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Summer Camp 2020

July 31, 2020

Gamble

The gamble that paid off; what seemed impossible for a group of teachers and community college students to do was achieved this summer. Now that it is in the last weeks, I can talk about the camps we successfully executed.

The Idea

When the pandemic struck and we began retreating indoors in late February, I had to begin looking at the summer and make judgment calls with the limited amount of information with two teams. At the time, we were losing events such as SkillsUSA and redesigning other events on the fly, like our Regional Competition. Together, we made a decision to go ahead and make our camps completly virtual amid all uncertainty.

We made two major decisions that paid off: choosing specific subjects that can are unique and be covered in 3 hours with corresponding events in two hours; utilize multiple technologies for redundancy, efficiency and control while providing Cabrillo Tech Team and the campers the opportunity to use a wide range of technology. Thus the subjects of Digital Footprint, Python, Linux and Networking were chosen for Intro Camp; Cryptography, Digital Forensics, Web Application Exploitation and Malware Analysis for Advanced Camp. Some have Capture the Flags associated, others have activities on other sites or hosted by the Cabrillo Tech Team. Each topic would be presented to give a taste to the students without putting too much focus on any one subject. This allows students to gain a wider view into the world of Cybersecurity.

With everyone working from home, we worked to create a camp experience from the ground up that ended up replicated by the North Far North and Sacramento Regions.

Technology

Knowing we are working with many unknowns, we had to establish equity on our end. Two requirements were given to the students: they needed a computer with an up to date browser (Chrome/Firefox) and an Internet connection (DSL and up). Everything else fell on us.

All of this together created a multicloud infrastructure with many moving parts that created a wonderful experience for our campers. Discord provided the community element for all our campers stuck at home, Canvas provided the curriculum, Zoom the instruction, GCP the stable platform and Digital Ocean the afternoon activities. If it sounds like a lot, you are right; 4 teachers and 8 techs served 200 students/week utilizing all these technologies at once successfully.

Avoiding Mistakes from 2019 and Potential Pitfalls

This execution was not without controversy. For once, I chose against using the community college private cloud, Netlab, after last year's fiasco. We overloaded the private cloud to a painful point that was deterimental to our camps. By using this 2020 method, we put each camp in their own GCP region to prevent any one region from getting overloaded, using different projects and zones to minimize the potential of slowdown. Using a separate cloud for the content and competitions also allowed us to be flexible should anything go down unexpectedly. We built in redundancy to ensure everything worked no matter what. This paid off the week of July 17 when Cloudflare had an outage that affected Discord and Digital Ocean's CDN network. Our CTFs stayed alive and our students used Zoom to continue working through the outage.

Congrats and Thanks

Congratulations and Thank You to the people who made this possible:

Bay Area (content creators)

North Far North

Sacramento

Summer Camp 2021 will have three camps (beginning, intermediate, advanced) with more content for students to do, new things to learn and a continued expansion of the infrastructure we built this year. COVID did not bring us down!