Approximately 356 students from various colleges, universities and high schools across the country gathered at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus to participate in the third annual Innovation Hackathon event, held at the Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training (RCWET) April 13-15. Individuals traveled as far as Florida to attend this year’s largest NOVA-Woodbridge Hackathon event since it began in 2016.
Innovation Hackathon, a 36-hour-long competition, offered hands-on experience to students interested in cybersecurity and secure coding methods. Participants came prepared with sleeping bags and overnight items, eager to work in teams to “hack” several challenges provided by corporate sponsors General Dynamics Information Technology, Rapid Cycle, Strategy and Management Services (SAMS), Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA), Rigil Corporation and the AllCyber Association. Challenges involved the complexities of data visualization, developing applications, information assurance and secure programming. First-, second- and third-place teams competed to win a HP Chromebook 14 G5, an Amazon Echo and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. In addition, seven students each received a $1,000 Hackathon award from sponsors.
Dr. Kenneth Fritzsche, director of the Identity Technology Division (ITD) in the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), within the National Protection and Programs Directorate was the keynote speaker for the event. He encouraged participants to explore opportunities in STEM fields when determining lucrative career options.
“STEM is more than just learning about science, technology, engineering and math courses, it’s also about learning how to think critically and become a problem solver,” Fritzsche said. “The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there will be a 73 percent increase of STEM career growth in the next seven years, with a focus in computer-related fields. This is your time to focus on what you want your career and future to look like after you complete your education.”
Highly-trained cybersecurity experts also spoke to participants on topics involving computer science and information technology through “Tech Talks.” Experts included Stephanie Carter, owner of JDC Unleashed; Eric Chapman, an information systems security engineer for defense contractors; Brian DeMuth, CEO of GRIMM; Tyrone Guiden, security analyst for Zeneth Technology Partners and deputy executive director of AllCyber; Stacey Lee-Curbean, owner of Picasso Global Technology Solutions; Marvin Marin, information technology and cybersecurity specialist; Michelle Miranda, Marine Corps veteran and cyber specialist and Jeff Wiley, analytics and countermeasures engineer for Noblis. Competition participants and members of the general public also explored career opportunities with local IT and cybersecurity companies at a job fair held on Saturday as part of the hackathon weekend event.
“This was my first time participating in a Hackathon and I really didn’t know what to expect,” said NOVA-Woodbridge student Hassan Imtiaz. “A few of my classmates who attended in previous years mentioned how much they enjoyed participating and having the opportunity to network with corporate businesses and professionals. I’ve always been interested in computers and how they work since I was six years old. When I moved to the US in 2015 from Pakistan and later enrolled at NOVA, I knew I wanted to study IT, and so far I’ve already learned so much from the program. Events like the Hackathon enhance my skills and ability to network with the right people to excel my career.”
According to The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the nation’s cyber infrastructure depends on well-trained professionals to support and protect its systems and networks from attacks. Hands-on cyber competitions are a valuable learning method for all students, regardless of skill level. Cyber competitions are interactive, scenario-based exercises that help students develop and increase cybersecurity skills outside the traditional academic environment.
A national leader in technology-focused programs and cyber-related events, NOVA is creating a varsity level eSports arena at the Annandale Campus for students to practice and compete. Associated with the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NASE), NOVA’s eSports program will host competitions and recruit students for the spring 2018 term. For additional information and requirements contact Director of College-Wide Student Life Brian Anweiler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.323.3037.
Innovation Hackathon 2018 was sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Ele23ctronics Association (AFCEA), AllCyber, Rigil Corporation, Rapid Cycle Solutions, Synaptek Corporation, General Dynamics Information Technology, Strategy and Management Services (SAMS), NCN Technology, Business Integra Technology Solutions, XCorp, Future Kings and Year Up.