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Washington, DC. On Thursday, February 2, 2012, an enthusiastic, tech-savvy group of high school students from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School emerged from the George C. Marshall Hall at the National Defense University (NDU) iCollege full of ideas for their future. The students participated in a unique career day featuring hands- on, computer laboratory experiences where they were shown examples on how to protect data and information on their computers and their smart phones, they were introduced to virtual worlds, and they explored potential vulnerabilities regarding critical infrastructure capabilities. The day’s agenda offered a broad overview on information technology and how it is used within government service. The “IT Job Shadow Day” is an initiative of the U.S. Federal Government and is endorsed by the Office of the Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Federal CIO Council.
Organizers Dr. W. Stan Boddie, Professor of Systems Management and Dr. Cassandra C. Lewis, Assistant Dean for Curriculum, co-planned the event. “Seeing the students faces light up when we show them how technology is used to monitor and protect the nation’s assets is a great lesson to learn. The IT Job Shadow Day is an excellent opportunity for the DoD to reach out to high school students and share examples of technology and how it is used within the federal government. Today -- these students will have the opportunity to be cyber warriors!” said Dr. Boddie. “We are thrilled to have the students here. What they learn today they can take with them… and the lessons might influence their future career choices,” remarked Dr. Lewis.
Dr. Mary McCully, Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs, and Mr. Russ Quirici, Dean of Students and Administration, welcomed the students. Both echoed the value of learning and continuing education. Their joint message to the students was, “information technology is one of the most dynamic fields for today and for the future.”
Students then joined Dr. Mike Piller, Director of Academic Computer and Laboratories, Capt. Richard Cespiva, USAF, Assistant Professor Cyber Integration and Information Operations, and Mr. Tim Perkowski, NDU iCollege Lab Manager, for an interactive tour of the technology labs. In the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) laboratory, students watched videos and participated in several live demonstrations on how critical infrastructure systems (drawbridges, manufacturing lines, traffic displays), have been manipulated via computers and smart phones – and thus need to be protected.
The students also were introduced to cyber-based defensive and offensive strategies via attack and defend exercises on laptop computers and were shown how data on the computers can be vulnerable. A question and answer session was held on computer- based password protection and the importance of keeping others from stealing computer- based information. The purpose of the learning exercises was to show students what
can happen with computer networks and telecommunications, and how by taking a few precautionary steps, everyone can protect their information from potential criminal hackers.
The last tour of the day gave students an interactive, hands-on demonstration of the NDU iCollege’s virtual world island, located on the Internet in Second Life. The discussion was facilitated by Ms. Tammy Dreyer-Capo, Instructional Designer, and Mr. Michael Jacobs of the eLearning Department. Students were shown Italy’s Sistine Chapel and other Second Life scenes. They learned how to walk, jump, sit, and to fly using avatars via the computer keyboard. Ms. Dreyer-Capo explained that Second Life is free on the Internet and it is used by the NDU iCollege to teach some classes. Mr. Jacobs pointed out that the Air Force, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) use Second Life for training purposes.
The NDU iCollege has hosted the Federal IT Job Shadow Day for five years, and from the broad smiles of engaged students – it won’t be the last.