Shaun Foor, a Clark State Community College student, was selected by the American Community College Association to attend the 21st National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) conference October 22 – 24, 2014. Adjunct Instructor Cathy Balas and Professor Dan Heighton, faculty in the information technology and cybersecurity program at Clark State, will also attend the largest ATE gathering of the year in Washington, D.C.
The conference brings together approximately 850 participants working on ATE projects across the country in community colleges, secondary school systems, four-year colleges and research and development centers. This includes students and principle investigators in information technology, engineering technology, micro- and nanotechnologies, chemical technology and biotechnology.
A principle investigator (PI) is a lead engineer or scientist of a research project. Each year, PIs nominate students like Foor to attend the conference. Heighton is the principle investigator and Balas is the co-PI for Clark State’s CyberSecurity/Information Assurance program.
Foor is a graduate of Clark State’s Basic Peace Officer Academy and works as a campus cadet at the College. He is also a part-time police officer at the Tremont City Police Department, but he always had an interest in computers.
“It was difficult for me to find a full-time job, and I wanted to transition into an area that would complement my law enforcement experience,” said Foor. “The Clark State faculty guided me in the right direction, and because of that, I’ve had more opportunities than ever before.”
This summer, Foor interned at Riverside Research where he created a network test bed for power grids that are vulnerable to hackers in the United States. He and his team built a virtual lab consisting of several different operating systems running on one physical computer. They ran network tests to see if hackers could breach the grids.
At the conference he will present his project and findings, as well as answer any questions from attendees. For the first time, student exhibits will be mixed in with all other NSF projects of all disciplines in the exhibit hall. Foor will also attend student sessions, and he is most excited about the networking events where he will meet different employers.
“The program is a tool that presents a multitude of other opportunities for students to take advantage of, and that’s really the key to it all,” said Heighton.
Information technology is one of the fastest-growing fields today, and Clark State’s CyberSecurity/Information Assurance curriculum prepares students to support the information security needs of all businesses.
The CyberSecurity/Information Assurance program was created in 2008 after the College was awarded with its first NSF grant. As an extension of the curriculum, Balas and the cybersecurity faculty created internship and externship teams to engage students.
Unlike a typical internship, students have the chance to work alongside faculty members on large-scale research projects. Last year, two students had a virtual internship with Indiana University. They worked remotely at Clark State’s Greene Center as network administrators for the supercomputers that powered the Human Genome Project.
“It’s unheard of,” said Balas. “Two-year community college students working as the technical support for Ph.D. researchers. Those students now have the skills to work for places like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that have the same supercomputers.”
Well into their second grant from the NSF, the program is expanding its internship and externship opportunities with three local industry partners: Riverside Research, AT&T and LexisNexis.
“I’m involved in a lot of different projects, and Clark State’s CyberPros is one of the best projects I’ve seen in the United States,” said Gordon Snyder Jr., NSF evaluator.
Looking ahead, the Balas and Heighton are working hard to engage potential students and has started teaching cybersecurity at Springfield High School.
“We’re encouraging all students to at least consider taking that intro class because cybersecurity exists in all other professions, like healthcare, for example. Students studying to be medical assistants at Clark State, who have also studied cybersecurity, can now manage files securely and can work with technicians in the field. They will be more valuable to a company than someone who does not even know the basics,” adds Balas. “Enrollment could triple, and there still would be a sufficient demand for students.”
Learn more about CyberSecurity/Information Assurance Program on the Clark State website.