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AFCEAN of the Month, April 2023

Rockbridge Shenandoah Chapter and Belvoir Chapter AFCEANS
AFCEAN of the Month

AFCEAN of the Month

This Month AFCEA International is pleased to recognize two chapters from two different regions who collaborated on a Virtual Elementary School Hackathon for fifth graders. The Rockbridge Shenandoah Chapter and Belvoir Chapter hosted this multiday event in December 2022. The event built on a framework used by Fort Belvoir and included six elementary schools across Virginia located in Rockbridge County and at Quantico Crossroads Elementary and Fort Belvoir Elementary.

The theme was a space-based mission called “Engineer the Planet.” Students played as fictional BASA (Belvoir AFCEA Space Alliance) coders to conduct a mission to Planet X and establish a permanent base camp. To achieve their mission goals, the students worked with “micro:bit” microcomputers to solve basic coding challenges based on this theme. The students were guided by a combination of AFCEA members, AFCEA Emerging Leaders, military academy cadets and academia representatives, who followed a facilitated script and sequence of videos. Their role was ground support team.

Part of the two-day event also included VIP speakers, who provided their insights to the teachers, faculty and students. These speakers included Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for Research and Engineering; Morgan Irons, an astro-ecologist and soil scientist; Col. Stuart Pettis, USAF (Ret.), director of STEM and Education programs for the Air and Space Forces Association; and Bob Osmond, chief information officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Special recognition goes to the following individuals who made the event an amazing success;

  • AFCEA Rockbridge Shenandoah Chapter: Jeff Thompson, Mattie Smith, Jim Egenrieder, Tamra Lipscomb and Nancy Rowland.
  • AFCEA Belvoir Chapter: Brendan Burke, Gus Muller, Anya Kasischke, Tom Perry, Dawn Atwood, Eleanor Sigrest, Carlos Embury and Troy Benesch.
  • Others who were critical to the event were Beth Kelley, Lt. Ryan Quarry, USCG, Paige Owens and Tiffanie Ploeger.

The Rockbridge-Shenandoah Chapter did both radio and print media releases of the event to provide a broader awareness throughout the local community. Promoting the increasing number of cyber attacks that target the country every day, these releases provided exposure to the issues and helped promote AFCEA in the more rural communities. The Belvoir Chapter developed sales activities, including marketing videos and overseeing logistical challenges.

These two chapters were innovative in depicting the challenges to a unique combination of public (Rockbridge County), public Department of Defense Education Activity Grant (Belvoir County) and Department of Defense (Quantico) schools. The mix of speakers, mission-based challenges and trivia questions increased STEM awareness and appreciation at one of the earliest impressionable ages for student development. The format enabled fostering of close relations within each individual classroom while giving every fifth-grade class the ability to experience a virtual environment and introduction to basic coding skills. The initiative to foster coding and cyber awareness among the younger generation builds a foundation that will serve this nation for years.

In appreciation of their dedication to STEM education and AFCEA International’s mission, AFCEA proudly names the Rockbridge Shenandoah Chapter and the Belvoir Chapter AFCEANs of the Month.