Students Exposed to Cutting-Edge Cyber Technology Through Outreach Program

James Bangura ’26 guides a student learning a virtual reality headset at the Rockbridge Regional Library.

James Bangura ’26 guides a student learning a virtual reality headset at the Rockbridge Regional Library. –Photo courtesy of Nathan Lundy ’24.

LEXINGTON, Va. April 29, 2024 — Dr. Sherif Abdelhamid, assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) and outreach liaison officer of the Cyber Defense Laboratory (CyDef) at Virginia Military Institute, has developed a program with educational institutions to foster knowledge and interest in cutting-edge technology fields among high school and middle school students. The program, funded through a Department of Defense grant, focuses on cybersecurity, cryptography, drones, computer programming, and virtual reality.

Abdelhamid, along with cadets, Melsy Bonilla ’24, Nathan Lundy ’24, James Bangura ’26, and Charles Bagley ’27, recently visited Lylburn Downing Middle School, Rockbridge County High School, and the Rockbridge Regional Library to share the technology with students.

The team conducted several hands-on projects on programming and drones with pupils at Lylburn Downing, who learned about drone technology, how they fly, and their applications and uses. Students were given the opportunity to program drones to follow directions and conduct assigned missions.

At the high school, students were taught programming, secure coding, and cryptography, and were challenged to solve a murder mystery using cryptography.

The series of events held at the library, called techXplore, covered virtual reality, cyber awareness, and artificial intelligence.

According to Abdelhamid, seeing the spark of curiosity ignite in students as they navigated the worlds of drones, virtual reality, and cybersecurity was profoundly rewarding. “Each session unfolds as a new adventure, capturing the imaginations of these young minds. Their initial awe quickly transforms into a strong desire to learn and explore. Witnessing their transformations—from passive learners to enthusiastic creators—is a reminder of the profound impact of hands-on education. Their eager questions and strong engagement speak volumes about the potential these fields hold for them, truly making every workshop a journey into the future,” he shared.

Bangura, a computer science major from Dumfries, Virginia, found the experience working with school children delightful.

“Teaching kids the basics of drones and virtual reality has been fun because they are learning how to use new technology, while having so much fun and getting big smiles on their faces."

Lundy, a history major from Annandale, Virginia, remarked that working with the local schools through the outreach program has been one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had at VMI.

“It allowed me to give back to a community that has taken care of me and my brother rats for the past four years.” 

Abdelhamid, and his colleagues in the CIS and CyDef departments, are pleased with the impact of the outreach activities among students in the area, and will continue to work closely with the schools and educational institutions to ensure the successful collaboration into the future.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing


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