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Students from five Virginia school districts will present their solutions to real-world challenges related to cybersecurity, computer science and technology posed by Bank of America, Capital One and CarMax. (Getty Images)

Virginia middle and high school students to compete in VCU-hosted STEM competition

Students from five school districts will present their solutions to three real-world challenges posed by Bank of America, Capital One and CarMax.

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Teams of Virginia middle and high school students will present innovative solutions to real-world challenges related to cybersecurity, computer science and technology in a virtual competition hosted by the Center for Innovation in STEM Education at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education.

The 10 student teams from Hanover County Public SchoolsHenrico County Public SchoolsSussex County Public SchoolsColonial Heights Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools will outline their responses to challenges posed by corporate partners Bank of AmericaCapital One and CarMax.

The event will be held via Zoom at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 25. Registration is required.

The challenges include:

- Develop a solution to prevent banking phishing scams;

- Develop a solution that would enable families to get a better idea of how they are spending money, and whether the spending is aligned with their values;

- Develop a way for CarMax to transfer vehicles more effectively and efficiently around the country.

The student presentations will be judged by a panel that includes corporate executives from Bank of America, Capital One and CarMax; Andrew Daire, Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Education; Chuck English, Virginia STEM coordinator at the Science Museum of Virginia; Keisha Tennessee, computer science technology coordinator, Virginia Department of EducationPatrick Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor, VCU College of Engineering; John Mustachio, Ed.D., computer science and technology specialist, CodeRVA Regional High School; and Chris Dovi, executive director of CodeVA.

College of Engineering undergraduate students will host a panel discussion and engineering graduate students will assist and advise throughout the event. Attending parents will also learn about future college opportunities and careers in computer science and engineering. The judges will select three Best-in-Class winning teams that will submit their solutions to a national level in a competition called the Conrad Challenge at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in January 2022.

The event is part of a Virginia Department of Education grant to the VCU School of Education, CodeVA and CodeRVA Regional High School, which advances computer science education among middle and high schoolers in Virginia. The competition is a capstone showcase from six days of activities interacting with corporate volunteers, undergraduates, graduates and professors from VCU, and experts from CodeVA and CodeRVA. It will include experiences in coding, computational thinking and team-based problem-solving skills where all students can demonstrate their learning and creativity.

“Computer science and cybersecurity are top of mind now, particularly with the recent ransomware attacks of Colonial Pipeline Company and [food manufacturer] JBS,” said Al Byers, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Innovation in STEM Education. “This event and the grant challenge Virginia students to develop computer science-related solutions to these real-world problems. Finalists from previous winners of the Conrad Challenge have presented ideas on everything from how to prevent cyberattacks on self-driving cars to how to identify fake news.”