New Employee Spotlights

We’re pleased to introduce two new members of our team: Regional STEM Coordinators Ti’Era Worsley and Christine Hirst Bernhardt.

Ti’Era joins NOVA SySTEMic from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was a Postdoctoral Researcher working with historically marginalized youth in informal makerspaces at the local Boys and Girls Club. During her time there, Ti’Era worked with youth for six years in STEM education, overseeing various projects ranging from circuitry, coding, robotics, to construction.

Ti’Era describes herself as a “Certified Tinkerer,” a passion she developed during her childhood. This interest led her to earn a Bachelor’s in Agricultural and Environmental Engineering Technology and a Master of Natural Resources, both from North Carolina State University.

While pursuing her Master’s, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer through the Masters International program. From 2015 to 2017, Ti’Era served in Northern Peru as a Community-Based Environmental Manager, where she focused on raising awareness of environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources, and solid waste management (recycling).

Upon her return, she continued her work with youth and earned her Ph.D. in STEM Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Ti’Era is passionate about fostering community by placing a high value on building relationships with youth as they engage in STEM.

When she’s not working, Ti’Era enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Ti’Era can be reached at

Christine Hirst Bernhardt brings nearly two decades of experience teaching STEM and astronomy in both secondary and college. She is interested in using Earth and Space topics as a transdisciplinary gateway to STEM and conduit of agency, particularly in early learning.

In 2021-2022 she served in Congress as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow to advance federal STEM education initiatives. Her enthusiasm for all things space fostered the Excellence in Astronomy Teaching award and participation on NASA’s SOFIA mission. She has developed regional, State, and National materials such as a high-altitude balloon experiment program, the first student space symposium and an international space camp.

Christine identifies and addresses national needs in Earth and Space education as the US chair of the National Astronomy Education Coordinator team and US member of the Global Leadership in Earth Science Education. She is a PhD Candidate in STEM Education and holds Master’s in both Space Studies and Science Education.

A California native, Christine loves all things adventure; as a retired professional mountain biker, she’s often on the trails or the bike park when she’s not recovering from knee surgery. Christine has traveled to nearly 30 countries and is a proud boy mom of humans and dogs.

Christine can be reached at



NOVA’s Fab Lab Completes 2nd Product Design Incubator (PDI) Cohort

On June 14, the NOVA Fab Lab held a Product Design Incubator (PDI) Pitch Event at the Richard J. Ernst Community Cultural Center at the NOVA Annandale Campus.

Sixteen PDI fellows showcased their innovative product design ideas aimed at improving disaster readiness, financial education, closet assistance, timeliness, and cybersecurity.

The presentations were made to an audience that included 12 NOVA professors, four deans, past PDI fellows, and industry guests from Capital One, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), serial entrepreneurs from new startups, GDIT, Microsoft, and Amazon.

PDI, funded by the National Science Foundation, took place at NOVA’s Manassas campus and aimed to equip students with interdisciplinary product design skills. It was created in response to industry partners’ demand for candidates proficient in collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

Throughout the spring, students participated in entrepreneurship workshops, working in interdisciplinary groups to brainstorm, collect data, and develop solutions. Over the summer, they transformed their concepts into tangible products, creating marketing materials, pitches, and prototypes.

Richard Sewell, Fab Lab Coordinator, led the program, with IET Project Manager Chris Russell and Associate Professor of Business Administration Cameisha Chin serving as co-leads.

Cameisha shared, “Students engaged in meaningful collaborative efforts during the program. At times, they mitigated difficult decisions, mediated differences, and worked to achieve their goals on a timeline.  They produced outcomes that were meaningful to each member of their group based on the ideation methodology.”

Cybersecurity fellow Khan Richardson and Cloud Computing fellow Saugat Dhakal developed “blackbox,” a device that intercepts and monitors wireless signals using Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), which involves collecting and analyzing electronic signals and communication-related information.

Both students praised the program, with Khan stating, “We wouldn’t be at this event without the tools and the instructors that the Fab Lab provided us.” Saugat added, “The Fab Lab exposed us to people outside of our majors, and we learned how to use the UV and 3D printers, which made us more confident.”

Judy Marouf, Mohamed Aziz Laouiti, and Jonathan Bonilla created “closetpal,” a personal style assistance app that helps users plan outfits based on the weather, mood, and destination. Users can upload photos of their clothes, and over time, the app will get to know their style preferences better.

Mohamed explained, “I enjoyed working in a team and coming up with an idea that wasn’t my own. We were advised not to bring in our own ideas. They wanted us to start from scratch because that way, each team member owns a part of the product.”

Judy shared, “The really cool thing is that during the first two weeks of the program, we learned something new every day—printing, making t-shirts and stickers, and much more. We learned who we are as teammates, too, and that’s something you don’t usually get to do. I was so close to not applying because I was scared, but I’m so glad I did. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”

Cloud Computing fellow Camila Lemes Goncalves and engineering student Katie Velasco-Nunez designed “We Nudge,” an app that combines a navigation system with digital calendars, providing appointment reminders and traffic updates. Like “closetpal,” over time “We Nudge” will get to know users’ habits better.

Katie explained, “Camila and I were trying to figure out a common problem we had. After Mr. Russell asked several students why they were late, we came up with this idea. I love our project and was motivated to come to the Fab Lab, which I hadn’t known about until my engineering professor brought our class here. Mr. Sewell gave us the whole spiel, which definitely caught my attention.”

“Moolah,” a budgeting app for college students aged 18 to 25, was developed by cybersecurity student Robert Biliter, business and administration student Haritha Pisupati, computer science student Anosha Khairi, and computer engineering student Jaden Todd. A key component is to partner with colleges in order to keep the app free for students.

The team emphasized the supportive environment of the Fab Lab. Jaden said, “It’s a comfortable environment for both science and art students to meet and match up. It allows us to take ideas and turn them into reality.”

Haritha added, “I think it’s the aesthetic and the vibe itself. The environment helps you concentrate. It’s a place where you can meet people who are different from you and learn a lot from them.”

Team “Hermes Net,” consisting of business management student Stephanie Marino, engineering student  Helina Semu, engineering and welding student Matthew Manero, and general studies student Kyle Morrison, created an autonomous drone system that uses waypoint technology and cellular repeaters to deploy cellular service over disaster-struck areas.

Helina highlighted the importance of their product, saying, “Imagine you’re in an area that has been struck by a disaster. You can’t call for help, you can’t call your family. Your family’s trying to call you, but they can’t get to you. Imagine the relief it would provide to know that even if something like this happened to you, your calls could get through.”

“It’s an obvious physical need; you need to be able to call for help, but it’s also an emotional need. Even if you’re fine and your family’s fine, just knowing that is important,” added Kyle.

Fab Lab employee Jason Armstrong, who participated in PDI last year, said, “Seeing the pitches was really cool because I recognized all the hard work these students put in. I appreciated it more because I knew how challenging the program was.”

Richard Sewell expressed his admiration for the students’ dedication, saying, “It’s always amazing to see what students come up with and how far they take it when push comes to shove. Their answers showed how much time they spent thinking about logistics.”

The event acknowledged the invaluable contributions of faculty mentors, directors, deans, speakers, and industry partners who provided guidance and feedback to the students throughout the program.

PDI Entrepreneur Group Spotlight: Hermes Net and We Nudge

NOVA Fab Lab’s Product Design Incubator (PDI): From Idea to Reality 

Sixteen NOVA fellows from various academic fields, including business administration, computer science, engineering, and more, participated in NOVA Fab Lab’s second Product Design Incubator (PDI), funded by the National Science Foundation.

Fab Lab Coordinator Richard Sewell is the program lead, with IET Project Manager Chris Russell and Associate Professor of Business Administration Cameisha Chin serving as co-leads.

“The goal of PDI is to take students without any design experience and help them create a fully formed idea,” Chris explained.

Fellows learned entrepreneurship skills during six spring semester workshops, designed and prototyped a project during a summer product design incubator, pitched their project to regional entrepreneurs, and received a stipend upon completion.

To start, five groups of fellows brainstormed ideas using the Disagio Model. “Disagio” is an Italian word meaning “discomfort” or “unease.” A disagio is something that bothers you, a source of a problem that recurs in your mind over and over again. After identifying numerous disagi, groups chose one that resonated with all of them. Here we take a closer look at two of our groups: Hermes Net and We Nudge.

Hermes Net

Engineering student Helina Semu, engineering and welding student Matthew Manero, general studies student Kyle Morrison, and business management student Stephanie Marino designed “Hermes Net,” a product that uses drones to provide cellular service to areas affected by natural disasters. Hermes Net is named after Hermes, the Greek god known as the “messenger.”

Kyle explained, “During a natural disaster, local cell towers are often down, causing phones to connect to distant towers, which then become overloaded. Our drones, positioned higher in the air with a better line of sight, would receive signals from the phones and distribute the load to more distant cell towers, alleviating the congestion.”

Embarking on such an ambitious project was both exciting and challenging. “There are various aspects to our project including aerospace, electronics, communications, business, and organization,” Matthew said.

Other challenges included being unable to find information about a specific drone they were interested in, including its cost and size, and having difficulty finding products to compare theirs to, considering their particular product hasn’t been designed before.

Despite these challenges, when asked if they would recommend PDI to their NOVA peers, they replied with a collective, “Absolutely.” They mentioned gaining technical skills, soft skills, public speaking skills, discovering new passions, graphic design, Adobe, 3D printing, soldering, and more.

“I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s well-structured, fun, and I’ve learned so much in so little time,” Helina said.

“I loved working with this team,” Stephanie shared. “I loved the aspect of interdisciplinary collaboration because we have such a wide range of talents. It felt like our project had a life of its own—we got to know it as we created it.”

“It’s been amazing getting to know our mentors, teachers, and guest speakers,” NOVA PDI fellow Stephanie Marino said. “They openly shared things they’ve learned along the way and mistakes they’ve made. It made me appreciate the wealth of knowledge this school has. This project and the Fab Lab are wonderful.”

We Nudge

While four fellows collaborated on the “Hermes Net” project, two fellows,  Cloud Computing student Camila Lemes Goncalves and engineering student Katie Velasco-Nunez, designed “We Nudge,” an application that merges a navigation system and digital calendars and sends appointment reminders and traffic updates.

They came up with the idea after noticing how often classmates, as well as themselves, arrived five to ten minutes late to class. “We call it the lateness syndrome,” Katie said.

“We text each other: I’m running late today. I forgot to grab my cell phone. I parked far away today. I left home late. Just little things that make you late. A lot of people feel a connection with our project—being late is a big issue,” Camila shared.

“It’s been interesting to research how being late affects not only the person who is late, but also the person(s) who has been waiting for them,” she added.

Although Camila and Katie were originally part of a team of four, two members of their group exited the program along the way. They were given the option to split up and join other groups or invite others into their group, but they decided to stick together as a team of two. In effect, their workload increased, but so did their trust, connection, and communication.

Both of them recommend PDI as well as the Fab Lab. “It’s been fun getting to learn new things, creating a website, and seeing our project come together,” Katie said. “Resources in the Fab Lab helped a lot.”

“I applied to PDI after I found out about all of the resources in the Fab Lab, including the 3D printer and the laser machine. It’s a great program and will look good on my resume,” Camila said.

NOVA Fab Lab’s PDI shows how teamwork across different fields can lead to innovative ideas. The skills and experiences these students gained will help them in their future careers.

NOVA Student Success Spotlight In IET: Muhammed Saleh

“I absolutely recommend NOVA. The professors are amazing, and there are a lot of opportunities here. I’m grateful for NOVA.”
~ Muhammed Saleh

Muhammed Saleh recently completed the Network Engineering Specialist C.S.C. certificate at NOVA and is set to graduate this summer with an associate degree in cybersecurity. His journey has been marked by his active involvement in various initiatives and clubs, particularly the Nighthawks Cloud, NOVA’s IET Cloud Computing Club at the Woodbridge campus.

He joined Nighthawks Cloud last spring and was soon elected as its president. The club, which boasts over 200 members, includes 20 active participants who attend in-person sessions, while others engage online. Active members gather on Thursdays at the Manassas campus for hands-on projects (prospective members can visit the Nighthawks Cloud website at and join the Discord server for club information and event updates).

Last summer, Muhammed furthered his practical knowledge by completing an internship with VAE, Inc., a company renowned for providing top-tier infrastructure solutions to government and commercial clients. His manager introduced him to various departments within the company, allowing him to work with project management and ID management teams. His responsibilities included IT tasks and assisting in racking and configuring servers, providing him with invaluable hands-on experience.

Following his internship, Muhammed was hired part-time at NOVA as a lab support technician. For six months, he split his time between the Woodbridge and Manassas campuses, where he provided lab assistance and collaborated on projects with professors. “Working at NOVA was a great experience because I gained hands-on experience and exposure,” he said.

Currently, Muhammed works full-time remotely as a network engineer for Light Professional IT Services, a company specializing in computer security services. In this role, he serves as the point of contact for clients experiencing DDOS attacks, escalates issues to the cybersecurity team when necessary, and upgrades networks and projectors.

He also manages the NSF building’s network, ensuring the proper connection and functionality of IP cameras, access points, WiFi, IoT devices, and printers. “It’s fun. My team is really amazing and experienced, so they help me because I’m a newbie, but I learn every single day,” he said.

Muhammed strongly recommends that NOVA cybersecurity students pursue internships and obtain industry certifications from CompTIA or Cisco to enhance their knowledge and improve their job prospects. “This can deepen your industry knowledge and increase your chances of getting hired,” he advised.

With a passion for lifelong learning, Muhammed’s long-term goals include earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and he aspires to become a professor one day.

Design Challenge Winners Honored at Fab Lab

“You won’t believe the energy and atmosphere you’ll experience at the Fab Lab. Watching young people design, fabricate, and create makes me feel optimistic about our future and humanity.”
~ Elena Ziu, NOVA Physics Professor

In early May, students who emerged victorious in NOVA’s 6th biannual Design Challenge were honored at an awards ceremony held at the Fab Lab. This year’s challenge tasked middle school, high school, and post-secondary students with designing products to improve the well-being of animals.

Entries were evaluated based on creativity, aesthetics, feasibility, and effectiveness. The competition welcomed middle school, high school, homeschool, and post-secondary students, allowing both individual participants and teams of up to three.

David De Costa, a student from Bishop Ireton High School, earned the grand champion title with his innovative “FoxWatch.” Recognizing the essential role that foxes play in the ecosystem and the dangers they face from fast-moving vehicles, David designed a device to help protect them. “I came up with this idea after noticing all the dead animals on the side of the road. I was inspired to create something to prevent that, and I hope my design will succeed,” David explained.

The “FoxWatch” features two concave parabolic mirrors: one shaped like a fox and the other resembling a traditional street warning sign. These mirrors reflect the headlights of oncoming cars to the sides of the road, especially at night when foxes are most active. The reflected light aims to momentarily dazzle the fox with brightness until the vehicle has passed. This system also enhances the visibility of foxes and other animals for drivers, thereby creating a safer environment for all.

As the grand champion, David received a Prusa MK4 3D printer, while the division champions were each awarded a Prusa Mini+ 3D printer.

Hauris Choudhry, representing NOVA, won the College Winner title with his creation, “HexaHive,” designed to promote honey bee habitats. Given the critical role honeybees play in the ecosystem and agriculture, and the challenges they face due to declining populations, Hauris crafted a compact and affordable 3D design of a bee colony. He modeled it after the traditional commercial bee box but included additional features. “I came up with the idea while driving through downtown Fairfax. I noticed all the apartments without backyards and thought a bee box could be a way to bring nature to the balconies,” Hauris explained.

Sean Fajardo from West Springfield High School won the High School Winner award for his “Bird Blocker” design, which aims to reduce the millions of bird deaths annually due to collisions or electrocutions. As urban development and deforestation displace birds, they are forced to nest in hazardous areas like power lines and wind turbines.

Sean’s design, made from wood and reflective metal, is cost-effective and easy to assemble. The “Bird Blocker” is placed between power line conductors to deter birds from landing, thanks to the reflective surface, encouraging them to relocate to safer areas. “I’m surprised that I won since my design is simple and can easily be made with wood, but maybe that’s what makes it a good design,” Sean said.

Middle School Winners Avery Woods and Marla Bud from The Potomac School devised “NailedIt!” after surveying classmates who own dogs about nail trimming, a task many dogs dislike, including Marla’s. They designed a clear, plastic box with a piece of sandpaper on top. Dogs scratch the top to reach a treat inside, which files their nails in the process.

Hudson Walker from the Academies of Loudoun High School received an honorable mention for his “Turtle Tunnel.” This design consists of two quarter-circle pieces that can be joined to form a safe tunnel for baby turtles traveling from land to sea, protecting them from predators and guiding their path. “I focused on the feasibility aspect of the design,” Hudson explained. “There are many coasts worldwide, so I aimed to create something affordable that can be mass-produced anywhere with a very simple design.”

Judges included Gillian Backsu, Ph.D., a NOVA biology professor; David Tuohey, a senior process engineer at BAE Systems in Manassas; and Dr. Bonnie Lefbom, a scientist, leader, and philanthropist.

Physics Professor Elena Ziu and her son Mihai, both avid participants in the NOVA Makers community, along with the Fab Lab staff, supported students throughout their design challenge journey. A big thank you to them, the judges, and our sponsor, BAE Systems!

NOVA Students Showcase Award Winning Projects at the Fab Lab

The Fab Lab Showcase Exhibition was held on May 10 at the Trailside Atrium on the Manassas Campus. The event featured a wide array of projects by talented NOVA Makers, including engineering, art, and SkillsUSA students. The showcase demonstrated the creativity and technical skills of NOVA Makers, supported by the resources and collaborative spirit of the Fab Lab team.

Student highlights included:

Projects from Bryan Jimenez and Mihai Ziu, who are both NOVA Makers and Fab Lab employees:

Bryan created a BMO character inspired by Adventure Time. “I wanted to use my Raspberry Pi for an interesting project, so I decided to use the 3D printer in the Fab Lab to create something useful,” he shared.

Mihai has created many projects in the lab, including 3D-printed rocket parts and laser-cut kaleidoscopes. “I’m part of the Team America Rocketry Challenge. Certain parts need to meet specific requirements, so I use the 3D printer. I also use a machine to create stickers for my projects,” he said.

Designs from engineering students Ryan Malatesta, Julious Figueroa, Sherina Williams, Shane Beasley, Erick Moreno, and Gabriel Cohen:

Ryan, a member of the Engineering Club, is building a C-130 aircraft with several club members. They’ve been using a CNC machine in the Fab Lab. “Since we’re trying to create curves and different shapes, it’s been challenging. It’s a difficult process, but the Fab Lab team has been helping us,” he explained.

Julious designed a Wireless Power Transfer Through Electromagnetic Induction. “The idea came from a class prompt about wirelessly charging a phone with a shirt,” he explained.

Sherina, Shane, Erick, and Gabriel built a Vertical Lift Bridge-Track Tower. “Our project is a vertical lift bridge designed to adjust to a boat’s height. The motors lift using two pulleys with equal wiring on both sides, ensuring simultaneous movement. We encountered several problems but found solutions,” Sherina said.

Projects from NOVA Makers Nguyen Phuc Be and Rayna Roades:

Nguyen fabricated his Kayn HeartSteel Cosplay costume entirely in the Fab Lab. “One day my physics professor took us on a tour of the Fab Lab. Afterwards, I became a NOVA Maker and have learned a lot in the Fab Lab,” he said. Nguyen won the People’s Choice/Favorite Project and received $50 Fab Lab credit for future projects.

Rayna said, “All the adults in the Fab Lab, engineering, and STEM department have been so helpful. I enjoy collaborating, especially in places like the Fab Lab. Even though I’m still learning, like with 3D printing, I find it exciting. Whenever I need help, there’s always someone willing to assist, and I’m more than happy to return the favor by helping others with their projects.” Rayna designed a Cyborg Hand, Arcane Tree, and Forest Wonders.

Artwork from Dakota Rhodes, Madeleine Walter, Danny Fonseca, and Diana Maida:

Dakota, who is taking computer science classes and wants to get into robotics, shared, “I’d like to use my art skills to create robots and AI programs. I’m passionate about the environment and aim to develop a program that monitors and counteracts pollution. The Mechanization of Earth represents environmental preservation and the impact of technology on the planet,” he added.

Madeleine and her mom, a seamstress, designed a wearable art piece using the vinyl printer and created The Goblin using the 3D printer in the Fab Lab. “I’ve found I really like using the Fab Lab and doing all that kind of stuff, so I might do some physical art, too,” she said.

Danny shared, “I made my 3D art piece in the Fab Lab. I called it “Embrace” because it’s about embracing the ugly parts of yourself.”

Diana utilized a 3D printer in the Fab Lab to create her project, Sãkúron from Hêlslìā. “These are all things that I’ve created in my head,” she said.

SkillsUSA members: Lauren Traversa, Mateo Aguilar, Nyan Prkash, Heidy Sandoval, Alait Mesfune, Nick Cowen, Jonathan Solomon, Kanykei Korosheva, Maddie Gebremichael, and Ben Yam. (Several of these teams won gold at the Virginia State Leadership Conference and are heading to nationals).

Lauren, Mateo, and Nyan designed and fabricated their Automatic Dog Trainer for the SkillsUSA competition. They also submitted it to the Fab Lab’s design challenge. Lauren explained, “We didn’t include CAD designs, only pictures, which weren’t specific enough about the design and implementation. That was our mistake. We were so busy that we submitted it too quickly.”

Heidy and Alait submitted their commercial drone. They designed a course that replicated the state course, complete with different pads, balls, and hoops. “Mary and Justin helped us a lot in the Fab Lab,” Heidy said.

Nick designed a Papi-Beetleweight combat robot and Lego Battlebots. “I used the Fab Lab’s superior printers to 3D-print components and make aluminum sides for the robots. I made one robot almost entirely in the Fab Lab, and it competed well in a competition. The Fab Lab printers are so much better than what I have at home,” he shared.

Jonathan designed an Augmented Reality: A Way to Measure Without a Ruler. “The Fab Lab team helped so much with 3D printing. I had never used Fusion 360 or 3D printed anything before this. I couldn’t have done this project without them,” he shared.

Kanykei, Maddie, and Ben created an RC Airplane. Kanykei said, “The equipment and materials in the Fab Lab were very useful for our project.”

Professor Westerhoff also participated in the showcase with a project he designed for students in his Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 honor classes. “Inspired by a book on airfoils, I designed a project to connect calculus concepts with real-world applications,” he explained. “This project helped students see the practical application of calculus and enhanced their understanding of integral calculus and numerical methods,” he added.

Innovation at Data Center World 2024

“Whatever your career interests might be, somewhere in the data center industry there is a place for you.” ~ Alan Howard, Principal Analyst of Cloud & Data Research at Omdia

In April, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. buzzed with activity as over 2,600 data center and IT professionals gathered for Data Center World 2024. The 4-day event featured an impressive lineup of over 70 sessions, 130 speakers, and 220 exhibiting vendors.

The annual conference, organized by AFCOM, the leading authority in data center education and networking, offered a robust program that included keynote speakers, panel discussions, and case studies. Attendees delved into crucial topics such as demand trends, cooling considerations, colocation, edge computing, community relations, power management, and the impact of AI on data center operations

The annual conference, organized by AFCOM, the leading authority in data center education and networking, offered a robust program that included keynote speakers, panel discussions, and case studies. Attendees delved into crucial topics such as demand trends, cooling considerations, colocation, edge computing, community relations, power management, and the impact of AI on data center operations

Data Center World continues to be the premier event for professionals seeking to stay at the forefront of the rapidly evolving data center industry.

One of the standout sessions was “Where Will Your Next Data Center Be? Evolution of Demand Trends Across the Data Center Industry,” co-presented by Alan Howard, Principal Analyst of Cloud & Data Research at Omdia, Colby Cox, Managing Director of Americas at DC Byte, and Ed Socia, Insight Director of North America at datacenterHawk.

This session tackled the critical task of choosing data center service providers, emphasizing the long-term commitment and logistical challenges involved. The panelists provided valuable insights into the shifting landscape of user demand and its impact on provider decisions. They explored regional growth, leasing statistics, and demand trends across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), and the Asia Pacific region (APAC). Future industry growth drivers and location-related factors such as cost, proximity to IT staff and customers, power costs, tax incentives, and geographical risks were also discussed.

Ed Socia shared, “The Data Center Industry continues to witness significant growth, despite headwinds brought about by utility power challenges. This demand is driven largely by future space and power requirements being secured by cloud service providers and AI companies. Tight market conditions in existing data center markets are pushing operators to sub-markets, where they’re able to identify a path to power.”

Alan Howard added, “The world of data centers is little known to the general public, but most of us interact with data centers daily through our computers or phones without even knowing it. Every Facebook post, TikTok or Instagram interaction, or Amazon order requires the services of a data center. Plus, data centers are in a period of dramatic growth, and to be honest, the industry is desperate to attract new talent as much of the data center workforce is closing in on retirement.”

Highlighting the job opportunities in the data center industry, Howard said, “There are many jobs working inside of data centers that are exciting, rewarding, and pay well. But the industry is so much broader than that. Beyond the data centers themselves, there are tons of opportunities working for companies that make their business building or servicing data centers in some way. I’d say that whatever your career interests might be, somewhere in the data center industry there is a place for you.”

He also pointed out the industry’s resilience. “What makes the data center industry particularly unique is that it is rather recession-resistant. During periods of economic turmoil, like Covid, data centers are such a critical part of many companies’ operations that they are not likely to lay off employees.”

Colby Cox emphasized the global nature of data center opportunities, highlighting that while there are opportunities worldwide, the NOVA region will remain one of the most important data center markets.

NOVA’s SkillsUSA Students Bring Home the Medals!

NOVA Students Win 23 Medals at SkillsUSA State Championship!

At the SkillsUSA Virginia State Leadership Conference, held in Virginia Beach on April 23, students from NOVA won 14 gold medals, 5 silver, and 4 bronze!

Each gold medalist was declared a State Champion in their respective competitive event, including Additive Manufacturing, Commercial sUAS Drone, Computer Programming, Engineering Technology Design, Interactive Application and Video Game Development, Job Interview, Job Skills Demonstration Open, Principles of Engineering Technology, and Related Technical Math. All gold medalists qualified for the SkillsUSA National Championship in Atlanta in June.

In total, there were 8 individual champions and 6 team champions, consisting of a two-person and three-person teams. Below are the winning NOVA students and their respective events:

Competition # on team NOVA Student/SkillsUSA Member SkillsUSA Virginia State Leadership Conference 2024 Placement
Additive Manufacturing 2 Nickolas Cowen State Champion
Additive Manufacturing 2 Tariq Aldalou State Champion
Commercial sUAS Drone 2 Alait Mesfune State Champion
Commercial sUAS Drone 2 Heidy Sandoval State Champion
Computer Programming 1 Serhat Erdogmus
Computer Programming 1 Mohamed Aziz Laouiti State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Julio Gagnon
Engineering Technology Design 3 Misandratr’Avo Andriamasino


Engineering Technology Design 3 Thomas Choe
Engineering Technology Design 3 Lauren Traversa State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Mateo Aguilar State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Nyan Prakash State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Benjamin Yam
Engineering Technology Design 3 Kanykei Korosheva
Engineering Technology Design 3 Maddie Gebremichael
Interactive Application and Video Game Development 2 Cinthia Terceros State Champion
Interactive Application and Video Game Development 2 Ugur Aksu State Champion
Job Interview 1 Lemar Ali State Champion
Job Skills Demonstration Open 1 Liza Alekseeva State Champion
Principles of Engineering Technology 1 Jonathon Gebremichael
Principles of Engineering Technology 1 Claudio Molina State Champion
Tanjim Redhwan 1 Related Technical Math State Champion
Kiera White 1 Technical Drafting

Feedback from SkillsUSA students included the following:

Claudio Molina won 1st place in the Principles of Engineering category with his design of a car transmission. “Without support from NOVA, I wouldn’t have had the materials needed to build a five-speed manual transmission system,” Claudio said. “The Fab Lab in Manassas was particularly helpful. It provides a great work environment with a friendly, supportive staff who guided me on the materials and tools to use. Without the lab, I wouldn’t have been able to undertake this kind of project.”

Lauren Traversa, Mateo Aguilar, and Nyan Prakash took 1st place in the Engineering Technology Design category with their Automatic Dog Trainer.

“Without the resources provided by NOVA, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this,” Lauren said. “The help from faculty like Mary, along with the Fab Lab and resources such as 3D printers and various supplies, was crucial. They not only assisted us throughout the competition but also managed all the arrangements needed for the event. This support was critical to our success.”

“The most important aspect was Mary’s incredible support at the Fab Lab; she stayed late, which was really awesome,” Mateo says. “Having the Fab Lab open for extended hours was crucial. I’d like the Fab Lab to offer even longer hours. Most of us competing are based at the Annandale Campus, making it challenging to travel to the Manassas Campus where the Fab Lab is located. I’m really grateful for Mary’s flexibility. Moving forward, my next step is to develop the Automatic Dog Trainer into an actual product that I can sell.”

Kanykei Korosova, Benjamin Yam, and Maddie Gebremichael took 2nd place in the Engineering Technology Design for their Radio Control Airplane.

“It was great, honestly. Having support from the Fab Lab really made a difference,” Benjamin said. “Mary provided the materials on time, which was fantastic, allowing us to start working immediately. It was also nice to connect with other like-minded individuals involved in the project. Mary, Justin, and Andy were very supportive; they not only scheduled the trip to Virginia Beach but also organized the entire club and set up the competition. It provided a good platform. We were fortunate to have access to ample resources, which was a big plus.”

“This is my second time participating in SkillsUSA, which is awesome,” Kanykei said. “I felt more comfortable presenting this time; it just came naturally to me. I didn’t have to force anything, and surprisingly, there wasn’t much need for additional practice because of my previous experience. Overall, it was a good experience that gave me significant exposure to the field I’m entering.

“In terms of leadership, my involvement has been extensive. For example, I started the Virginia Tech Engineering Transfer Club and became the president of the Student Government Association (SGA). This allowed me to immerse myself in a community that was naturally aligned with my field. Becoming a leader in clubs related to my interests felt like a natural progression into SkillsUSA.”

“NOVA gave me the opportunity. There was help and support from mentors and professors,” Maddie said. “It helped me realize my potential. It was a great opportunity.”

Alait Mesfune and Heidy Sandoval took first place in the Commercial sUAS Drone event.

“I just wanted to give a shoutout to Mary and Justin at the Fab Lab. Their mentorship was crucial for us in the competition,” Heidy said. “Without their help, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Also, a big thanks to NOVA for making it all possible; without their funding and resources, we wouldn’t have been able to participate in this amazing opportunity. They set us up for success by providing us with study guides and drone equipment. And SkillsUSA, sponsored by NOVA? It was a blast! It gave me something to look forward to this semester, and I was able to make new friendships along the way!”

The State Leadership Conference allowed students to use the technical knowledge acquired in the classroom to solve real-world problems and apply what they had learned, with coaching and advising from industry professionals, in a competitive environment. Now, they have the chance to represent NOVA on the national stage!


IET Career Day at the AN Campus Has Students Looking at NOVA

Earlier this month we held our final 2024 NOVA IET Career Day at the Annandale campus to showcase our Information and Engineering Technology programs to over 85 high school students (after successful previous career days in March on other NOVA campuses where 300+ HS students attended).

Participants toured the campus, engaged in hands-on activities, and learned from industry professionals including Nick Dahal from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cameron Brown from Suffolk Construction, Greg Howard from Peraton, and Ryan Ammons and Obaid Sabori from NOVA IET. Key support was also provided by NOVA’s Dual Enrollment team.

The primary goal of the IET Career Days is to spark student interest in the in-demand tech pathway at NOVA, enabling them to either transfer to a 4-year institution in an IET field, or in many cases, enter the workforce directly after one or two years at the college.

Here’s how some of the attending high schoolers responded to their day at NOVA:

“I enjoyed this event because it was informative and helpful. Now, I’m considering attending NOVA for two years before transferring to a four-year college. Hearing from professionals working in the real world was interesting. I’m really glad that I signed up.”

~ Patricia, Senior, Marshall High School Academy

“I’m considering applying to NOVA or to a college in New Orleans, where my sister lives. I’m interested in cybersecurity. The Annandale campus is nice, and the data analytics session was pretty cool.”

~ Solomon, Junior, Potomac High School

“This event was great. I liked the interactive session that gave out prizes. I applied for NOVA’s cybersecurity program. I’m currently taking a cybersecurity class at school.”

~ Jerry, Senior, Marshall High School Academy

“I’m a dual enrollment student at NOVA. I wanted to come to this event to learn more about NOVA, information technology, and the internship options. It was an interesting event. I’m attending George Mason University in the fall.”

~ Evan, Senior, Marshall High School Academy

“I’m interested in mechanical engineering and the IT field, so this event was intriguing and informational. The session with the instructional system designer was interesting because I never really thought about how the government and the IT field intertwine.

I’m deciding among Penn State, George Mason, or Virginia Tech for the fall (I’m on the VT waitlist). As a dual enrollment student at NOVA, I’ve taken a history class and am currently taking an English class and a systems technology class, where I’ll earn A+ certification.

I’ve also considered attending NOVA for two years and then transferring to a four-year university. My grandfather was an English professor at NOVA but is now retired. He also worked as a diplomat and at the World Bank. He’s from Syria.”

~ Nile, Senior, Langley High School

Insights from Presenters:

Greg Howard, an Instructional Systems Designer/Curriculum Development Specialist working as a contractor at Peraton, shared advice for students interested in the IT field: “When you start your career, you may be shy or nervous about talking to people, but you will have to interact with them. Sometimes, you have to ‘fake it till you make it’ as you learn how to communicate. If you don’t, you may not be able to do your job successfully, which would be a disservice to yourself and the organization you’re working for. You have to learn how to adapt accordingly; it’s an important skill to learn.”

Obaid Sabori, a NOVA graduate with an associate degree in cybersecurity, now an entrepreneur and lab support technician at NOVA, stressed that “everyone needs to learn about cybersecurity to protect their digital identity.” He encourages students interested in cybersecurity to gain experience through hands-on projects and participation in both in-person and online competitions, such as the National Cyber League and Hack the Box.

Ryan Ammons, an assistant IET professor at NOVA, highlighted how Artificial Intelligence (AI), or machine learning, is transforming the workforce. According to The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, it’s predicted that there will be a 40% increase in the number of AI and machine learning specialists by 2027, representing a 30-35% rise in demand. Ryan emphasized  the one-year Data Analytics program at NOVA, noting it equips students with skills supporting the latest advances in digital data analytics.

Nick Dahal, a NOVA and George Mason University graduate, now an Operations Manager for Amazon Web Services, urges students interested in the IET field to apply for internships. “My internship was a game-changer. Internships are very important because your degree’s value doubles when you graduate with internship experience. Since internships are competitive, you may have to apply to many, but as you go through more interviews, talk to more people, and review your resume multiple times, you fix more mistakes and just get better at the process.”