Three recent University of the Virgin Islands graduates, Jair Smith, Bashiri Smith and Lorenzo Laplace, participated in a 10-week summer internship program at Sandia National Laboratories. During the internship, the three helped develop training materials and a competition for a cybersecurity training program for middle and high school students in the Virgin Islands and the mainland U.S. The competition was part of the week-long Sandia Cyber Educational Training program, which took place online in July. Forty-one students participated, including 24 students from six different public and private schools throughout the Virgin Islands.

“The College of Science and Mathematics is very proud of the accomplishments of our graduates in this summer internship program and their contributions back to the Virgin Islands community. Because of their hard work and performance, Lorenzo, Jair and Bashiri have strengthened our partnership with Sandia and opened new opportunities for the next generation of cyber defenders in the territory,” said Dr. Michelle Peterson, interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Sandia National Laboratories provides cybersecurity for the U.S. nuclear energy program. They offered the free training in support of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program, the National Nuclear Security Administration Minority Serving Institution Pipeline Program and the Consortium Enabling Cybersecurity Opportunities and Research at the University of the Virgin Islands. Its goal was to give students, especially minorities, a foundation in cybersecurity while preparing them for the CyberPatriot competition.

“The training program was a creative experience for me to fine-tune learning material towards a different audience,” said Laplace, who graduated from UVI in the spring with a bachelor of science in computer science. “Most importantly, it was uplifting for others, mainly younger students, who benefited in many ways from the material we put together,” he said.

During the training, participants learned about topics including networking, scripting, Linux, Windows, and cryptography. Students were provided with virtual machines hosted by the University of New Mexico’s Virtual Reality Lab to ensure they could learn the material.

Participants then used their new knowledge to take part in a cybersecurity Capture-the-Flag competition against each other, using cybersecurity tools and techniques to find hidden clues or “flags.” The interns manned a live support chat during the competition to assist students with questions. Mirellie Boumedine, a junior at V.I. Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy on St. Thomas, won the competition.

As part of a White House strategy to strengthen cybersecurity expertise in America, UVI was awarded a five-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration in 2015. The UVI CECOR program’s main objective is to develop future cybersecurity experts with the support of the consortium’s K-20 education pipeline within the Virgin Islands.

For more information about the UVI Computer Science program, visit www.uvi.edu.