MCPS Students Connect with Cybersecurity in Cyber Fair

Originally published on Bethesda Magazine: MCPS Students Connect with Cybersecurity in Cyber Fair 

Todd Leff, a robotics teacher at Kingsview Middle School, shows Eduardo Naboa, cybersecurity lab manager for Montgomery College (standing), how lego robotics works during a Cyber Fair at Montgomery College on Saturday, Nov. 12. Credit: Steve Bohnel

Montgomery County Public Schools students, along with MCPS and Montgomery College teachers and local cyber experts, were busy putting in a little overtime on Saturday, learning the ins and outs of cybersecurity and related fields.

Throughout the lobby and multiple classrooms at Montgomery College’s Rockville campus building at 900 Hungerford Drive, there were various workshops and breakout sessions on information technology, coding, cybersecurity, and related fields.

A collaboration, including Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College and Germantown-based software company Planet Technologies, led a Cyber Family Fest at the ignITe Hub, which opened earlier this year.

Kimberly Bloch-Rincan, director of the ignITe Hub, said the most important aspect of Saturday’s event was letting students and families know about what MCPS and Montgomery College offers in term of cybersecurity and other related courses, and what technical skills in coding, cybersecurity and information technology that students can learn from those courses.

There are currently about 9,000 open jobs for cybersecurity and related fields in the Washington, D.C., region, Bloch-Rincan said.

“The most important part [about today’s event] is exposure and awareness,” she said. “We want people to know about cybersecurity, and why it’s important in their lives.”

In one of the sessions, MCPS teachers showed students how to work with LEGO robotics, and how to use code to operate those different technologies.

Todd Leff, who teaches robotics at Kingsview Middle School, helped lead one of the sessions. He said he’s glad there are opportunities like this to connect students with cybertechnologies.

It’s also important for them to learn about cybersecurity since all aspects of the cyber field now require some level of knowledge in that realm, Leff said.

Eduardo Naboa, cybersecurity lab manager for Montgomery College, agreed. He said that while cybersecurity has become more prominent in recent years, it’s important to remember that the federal government has been treating it as an important industry for decades.

Naboa, however, said that students — including those who attended Saturday — have many more career pathways and opportunities than before.

“Cybersecurity has exploded everywhere because hackers are not just focused on government and big corporations. Now they include individuals … and industries that have not usually been targeted, like education and healthcare,” Naboa said.

During Saturday’s fair, more than half a dozen students from Clarksburg High School were sharing information about their P-TECH program, which teaches students about technical skills involved in information technology and related fields.

Samraddha Kacholia, a junior at Clarksburg, said that the program allows MCPS students to attend college classes and get an associate’s degree in IT while still in high school.

Kacholia, who noted his interest in computing, said he’s still figuring out what career in computer science he wants to pursue. He said that the P-TECH program and events like the Cyber Family Fest show there are opportunities for students who want a career in these fields.

“This program really helps you know what computers are really about … and you’re getting your associate’s degree in cloud computing by the time you graduate,”  Kacholia said.

More events and classes will occur later this year and early next, according to ignITe Hub flyers. They include winter coding courses, more classes on cybersecurity, and guest speaker series on how tech and help those who are disabled, and how artists are using new digital technologies.