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Aspiring Cyber Warriors Get Training, Career Advice at CCI Cyber Camp 2022

Students from eight Virginia universities and community colleges attended the Commonwealth Cyber Initative’s 2022 CCI Cyber Camp, where they interacted with cyber experts, tackled complex challenges, and built the foundation of a professional network. 

“The CCI Cyber Camp offers an opportunity for students throughout the commonwealth to participate in hands-on cybersecurity exercises and professional development activities,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director.

“We used research infrastructure that is unique in CCI, in particular our next-generation (xG) testbed, for network security and AI assurance activities. Our industry partners provided invaluable career advice to students and conducted mock interviews."

49 students participated in the CCI Qualifying Event in April 2022, which was a series of online challenges that determined if the students’ skill levels were best fit for the CCI Cyber Camp. 26 students were invited to the camp, held June 6 - 9 at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia.

The 19 participating students represented:

“I was particularly happy to see robust community college participation,” DaSilva said of the event, which was held June 6-9 in Arlington.

The aspiring cyber professionals were challenged to work in teams in four intensive technical workshops that enhanced their collaborative skills.

“This camp is a good way to get connected with other cyber students in the state,” said Matthew Nguyen, a cybersecurity major at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. “I was able to apply what I learned in my classes, and I got to see what my peers learn at their schools. The transfer of knowledge from our respective schools in a group setting like this camp was something I really liked.”

Workshops included:

  • A session on Advanced Wireless Communication Networks: CCI xG Testbed Director Aloizio P. DaSilva, with CCI graduate research assistants, guided students through a series of challenges. 
  • An exploration of artificial intelligence: CCI researcher and Virginia Tech associate professor Feras Batarseh and postdoctoral associate Jagan Chandrasekaran led the workshop and presented AI assurance methods, discussed deployments in water and agricultural systems, and held an AI competition.
  • A dive into data analytics: Laura Freeman, deputy director of Virginia Tech National Security Institute and CCI researcher, worked with teams of students, who presented their findings on datasets.

“CCI Cyber Camp is a fun experience because not only do you get to learn more about current growing technologies, but also you get to meet and have one-on-one conversations with professionals from the area, working in both the public and private sector,”  said aspiring cybersecurity engineer Kristine Munsayac, a junior at George Mason University in Fairfax. 

Students also got some professional advice on how to start building their careers.

DaSilva moderated a career panel of cybersecurity professionals:

They discussed such practical topics as how to make a résumé stand out, while also offering  insight on how the cyber industry is changing and developing.

In another session, Don Snyder, director of Industry Advising on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Careers at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, led a résumé/CV and cover letter workshop.

 Later, students suited up to engage in mock job interviews with the experts and received feedback on how they could improve.

 “One thing that stood out the most with this camp was everyone’s clear dedication and passion for the campers’ experience — the organizers, the instructors, and the graduate students — that passion fed off onto campers like me,” said cybersecurity major Gregory Wilson, a junior at Old Dominion.

 The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative plans to sponsor Cyber Camp annually. Aspiring campers can look for information about participating in online qualifying challenges in early spring 2023.


Michele McDonald, director of communications and marketing, Commonwealth Cyber Initiative