Category Archives: IET Newsletter

NOVA Adjunct Wins NVTC Data Center Champion Award

NOVA Adjunct Faculty T.J. Ciccone has been named the Data Center Community Champion at the 2nd annual NVTC Virginia Data Center Awards in McLean for his leadership, support, and contributions to NOVA’s Data Center Operations (DCO) program and students.

The virtual event was attended by more than 150 industry executives, economic development professionals and state elected officials to recognize individuals and projects that represent excellence in areas of sustainability, construction, support, and advocacy and community engagement. Northern Virginia is the largest data center market in the world, according to NVTC’s 2020 Impact of Data Centers on the State and Local Economies of Virginia. You can read more about the 2nd annual NVTC awards here.

Professor Ciccone is the Vice President of Critical Operations at Stack Infrastructure and has helped lead the way in Data Center Operations for our college community by creating industry engagement opportunities for NOVA students, building industry-driven curriculum and providing data center tours and on-site laboratory activities.

His class at NOVA, ENE 195 – Intro to Data Center Operations (DCO), is part of the NOVA Engineering Technology A.A.S Degree DCO Specialization as well as the DCO Certificate program and expands basic knowledge on how data centers work from an engineering standpoint. This course is the only fully college accredited data center program in Virginia and more than 70% of students who have taken the intro course are now working in a data center. Professor Ciccone is teaching in-person (with social distancing) this semester at the Loudoun campus.

He responded to his NVTC award by saying “I am honored to be named a Data Center Community Champion, and beyond grateful to Northern Virginia Community College for embracing the need for an accredited data center program. It expands and increases the available talent pool, the diversity of candidates for the labor force, and most importantly the opportunity for young people from all walks of life to enter a career in technology. To be part of this, the largest data center market in the world, is very humbling.”

Congratulations, Professor Ciccone – we’re grateful to have you at NOVA!


Surgical Robot Named by STEM Camp Student

Congratulations to Nathan Tang!

We partnered with with OrthoVirginia on a naming campaign for their new MAKO Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgical Robot (for the knee) at the Herndon Operatory, the first robot in the commonwealth to be used in an outpatient surgery setting! The surgical staff chose Nathan’s moniker (credit also to Nathan’s friend Micah for input) from a list of submissions from our Virtual Robotics STEM Camps. The winning name: R2-Knee2.

Nathan got to meet R2-Knee2 in real life and learn about using the robot in surgery from Dr. Kevin Sumida, Dr. Johnathan Bernard and the Herndon Operatory staff. Thank you to all NOVA Systemic participants who submitted a name!

Nathan wants to go into Biomedical Engineering in the future, so maybe he’ll design the next wave of surgical robots! For winning the naming comp he received a custom plaque, a NOVA robotics jacket, four tickets to a D.C. United Soccer game and free D.C. United gear! His friend Micah also received swag and prizes.

About OrthoVirginia

With 27 locations around the state that include on-site physical therapy, orthopedic urgent care, and out-patient surgery centers, OrthoVirginia makes it easy for orthopedic patients to excel on the path to recovery, powered by advanced technology and techniques.

“R2-Knee2” performs total and partial knee replacement surgery. Click here for a video that highlights the robot’s capabilities.

Virtual STEM Camp Review 2020

STEM Camp Review 2020

Our virtual summer STEM Camps recently concluded with a total of 552 participants in 19 topics over 60 different sessions.

micro:bit, Scratch, VEX Robotics, Fabrication and Cybersecurity camps (with varying topics) were offered from June until August. Participants included K-12 students who were taught by NOVA Faculty and staff, High School Instructors and College Interns, eager to pass along their love and knowledge of STEM in a challenging and fledgling remote format. The show must go on, and indeed it did effectively to keep students engaged in STEM from the safety of home.

One major positive development with this year’s virtual camps was their reach. In our own commonwealth, virtual camps extended beyond the NOVA service area down to Newport News (in partnership with Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center, or BCIOC) and caught the attention of Dr. Mia D. Joe of Old Dominion University, who helped BCIOC make a transition to remote learning by adapting our camp modules.

Beyond that, we were able to instruct students from 12 states (VA, DC, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, MD, NC, NY, PA, and SC)!

Camps were more affordable for many reasons, but mainly because they were offered per household instead of per student. We had 552 attendees with 297 unique registrations, 67% male and 33% female. When it came to earlier STEM engagement in Coding, the breakdown was 60% male and 40% female.

We even had a surgical-robot naming contest (in partnership with OrthoVirginia) for students in our robotics camps. The MAKO Robotic-Arm Assisted Robot assists on knee operations and after all submissions were in, the surgical staff at OrthoVirginia chose a name submitted by robotics camp student Nathan Tang (with assistance from his friend Micah): R2-Knee2 (read about that story here). Nathan, a future Biomedical Engineer, got to meet the robot and the surgical staff as well as winning prizes that included 4 tickets to a DC United game (when it’s safe, of course).

Parent Reviews:

At first, students and parents were a little concerned about how online learning would work out, but our staff worked hard to adjust the learning modules for an engaging remote format that proved effective. A few reviews from parents:

    • “Collette LOVED this camp and we will sign her up for one of the ones you list below, too. Thank you – I thought “virtual camp” would be a drag for her, but it was wonderful!” – Bridgette Farrell
    • “Thank you for the update and warning about managing my daughter Logan’s expectations.  She seems very interested and engaged in this class.  So much so that she has requested her own 3D printer 🙂  I am delighted that the class is going so well and that the program was able to pivot so effectively to virtual classes.” – Elizabeth Fry
    • “The boys have been enjoying camp this week! They were able to complete their cool emoji pins this afternoon and we have uploaded their files to Canvas. Thanks for having so much patience guiding the kids through unfamiliar software and tools. The boys have been playing around with the programs and hope to use it more!” – Laura G
    • “I don’t think we could have asked for a better teacher! The instructor was great and really attentive to her class. I was in the background listening to the lessons while I worked and most of the time everyone was following along with her. She explained things well and would stop periodically to make sure everyone understood/ everyone was on the same page. For my child this was a big deal and because she did this frequently he was able to catch up and eventually became more confident in asking questions or saying when he needed help. I think an individuals comfort with asking questions is huge predictor in whether or not virtual learning will be successful or not because it’s easy to get lost with coding and not always so easy for an instructor to help you. She (Ms. Lisbeth) did a great job.” – Parent of Virtual Coding Camp student (via SurveyMonkey)
    • “It was amazing. He was completely engaged every day for two straight weeks. And with two working parents – we did not have to supervise or run logistics for him. We were really lucky to have this!” – Parent of Virtual Camp student (via SurveyMonkey)

Student Reviews:

    • “Honestly it was really cool! I really enjoyed the brute force exercise. I know this is not the ideal way to teach but I’ve really been enjoying this week! Cryptography is definitely something I might consider looking into as a career!” – Valerie
    • “I learned how to use the John the Ripper program which i found very interesting. I also found the birthday paradox interesting and the fact that it could be used to find collisions. I enjoyed the lab and would like to do more.” – Kathleen
    • “I liked the lab it taught me a lot of information, I found how fast the john ripper attack was and how many different options it used before it got to the correct answer so quickly. I liked the lab and would like to do more.” – John
    • “I liked using EXIF data to find out where an image was posted, and learning how to do so. – Ethan W.
    • “Great lesson! I liked learning about exif data and learned that it can be used as factual evidence, if need be. Nothing to be improved, great experience.” – Kevin
    • “I liked the brute-force lab, I thought it was fun and interesting. I learned about the birthday paradox and thought it was very interesting that it was used when thinking about finding passwords and eventually resulted in security being improved. ” – Andrew
    • “My experience today was very nice! I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. (I mean no disrespect by that, by the way XD). I liked how concise the lecture was, not a lot of fluff * I learned what social engineering was” – Camp Student
    • “The teaching style was great, it included us all and helped me learn easier than just speeding through the information! I really liked this class, and i hope i encounter similar teachers in the future :). thank you for giving me something fun and interesting to do over this summer!” – Camp Student
    • “I really loved it and it helped me figure out a very possible career choice for me” – Camp Student

STEM Camps Going Virtual!

STEM Camps are switching to Virtual STEM Camps this summer!

COVID-19 response restrictions, our commitment to safety, and guidance from local and state leadership has made it necessary to re-task our traditional in-person STEM camps, which are hosted at schools and NOVA campuses, to a virtual format this summer.

We are preparing a series of virtual STEM camps for students that will provide opportunities for them to explore STEM and the engineering design process from home. The curriculum includes some hands-on projects with micro:bit, scratch, VEX robotics, fabrication and cybersecurity tools for elementary to high school ages students in 1-2 hour online sessions throughout the summer. With fewer contact hours the cost to participants will be reduced and we will host camps per household instead of per student making them more affordable for the entire family.

Be on the lookout for our updated virtual camps information in the coming weeks. We will post on our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, distribute in email, and in our newsletter as information becomes more solidified.

Looking forward to seeing you this summer online!

NOVA Fab Lab Staff producing PPE Masks!

Being makers and designers at heart, the staff at NOVA’s Fab-Lab wanted to do their part during this crisis by manufacturing DIY face shields for the citizens on the front lines. However, with our Lab closed and access to machinery limited we faced many hurdles. Since our portable equipment would struggle to keep up with demand, and raw materials were already in short supply we took the initiate of designing two different versions that could be made simultaneously. We can now make five laser-cut versions in the time it takes to make one 3D printed model. Since we have five 3D printers in circulation and one laser cutter, we can produce approximately 100 shields a day.

We have just started full production and can’t wait to distribute our first batch to those in need!

More info will be on next months IET Interface Newsletter

STEM Careers Upcoming Events

NOVA and several industry partners are collaborating to host a series of Free Career Exploration & Readiness Virtual Workshops for NOVA students.  The first series will be offered on select Wednesdays from 11AM-12PM and 3PM-4PM beginning May 6 and ending on June 10.

The series will include the following dates and topics:
May 6: Navigating the Job/Internship Search (NOVA)
May 13: Building a Stand Out Resume (NOVA)
May 20: Security Clearance Information Session (Squadron Defense Group)
June 3: Industry Certifications:  Identification-Cert Your Worth. (PRISM Inc.)
June 10: Use Online Power Tools to Build Your Career.  (NOVA Workforce)

Registration is open at

STEM Careers Activities Recap

STEM Careers Virtual Activities Recap – March 2020

NOVA SySTEMic hosted a series of Career Explorations Activities during the month of March for potential Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Students and current NOVA students.  These activities were previously scheduled to occur in person throughout our various campuses, but were changed to Virtual Events utilizing Zoom Online Meetings.

The Career Exploration Fair included presentations about several STEM, CTE Programs and Student Services at NOVA.  Current NOVA students and area high school students were able to participate virtually, ask questions and learn more about NOVA.

Six Interviewing Skills Workshops for Northern Virginia Community College students were facilitated by The Career Engineer which included; Interactive Participant Activities, Mock Interview Simulations and time for Questions & Answers.  One participant shared, “I’m happy the virus didn’t cancel the workshop. Thank you for adapting during hard times”. 

Thank You to the faculty and staff members who helped support these STEM Careers events.  One faculty member shared feedback from their students, “My students are saying they thought it was incredibly helpful and they learned a lot. Especially around confidence and anxiety…Thanks so much for organizing this really great event. It’s a wonderful resource for our students!”

Click here for info on upcoming STEM Careers Events


NOVA SySTEMic Goes Online!

STEMinars: Online Workshops and Professional Development

We offer STEMinars (STEM Workshops) throughout the year to bring new STEM technologies to light and new students into STEM. In addition, our STEM Education Coordinators work with each school division to provide hands-on technical training to support teachers in academic and co-curricular programs.

Now, in response to social distancing measures, we are launching Online STEMinars, led by STEM staff and faculty, so you never have to distance yourself from project-based learning! These video-recorded or virtually live sessions are offered for FREE and cover a broad range of STEM topics. Some of these sessions include introductions to design software, computer programming, electronics such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi, 3D scanning, makerspace/fabrication equipment, robotics, and more.

STEMinars are designed to be an online resource for the community and will walk you through sample projects and design challenges so that you can develop STEM skills. Registration is required at least 24 hours before a session starts. Sessions run 30-60 minutes depending upon age level and topic.

NOVA staff are working remotely to make additional STEMinars available in the coming months so be on the lookout for new offerings on our website and social media.

Upcoming STEMinars

STEMinar: Cybersecurity Workshops
Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:00-12:50pm starting March 19 through end of May
Check out our popular virtual Cyber Workshops, presented in partnership with ISACA and NOVA faculty and staff. All sessions have different topics and speakers and are recorded for future playback. Topics include Continuity of Operations for the Home, Personal Security Tradecraft, Cyber for High School Students, Teachers, & Parents, and more.

> Register Now

For videos from past workshops click here

STEMinar: Robotics Competitions – A Strategic Approach.
Monday April 6 (4pm) for VEXIQ Challenge 
Wednesday April 8 (4pm) for VEX Robotics Competition
Then weekly through May on Mondays (VIQ) and Wednesdays (VRC)
Learn how to start the robotics season right! Afnan Ali, a world champion roboticist, will spend an hour each week working through game strategy. Participants will learn how to analyze and breakdown previous year’s games as well as document strategies that lead toward successful robot prototypes. This introduction on how to apply the engineering design process to competitive robotics is a great introduction for students, parents and mentors. Suitable for ages 10 and up.

> Register Now 

STEMinar: Intro to Programming with Python
Wednesdays starting April 8 through April 29 (all at 2pm)
Python is a programming language used to develop software on the web and in app form, including mobile. It’s relatively easy to learn, and can be used to process text, display numbers or images, solve scientific equations, and save data.

Intro to Python: Mad Libs (I/O, variables)
Learn about basic keyboard input, terminal output, and variables by writing a simple       Mad Libs game.

Python Branching: Text Adventure Game (if/elif/else)
Explore how to make decisions on the fly with if/elif/else statements in order to create a simple text adventure game.

Python Looping: Guessing Game (repetition)
Examine and use ‘while’ loops to have your user guess a random number until they run out of tries or get it correct. We’ll explore the dynamics of user feedback as well as scoring.

Python Collections: Hangman (managing lots of items)
After a brief intro to Python’s built-in list collection, we’ll use these data structures to implement a simple version of the classic word-guessing game Hangman.

> Register Now

STEMinar: Introduction to SketchUp.
April 10 (2pm) & April 23 (7pm)
SketchUp is a premier 3D design software that truly makes 3D modeling for everyone, with a simple to learn yet robust toolset that empowers you to create whatever you can imagine.

> Register Now 

STEMinar: Introduction to Inkscape.
April 14 (7pm) & April 30 (7pm)
This session provides an overview of the free software program called Inkscape, which helps the user transform ideas into a digital representation, which can then be converted to a physical product.

> Register Now 

STEMinar: 3D Scanning
April 14 (7pm) & May 1 (7pm)
3D scanning allows users to copy real objects for editing on software. Learn about the present and future possibilities of 3D modeling. We’ll discuss the current technologies such as Photogrammetry and 3D scanners and more emergent technologies such as NeRF (Neural Radiance Fields). 

> Register Now 

Digital Realty Mock Interview
Date: TBD

Fab Lab – Sewable LED Emoji Pin
Date: TBD

Fab Lab – TinkerCAD
Date: TBD


Fab Lab – Upcoming Workshops


Code & Operate a Mini Robotic Car! – March 16
Participants will learn to program and operate a small robotic car.  Activities include use of different sensors (ultrasonic, IR, color), line-following, and driver versus autonomous control.

Laser Cutting & Engraving – March 17 & April 7
Participants will learn how to use a laser system to cut and engrave acrylic and glass.  Participants will be able to keep the items they make, including an engraved drinking glass.  For beginners.

Intro to 3D Design & Printing – March 21
Would you like to learn how to draw and 3D print a design? Do you have no to little experience with CAD (computer aided design) software and 3D printing?  If so, then this is the class for you!

Creating Prototypes & Solving Design Challenges – March 24
Participants will learn to use various machinery (3D printer, plastic forming center, wire bender, etc.) and a CAD (computer aided design) software program to solve design challenges.

Arduino & Raspberry Pi – March 24 & 31
Participants will learn how to build circuits with Arduino and how to build their very own website using Raspberry Pi.  This workshop is intended for beginners with no experience.

Mother’s Day Gift Making – April 29
Use your creativity and some technology to create a Mother’s Day gift at the NOVA Fab Lab!  We will help you design and personalize a gift using one of our 3D printers.  No 3D printing experience necessary.

>> Click here for more details and to register for workshops


Community Open House – March 14
Open to the public with free hands-on activities for all age levels!  Click here to Register

Thursday Demo Nights
Each Thursday we will be giving an overview and demonstration on how a specific piece (or group) of fabrication equipment works.  Register here


Interviewing Skills Workshops in March

NOVA SySTEMic is hosting Interviewing Skills Workshops, led by The Career Engineer® (TCE), for STEM and CTE Majors as well as students enrolled in IT, Business, and Health Care programs. TCE can help increase your career confidence and impact your chance to land your dream job! Students will have the opportunity to participate in interview simulation activities and learn how to successfully get through an interview. Participants receive early entry to the IET Career Fair on April 3, 2020 at the NOVA Annandale Campus.

Where and When?

March 24th
10am Annandale Campus
3pm Loudoun Campus

March 25th
10am Manassas Battleview
3pm MEC Springfield Campus

March 26th
10am Alexandria Campus
3pm Woodbridge Campus