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CCI High School Intern Program Wraps Up

Joseph Gilman ’23 works with student James Hanstedt on the “virtual city” during the CCI high school internship program.—VMI Photo by Marianne Hause.

VMI, in collaboration with Virginia Tech, held a 12-week internship recently for high school students, funded by a workforce development grant from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative. The grant seeks to build a pipeline of mentorship in which graduate students from Virginia Tech with graduate-level knowledge and experience on cybersecurity topics mentor VMI cadets, and in turn, the cadets mentor local high school students. The internship aims to teach high school students how to develop practical hardware, software, and cybersecurity skills through in-person practical learning and self-paced online training.

According to Mohamed Azab, Ph.D., assistant professor in VMI’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences, students worked on two testbeds, which are models used for conducting replicable testing of scientific theories. The first is a wastewater treatment testbed built by cadets over the past two semesters, mimicking an actual wastewater plant. It is to be used as a cybersecurity educational tool to train new employees at a wastewater facility and a classroom learning tool. The second is a smart grid testbed the high school students built that shows electric power generation, electric power distribution, and device consumption in two model houses. “The cadets have done an extraordinary job mentoring our high school interns in learning basic skills and principles of cybersecurity, teaching them about the internet of things and extended reality, and I’m proud of the interns and their work on this ‘virtual city,’ developing a hardware model of a smart grid, an information infrastructure, a web user interface, an extended reality user interface, and predicting cybersecurity attacks,” said Azab.

Joseph Gilman ’23, a computer science major from Richmond and cadet mentor to the high school students, enjoyed his work with the teens. “It is said that teaching something is the best way to learn it, and I have found that to be true because this experience has allowed me to grow as a teacher and learn how to concisely explain things,” he said.

Corban Idewu, a ninth grade homeschool student who hopes one day to become a neurosurgeon, enjoyed the experience. “I learned so much working on this project and made some friends,” he said.