An Old Dominion University collaboration with the Norfolk Public Schools aims to help students find the path to computer science and cybersecurity.

The donation of 50 laptops ­­- 10 for each of Norfolk's five high schools - is part of the AP Computer Science Principles and Cybersecurity Pathway for Career and Technical Education (CSPCP) project led by the Batten College of Engineering and Technology and the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies.

The CSPCP was established in fall of 2019 with a $675,000 Department of Education grant to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and align workforce skills with local labor market needs, as well as to increase access to STEM education for underrepresented high school students.

"We have to start taking the fear out of these STEM fields by creating awareness among these unrepresented groups," Vukica Jovanovic, CSPCP project manager and Batten Fellow and associate professor of engineering technology, said in an earlier article.

"We're going to achieve this by developing and delivering professional training workshops to CTE high school faculty focused on computer science and cybersecurity and by engaging college students to serve as mentors and role models to the high school students."

A team of ODU undergraduate and graduate students is developing the educational modules for CTE teachers, bringing visiting speakers to Norfolk Public Schools cybersecurity classes, organizing field trips and code nights, and mentoring high school students.

Deborah Marshall, a CTE teacher in Norfolk and ODU alum, is leading the implementation of the modules and courses.

"Norfolk Public Schools is the first public school system in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have IT fundamentals and cybersecurity fundamentals courses offered in all five public schools in its district," Marshall said. "This unique opportunity is now available as a career option for any high schooler residing in Norfolk."

In addition to the educational modules, the laptops have enabled students to participate in STEM organizations, like Girls in Engineering, and to enter cybersecurity and computer science competitions

Norview High School students, led by Karl Meister, Norview CTE teacher and ODU alum, used the laptops to participate in the 2021 "picoCTF" cybersecurity competition.

Granby High School students have used the laptops in after-school programs and for the CyberPatriots and Great Computer Challenge competitions.

"Norfolk Public Schools has been a longtime partner of ODU. The ODU community has children in NPS schools, and many ODU employees are NPS graduates," Jovanovic said. "It is important to cultivate STEM pathways and fill up the gaps that exist in the local industry that could potentially improve the region's economy and overall well-being of our region."

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