Hundreds of high school students spent Saturday learning about careers in cyber security at the first-ever Loudoun County Public Schools CyberSlam at Briar Woods High School.
The event featured addresses from former Acting and Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, Virginia Deputy Director for Cybersecurity Aliscia Andrews, and Secure Anchor CEO Eric Cole. There was also a panel discussion featuring five recent LCPS graduates working in the cybersecurity field.
David Raymond, Director of the Virginia Cyber Range, also led the students in a “capture the flag” exercise, to prepare them for tests they might encounter during their job searches.
The event was open to all cybersecurity and computer science students and was the first of its kind for the school division. It is the brainchild of Briar Woods High School cybersecurity teacher Chris Starke.
“We have so many high school students in Loudoun that have an interest in cybersecurity and IT. I thought ‘what a great way to bring high school kids together with practicing cyber professionals in the industry,’” Starke said.
“We have so many opportunities for college kids and professionals in terms of conferences and engagement,” he said.
Andrews, the first-ever Deputy Secretary of Cybersecurity for Virginia, said that training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is crucial.
“We owe it to them, the Commonwealth, and our nation to ensure that we have the most capable cyber workforce. A workforce that is both adaptable and prepared for the unknown challenges of tomorrow,” she said.
As Raymond worked through the capture the flag exercise, many students were quick to answer his questions about data encryption and to suggest possible solutions for the exercise.
“These kids are almost born with a device in their hands so they’re smarter than I am with a lot of this stuff,” Starke said.
“We see so many instances of data breaches, we’re in a cyberwar almost around the world. If we can find the next generation of cyber professionals out of our high school crew—the opportunities are there by the hundreds of thousands,” he added.
The event concluded with students asking questions of the LCPS Alumni panel, including Macayla Kieschnick, Hazma Khan, Robert Addo, Stephanie Dowse, and Ishan Jadwani.
Kieschnick, a John Champe High School alumnus and ManTech intern, credits her training at the Academies of Loudoun for her success in the field so far. Dowse, a Briar Woods High School graduate, told the students about her internships during college that helped her break into her career with Cisco.
Starke said he envisions offering a similar event to middle schoolers in the future.