is not well-protected and how much damage it will do in a certain amount of time.

"It's interesting to look in depth at all the cybersecurity issues they are having. It's exciting. I'd like to deal with cybersecurity when I get into college," said Samuel Ashmore, 17, of Bosque Preparatory School in Albuquerque.

"I think it's fun and I'm learning stuff I would have had a hard time learning any other way," said Logan Maloy, 15, of BHS. "The instructors definitely know what they're talking about and work with us at our own level."

The Cyber Defenders program links directly to the Summer Teacher Institute being held across campus. Teachers have learned about mathematic and computer modeling, simulation and presentation using Excel, Java, StarLogo and Dream Weaver software and have built curriculum modules to incorporate modeling activities in their classrooms.

"The teachers here are beyond technology literacy. They are looking at technology fluency and best practices in teaching math, science and technology," said Celia Einhorn with New Mexico Technet.

"These are good examples of excellent teachers who want to learn more about their subject areas. They are teaching computational science and that's where math and science come together through technology," she said.

Bloomfield teacher Elvira Crockett is one of a number of area teachers in the workshop. Her students in the Mesa Alta Junior High Math, Engineering Science Achievement class have entered the Supercomputing Challenge for the last three years. In April the Big Bang team members received second honorable mention.

"I felt the kids needed to expand their knowledge and to be exposed to more resources. I'm always looking for all kinds of resources to help my kids," she said, explaining her involvement with Supercomputing Challenge. This is her third year in the summer institute.

"I'm always learning new things here and what I learn I take back to the classroom. I have to keep up with the computer technology and keep ahead of the kids," she said.

The challenge provides her students with a chance to compete with other schools and to see what other students are doing at the same time they learn of scholarship opportunities.

"Besides promoting teamwork, the challenge is another avenue for kids who want to expand their knowledge of computer science," she said.

Major funders for the summer program are Los Alamos Lab, New Mexico Technet, Siemens Foundation, Sandia National Labs, Santa Fe Institute, Grass Roots Computing and Hewlett-Packard.

For more information about the New Mexico Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge and the Summer Teacher Institute go to http://www.challenge.nm.org/sti. For information about Cyber Defenders Institute go to http://public.lanl.gov/cdi/

Carol Cohea: carolc@daily-times.com