Penn College IT students present findings at conference

April 19, 2019

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Two Pennsylvania College of Technology information technology students detailed at a recent conference their efforts as part of a National Science Foundation grant to address the critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals.

Allison F. Chapman, of Montoursville, and Margot S. Rinehart, of Downingtown, presented “Capture the Flag as a Testing Platform” at the recent Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Northeast Region Conference at the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut.

The students, both seeking bachelor’s degrees in information assurance and cybersecurity, have served as mentors for a college credit introductory information assurance and cybersecurity course offered to local high school juniors and seniors. Jacob R. Miller and Sandra Gorka, associate professors of computer science, and Alicia McNett, instructor of computer information technology, developed the Penn College course through the NSF CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program.

During the 2017-18 academic year, 17 high schoolers took the course; currently, 23 students are enrolled. The class, which meets once a week, is designed to introduce students to cybersecurity careers. The estimated cybersecurity job shortage is 2.9 million worldwide and 498,000 in the United States.

Chapman and Rinehart discussed how they devised an engaging final exam for the course in the form of a Capture the Flag-style event. The duo employed several different operating systems to create and configure virtualized desktops that students remotely accessed to peruse for the flags. That effort tested the high schoolers’ acquired knowledge.

The result of the activity, according to Chapman and Rinehart, was “increased comprehension” of subject matter covered in the course.

“The use of student mentors has been a very important component to our success with the information assurance and cybersecurity course under the NSF grant,” said Bradley M. Webb, assistant dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies, who has coordinated the grant initiative with high schools. “The dedication of Allison and Margot to create a unique final is proof of that. We are very proud that they had the opportunity to present their findings to the academic community at CCSCNE. It was a great experience for them, and they did an outstanding job representing themselves and the college.”

Offering such information at the conference continued the college’s commitment of sharing resources and outcomes related to its pioneering work – facilitated under the NSF grant – of addressing the shortage in the cybersecurity workforce. Earlier this year, college faculty presented a session on the initiative at ShmooCon, an annual East Coast hacker convention.

“We hope our work can serve as a model for other institutions throughout the country,” Webb said. “That is certainly a key objective of our strong commitment to upgrading the cybersecurity workforce.”

Penn College offers baccalaureate degrees in information assurance and cybersecurity, game and simulation programming, information technology: network specialist concentration, and software development and information management, and an associate degree in information technology: technical support technology emphasis.

Information about those majors and other programs offered by the college’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies is available by calling 570-327-4520 or visiting www.pct.edu/icet.

For more on Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Last Updated April 19, 2019