Texas A&M’s “Camp Smart” combines science and technology with young minds

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Started with only 20 participants four years ago, High-Performance Research Computing’s (HPRC) at Texas A&M University ‘Camp Smart’ introduces middle and high school students to data science and cyber technologies through a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning environments.

“We were really excited, the community responded very favorably to that [the first camp in 2017],” Camp Director Dr. Dhruva Chakravorty said.

The camp took a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and returned in June-July 2021 with more than 150 student participants.

“This year, we had mostly high school students participating,” Dr. Chakravorty said, “We had some middle school students who were very enthusiastic and showed a lot of interest in data science/programming.”

Those ready-to-learn middle schoolers wrote to the camp asking if they could participate and Dr. Chakravorty said they made it happen.

Since the camp offered both in-person and virtual learning environments, Program Director for the gen-cyber part of the camp Dr. Dilma Da Silva said trying to keep kids be active listeners and participants while looking at a screen all day, the camp offered contests with prizes.

“Most of us, students in particular, respond very well to prizes,” Dr. Da Silva said, “we held contests for those who were more engaged and active in the chats.”

Credit: Dr. Dhruva Chakravorty

Participator in the camp, Devkumar Banerjee said there were many things he liked about this year’s camp, but his favorite part was building your own encryption keys.

“Essentially you could send your own secret message to other people and anyone who received the message without the secret key would not be able to see what you’re sending,” Banerjee said, “that was the most fun aspect of the camp this year.”

Credit: Dr. Dhruva Chakravorty

Another participator in the camp and Devkumar Banerjee’s sister Debkanya Banjerjee said we all have either phones or laptops, we all get on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and all of these use some sort of data collection or cybersecurity to keep your information safe.

“If you’re using all these apps, wouldn’t you want to know how they do it [how the applications work], how to help them out more by securing your data, the information that you post and your pictures,” Banerjee said, “make sure you know how to be safe while still being on the internet.”

Credit: Dr. Dhruva Chakravorty

If you’d like to stay up to date for future camps you can click here.

If you have any questions about Camp Smart or future camps, you can send your questions to

Written by Jacob Reyes

Categories: Education

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