Feature Story

Cisco brings STEM students to Cisco Live

by Stephanie Chan

Cisco brings STEM students to Cisco Live

The company’s Cyber Defense Clinic brings tech education and opportunity to students.

Six high school students are getting the chance to attend Cisco Live 2019 in San Diego—something out of the norm for the usual 21-and-over conference scene. These six young women are all a part of Cisco’s Cyber Defense Clinic (CDC) program in Arizona’s Paradise Valley School District. The Clinic is a program that provides curriculum to teachers and students, who can work with a set of automated cybersecurity technologies that prepare the students for the cyber workforce of the future.

In addition to the curriculum, Cisco provides the technology and training for the teachers to administer the labs—labs that cover everything from ransomware, to phishing, breach detection, incident response, and more. The program is available for students in higher education, as well as high schoolers grade 9 through 12.

Cyber Defense Clinic in Paradise Valley

“ Paradise Valley is a very forward-thinking district that makes sure they're preparing students for the future of tomorrow,” says Cisco Education Advisor Mary Schlegelmilch “

“Paradise Valley is a very forward-thinking district that makes sure they're preparing students for the future of tomorrow,” says Cisco Education Advisor Mary Schlegelmilch, “Their STEM activities ensure that the students have the skills that they need to go forward.”

The Paradise Valley students are all young women already involved in their respective school’s STEM and computer science programs. Information Technology Director for Paradise Valley School District Jeff Billings thought Cisco’s CDC program would be a perfect fit for STEM-inclined students.

“It is a very powerful way to let students experience real life scenarios and hone their skills in a walled garden, so to speak,” says Billings, “For me as an IT director, the opportunity for these students to touch and have a concept of these tools is unbelievable. The students don’t yet realize how potent and expensive these tools are. To be able to touch it and experience it is like… wow.”

The CDC provides courses from Cisco’s dCloud, a catalog of demos, training, and sandboxes for all of Cisco’s products and architecture. These include demos for collaboration, enterprise networking, security, data center, and more. Based in the cloud, this program is the same method that Cisco employees and trained engineers use to learn new technologies. Faculty members are encouraged to be the ones to register students for the CDC program.

See also: Cisco's STEM committment shines with new program

“The program gave me a good idea of what it will be like to use cybersecurity tools in a corporate environment,” says student Alyssa Norling, “I enjoyed the project where we tried to find vulnerabilities using Shodan and NMAP. I feel like penetration testing and trying to find weaknesses within your own technologies is really important. One of the most critical parts of cybersecurity is knowing what you are defending.”

CDC was started recently during Cisco’s Fiscal Year 2019, and has already seen great interest and momentum. Because the dCloud provides real world applications for technology, it creates the ability to transfer knowledge from the lab into the classroom or into an office. 

Cisco loves STEM

Cisco has been a longtime sponsor and advocate of technology education. CDC is just an addition to the company’s programs like Networking Academy, Cyber Patriots, and Girls Power Tech—all STEM initiatives to introduce young students to academia and careers in technology. The company’s corporate social responsibility goals hope to positively impact people, society, and the planet. One of the ways Cisco makes this happen is through education, and the ability to prepare students with the skills they need for the future.

Cisco also hopes to provide leadership for women in IT. That’s why when the six students approached Cisco asking to attend Cisco Live, employees were eager to help. The students have been proactive in finding opportunities inside and outside of the school district in order to hone their technology skills, and their excitement for Cisco Live is just another example. They sought out Cisco as an advocate in order to attend the conference and to truly experience a large-scale technology gathering.

See also: Cisco celebrates STEM with Girls in ICT Day

“I’m looking forward to meeting other people and networking with experts in the field. I can’t wait to get a global view of career opportunities for the future,” says student Emily Aliskevich, “We have been preparing our presentation for the Cisco Live conference—we took a step back from looking at the overall picture and learned about specific Cisco applications. I mainly focused on Meraki and Umbrella which are valuable tools for threat prevention.”

“I am most excited about The World of Solutions because Mr. Billings keeps talking about it,” adds Norling, “It sounds like heaven to me! I am hoping to get through as much of that as possible.”

Where CDC is headed next

With such a positive response from students and administrators for CDC’s initial trial, Cisco hopes to deploy the program globally.

“We are ready to deploy at higher institutions in fiscal year 2020,” says Schlegelmilch, “We're excited by the numbers that we see—not just in the U.S, we’re seeing great interest from education institutions all over the world.”

“The partnership with Cisco has been excellent,” says Billings, “They offer the best of the best solution. It’s a first-class value add, taking high school students above and beyond world class solutions. Cisco listens—they are what a corporate partner should be.”

CDC is an example of how schools, given the right technology, can make extraordinary things happen.

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