St. Mary's Academy students and faculty members pose after the CyberDiscovery Camp competition with the winning robot.
St. Mary's Academy students and faculty members pose after the CyberDiscovery Camp competition with the winning robot.

St. Mary’s Academy students and staff took first place in a robotics competition at Portland State University’s first ever CyberDiscovery Camp, which was held July 7-12.

They competed with seven teams from other area high schools.

St. Mary's Academy faculty members Mike Bedney and Ian Park led the group of six sophomores: Maria Grossen, Emily Humes, MaryCatherine Morgan, Laura Scully, Anna Steinhilber and Peyton Tierney.

"Six young women have walked away from this camp thinking about what challenges lie ahead with regard to ethical use of technology, cyber security, as well as possible career paths they might consider exploring,” said Bedney. “Education of this sort will be critical moving forward and it brings me comfort to know that the future leaders of SMA will be prepared for anything.”

At the camp, teams participated in a multi-layered security-based treasure hunt, solved a cryptography puzzle and programed a robot to negotiate a maze. The goal of the challenges was for the students to develop a better understanding of national cyber-security and ethical and social issues surrounding robotics.

St. Mary's Academy scored the most points for the duration of the camp and received a $1,250 award, which will fund projects for the academy’s Tech Club.

"I had some amazing discussions that changed my views on issues - like Edward Snowden and the leaking of secrets, whether or not robots should be allowed in law enforcement and if robots should have their own living quarters,” Grossen said.

For many of the events and activities, the Academy team partnered with the only other all-girls team - three students from Village Home Education Resource Center, a homeschooling community.

"We crushed the stereotype that girls aren't good at math or science," Hume said.