New Employee Spotlight – Amira Alexander

Amira Alexander

Welcome, Amira Alexander!
Our new IET Recruitment and Engagement Specialist.  

A native of North Carolina, Amira obtained her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science from NC State University with a minor in Extension Education. While there, she researched the effects of marketing strategies on children, worked with food education non-profits to provide children with culturally relevant information and spent time abroad in Costa Rica exploring food security. After obtaining her undergraduate degree, Amira began her career in education with the North Carolina State University College Advising Corps where she cultivated her belief in educational access and equity through creating college ambassador programs and building relationships with local college access organizations. For the next six years, Amira worked as a College Adviser and as an Assistant Director curating content for K12 administrators and counselors, mentoring new professionals in professional development and fostering collaboration amongst similar organizations. During her time at NC State, Amira obtained her graduate certificate in Family Life Education and Coaching and in May 2022 completed her Master’s of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences.

Having recently moved to Virginia in the summer of 2022, Amira is enjoying learning a new city, reading books from the local library, spending time with family, caring for her plant babies, perusing farmer’s markets and cooperative extension offices, and completing a FitOn barre class in her free time.

Amira can be reached at

NOVA at SkillsUSA National Conference!

Five NOVA students represented Virginia at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) June 20-24 in Atlanta, GA. The national competitors at this conference are the top 2% of CTE students from across the country. NOVA students competed in Cybersecurity, Computer Programming, Extemporaneous Speaking and Job Skills Demonstration.

Ardian Peach and Humza Ansari finished 4th in Cybersecurity, completing tasks at and demonstrating knowledge at 10 cyber stations.

Alexander Choi finished 4th in Computer Programming after completing 2 challenges.

Claudia Oviedo finished 10th in Extemporaneous Speaking, after being prompted to prepare a 3-5 minute speech in just 10 minutes.

Maddie Gebremichael finished 13th in Job Skills Demonstration, giving a 5-7 minute speech to judges on engineer theory of a suspension bridge.

While at NLSC students also attended SkillsUSA University workshop sessions and participated in Techspo to meet with industry partners.

They also enjoyed the largest unofficial conference activity: trading state pins with other attendees from across the nation and networking with other student members.

Ardian Peach, who finished 4th overall in Cybersecurity, reflected on competing at the National Conference: “I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in SkillsUSA…The personal and professional development that everything led up to is something that you can’t really get anywhere else. Preparing for these events and eventually putting my skills to the test helped motivate me to learn more about my field, as well as evaluate my own self discipline. School can help, but if you want to win, that’s entirely up to you to put in the work to make it happen, and SkillsUSA is one of the best examples to show a student’s hard work.”

Niki Gordon, NOVA’s SkillsUSA advisor, said “SkillsUSA is such a great opportunity for students to take classroom learning and apply it to real world settings.  These competitions are not just written tests, these students have to complete projects, solve problems and showcase their technical skills. I am so proud of them for embracing this opportunity to improve themselves, build their resumes and further prepare for their futures in IET.”

Students will be receiving a congratulatory note from NOVA President, Dr. Kress.

Students had excellent support in preparing outside of classes. For cybersecurity, special recognition goes to Professor William McLaughlin, Professor Kwabena Konado, Professor Fernando Seminario, and AllCyber – Woodbridge Cyber Club. For computer programming, Professor Ryan Ammons.

Advisor Niki Gordon also worked with the two leadership students to prepare for their speech competitions.

Funding for the SkillsUSA Chapter and the trip to the National Leadership and Skills Conference was provided by our Federal Perkins Award, Micron, and the NOVA Foundation through the carry over of the founding InNOVAtion grant which started the chapter two years ago.

NLSC info and stats can be found here:

STEM CAMP Schedule 2022

General schedule for 2022 STEM Camps.

Camps run 9am-4pm unless virtual, no camps week of July 4.


STEM Elementary School (4th to 5th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

July 11-15 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 18-22 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

July 25-29 at Tuscarora High School

Coding With Robotics (4th to 7th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 11-15 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

July 25-29 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

Aug 1-5 at NOVA Loudoun Campus

Fabrication (4th to 9th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 25-29 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

Aug 1-5 at NOVA Loudoun Campus

STEM Middle School (6th to 8th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

July 11-15 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 18-22 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

July 25-29 at Tuscarora High School

VEX Robotics (6th to 10th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 11-15 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

July 25-29 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

Aug 1-5 at NOVA Loudoun Campus

Arduino (7th to 10th grade):

June 27-July 1 at NOVA Annandale Campus

July 11-15 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

July 25-29 at NOVA Alexandria Campus

Aug 1-5 at NOVA Loudoun Campus

Rocketry (7th to 12th grade):

July 11-15 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

Cybersecurity: Capture the Flag (7th to 12th grade):

Aug 8-12 at NOVA Manassas Trailside

VIRTUAL CAMPS (Cybersecurity only)

Cybersecurity: Intro (9th to 12th grade):

June 27-July 1 Virtual Morning Session 9:30-11am

June 27-July 1 Virtual Afternoon Session 1:30-3pm

July 18-22 Virtual Morning Session 9:30-11am

July 18-22 Virtual Afternoon Session 1:30-3pm

Cybersecurity: Encryption & Crypto (9th to 12th grade):

July 11-15 Virtual Afternoon Session 1:30-3pm

Cybersecurity: Hacking & Forensics (9th to 12th grade):

July 11-15 Virtual Morning Session 9:30-11am

Aug 1-5 Virtual Afternoon Session 1:30-3pm

Cybersecurity: Networking Security (9th to 12th grade):

Aug 1-5 Virtual Morning Session 9:30-11am

**Register for camps at


Welcome Andy Chaves, NOVA SySTEMic’s New CTE Coordinator!

Andy is excited to join NOVA SySTEMic as our new CTE (Career and Technical Education) Director. Andy promotes and supports public/private partnerships through CTE programs. He served as the Chair of the National Advisory Board and Executive Committee of DECA while also serving on the Board of Directors of DECA, Inc.

Andy is a retired executive from Marriott International, Inc. where he worked for almost 31 years. He spearheaded Marriott’s youth strategies and partnership efforts supporting engagement initiatives across the globe. A graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, he has more than 35 years of experience in the Hospitality Industry.

Andy was Board Chairman of Hospitality High School of Washington, DC, A Public Charter School.  He represented Marriott as liaison to the National Urban League, UnidosUS, NBMBAA, Prospanica, NABA, NRAEF’s ProStart, AH&LA Hospitality and Tourism Management Program (HTMP) and various CTE programs and councils. He has served on the Advisory Board for career and technical program resources development with the Glencoe McGraw-Hill publisher.

Andy was also the founding President of the Montgomery County Public Schools Students Foundation for Hospitality and Restaurant Management (FHRM). As a Human Resources professional, Andy understands that investing in young people and giving back are essential for the future growth of any industry.  These public/private partnerships are what make career and technical education (CTE) programs succeed.  His greatest mentoring efforts are in raising his two children and encouraging them to become life-long learners and continuous career explorers.

Andy can be reached at

STEM Camp Student to Instructor Spotlight: LisBeth Valladares Hernandez

STEM Camp Student to STEM Camp Instructor

Lisbeth G. Valladares Hernandez has been around NOVA and STEM for a long time. She was a STEM Camp student and now excels as a STEM Camp instructor. We asked her a few questions about her experience.

1. How were you first inspired in STEM? 

My journey in STEM began in 8th grade, when I decided to participate in The Micron Challenge: Rube Goldberg Machine. At the time I was the only student in my middle school that showed any interest, after listening to the announcement over the schools intercom. Thankfully I had two teachers that were willing to stay after school with me, my wood technology teacher and my science teacher. As I learned the many ways simple machine can be used in day-to-day challenges. It all became a game of intentionality and purpose. 

2. What did it take for you to get where you are? 

Once I started high school I knew I wanted to continue exploring more of what STEM consisted of. I once again convinced two teachers to help me out and bring SeaPerch Underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to my high school and for them to be my robotics club sponsor. I went out scouting my high school and personally invited people from diverse groups of friends to join underwater robotics with me. 

3. Describe your experience as a minority woman in STEM.

Being in STEM as a minority women has not been easy, specially because a lot of this is unknown territory for my parents. They have simply trusted in me, that my passions are rooted in knowledge seeking and educational growth. As a first generation student I have had to go out and find resources and financial assistance to be able to participate in STEM activities. My parents have supported me through it all, they have sacrificed so much for me.

Being a women in STEM has been hard because I have been in positions where my voice is the only female voice in the room at times. It takes a special kind of courage to pave the way, and I am proud of myself for having done so for other Latinas that follow. 

I also have to thank Zuzana Steen from Micron and Aleksander Marthinussen from NOVA SySTEMic. Although I only saw them in the judges chair, they always affirmed me to continue my academic career in STEM.

Without people like them or my teacher my STEM journey would not have lasted this long. 

4. What you want to pass on as an instructor and where you want to go in your career?

The reason I was inspired to become an educator is because of all of those teachers along my STEM journey that sacrificed their time after school to sit with me and even if they didn’t fully understand what I was doing. I want to be that teacher for others and pay back my community. 

5. How has NOVA and NOVA SySTEMic equipped you in your career path?

Having been a dual enrolled student with NOVA lead me to NOVA SySTEMic, after working on the engineering challenge during the semester, I was handed a poster and guided to check out the summer camp and apply for the internship positions. 

Since then I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate as an assistant instructor in summer camp, assist in Expo events, create STEM in-class curriculum, develop and present teacher professional development, and lead as Head Coach for the NOVA VEX IQ Community Teams, winning 2nd place at the VEX Robotics State Championship and qualifying for the World Championship this year! 

I am excited to see what my STEM Journey has in store for me. All of this would not be possible without NOVA SySTEMic and its amazing opportunities for someone like me.