Lights Out! Penn State Students and Researchers Face the Apocalypse

21 Feb

A lot of people think that scientists and researchers spend all their days and a lot of their nights toiling away in sterile, dimly lit labs, sequestered from students and the rest of the university community. Every once and a while, they may shout “Eureka!” to an unaware, but appreciative group of students and staff as they uncover the cure for a disease or add an extra letter to a really cool-looking math equation.

That’s not how research is done at Penn State. You’ll find research and teaching are tightly woven together in a positive feedback loop here. Research inspires lessons, which inspires students, which, in turn, inspires more research.

That’s especially helpful when you face an apocalypse.

Penn State IST Professor of Practice Col. Jake Graham is leading a group of students in his Security and Risk Analysis Capstone course (SRA 440W) through an exercise that is part emergency awareness exercise and part live action role-playing game. I might add that the only thing missing from this scenario that would make it a script for a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster would be a roving band of zombies. (Maybe next semester?)

“The purpose of the SRA Capstone course, is to apply the knowledge, and skills achieved across  the Security and Risk Analysis curriculum in a culminating analytic experience to address a set of complex and dynamic security and risk phenomena,” Graham said. “This is achieved in a team-based, scenario-driven exercise — the Analytic Decision Game, or ADG.”

According to Graham, the scenario for this semester’s project is slugged “Lights Out.” Here’s the background: A solar flare fries just about every electronic device. Beyond not being able to check out the sports scores on your smart phone, it also means you won’t be able to cook, heat, drive a car and do just about everything else you’ve become accustomed to doing with modern technology. To put it crudely, the students — who are divided up into three communities, each with certain advantages and weaknesses — have become instant Amish, whether they converted to the faith or not.

“The research topic for this semester deals with the characterization of cyber-space in the year 2025,” Graham added. “The companion ADG for this semester deals with life in a post-cyber society, where students acting in leadership roles guide their respective communities through a series of cascading problems.”

Graham, who served as a Marine helicopter pilot and spent time ferrying United States presidents around in Marine 1, said that for the students in the project, the scenario raises a lot of questions. Do they cooperate with other town leaders? Do they conquer the other towns? Can they mitigate some of the catastrophic effects? Can they learn new skills and abilities to cope with the problem?

In the next few posts, we’ll hear from some of the students as they take their Penn State training, knowledge, and Brains! Brains! Brains! into the apocalypse.

3 Responses to “Lights Out! Penn State Students and Researchers Face the Apocalypse”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lights Out! Students Report on How They’re Facing the Apocalypse | Research Matters - February 28, 2013

    [...] In a recent blog post, we talked about Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology Professor of Practice Col. Jake Graham’s  Security and Risk Analysis Capstone course (SRA 440W). Students in the class face what Graham calls the “Lights Out” scenario. [...]

  2. Lights Out II: More Students Blog About Situation | Research Matters - March 14, 2013

    [...] What would you do if you were a community leader and your town was knocked off the grid? This is the focus of an IST Security and Risk Analysis Capstone course. This is the second edition in a series of student-written posts about their participation in this capstone course. In the future, we’ll feature more posts from the students as they progress through the Lights Out scenario. You can read the other student blog post, or check out some background information about the course in this post. [...]

  3. Lights Out III: Student Update on Exercise | Research Matters - April 3, 2013

    [...] Penn State researchers work closely with students. The Lights Out game scenario is one example of this interaction between researchers and students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. Here’s the idea: What would you do if you were a community leader and your town was knocked off the grid? This is the third edition in a series of student-written posts about their participation in this capstone course. In the future, we’ll feature more posts from the students as they progress through the Lights Out scenario. To learn more, check out some background information about the course in this post. [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,754 other followers

%d bloggers like this: