Invaluable Partnerships make Cyber Camps Possible

Version 2We’re all about partnerships. Over the past 6 years we have developed and operated programs, competitions, camps, and curriculum that have only been possible through the aid of partnerships in our local community. Our efforts to enhance and expand STEM in Northern Virginia have resulted in lasting collaborations with industry, government and school divisions.

That’s the bird’s eye view, at least. We’re also about inspiring and equipping students on an individual basis, and so are our partners. That’s why we place such a strong emphasis on STEM camps, which are one of the most effective gateways for students in STEM.

Last month, at West Potomac High School, NOVA SySTEMic Solutions had the privilege to16-259-17 recognize AT&T, FCPS and Ft. Belvoir for their contributions in enhancing STEM camp opportunities for underrepresented students from Mt. Vernon High School. Representatives from each organization were on hand to show support and offer their insights and advice to students who are prospective members of the future STEM workforce.

The focus of the guest speakers was on the cyber security needs for our region, highlighting the vital need for programming and cyber personnel in the workforce and for national defense. AT&T led the way with a $10,000 contribution to enable hands-on robotics (with a programming focus) and cyber security camps for 9th through 12th graders from July 18-29.

DSC_0681 (1)LaTara Harris, Regional Director of External & Legislative Affairs for AT&T, addressed camp students with encouragement about their future: “Leverage the gifts that you have and consider a career in STEM. It’s an absolute priority for our company. We’ve invested over 350 million dollars in ensuring that more students are exposed to the STEM fields. The jobs in cyber security are beyond vast by the time you get out.”

On the government side, Lt. Colonel Christopher Tomlinson from nearby Ft. Belvoir illustrated the numerous cyber security opportunities available in the military and why it’s16-259-23 important: “Cyber is becoming its own domain, its own environment. We’re going to take a whole host of individuals and turn them into cyber professionals operating in that domain, going after threats to networks and information. We’re going to do that in collaboration with educators and industry. That creates power and synergy and you guys are the focus for that.”

DSC_0672The cyber security camp specifically provided students with hands-on experience in networking and computer security, cyber ethics and defense strategies through hands-on activities. Through the visit of these accomplished professionals students had a great introduction to career opportunities through a different type of networking by gaining contacts for possible future employment and internships. After the presentation all the guest speakers stayed to speak with students one on one.

If a career is not yet on the radar for these young minds, NOVA provides a bridge to the professional world. NOVA has a strong cyber security presence, and SySTEMic Solutions acting director Chad Knights was ebullient about what that means for students considering a future in STEM: “NOVA is a leader in cybersecurity education. We offer an16-259-28 A.A.S. in cybersecurity that will ensure you receive training in the hard skills needed to become employable in the field. Even if you are planning to pursue a Bachelor’s degree NOVA is a great place to start. NOVA’s A.A.S. in cybersecurity transfers in full to five institutions including George Washington, Marymount and George Mason. As you plan for your future NOVA is an outstanding local resource available to you. We are dedicated to your success and are here to help you achieve your dreams.”

AOL a perfect stage for STEM camps to engage

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STEM camps can inspire career paths. Not just in ideas but through environment. Earlier this summer, when one of our high school STEM camp instructors experienced the atmosphere at the technically cutting-edge AOL campus in Dulles, he said “I want to work here when I grow up.”

We generally operate our STEM camps at High Schools, NOVA campuses and other educational institutions, but this summer we also had the privilege of holding camps at the industry giant from July 22-26.

16-254-76The AOL Dulles campus is an invigorating center of technology and a great place to hold our Scratch Programming, LEGO EV3 and VEX Robotics camps. We hope the experience of such a tech-savvy professional environment makes STEM engagement more memorable and inspiring.

AOL classrooms provided state of the art equipment, including desktop space with embedded outlets and audio and video equipment that allowed competition action to be displayed in real time for the parents. In addition the auditorium provided a stadium element for the VEX 1 competition.

SySTEMic Solutions’ Loudoun coordinator Liz Coffey noted “both instructors and campers 16-254-66asked about how they could get a job at AOL.” The instructors also observed how the professional surroundings generally led to more focus. Sometimes, when campers are in a school environment “they revert back to school behavior,” as one instructor noted.

The success of SySTEMic Solutions depends on sustained engagement from local businesses, creating not only opportunities for prospective STEM students but also a chance for AOL to invest in the future workforce. Jamie Mittleman, Senior Marketing Manager from Citizen AOL, extolled the potential of partnership: “STEM camps invigorate our employees and campuses. Employees want to work at a company that gives back and actively seek opportunities to get involved in their communities. By opening our doors, we are exposing the next generation of leaders to our brands, but also supporting volunteer opportunities for our employees.”

16-254-90And so it proved all week. AOL employees were intrigued by the camps and often observed proceedings. Some asked how they could register their own children in a camp. One 25 year-old employee who was part of the fishbowl group encouraged the VEX IQ campers that they are “getting ahead of the game” and reflected that he did not have the advantage of doing “things like this” when he was young. Other employees offered free new and used books to campers. AOL not only helped in welcoming our program, staff and campers, they were instrumental in logistical planning and even printed the requisite signs and banners in-house. It was a wonderful example of industry collaboration with NOVA and STEM education.

Mittleman also sees the big picture from camp to career to culture: “We’re talking about making the world a better place. We put that mission in action by investing in future leaders, strengthening communities around the globe and empowering our people, partners, clients and audiences to make an outstanding impact on society’s biggest challenges. Engaging students in STEM is so important because we are giving them16-254-84 tools to accomplish what many could only dream of. We are giving them the skill sets to turn ideas into actions.”

This is something we hope our camp students will absorb as they chart a path towards STEM education and ultimately the future STEM workforce.

AT&T, NOVA, FCPS and Fort Belvoir team up to provide STEM Camps!

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$10K contribution from AT&T enables hands-on robotics and cybersecurity camps for Mt Vernon HS Students. Presentation and recognition of award to take place on July 27th at West Potomac High School in Alexandria.

{Click here to view press release on NOVA website}

In an effort to bolster STEM capacity in Northern Virginia, AT&T, Northern Virginia Community College, Fairfax County Public Schools and Fort Belvoir are partnering to provide hands-on summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp opportunities specifically for Mt. Vernon High School students.

A $10,000 contribution from AT&T will allow NOVA’s STEM outreach program, SySTEMic Solutions, to offer robotics and cybersecurity camps for rising 9th through 12th graders from Mt. Vernon High School. For logistical reasons, the camps will be held at West Potomac High School in Alexandria from July 18-29.

There will be a special ceremony celebrating AT&T’s gift at West Potomac High School, 6500 Quander Rd., Alexandria, on July 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Representatives from AT&T, a ranking officer from Fort Belvoir, NOVA, NOVA SySTEMic Solutions and FCPS will attend.

This event highlights a strong collaboration and mutual support for STEM across the region. Representatives from AT&T and Fort Belvoir will be on hand to engage the campers in a discussion of the cybersecurity needs for the region and the nation and will describe how camp materials relate to those careers. The program will focus on the vital need for programming and cyber personnel in the workforce and for national defense.

NOVA has strong STEM ties in FCPS and throughout the region. The college’s SySTEMic Solutions has a designated representative that helps to increase STEM capacity through camps, competitions and professional development opportunities for teachers.  The partnership focuses on STEM needs in Fairfax, with special attention to recruiting students from underrepresented groups for the STEM workforce. In addition, NOVA has worked hard to align advance standings for those who serve our country through its veterans’ education benefits.

“Inspiring young people to engage in STEM activities is a fundamental mission of NOVA SySTEMic Solutions,” said NOVA President, Dr. Scott Ralls. “This partnership with members of the public and private sector provides not only a fun and educational way for teens to spend their summer break, but it also highlights the great need to build the next generation of STEM employees in Northern Virginia and across the nation.”

LaTara Harris, AT&T’s regional director for External Affairs in Greater Washington area, added, “At AT&T, we believe investing in a well-educated workforce may be the single most important thing we can do to support a strong global economy. Our company and our nation need a capable and diverse pipeline of employees to fill 21st century jobs. Cybersecurity, robotics, and other STEM-intensive jobs are available to the students who have the kind of skills they’re gaining at the camps offered by Northern Virginia Community College.”

The robotics camp, held from July 18-22, will focus on building and programming for the VEX system. Students will build and program a robot to operate on a field by remote control and through an autonomous program. Students will learn basic computer programming in RobotC by programming a robot to complete challenges throughout the week.

The Cybersecurity camp, held from July 25-29, will provide students with knowledge and hands-on experience in cyber security and introduce them to the many career opportunities in the growing field. The camp will increase students’ knowledge of networking and computer security including cyber ethics and defense strategies, all through tutorials, hands-on activities and will culminate with a mock competition on the last day.

NOVA SySTEMic Solutions Program Manager: Josh Labrie | 703.530.2829 | jlabrie@nvcc.edu.

NOVA Media Contact: Kathy Thompson | 703.764.0896 | kthompson@nvcc.edu

142 STEM Camp Students on a NOVA Campus

IMG_5380Our summer STEM camps are underway and hundreds of students are engaging in STEM activities throughout Northern Virginia.

While STEM Camps are held at different locations in PWC, Fairfax, and Loudoun, (traditionally at high schools) this week has given middle and high school students a taste of something different: STEM learning on a college campus. Four of our camps are being operated on the NOVA Loudoun Campus in the state-of-the-art Higher Education Center.

From Lego EV3, VEX IQ and VEX 1 robotics to a more advanced cybersecurity camp, 142 students and their parents are engaging in STEM and walking the halls of NOVA as a backdrop to an informative and inspirational hands-on STEM experience.

Version 2Particularly for the cybersecurity students, who range from rising 9th to 12th graders, NOVA is an attractive option for continued study in STEM because it offers an A.A.S. in cybersecurity. As cyber jobs are increasingly in demand, NOVA can provide a fast-track of sorts to the workforce because a 4-year degree isn’t necessarily the only way to a cyber career.

Bradley Schwartz, President & CEO of the Blue Canopy Group, a Northern Virginia IT firm, suggested exactly this notion at the VA Cyber conference (held on NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus) last fall. He said “you don’t just need a 4-year degree, you need really smart people and practical experience.”

In addition, Senator Mark Warner stated that “a cyber career is not just for 4 year degrees or masters, but [for] community colleges and certificates.”Version 2

With this type of endorsement the potential NOVA students that attend our cyber camp can move forward with more confidence since attaining a certificate in cybersecurity is seen as a more and more viable option to fill the 17,000 vacant cyber jobs in the commonwealth. Having high school students inspired not only in cybersecurity but learning about it while on a NOVA campus is a win-win situation.

Best-selling higher education author Jeff Selingo in his book College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students says “few things matter as much in where a student eventually ends up as the campus visit. As a result, schools have increasingly tried to sell an experience on the tour rather than simply convey information.” While STEM camp is not overtly a tour for prospective students, it is an important exposure for them.

Version 2Dr. Julie Leidig, Provost at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus, emphasizes the importance of interfacing early with students to create an expectation of college simply by visiting. “We want to get kids thinking about STEM and college while they’re still young enough to be excited and less prone to feel that they have limitations. With these camps, early exposure to learning on a college campus starts to acclimatize them to college and the idea of going to NOVA for STEM education. We have a mission to build the regional STEM workforce in this community. SySTEMic Solutions is an extension of our mission.”

Many of the students we’ve engaged in STEM over the last few years are not yet in college. As they start to get to college age, our goal is to develop an effective tracking system of “camps to college to career” metrics that not only inspires STEM students but also keeps them in our regional workforce after graduation.

John Wood, CEO of Telos, a cybersecurity company in Loudoun, has a simple formula for this: “Make math and science cool,” he says. “That’s where you start.”

The NOVA Loudoun campus will also host the second annual Loudoun County STEM day on October 1. From drones to robotics to 3D printing to biotech and more, we are confident that thousands of students in Northern Virginia will find STEM cool enough to pursue as their career.

And NOVA can play a big part.

The value of Instructor Training

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Every year before our summer STEM camps are underway we host instructor training to prepare teachers and students how to run our STEM camps. Instructor training week serves a dual purpose: to prep instructors with camp curriculum and operating procedures, but more importantly it expands regional STEM capacity through the professional development in STEM such as robotics, computer Science, CAD and cybersecurity.

As the STEM outreach arm of NOVA, our summer STEM camps (for 3 to 12 graders) have been active since 2009 and have increased from 48 students in the first year to over 600 this summer. Camps offered include Robotics, Rocketry, Programming, CAD-3D Printing and Cybersecurity, which are available throughout PWC, Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

During training each instructor goes through the curriculum as if they were a student taking the camp. For a robotics course that involves assembling, programming, and driving a robot. For more advanced subjects, like cybersecurity, instructors are drilled on securing open networks and operating defense techniques. For rocketry they build a rocket that will launch at the end of the camp week. This hands-on approach is essential in teaching and leads to effective instruction once camps are started.

Many of the instructors are students who have been inspired by previous STEM camps. Nate Wooley, a recent HS graduate and robotics competition veteran, wants to give back, saying “I started my robotics experience in a summer camp. It has completely reshaped my life and given me a passion that I can pursue. I have been participating in SySTEMic Solutions’ competitions and camps for 3 years now and recently won the VA VEX State Championship. Teaching for SySTEMic makes me happy that I can give other people the chance to enjoy robotics as I have.”

Another recent HS grad now engaged as a camp instructor, Cori Brodowski, also started in our summer camps and wants to help define a path for more girls in STEM. “I have always been the only teenage girl on my teaching team through the years. The most inspirational thing about this job is helping other girls get on their feet in STEM. I grew up with engineers as parents, and I’ve always excelled at math and science. I know a lot of girls don’t have that and are stereotyped as not able to do STEM careers. Working at STEM camps is a great opportunity to help girls see that they can break that stereotype and are just as capable at STEM as anyone else.”

Ryan Osweiler, an instructional technology and robotics coach at Triangle ES and one of the mainstay instructors for SySTEMic Solutions’ summer camps, is enthusiastic about what instructor training provides. “We never stop learning. I gather new ideas from coaches at training – even new ones. I enjoy seeing students who attended camp years ago come back and teach. Most of these students are in or have completed high school and/or college level robotics and bring valuable insights and knowledge.”

STEM camps and instructor training are inspirational, but NOVA is not just in the business of inspiration. Through this training we’re helping expand regional STEM capacity by providing co-curricular experience for students and teachers. But more than that NOVA has a large offering of STEM degrees and certificates through credit, adult learner and workforce development leading to careers in the regional workforce.