Virginia Students Showcase their STEM Solutions to Cyber/Tech Challenges

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

Virginia Students Showcase their STEM Solutions to Cyber/Tech Cahllenges at VCU


Teams of Virginia middle and high school students will share their innovative solutions to real-world challenges related to cybersecurity, computer science and technology during the Student Innovation Series Showcase to be held Thursday, December 8, 2022. The event will take place on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and be hosted by the Center for Innovation in STEM Education at the VCU School of Education. Registration is closed to the public.

Twenty-one student teams from Henrico County Public Schools, Newport News Public Schools and Richmond City Public Schools will outline their responses to challenges posed by corporate partners at Bank of America, Capital One and CarMax.

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 the following corporate partners: Mike Karafotis, Chief Data Officer at Bank of America; Mike Samos, Sr. Director, Software Engineering at Capital One, and Jeannie Arnold, IT Team Manager at CarMax. VCU judges include Jose Alcaine, Ph.D., Director of Research Services, of the VCU School of Education; Garret Westlake, executive director, the VCU da Vinci Center; Keisha Tennessee, computer science technology coordinator, Virginia Department of Education; Irfan Ahmed, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science, VCU College of Engineering; and John Mustachio, Ed.D., computer science and technologyLeland Melvin orange space suit specialist, CodeRVA Regional High School; Rebecca Dovi, chief advocacy officer of CodeVA. 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 Houston Space Center in March, 2023. Two of last year’s local entrants received national recognition as Conrad Innovators.

The event is part of a Virginia Department of Education grant to the VCU School of Education, Center for Innovation in STEM Education, led by Al Byers, Ph.D. Partners include CodeVA and CodeRVA Regional High School, which advance computer science education for teachers and high school students respectively in Virginia. The showcase is a capstone of efforts culminating across the prior three years that included experiences for students in coding, computational thinking and team-based problem-solving skills where all students can demonstrate their learning and creativity. In addition to the showcase, a special welcome message will be provided by Astronaut Leland Melvin, whose story of grace, grit and second chances is an inspiration for all to reach for the stars.

“Computer science and cybersecurity are top of mind now, and the opportunity for college and career pursuits in these fields are in great need across Virginia,” said Al Byers, Ph.D., who serves as the Principal Investigator for this grant initiative. “To ignite students’ curiosity, interest and awareness of opportunities in STEM + CS, they need to experience it themselves first-hand. Our Student Innovation Series CS Showcase engages them in generating solutions to authentic challenges and communicating their innovations to their peers and corporate partners in industry.”