Secrets of a Spy Station

Presented by PARI and Clemson University
Cryptography & Secret Messages set in a former spy base

Campers will explore the origins of codes and ciphers and how they have evolved from written messages to complex digital encryption methods in use today.  They will learn how to recreate these techniques themselves and crack the messages sent by their fellow cryptographers, all while reinforcing skills in math, language, and pattern recognition. 

What better setting than PARI, which once operated as a spy station for the Department of Defense during the Cold War, where messages were being intercepted and deciphered?  Another element in the sending of secrets is how you transport them from place to place.  We’ll take a look at the technologies, both past and present, that allow information to zip out to distant satellites and back down to Earth.  How do we make sure our sensitive transmissions don’t end up in the wrong hands?

From messages based on playing with words and numbers, to hiding information in plain sight in images and everyday objects, you’d never suspect all the ways cryptography is used all around us.  Campers will leave with an understanding of the principles that drive the world and keep our data safe.

Learn more about the camp and curriculum.

Dates & Pricing

June 25, 2023 – June 30, 2023
$50 registration fee

Payment plans available.

Scholarships may be available for families with financial need.

Age Groups

For Rising
6th-9th Graders

Quick Links

You have an important message to send, but you want to ensure that anyone who intercepts it cannot read it. What would you do?

  • Create a new alphabet made of symbols no one will recognize? 🔣
  • Replace letters with numbers and use a complex formula to change them? 
  • Hide your message inside another one?
  • Break it into pieces and send them all in different ways? 🧩

Camp Description

  • Apply Math skills in creative ways to form and decipher secret messages.
  • Learn to recognize patterns in the English language and how to use them to break codes.
  • Participate in challenges to crack messages written by other campers.
  • Discover cutting-edge techniques that keep the internet safe.
  • Explore the history of cryptography and how it has been used throughout time.
  • Campers will use radio communications dishes built by NASA to see how data is sent and received by satellites orbiting Earth.
  • Be immersed in a site that was once a top secret base to spy on the satellite communications of others.
  • PARI’s emphasis on community and teamwork enables campers to establish friendships that last a lifetime.  Many campers from this program return as interns and counselors.
  • Campers will participate in fun and engaging recreational activities built to encourage social comradery and confidence while exploring the spectacular Pisgah Forest and Blue Ridge Mountain region.

Surrounded by natural beauty in a forest perfect for adventure

PARI embraces our unique location with plenty of time outside of the classroom too.

Field Trips & Activities

  • Be surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest and take in amazing views.
  • Visit Clemson University to hear from rocket scientists about their cutting edge research and apply lessons learned to build and launch your own rockets.
  • Take a break with and get to know your fellow campers during our ice-cream social.
  • Toast marshmallows, make s’mores, tell stories, listen to music, and be dazzled by the atmosphere around our giant camp fire.
  • Compete in challenges to build the most powerful rocket or a lander that can withstand whatever it’s thrown at.
  • Design spacey t-shirts.
  • Search for the answers hidden around you in our camp long scavenger hunt.
  • Unwind in the rec room with board games, puzzles, pool-table, ping-pong, foosball, and air-hockey, or kick back and relax.
  • Master our signature game, PARI Ball

Without using writing or your voice, how would you send information to another person?

  • Blink different colors of light. 🚥
  • Change the brightness of a light. 💡
  • Punch holes in a piece of paper to project a pattern.

Academic Curriculum

  • Learn the variety of ways that letters can be represented by numbers, colors, patterns, and even stranger things.
  • Explore systems for communicating like Morse Code, Braille, ASCII, and Emoji.
  • Use radio telescopes and antennas to intercept data from satellites. Determine the methods being used to encode their transmissions using skills and techniques you’ve learned. Compare to examples you research on your own to back up your conclusions.
  • Practice mathematic techniques like modulation to shift numbers into different forms.
  • Analyze patterns in English words and sentences.
  • Encode information in pictures, sounds, and light.
  • Create a unique way to hide your own messages.
  • Crack the codes created by others.
  • Study the ways that data is encrypted as it travels through the internet.
  • Develop teamwork skills by collaborating with others while attempting to solve complex problems.

Register for Secrets of a Spy Station Camp
Presented by PARI and Clemson University

Get ready for camp with out of this world PARI accessories

Each pattern is available on a huge variety of items.  Click one to see everything you can choose from!