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Business Engagement Publicity STEM Camps

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.”

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Business Engagement STEM Camps

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.