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Cybersecurity Grant Project at ODU Receives Excellence Distinction from Virginia Department of Education

By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University's Batten College of Engineering and Technology and Darden College of Education and Professional Studies grant collaboration recently won a Creating Excellence Award for 2021 from the Virginia Department of Education.

The award was earned from the Secondary Career and Technical Award for Region 2 in the Business and Industry Partnership category.

The Norfolk Public Schools Career & Technical Education Department nominated the Batten and Darden colleges for the award.

"We are so proud of our partnership with Norfolk Public Schools that is spanning through our multiple grants, which started in fall 2012 when I joined the Department of Engineering Technology," said Vukica Jovanovic, Batten Endowed Fellow and associate professor of engineering technology and PI of the project. "I worked together with Dr. (Petros) Katsioloudis and Dr. Deborah Marshall (of Norfolk Public Schools) on multiple CTE projects. I am so humbled and honored with our expanded team (Professors Murat Kuzlu, Otilia Popescu, Hongyi 'Michael' Wu and Linda Vahala, who served as co-PIs) that we are able to support their groundbreaking efforts and strides that they are making in the area of increasing the access for this exciting area of cybersecurity that ODU is very known for in Virginia and beyond."

"This has been an exciting project and truly provides opportunities for excellence to our students in the Norfolk Public Schools," said Katsioloudis, professor and chair in the Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies and co-PI in the grant. "It's a hands-on experience designed to increase skills in CTE areas that are highly needed in our area but also at a national level."

The grant team developed supplemental learning modules for two CTE courses: IT fundamentals and cybersecurity fundamentals. These modules were reviewed by members of an industrial advisory board that is supporting the project: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News; Bauer Compressors, Norfolk; Busch Manufacturing, Virginia Beach; Chartway Credit Union, Norfolk; Unilever, Suffolk, Virginia; Swisslog, Newport News; Continental Automotive, Newport News; Cyber Innovation Center, Bossier City, Louisiana; NASA Langley Research Center; Norfolk Naval Shipyard; and Tidewater Community College. Industry input was then embedded into the final version of modules that were finalized with the help of Instructional Designer Mary Addison.

Modules were distributed to all of the state's CTE cybersecurity teachers by Judith Sams, teacher specialist from Virginia Department of Education.

ODU's Computer Science Principles and Cybersecurity Pathway for Career and Technical Education is a partnership between Norfolk City Public Schools and the Batten and Darden Colleges. It focuses on expanding access to STEM education, specifically computer science and cybersecurity, for underrepresented high school students. These goals were met through mentorship for cybersecurity students, professional development for cybersecurity and computer science teachers and the development of curriculum supplements to enhance student success in these courses.

Specifically, the project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Provides career and technical educational programming and informal learning experiences in computer science and cybersecurity.
  • Builds awareness for students and families of the need for a minimum level of computer science literacy for entry into the job market.
  • Delivers professional training workshops on computer science and cybersecurity to CTE high school faculty.
  • Engages college students to serve as mentors and role models to participating high school students in Norfolk Public Schools.

"Norfolk Public Schools is unique in their approach, offering cybersecurity programs in all five public high schools," Jovanovic said. "I hope that more public schools follow their lead nationwide soon and that we can help more students get better-paying job opportunities and lead them to the engineering and technology pathways."

ODU also earned a Best Diversity Paper award for "Mentoring Prospective Engineering Students Through the After-School Program 'Girls in Engineering.'" The award was presented by the Ocean and Marine Engineering Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.

That paper, which focused on building an underwater, remotely operated vehicle, was part of the mentorship program with Granby High School.

For more information, go to this link.

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