CLRI Completes Spring Cohort with Executive Networking Event

The Spring 2024 Career and Leadership Institute (CLRI) was capped off on March 28 with the Executive Mentoring and Networking event!

A total of 24 students graduated from the Spring program, completing 7 workshops that covered topics including Leadership and Communication Skills, Building your Personal Brand, Technical Resume Writing, and Understanding Clearances and Vetting for Government Jobs.

The spring program covered 5 weeks starting in February and culminated in the Executive Mentoring and Networking event with 13 industry executives from Iron Mountain, HR Tec, Stack Infrastructure, CoreSite, AWS, A Foot In The Door, Vetting Konsultants, Micron, and Digital Realty.

Both mentors and students were recognized at the end of the event, and participants stayed an extra hour to network with industry partners.

Feedback from CLRI students included the following:

“I’m in the cybersecurity program and looking forward to entering the workforce. This event has been amazing; it helps break the ice, and all the questions I’ve been stressing about are being answered. Having come from the medical field, I’m entering this environment fresh. I was concerned about whether companies would hire people with no experience. Now, I understand what these companies are looking for in their employees, including certifications, and so on. It has been a fantastic experience.”

~ Kayley Radar, Cybersecurity

“I enjoyed speaking with professionals in groups along with other students because it prompted me to think of questions I hadn’t considered before. It allowed us to bounce ideas off one another.”

~ Arisiema Legasse

“I think it was cool that you could talk to industry leaders face-to-face. They were all very friendly, engaging, and interested in getting to know the students.”

~ Patrick Gilllespie, Data Center Operations

“This event was excellent as it provided a good opportunity to practice interacting with others. At NOVA, not many people engage in conversations; they attend their classes and leave. So, this experience was beneficial.”

~ Josh, Computer Science

“Andy Chavez said that working for a company is like a future relationship: the company wants you as much as you want them. I really liked this event.”

~ Nga Tran, Cloud Computing

Spotlight on AFCOM/CLRI Grad Bryan Buford

Bryan Buford, a NOVA IET student, completed the Career Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI) and an internship through AFCOM. 

Through CLRI, Buford gained an introduction to personal branding, enhancing his understanding of resume development to emphasize achievements over mere job descriptions. He also appreciated CLRI’s emphasis on effective communication and leadership skills towards his professional development.

He found the mock interviews particularly equipping, especially the exposure to Amazon’s STAR method, which stands for: Situation: What was a challenging situation at your previous job that you faced? Task: What did you do when the situation arose? Action: How did you take action to resolve the situation? Results: What happened as a result of your action?

During his AFCOM internship at CyrusOne Data Centers, he began as a critical operations intern. His duties included monitoring control center screens and managing the operation of rooftop chillers. He learned from seasoned professionals, occasionally starting up generators and improving his ability to interpret one-line diagrams.

He later transitioned to the position of technician intern, where he removed racks and cables in a data hall, distinguishing between fiber and copper and learning the careful handling of fiber to prevent damage. He values internships for the practical experience they provide, believing they differentiate candidates in the job market.

Now employed as a cable technician at N2N Integrations, he enjoys the role’s diversity and dynamism, rising to the challenge of juggling a full-time job with part-time college coursework and looks forward to graduating with an associate’s degree in Data Center Operations (DCO).

His future plans include continuing his technical career before transitioning to critical operations, to pursue a mechanical engineering degree with the dream of working at NASA.

He advises those interested in the DCO field to start early and invest significant effort, pointing out the promising growth trajectory of data centers in our increasingly digital world.

Buford compares his interest in the IET field to the allure of the “Great and Powerful Oz” from The Wizard of Oz. He explained, “There’s something intriguing about observing the inner workings of computers and servers behind the scenes.”

He acknowledges the significant influence of TJ Ciccone, the IET Program and Curriculum Support Specialist, on his career. Buford is grateful for Ciccone’s impactful instruction and assistance in securing his internship.

Spotlight on NOVA Makers: Andy Polcha

Andy Polcha, a NOVA student with aspirations to become an architect, finds the Fab Lab a canvas for his Art History and Architectural Drafting class projects and an integral part of his educational journey.

 Utilizing the Fab Lab’s advanced F series printer, Polcha has been able to create intricate 3D plastic models. One notable project is a reliquary (which traditionally houses sacred relics) for his Art History class, crafted from an entire spool of plastic and refined with a sodium hydroxide solution to achieve a polished finish. Polcha’s reliquary cleverly splits in half to reveal a hidden compartment which holds a gem owl, a cherished gift from his aunt.

In addition, he has crafted a variety of models, including a gazebo, columns, arches, and doors. For his final project in Architectural Drafting, he designed a house in classical style.

Drawing inspiration from the legacy of Italian Renaissance architects such as Michelangelo, Bernini, and Palladio, he references Architectural Treatises to refine his designs. To bring his ideas to life, he navigates Blender, a free software he compares to playing a piano – where each key performs a distinct function and mastering them all is essential. “Blender is notorious for being difficult because it encompasses everythingーthe renderer, animation tools for crafting full 3D animated movies, compositing, texture work, and much more,” he explained.

He has also utilized the Fab Lab’s resources to print professional-quality photos for set designs, drawing inspiration from the works of Italian Renaissance architect Vignola. These photos were then used in a local community theater production, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.

Currently pursuing an associate degree in General Education with aspirations for a bachelor’s degree in architecture, Polcha has always been passionate about building, a hobby that began in childhood with Lincoln Logs, Legos, and blocks. Despite early struggles with math that cast doubt on his potential as an architect, recent years have seen a significant boost in his confidence, largely due to his enthusiasm for Art History and Architectural Drafting courses.

After graduating from NOVA, Polcha aims to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Architecture at Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, or the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Reflecting on his experience at NOVA, Polcha said, “I love it because everything you need is here. The math center has been very helpful. They have a counseling center. If you want to do well, you almost have no choice but to do well. You will be successful in some way.”

The Fab Lab is a world-class makerspace open to all NOVA students, faculty, staff, and the wider educational community. Its mission is to cultivate a comprehensive experience in the Digital Fabrication realm by providing access to cutting-edge fabrication processes, training in 3D modeling, and fostering a foundation in the principles of Design Thinking and creative problem-solving.

“Everybody at the Fab Lab is nice and personable. I enjoy being there because whenever you seek help, they’re always willing to collaborate and figure things out together,” he shared.

IET Career Days are Back!

Showcasing NOVA’s commitment to supporting students and professionals in IET fields, NOVA’s IET High School Career Days return this March and April! These events introduce high school students to in-demand technology career pathways.

Check out our IET Career Day Video

Career Days are FREE and feature presentations and panel discussions by industry experts covering a range of topics such as Information Technology, Engineering Technology, Computer Science, Data Center Operations, Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, and Credit for Prior Learning (e.g. Google, CompTIA, and AWS certifications). Students will also tour the particular NOVA campus they are visiting (Loudoun, Woodbridge, Manassas, Alexandria, andAnnandale).

High schools that meet the minimum registration requirement will be provided free transportation to and from the event and lunch is also provided. This is a first-come first-serve event and each campus is capped at 200 attendees.

Registration is required to attend and all high school students must self-register for their respective Career Day.


Register below to attend a Career Day at one of our NOVA Campuses: 

Tuesday 3/12 Loudoun Campus
Wednesday 3/13 Woodbridge Campus
Thursday 3/14 Manassas Campus
Friday 4/5 Annandale Campus


For questions contact Braden Traw at jtraw@nvcc.edu or Justin Owen at jlowen@nvcc.edu.

NOVA Student Success In IET: Willie Brown

NOVA student Willie Brown is flying high in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars Program. From CLRI to FOWA, he’s leaving a trail of success wherever he goes.

We recently settled in for a conversation with Willie, a NOVA IET student and participant in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program. We were eager to delve into his remarkable experience and trace his journey through NOVA IET.

Brown, currently pursuing an A.S. in Information Technology, a C.S.C. for Network Engineering Specialist, and CompTIA Industry Certifications, discovered this excellent opportunity through a Canvas announcement last year. Despite fierce competition among hundreds of community college students, Brown stood out and actively engaged in Mission 1: Discover and Mission 2: Explore within the NCAS virtual experience. To top it off, Brown received an invitation to Mission 3: Innovate-Capstone Project, scheduled to take place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California!

Mission 1 and Mission 2 are five-week programs, deeply immersing participants in NASA’s missions and STEM careers. Meanwhile, Mission 3 is a three-week endeavor, consisting of a 2-week online segment followed by a one-week residential experience. During this time, scholars like Brown will contribute to NASA’s missions by developing possible solutions to current challenges faced by NASA.

As he embarked on Mission 1, Discover, Brown found himself engrossed in a NASA orientation that set the stage for the subsequent NCAS missions. This phase offered students a comprehensive insight into NASA’s ongoing projects and pathways for involvement.

The online program blends various STEM activities, including expert talks, interactive media, group work, tests, and guidance from seasoned educators, providing students like Brown with an engaging learning experience during Mission 1.

He encourages students to explore the program, noting that Mission 1 is achievable due to its virtual nature. He explained that participants delve into NASA’s directorates and focus on major ongoing projects, such as Artemis.

Artemis II, slated as the first crewed mission to the moon since 1972, is scheduled to launch a year from now. Brown emphasized its significance, stating, “The space program affects life on Earth much more than you might initially think. For example, research takes place on the space station that can be beneficial on Earth. Research topics include plant growth, changes in bone density, chemical processes for the development of medicine, and more. It’s really exciting in addition to the first person of color being on the Artemis II team.”

Transitioning into Mission 2, Explore unfolds as a simulation where students craft solutions for missions to the Moon or Mars. This phase focuses on teaching them the art of balancing choices within set limits. Simultaneously, within the career simulation, students step into mock NASA roles, showcasing the importance of teamwork and personal skills essential for monumental missions, such as exploring the lunar surface.

Brown was a member of the Apollo Green team, tasked with deciphering which rocket to utilize, defining payloads, specifying the mission objectives, selecting landing sites, and managing numerous other crucial elements.

When allocating roles among team members, Brown humorously compared the process to steering clear of the frantic scramble for supplies at the cornucopia in The Hunger Games; in their case, the “cornucopia” encapsulated all the available STEM roles in Exploration. Thankfully, the team swiftly resolved their roles due to time constraints, spurred by the impending presentation of their project.

His role centered on public affairs, necessitating the creation of a marketing plan outlining their approach to disseminating the program to the public. He also strategized on how to keep stakeholders informed about their progress while navigating the challenge of addressing encountered issues without revealing excessive details to other teams.

Amidst his involvement in the NCAS program, Brown’s plate extends far beyond. Besides being a NOVA student, he is deeply engaged in various roles. He serves on the Student Advisory Group for Virginia Workforce Recovery, collaborates with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, holds positions as a NOVA Corps intern with Alexandria Enrollment Services, and interns with the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and CACI Corporation.

When questioned about his perspective on the importance of IET fields, he elaborated, “The world has shifted—now, we’re all interconnected through this internet, so there are fundamental things that everyone needs to comprehend in order to protect themselves.”

On doing CLRI at NOVA

Reflecting on his journey at NOVA, Brown highlighted the significance of completing the Career & Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI). He firmly advocates for its value, stating, “It’s worth the time and energy invested. An absolutely fantastic program—it’s priceless.” He specifically praised several beneficial aspects such as mock interviews, guidance from subject matter experts, insightful visits to data centers, resume assistance, and the invaluable support from Career and Technical Education Coordinator, Andy Chavez, and IET Career Advisor, Sedrick Settle.

Furthermore, the CLRI focuses on imparting soft skills, an aspect Brown noted as crucial irrespective of one’s field. He acknowledged the significance of interpersonal abilities since interaction with people is universal across professions. He identified essential soft skills such as maintaining eye contact, effective communication, active listening, the art of asking questions and seeking clarification, mastering intonation, delivering both positive and negative news, demonstrating respect, and offering basic technical support.

First Place in the Future of Work Academy (FOWA)

Additionally, last fall, Brown participated in the virtual Future of Work Academy (FOWA), an institution specializing in cybersecurity career preparation. Notably, he clinched first place in the FOWA Innovation Incubator Challenge by presenting an idea centered around connecting individuals with limited resources seeking employment opportunities to free community resources. His concept involved establishing virtual cohorts within the community. His focus lay in imparting fundamental typing skills, recognizing its essentiality in today’s landscape.

Engaging in NOVA IET

Regarding advice for those contemplating NOVA’s IET programs, Brown stresses the need to dispel the notion that IT professionals are innate wizards, emphasizing that everyone starts as a learner. His advice is to initiate learning, seek guidance from successful individuals, and craft a solid learning plan, starting without delay.

For non-traditional students, he urges active engagement within the NOVA experience, advocating for the exploration of unfamiliar opportunities. He emphasizes the significance of not holding back academically or experientially due to age differences. In the competitive arena of professional life, he suggests embracing the diverse experiences within the classroom while understanding that they may also be competitors in securing dream jobs.

Highlighting the importance of a support network, Brown acknowledges the influential role of Jack Bidlack, NOVA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, as a mentor and supporter. “One of my champions is Mr. Bidlack. Anytime something happens to me, I always send him a note to let him know what’s going on. He’s like my cheering section,” he said with a bright smile.

Looking ahead, Brown envisions completing his studies at NOVA and transferring to a four-year university, preferably one with an active honors program or a small liberal arts school offering an engaging environment. He also expresses his commitment to lifelong learning, currently pursuing a mathematics class at NOVA.

 

Spotlight on a NOVA Design Challenge Award Winner

Tariq Aldalou, winner in the post-secondary division, brought in some middle eastern enrichment with his design.

Tariq triumphed in the Design Challenge by creating a unique musical instrument inspired by his origins in Damascus, Syria. He designed a Mini-Oud, a variant of the Arabic Oud, that resembles a lute.

Aldalou’s version, crafted from PLA (polylactic acid filament) using a 3D printer, measures 60cm by 30cm (an Oud traditionally measures 67cm by 36cm). It features lasercut wood hexagon sound holes and maintains the conventional 11 strings of a traditional Oud. To preserve its authenticity, he applied a matte finish and included dust remnants from the sanding process, also creating two smaller prototypes.

Encouraging participation, Tariq advises, “Join the challenge, even if you’re starting from scratch or your tools aren’t perfect. It’s all about learning and growing. My friends and I, despite time constraints, are eager to dive in, ready to embrace mistakes as part of our progress. We encourage everyone to get involved and explore, even with the simplest of ideas.”

Tariq initially got involved when he sought guidance for an engineering project from his physics professor, Francesca Viale. She recommended utilizing the resources at the Fab Lab.

After completing the NOVA Makers course on Canvas, Aldalou took an in-person class led by Kai Le, an evening support specialist. He also received aid from Mihai Ziu, a dual-enrolled high school student, in mastering the Tinkercard program and Autodesk Fusion 360 software.

Additionally, he took an online Zoom course taught by Ziu to become proficient in the Prusa slicer. Currently, he dedicates two evenings a week, from 5 pm to 9 pm, to his lab projects.

Aldalou shared, “I’m involved in various projects, including circuit design and signal transmission. I tend to procrastinate, but the deadline for the design challenge kept me focused.”

With the design challenge behind him, Aldalou is now focusing on a remote-controlled plane project, echoing his childhood passion for making and selling toy planes in Syria. In those days, he applied simple mathematics and basic materials like glue sticks, A4 paper, pens, scissors, and paper clips to bring his creations to life.

Pursuing degrees in engineering and math, Aldalou’s initial career aspirations leaned towards piloting. However, frequent relocations and a desire for family time shifted his focus to computer engineering, fueled by his love for math and experience in building computers in Lebanon.

He credits his NOVA success to professors like Viale and Chinthaka Hettitantri, his calculus instructor, and appreciates the ongoing support from his high school counselor, Michael Todd, and the Fab Lab team, especially Kai Le.

Aldalou aims to graduate from NOVA this year with associate degrees in engineering and math, planning to transfer to George Mason University for a bachelor’s degree in computer science. His ultimate goal is a PhD in mathematics, aspiring to make significant contributions to quantum computing.

 

Design Challenge Winners Awarded

In early February, winning students for NOVA’s 5th bi-annual Design Challenge were honored at an award ceremony at the Fab Lab. The challenge this time was for middle school, high school, and post-secondary students to design and fabricate a unique musical instrument.

Mary Ratcliff, Fab Lab coordinator and organizer of this year’s challenge, said, “I didn’t realize I had put together the toughest challenge yet. Not only did I ask students to create a one-of-a-kind unique product, but I also required that it produce repeatable, predictable sounds.”

There were awards for participants at each school level, with NOVA students Ethan Cortes and Tariq Aldalou taking home the grand champion and post-secondary division titles, respectively.

Ethan Cortes from NOVA was named the Grand Champion with his innovative creation, the “Tri-Blown.” With a deep passion for brass instruments, Ethan designed an instrument that covers the full spectrum of brass sounds. Made from 3D printed PLA and tubing, the “Tri-Blown” can switch between three tubes and adjustable mouthpieces, emulating the deep resonance of a tuba, the rich tones of a trombone, and the bright notes of a trumpet—all in one instrument.

Cortes enthusiastically recommends the Design Challenge, noting his efforts to encourage participation among his STEM friends, despite their time constraints. He found the experience both enjoyable and educational, enhancing his skills in 3D printing and Autodesk Inventor design. “Winning aside, the experience has been incredibly valuable for my education and future. I’m grateful for being named the grand champion and look forward to involving my friends in the next event,” he said.

Tariq Aldalou, representing NOVA, clinched the Design Challenge title in the Post-Secondary Division with his innovative Mini Oud, made from 3D printed PLA and laser-cut wood. Tariq’s creation raises the bar for future competitions. Encouraging participation, Tariq advises, “Join the challenge, even if you’re starting from scratch or your tools aren’t perfect. It’s all about learning and growing. My friends and I, despite time constraints, are eager to dive in, ready to embrace mistakes as part of our progress. We encourage everyone to get involved and explore, even with the simplest of ideas.”

Sawyer Degregori and Trevor MacDuffee from Woodgrove High School were crowned the High School Division Champions for their creation, the “Double Quena.” Made from PVC, their design offers a contemporary twist on one of the oldest known instruments, the whistle, resulting in a flute-like instrument that has gained popularity within their school. Trevor shared, “All of the band students have really enjoyed playing it.”

Max Choe, representing Kilmer Middle School, was named the Middle School Division Champion for his creation, the “Air Keys.” Crafted from 3D printed PLA and integrated with microelectronics, this innovative instrument features small caps for the fingers. By flexing the fingers within these caps, users can produce sounds reminiscent of piano keys. The “Air Keys” stand out for their creative design, merging technology and traditional musical elements in a novel way.

The panel of judges for the challenge included Ilya Tëmkin, a professor at NOVA; Justin Owen, the NOVA IET CTE Coordinator; Chris Russell, Project Manager for the Information and Technologies division at NOVA; and David Tuohey, a Senior Process Engineer at BAE Systems in Manassas. BAE Systems has generously supported the design challenges through financial sponsorship since 2022.

Opened in January 2020, the Fab Lab stands as a premier makerspace welcoming students, faculty, staff from NOVA, and the broader educational community. It is dedicated to enhancing knowledge of digital fabrication by providing access to advanced fabrication techniques and 3D modeling training. The Fab Lab focuses on Design Thinking and problem-solving to foster innovation skills, launching a design challenge in Spring 2021 to encourage creative solutions to a specific issue.

The Next Challenge

Looking ahead to the next event, Physics Professor Elena Ziu and her son, Mihai, both avid NOVA Makers, will be lending their expertise to the upcoming spring design challenge. This challenge calls for participants to design a product to help improve the well-being of an animal.

Entries will be evaluated based on creativity, aesthetics, feasibility, and effectiveness. The competition is open to middle school, high school, homeschool, and post-secondary students, welcoming individual participants or teams of up to three.

The submission deadline is set for April 14. The Grand Champion will be awarded a Prusa MK4 3D Printer, while each Division Champion will receive a Prusa Mini+. For more details and to submit your entry, visit: https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/divisions/iet/fablab.html.