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Cooking up science

Chemistry meets tasty treats in the annual molecular gastronomy project. Photo by: Jon Provincher

This May sees the approaching project presentations for the chemistry class’ annual molecular gastronomy project.

 

Students take their pre-existing chemistry knowledge and build upon it for this project, learning recipe-specific chemistry for use in their personally-designed experiments.

 

“I learned about protein denaturing,” said Paula Cieszkiewicz, a senior in chemistry. “Your typical acid-base reaction is affected by the salt chains, so basically what happens is the chains form in a different way when the pH is different, and that changes the shape of the proteins, and that’s what’s actually denaturing the proteins. So while it seems like a texture kind of thing, it’s actually changing the internal structure, which denatures the protein.”

 

After learning about the chemistry, students then apply their knowledge to the recipes themselves. They change the recipes by adding or subtracting an ingredient to in some way improve the texture, taste, or consistency, forming a hypothesis on how the food will react based on what they’ve learned.

 

“I made shepherd’s pie, which could be a pie or could be a casserole, depending on which country you’re making it in. So I decided to make the casserole form of that, since it’s easy to divide into three sections,” said Paula. “So I controlled the way I was cooking the meat. In one control substance I just cooked the meat with the vegetables like everything else, and in one trial I added some baking soda to increase the pH and create a more balanced system, and in the third trial I did not cook it with the vegetables so it was drier meat, and that was essentially what I was investigating–how the pH or the liquidity of the meat substance affected the proteins in the meat.”

 

While some students choose to change ingredients, others varied cooking techniques.

 

“I decided to make a pasta. I made the investigation focused on the different ways proteins could be denatured, along with the typical acid-base reaction between glutamates (tomatoes) and nucleotides (meats), with the variable being the length in which they’re cooked, while the temperature remains the same,” said Grace Cieszkiewicz, a junior in chemistry class. “So I decided to hold three different trials, where the controlled one had a set cooking time of all the sauce components, which has tomatoes and meats of course, and have that 5 to 7 minutes in the controlled one, and then in the next two trials stack on another 4 minutes, and so on. Overall it worked out really well. I got good results; the data’s good, the chemistry’s good, and it was lots of fun.”

 

Students are given plenty of time to complete their experiments, since mishaps or delays sometimes occur.

 

“Well, I had to cook quickly, because Grace had to do hers next, so that was a little annoying. And clearing kitchen space was kind of annoying,” said Paula.  “And also getting my family to eat both, because we didn’t want to be doing our own trials and then eating them ourselves. It wasn’t so much as a mishap as it was kind of funny, because they weren’t eating hers, they were eating mine because I finished first.”

 

Despite the ups and downs, this project often inspires students to continue on with either cooking, chemistry, or both.

 

“Well I’d like to say I have projects in the works, but unfortunately I’m too focused on robotics projects, so for the time being, no,” said Grace. “But I’m excited for AP Chem next year–Shiroma better be ready for this girl! But I’m very excited to be in AP Chem next year and pursue chemistry, not just in high school, but beyond.”

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Start Your Engines!

The proposed wind tunnel model for the new school.
Photo by: Henry Watts

 

Among the many new technologies available at the Museum of Flight campus will be a brand-new Aerolab Educational System Wind Tunnel.

 

“[The new tunnel is] much bigger [than the current tunnel],” said Nikhil Joshi, the Flight by Design teacher. “It’s an educational/research grade wind tunnel; it’s not like a typical high school wind tunnel.”

 

Though Flight By Design currently uses the school’s existing wind tunnel, having the new Aerolab tunnel will help improve the students’ experience in the class.

 

“Just for the wind tunnel–well, we’re using it as a wind tunnel, so I don’t see any curriculum changes. It might make some of the current usage of the wind tunnel a lot better,” said Joshi. “Currently our existing wind tunnel is not very sensitive at low velocities, and that definitely makes some of our results and graphs kind of sketchy, because at very low velocities and angles of attack, the lift just bounces around zero until you get to four or five meters per second, and that’s when we start registering enough lift to start registering above the noise level of the detector.”

 

Michael Gudor, the teacher of Aerospace Engineering, is also looking forward to being able to use the wind tunnel to further students’ learning in his class.

 

“Our final project is for students to design and build their own balsa wood planes.  Students have always had to allow for a great deal of trimming (moving wings back and forth, changing the angle of incident, etc.) because they didn’t really know how their plane would fly,” said Gudor.  “With the wind tunnel, I imagine students will be able to make their wings and, through testing, have a good idea of what an appropriate angle of incident should be prior to flight.”

 

Googling to the Moon

Two years after Google launched the Google Lunar X Prize, the Lunar Lion team from Penn  State University continues to work towards putting a rover on the moon.

“A total of $30 million in prizes are available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, have that robot travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to the Earth,” stated the Google Lunar X Prize website.

One of the most unique teams competing for the X Prize, the Lunar Lion team has been put together and is run by Penn State University.

“The Lunar Lion stands apart from the others because it is the only university-led team. This is a huge leap for any university to send something to the moon,” said Kenrick Dacumos, a student member of the Lunar Lion team. “Only recently have non-government agencies been joining the space race, and to see that a university is doing the same is astounding.”

Most recently, the Lunar Lion team has built a prototype ‘hopper’ that will help land their rover on the moon. Currently, the hopper is powered by fans, but according to the faculty leader of the team, Michael V. Paul, the team is working to acquire rockets and begin testing doing rocket tests in the coming months.

However, more important than the propulsion of the craft is the brain that it takes to get it there. The software testing for the landing guidance system is incredibly important to the survival of the craft as a whole.

“The most challenging aspects of this competition are designing the brain of the craft,” said Dacumos.  “As control lead of the student group I have seen first hand how challenging it is because there is so much that goes into this design, whether it be the software, sensors, PID controller, simulation models, and integrating all of the previous.”

Much like projects at Aviation High School, the Lunar Lion team utilizes student work that is guided by older, more experienced faculty.

“The most unique feature of the Lunar Lion Team is that it heavily incorporates help from students. This team has begun to change what Penn State is all about,” said Dacumos.  “I am proud of this team to not only be apart of this competition, but also to be supporting Penn State in such a huge way. One way they plan to impact Penn State is by giving the prize money to the school in order to continue such research.  The students are the future, and igniting their passions in a growing industry will have a major influence on the next space race.”

Unlike projects at Aviation High School, which are funded by the school and its PTSA, the Google Lunar X Prize requires that the competitors are at least 90% privately funded. The reasoning behind this is to boost the competitors into becoming companies, and companies can’t rely on public funding to get the job done.

“The Google Lunar X Prize aims to create a new era of lunar exploration that will be more sustainable and more accessible to all than humanity’s first moon race,” said the Google Lunar X Prize website. “We believe that the Google Lunar X Prize and the stories of the global community of innovators and entrepreneurs competing for the it will motivate the high tech workforce of tomorrow and show people of all ages how they can personally contribute to a worthy and exciting endeavor like space exploration.”

However, this can prove to be challenging for some teams.

“I think our biggest obstacle, as is with most competitions, is the budget.  Finding influential people to support such an influential cause has its challenges, but it can be done,” said Dacumos. “And I know it will be done.  I believe 100% that we can get a craft to the moon.  I’m just anxious to see it come to fruition.”

Though public space agencies, such as NASA, have already sent spacecraft to the moon, the Lunar X Prize aims to use the competition to jumpstart the private space industry, in order to take full advantage of the benefits the moon provides. Rather than have the private compete with the public, the X Prize Foundation hopes that the two sectors will assist each other.

“NASA, the European Space Agency, and other space agencies around the world stand as the most obvious near term beneficiaries of the Google Lunar X Prize,” said the Google Lunar X Prize website. “It is expected that the advancements made by the teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize will allow NASA and other space agencies to save money and expand the capabilities of its future robotic and human missions to the Moon.”

“Indeed, this has already begun to happen—ahead of schedule—with NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program,” the Google Lunar X Prize website continues, “through which NASA will purchase $30 million worth of data from commercial lunar missions.”

Free Art (and More) on the House

If you’re stuck wondering what to do on a summer Thursday, try visiting some amazing museums—for free! On every first Thursday of the month, new and old museums open the doors to anyone who wants to check out their art collections. Don’t limit yourself to just one museum each Thursday—try to visit as many as you can with our nifty list of twelve museums, all conveniently locatable by Google Maps. All of the museums are located around the Seattle area, in relatively easy driving distance of one another.

The museums that are participating in Free Thursdays are: the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Center on Contemporary Art, the Frye Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, the Imagine Children Museum, the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, the Museum of Flight, SAM’s Olympic Sculpture park, the Museum of History and Industry, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), the Seattle Asian Museum, the Volunteer Park Museum and the Wing Luke Asian museum.

If you’re an art buff, the best place to start is at the SAM, which hosts both a permanent collection and rotating exhibits. The experience is enhanced by the free audio guides, which offer more information on specific pieces.

“There is going to be the nature and life exhibit during on the Thursday for anyone to enjoy,” said Stephanie Jones, a local receptionist at the SAM. “Anyone is allowed to come and spend the whole day enjoying all the exhibits.”

If Thursday happens to be a nice day, you could also stroll around the SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, relax with a view of the waterfront, and maybe catch a bite to eat at a local eatery.

While the SAM has a lot of different culturally diverse programs and venues, the Frye Art Museum showcases the world of modeling and sculpture. It also offers visitors chances to learn more with special lectures. The current showcase includes a course that provides “in-depth explorations of historic, modern, and contemporary art through illustrated lectures and discussions. Art historian Kolya Rice offers a fresh and insightful look at American art from the nineteenth century to the present in Masters of American Art.”

If your interests lean more towards history, you should visit the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Its mission is to “enrich lives by preserving, sharing and teaching the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the nation,” and it does this by showcasing artifacts and exhibits that bring history to life.

One current exhibit is And Now for Something Completely Different, which “honors some of the most quirky … and the most scary” artifacts housed in the MOHAI archives. It includes everything from a woman’s hat with turkey legs on top to scarificator used in bloodletting.

Serious foodies should head over to the Burke Museum for one of their newest exhibits: Salish Bounty—Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound. The exhibit “connects archaeological and historical research about thousands of years of food traditions in the Puget Sound area to current efforts to revitalize these food traditions in the region.” It includes historic photos, real food ingredients, audio and video of Coast Salish people talking about food, and artifacts from the Burke collection that have never before been exhibited in public.

If you’re in the mood to go out and do something instead of wandering around a gallery all day, go to the Center for Wooden Boats down at Lake Union. You can rent a boat to take out for the day, or if you feel like you’re not quite up to that, you can take a class instead.

Shredding the Speed Limit

The SSC Tuatara's design was developed by Jason Castriota, who has designed for the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and Stile Bertone.

Shelby Supercars (SSC), a Washington-based company, is aiming to make their new SSC Tuatara the fastest production car in the world.

The Tuatara was released last year, and has been showcased at various auto shows, among them the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Dubai Auto Show.

Its major competitor and the current record holder is the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which carries a 16-cylinder engine capable of 257 mph. The Super Sport carries behind it the full weight and resources of the Volkswagen group. SSC, by comparison, is David to Bugatti’s Goliath—a tiny company with only two cars to its name—but it’s not going down without a fight.

Part of the reason the Tuatara is unique is for the same reason as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—it’s built almost completely out of carbon fiber. Except for aluminum crash structures, the Tuatara’s frame is all carbon fiber. SSC has gone above and beyond in this department by even making the wheel out of carbon fiber—the first of its kind in the world.

By using carbon fiber, the Tuatara’s ‘curb weight’ tips the scales at only 2,750 pounds, the same as its predecessor, the SSC Ultimate Aero (the former record holder). In comparison, the Super Sport weighs just over 4,000 pounds.

The Tuatara’s relatively tiny weight combined with its 1350 bhp at 6800 rpm horsepower lowers its horsepower-to-weight ratio to two pounds per horsepower—a new world record for production cars. A lower horsepower-to-weight ratio means that each horsepower has less ‘stuff’ to move, allowing for greater power. Theoretically, this power will push the Tuatara to its projected top speed of 276 mph.

In addition to its technical marvels, the Tuatara also serves as a platform for new design ideas. Its exterior design is heavily based around aerospace, and includes a long, low profile, two winglets, and a seating compartment visually reminiscent of a fighter jet’s cockpit. The interior also takes design cues from the cutting edge of the aerospace world, and features a heads-up display for the driver.

“With a car that is capable of this type of speed,” Jerod Shelby (no relation to the famed Carroll Shelby), the founder and CEO of SSC, said in an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, “you don’t want to be taking your eys off the road and looking down at gauges.”

The Tuatara also provides “a unique, yet thrilling experience to its passengers” by including two small screens that provide the co-pilot information “about the vehicle and their current experience, like its current speed, RPM or BHP.” According to the SSC website, “The Tuatara is one of the first production vehicles in the world to give this level of attention to the driving experience of the passenger.”

In addition to developing the Tuatara, SSC has also made plans to establish a new factory for the car in Richland, Washington. The new plant is expected to be opened in 2013, and construction has already started. The location was chosen to take advantage of the skilled contractors in the area. It’s fitting that some of those who work for Boeing will soon be helping to build an airplane-inspired car.

“The expertise of Pacific Northwest labor, because of Boeing and all the carbon fiber technologies, is quite impressive,” said Shelby in an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal.

According to the SSC website, “This 36,000 square foot facility, specially designed for the production of the Tuatara is equipped with the latest technology and features a dedicated R & D space for development of all future products.” It will be capable of producing 48 cars per year, and will also serve as a showroom for prospective buyers.

“This [the factory] is like an operating room,” said Shelby in an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Specs for Veyron:

257 mph-Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

1500 Nm at 3000–5000 rpm – Torque

 

Possible prices for Tuatara:

$970,000 —http://www.thesupercars.org/ssc-aero/2012-ssc-tuatara/

$1.3 million

~$1,000,000 USD —http://www.supercars.net/cars/5092.html

$1.3 million —UPDATE 12/06/2011, http://www.topspeed.com/cars/ssc/2012-ssc-tuatara-ar100402.html

1.3 million —http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/print-edition/2012/01/13/the-shelby-supercar-costs-13m-and.html?page=all

Info on the Tuatara:

http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1068505_ssc-tuatara-interior-revealed-video

-according to SSC, the main gauge cluster area is a glass screen lit up by rear projectors and acts like a heads-up display. On the driver’s side, two smaller HUD displays are located on each side of the steering column; their design is inspired by the Tuatara’s rear winglets. On the right, the HUD displays the current gear of the car, and is flanked by a shift indicator light tree that provides the driver with valuable shift timing information.

-The Tuatara, first revealed over a year ago, will be powered by a bespoke aluminum V-8 displacing 7.0-liters and developing 1,350 horsepower and 1,042 pound-feet of torque thanks to a pair of turbochargers. The engine should willingly rev to 9,200 rpm and is claimed to be capable of propelling the Tuatara from 0-60 mph in just 2.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 275 mph.

SSC Website:

Horsepower:

1350 bhp @ 6800 rpm

Torque:

1042 ft-lbs @ 6800 rpm

Redline:

9200 rpm

Body/Frame:

Carbon Fiber/Carbon Fiber/Aluminum Crash Structures

Wheels:

One-Piece Carbon Fiber, Standard

Dry Weight:

2,750 lbs.

Weight to Horsepower Ratio:

2.0 lbs/hp – New Production Car Record!

Weight Distribution F/R:

Front: 44%

Rear: 56%

Wheel Base:

105.0″

Length:

174.4″

Width:

78.4″

Height:

43.0″

Ground Clearance:

4.0″

http://www.sscnorthamerica.com/news-012612.php Stuff on the new facility in Richmond, WA

http://www.sscnorthamerica.com/news-111011.php On the interior of the Tuatara

Sentence that’s not fitting: The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’s (limited) top speed is 257 mph, and it carries behind it the full weight and resources of the Volkswagen group. SSC, by comparison, is David to Bugatti’s Goliath—a tiny company with only two cars to its name.

Mods Make Un-Modded Mad

        Recently, the growing use in daily life of mods – computerized and genetically designed enhancements to the human body – has led to a significant imbalance between those who can afford modifications and who can’t, and this opportunity gap is particularly prevalent and problematic in education.

        At BRI™AHS, the rigorous program only highlights the problem.

        “You can really see whose parents have bought them mods and whose haven’t,” said T-3, the AI who teaches the Coca-Cola™ sophomore history class. “The modders are the ones who breeze through the tests and score high every time. The un-modded usually suffer a school-related breakdown about once a week. And, of course, there’s the fact that modded kids have eyes that glow every time they uplink to the Internet.”

        It’s not just the teachers who’ve noticed the difference.

“Some of the richer kids have these mods that let them retain more information for tests,” said Jay Brando, a junior, “but the rest of us only have our un-augmented brains. I stay up really late every night and I barely get a passing grade, and they just waste their time but get all A’s. It’s not fair that they get a better grade without even working for it!”

However, some modded students disagree.

“Sure, there’s some who just use their mods to float by,” said Laika Swanson, a junior who has one of the retaining-info mods. “But I use it to work harder. I study more every night now that I know it won’t be lost. Some of the complainers don’t realize that I’m staying up past one in the morning in order to score high on my tests.”

The inequality doesn’t only happen in academics. It’s also showing up in sports—on the high school, college, and professional levels—as athletes choose to mod their bodies to give them more of an advantage.

“I participate in the Sea-Doo swim team,” said Rooibos Tyle, a freshman. “I got a full-body mod last summer to help my performance, and it’s shaved seconds off my time. The downside is that people call me blow-hole ‘cause I look kind of like a dolphin, and throw anchovies at me during swim meets. But the trophies I won are worth it.”

Beneath the obvious cheating problems, a larger social issue lurks.

“If you’re lower-middle class or poor, most of the mods are over your budget,” says Uile Yoritz, a lobbyist for mod equality. “We’re seeing a real problem here—those with mods are far more likely to achieve than those without, and mods just aren’t being spread evenly through society.”

At BRI™AHS, the McDonald’s™ ASB has decided to start holding drives to raise money for the students who can’t afford basic learning mods (direct uplink to Skynet, textbook downloaders, etc.).

“We’re aware that this is a big problem,” says Ethan Worves, the McDonald’s™ ASB president, “so we started holding drives. So far we’ve managed to raise enough to buy two students basic mod packs.”

 ASB—we’re runnin’ it!” added Worves.

Others at BRI™AHS are taking a different path. These students call themselves Rejectors, and they believe that the best way of solving a problem is to remove the cause.

“If we as a society can just stop our obsession with mods, we can stop the inequality they cause,” said Ron Updike, a junior and part of the new Rejector clique. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford something if no one uses that technology.”

In addition to stopping inequality, Rejectors also believe in the abilities of the unaugmented human.

        “We’re humans, not AIs,” said Aaron Brown, a senior. “We were meant to look human and to use our brains as they are. We’ve done amazing things as just humans—we achieved flight, we went to the moon, we colonized Mars. We’re fine the way we are.”

An Inkling of Creativity

The new Inkling transforms sketches into digital drawings

By allowing artists to store their sketches done in the ‘real world’ in an electronic format, the new Wacom Inkling removes the need for hours of tedious scanning and retouching.

The Inkling comes in two parts: a receiver and a pen. Users simply clip the receiver to the top of the paper and start drawing. The receiver tracks the pen’s placement on the paper with ultrasonic and infrared, while the pen itself uses a pressure sensor to record the thickness of the lines. This is then stored inside the receiver for later download. Users can even store layers of a single drawing.

“Inkling can export with layers directly to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as Autodesk SketchBook Pro and SketchBook Designer,” said Wacom’s website. “You can create layers with Inkling both during the sketching process and within the Sketch Manager Application [when you upload to the computer].”

“The ability to jot down concepts and pictures virtually anywhere and have them stored in a vector format for editing later is fantastic,” said Patrick Shettlesworth, a concept artist who beta-tested the prototype Inkling. “Vector is a type of digital art that makes a picture up out of points and curves rather than pixels. The upside to this is that you can resize your art to any resolution without losing fidelity.”

This ability to scale up a picture without losing resolution is particularly important, since according to the Wacom website, the Inkling can’t record any paper size larger than an eight by eleven inch rectangle.  The artist can use as big of a piece of paper as they want; they just have to make sure to move the receiver around to capture the whole drawing.

Inkling is the perfect tool for artists in the entertainment industry, where having access to sketches made in meetings can make the creative process much easier.

“Inkling works best for sketches that are used at the beginning of the creative process,” said the Wacom Inkling website, “such as rough concept illustrations and storyboards.”

“I see this mostly being used as a tool for meetings,” said Shettlesworth. “There are some professional art jobs requiring a fairly agile artist. Storyboarding comes to mind. Being able to sit in a room with the director or writers and scribble down sequential scenes that you could later take back to a computer and uprez [increase resolution] to make final art boards from would be very useful.”

Before paying almost two hundred dollars for the Inkling, amateur artists should remember that though it is a useful tool, it may not be the best choice.

“I think anything that makes you draw on a regular basis is a good tool,” said Shettlesworth. “However, I don’t see the Inkling becoming a staple of most artists’ careers.”

In addition, the Inkling can’t yet totally replace a simple paper sketchbook for easy on-the-go drawing.

“If the receiver shifts or slips on the paper at all, the whole drawing will go off register. It also only works on a completely flat surface so you can’t just clip it to the top of a sketchbook and hold it in your lap while you doodle,” said Shettlesworth. “It needs to be laying down on a table. Also, it has problems in direct sunlight—messes with the signal somehow.”

There is also the fact that the Inkling only works with pen. Not all artists enjoy using ink as their medium for sketching, and many feel like a pencil would be easier to work with.

“I like using a pencil so I can draw lightly and edit my sketch with an eraser before laying down darker, final lines,” said Shuttlesworth. “The Inkling has no sense of what is sketch and what is final… when you download the art to a computer you can just delete the sketch layer from your download and keep the final art layer. It takes some getting used to.”

Security Efforts & Concerns Grow

At Aviation High School, students worry about the safety of their data while teachers bemoan the lack of a high level computer skills program.

Schools are at a higher level of digital security risk because they have less control over their servers. “The main difference for an IT Administrator of an academic institution versus a corporate network is the fact that most school IT admins do not have control over the PCs that are connecting to their network,” says Hiep Dang, director of operations for web and email security at digital security company McAfee, “They have to allow students to connect to the school’s network, keep it safe, while not impacting their students’ ability to learn. In the corporate world, all PCs are owned by the company and it can set policies to allow or not allow certain software to be installed.”

The threat of hacking is high even for students on campus. Students have to know how to protect their Internet-accessible technology, especially when they might be using unsecured Wi-Fi or unsecured internet access lines.

“Students are now using multiple Internet connected devices more than ever. If these devices, such as smart phones, laptops and Macs, are not protected then they are more vulnerable to identity theft, malware, hacking, viruses and other potential hazards,” says Dang, “These assets include things like homework files, resumes, music downloads, entertainment files, and digital photos.”

                 

To properly protect their computers, all users need to have at least a small degree of computer literacy.

 

“Here’s the thing: a lot of people my age say that oh, the kids know computers better than they do,” said AHS Programming teacher Nik Joshi, “It’s been my experience that kids don’t really know how to use computers. They know how to download music, they know how to use the Web, they may be comfortable with it, but they don’t know how the computer works. Most kids don’t know how to set up a network, or if they do set up a network, they don’t know how to fix a problem on the network. And I think these are useful skills.”

        

If AHS were to be hacked, students’ personal information would be at risk. Even if one only considers the assignments saved on the server, this becomes a problem. A malicious student could delete other students’ hard work. If such a thing happened right before a major deadline, grades could plummet as a result. Teams such as Skunkworks Robotics and Science Olympiad who save their documentation for awards on the school server could find themselves out of the running in competitions.

The situation would become even more harrowing if the hacker was an adult. The district’s Student Information System (eSIS), located at the district offices (ERAC), holds medical records, parent contact information, student contact information–even social security numbers.

     

Some security can be purchased. Cyber security giant McAfee offers packages that range from covering a single computer to protecting a whole school.        

However, Aviation High school doesn’t use McAfee security; instead, it uses Highline School District-provided Microsoft Forefront Client Security, and its computers are protected on the Internet by iPrism. iPrism is used to block mature or potentially malware-infested sites. In addition, it blocks pop-ups that could potentially lure students into downloading malicious programs.

“Don’t think of iPrism limiting students’ access but rather protecting the students, staff and school district from malware, spyware, and inappropriate content,” says Ty Ivy, Aviation’s resident computer support technician. He says, “It also helps enforce acceptable use and security policies. iPrism Web Filter enables the district to mitigate the risks of legal liability, prevent security breaches and stop the erosion of network resources.”

Most students resent the iPrism security simply because it hampers their ability to surf the web.

iPrism just straight out annoys me, and that’s mainly because of the purpose that I like to explore the web all over the place, and it’s very limiting,” says Paula Cieszkiewicz, a junior at Aviation High School, “Yet at the same time I can understand it’s purpose, that it’s intended to limit our exposure to certain things on the Internet that may not be school appropriate. I believe it’s too limiting though. … The system is intended to be useful, yet at times it’s so over the top that I see it as being a burden rather than a a tool.”

Elsewhere, there has been some fear that teaching students to become computer-literate will invite hacking. At AHS, a known STEM school, the attitude is different. “Whether a student poses a threat or not is a measurement of a student’s character,” says Joshi, “Whether that student chooses to do positive things with the computer or negative things with the computer speaks to that student’s personal character and ethics; it says nothing to the relation to whether they know how to use a computer or not.”

Those in the corporate world agree. “Hacking is a skill, but it’s the intentions of the hacker that makes it bad,” says Dang, “Similar to Star Wars, where both Jedi Knights and the Sith have the powers to use the Force. The Jedi have dedicated their lives to using their powers for good, where the Sith use the Force for evil. Hopefully, teachers and parents will teach their students/children to use their education and skills for the purposes of good rather than evil.”

However, even student hackers aren’t necessarily malicious. “For students, it’s usually due to curiosity and sometimes bragging rights to their friends that they were able to do something,” says Dang.

Joshi agrees.

“Often, the kids who try to hack into systems, they’re very bright, they’re very enthusiastic, they’re passionate about this,” says Joshi, “and they’re exactly the kind of kids we want to teach. They have the characteristics we want every student to have, to be passionate about something and want to work on it in their spare time. It’s just that we don’t recognize these kids and, to use a comic book term, we don’t let them use that power for good. So they naturally look at other challenges.”

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