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By Nikki Cabus

Black woman-owned STEM nonprofit receives $4M to launch Smart Health Hub initiative in Miami

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$4 Million has been awarded to the S.E.E.K. (Seeking Education Empowers Knowledge) Foundation Inc. to open a Smart Health Hub for children in Miami.

Founded in 2012, SEEK Foundation‘s mission was to improve the value of life for South Florida’s youth by providing public services, whenever. wherever, and however needed to help empower lifelong problem solvers through innovative programs​. The S.E.E.K. Foundation has since expanded to make STEM and STEAM education accessible for children across communities in the United States, especially minorities living in under resourced and marginalized neighborhoods.

The nonprofit was launched by Anike Sakariyawo, Executive Director at SEEK, who has a focus towards STEM education, community involvement, and health and wellness for children ages 3 to 18. With this recent funding, Anike plans to open a four-story building in Opa-Locka, a suburb of Miami. This facility will give access to residents, children, and their families to STEAM education, workforce re-entry programs, and broadband service, dismantling existing entry obstacles. The hub will also provided basic essential health services.

Its presence is being described as “the first of its kind in the city,” explained Anike, as there has not been a technical facility in the area nor a high school. “We are looking to provide Opa-Locka community members of all ages access to educational resources and pathways to STEM careers to children and adults, and a space to innovate and follow individual curiosity.” Being born and raised in Opa-Locka, this project is special for Anike.

“The partnership with the Miami Foundation’s Digital Equity Collective program has been pivotal in advancing this initiative,” shared Sakariyawo.

Through the 2022 Digital Equity Grant, Miami Connected invested in partners who delivered impactful programming aimed at building community members’ digital literacy skills as well facilitating access to existing opportunities related to internet service, technological devices, and digital literacy. With the support of generous funders and guided by community input and partner feedback, Miami Connected identified two funding priorities – Digital Literacy and Digital Navigation.

The SEEK Foundation was awarded $40,000 to support the implementation of a digital literacy program using the NorthStar Digital Literacy curriculum. The Digital Literacy category’s efforts were to improve community members’ ability to fully participate in educational, economic, and social opportunities by helping them strengthen the skills needed to leverage technology in their daily lives. This included expanding the reach of the STEAMtastic Saturday program featuring activities such as “Book Creation Using AI.” Programs intentionally include parents and caregivers so they can learn digital skills alongside their children and prepare to join the STEM workforce. 

With this new significant funding, Miami locals can expect the building to be up and running by December 2026. The first and second floors will be geared towards STEAM education and daily operations and serve as a destination for children and for staff members. Educational offerings will include a pipeline program to support students in industries such as USDA – food, Agriculture, Artificial intelligence (AI), Cybersecurity, Coding. Robotics and UI/UX Design. The third floor will be designated for children and their families to receive care for their health needs such as annual shots and vaccinations, back-to-school boosters, and telehealth services.

“We are looking to partner with local public health entities, county health departments and federally qualified health centers,” explained Anike Sakariyawo.

S.E.E.K. also recently joined South Florida Motorsports (SFM), the organizers of the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, and the City of Miami Gardens to launch the F1 in Schools program in Miami. The program introduces students to STEM fields by providing them with the opportunity to build their own miniature F1 car.

According to the SEEK website, the Foundation has served over 15,000 children since its inception in 2012. They have a second South Florida location in Ft. Lsuderdale and additional locations across the country in Califiornia, New York, Texas, Georgia, and Washongton D.C.

To learn more about the S.E.E.K Foundation, visit www.seekedu.org

By Nikki Cabus

U.S. Department of Labor awards Palm Beach State College a $1.75 million grant to expand skilled trades training

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The U.S. Department of Labor announced the award of $65 million in grants to 16 colleges in 14 states to expand their capacity to provide training to meet the skill development needs of employers and help students obtain good jobs. One of those colleges was Palm Beach State College. 

At a press conference held on April 15th, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel announced that Palm Beach State College is not only one of sixteeen colleges nationwide to receive funds, but the only one in Florida to receive $1.75 million in funding in this fourth round of Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants.

“Florida’s population is growing—by more than 1,000 people a day—and there’s lots and lots of building going on.” Rep. Frankel stated.

“Here’s the challenge: 85% of the contractors in this country are having a problem finding workers, and Palm Beach County is almost at the top of that list. We are blessed to have in this county a college that responds to the needs of the workforce. This grant is a very big boost, not only for students but for our county.”

Administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, the fourth round of Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants will support individual community colleges, as well as consortia of colleges, to prepare students for jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and offer career development opportunities based on the Good Jobs Principles developed by the departments of Labor and Commerce in 2022. Grantees will work with industry stakeholders to identify the workforce needs of multiple employers within a selected industry in the labor market area.

“Training programs should not end in a job search; they should end in a job. The Biden-Harris administration is investing in training programs that are demand-driven; Strengthening Community Colleges grants will help connect people to good jobs and employers to the people they need,” said Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su.

“The Department of Labor is awarding funding today that will help community colleges equip workers with the skills they need right now, and that will strengthen workforce infrastructure in their respective communities.”

Palm Beach State will dedicate the funds to expanding its plans to transform construction trades education at the College, which started with the $1 million award PBSC received in January from the Lowe’s Foundation. The new Labor Department grant will go toward personnel, employer and student outreach, technology and resources to increase enrollment, persistence and completion in construction pathway programs. The grant will elevate PBSC’s capacity to provide many more students, particularly those from marginalized and underrepresented populations, with equitable access to real-world training that equips them to succeed in the construction sector, with the goal of creating an inclusive pipeline of qualified workers for the construction-related jobs waiting to be filled.

“This grant is important for us because it allows us to expand and be more responsive to our community,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “We have the best students in the county, and because of this support, we’ll be able to build a dynamic pathway to a sustainable future for students who can prosper in a skilled trade.”

Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, pointed to the fact that the number of construction projects in the county is enormous, not to mention the great need to maintain existing structures.

“Whenever anybody graduates from these programs, they automatically have a job before they graduate,” Dattolo said. “If you look at the top industries in Palm Beach County, you’ll see that construction and trades are in the top five.”

Palm Beach State offers various certificate and degree programs that lead to good-paying jobs in the local construction industry, filling the need for HVAC technicians, electricians, low voltage technicians and construction managers. With the funding from the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant and the Lowe’s Foundation, the College looks to grow its program offerings to include plumbing and carpentry, along with developing the new Construction Trades Center for Workforce Innovation on the Lake Worth campus, an interdisciplinary training space that will simulate construction job site conditionsproviding real-world experiences for students. The center will incorporate both residential and commercial construction sites—an innovative smart house and an office suite facility—and be equipped with all the tools and equipment needed to design, build and renovate.

Overall, this funding will support a total of 41 colleges, including 16 lead institutions and an additional 25 consortia members. These colleges will work in multiple sectors, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare, IT, and infrastructure-related sectors like construction, transportation, broadband expansion, and renewable energy.  Across the four rounds of grants to date, 170 colleges, including leads and consortia members, are addressing major workforce priorities for employers and workers in their 31 states and local communities.

Grantees announced this round will receive approximately $55 million in funding now. Following a feasibility study, a subset of grantees will be identified to participate in an evaluation study. Those grantees will share the remaining $10 million in funding, to be awarded this fall.

By Nikki Cabus

FAU professor awarded grant to enhance opportuities for those with disabilties

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Florida Atlantic University received funding from the National Science Foundation that will support a project that aims to provide digital maps to improve accessibility and navigation for persons with disabilities.

The Center for Sensing, Monitoring, Analytics, Remote, and Technology (SMART) Health, will facilitate the use of engineering and computer-science technologies to enable state of the art patient-centered health care, early detection of human health problems, and better quality of life; the center will support interdisciplinary education and training for “jobs of the future”- careers at the intersection of technology with medicine, nursing, public health, and human biology; the center will stimulate partnership with industry and foundations around the smart health technologies and informatics.

 

Dr. Ted Conway, Research Professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Affiliating Faculty with the FAU Center for SMART Health, has been awarded Phase 2 Funding from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Convergence Accelerator Program to further develop a digital app to help persons with disabilities.  He is a member of the five-Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) research team that combines complementary expertise to create a more robust approach to address the challenges associated with the research project.  His Co-PI team consists of:

  • Dr. Ted Conway, Research Professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University.  Expertise: Mechanical & Biomechanical Engineering and Disability Community Outreach.
  • Dr. Vinod Namboodiri, Professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Health at Lehigh University. Expertise: Artificial Intelligence and Data Acquisition
  • Dr. Siny Joseph, Professor in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University.  Expertise: Economic Analysis
  • Dr. Patricio Vela, Professor in the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.  Expertise: Robotic Systems & Controls.
  • Dr. Nils Hakansson, Professor in the College of Engineering at Wichita State University. Expertise: Biomedical Engineering and Disability Community Outreach.

MABLE: Mapping for Accessibility in BuiLt Environments provides persons with disabilities independence to experience large events, conferences and educational programs.  Using crowdsensing, AI and robotics, MABLE empowers individuals with responsive maps and turn-by-turn instructions through a digital app to help them navigate indoor environments successfully. Key users include those with visual or mobility impairments, such as people with low vision and wheelchair users, as well as other persons with planning and navigation assistance needs.

Conway’s team was one of 16 teams that participated in Phase 1 of the NSF’s Convergence Accelerator, Track H: Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.  At the end of Phase 1, the teams participated in a formal pitch and proposal evaluation.  In December 2023, the NSF selected MABLE and five other projects to move forward into Phase 2, investing $30 million across all projects with up to $5 million in funding for each project.

In Phase 2, Conway and his team will continue to apply Convergence Accelerator fundamentals to develop solution prototypes and to build a sustainability model to continue impact beyond NSF support.  By the end of the 36-month Phase 2 effort, MABLE is expected to provide a high-impact solution that addresses a societal need at scale.

Conway’s project and Convergence Accelerator funding connect directly with the core focus of the FAU Center for Smart Health to “… facilitate the use of engineering and computer-science technologies to … support interdisciplinary education and training…; the center will stimulate partnership with industry and foundations around the smart health technologies and informatics.”

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering in all 50 states and U.S. territories. NSF was established in 1950 by Congress to promote the progress of science, advance the national health, prosperity and welfare, and secure the national defense. NSF investments account for about 25% of federal support to America’s colleges and universities for basic research: research driven by curiosity and discovery.

“A convergence approach between researchers, innovators, and persons with disabilities spanning organizations and communities across multiple sectors is crucial to ensure these NSF-funded solutions address barriers to employment, freedom of movement and quality of life for persons with disabilities, said  Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program.  ”

The selected Phase 2 teams are fostering strong partnerships to ensure their use-inspired solutions assist a wide range of people.”

The NSF’s Convergence Accelerator transitions basic research and discovery into practice through innovation processes like human-centered design, user discovery and team science, as well as integration of multidisciplinary research and partnerships.  By making timely investments, such as Conway’s project, the Convergence Accelerator aims to solve high-risk societal challenges through use-inspired convergence research.

By Nikki Cabus

FPL helps two Florida classrooms transform into Innovative STEM labs

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Two Florida schools, Gifford Middle School in Vero Beach and Lake Shore Middle School in Belle Glade, each celebrated the reveals of their classrooms transformations into Innovative STEM labs.

In 2023 both schools were awarded a $50,000 Classroom Makeover Grant to improve technology, equipment and resources for the next generation of innovators. The NextEra Energy Foundation awarded the grants as part of Florida Power & Light Company’s commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

As America’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) serves more customers and sells more power than any other utility, providing clean, affordable, reliable electricity to approximately 5.9 million accounts, or more than 12 million people. FPL operates one of the most fuel efficient and cleanest power generation fleets in the U.S.

On February 15, after a year of renovations, Lake Shore Middle School students got to experience their new STEM) lab. The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and the School District of Palm Beach County, in collaboration with the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), celebrated the successful completion of the STEM Classroom Makeover project at Lake Shore Middle School in Belle Glade. The project brought cutting-edge technology, including iPads, a 3D printer, robotics kits, and STEM project tables, to the school, creating an immersive and engaging learning experience for students.

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support and generosity of FPL,” said Phylis Handford, Single School Culture Coordinator at Lake Shore Middle School.

“This grant has not only transformed our classroom physically but has also inspired our students and rejuvenated our entire school community. We sincerely thank FPL for its commitment to STEM education and for championing initiatives that enhance the learning experience for our students.”

FPL and its partners organized a ceremony at the school to showcase the newly redesigned classroom and highlight the positive impact of education on the lives of local students. FPL engineers led a generator build competition and a virtual career discussion to introduce students to different STEM-focused careers.

On February 22, students from Gifford Middle School in Vero Beach participated in a generator build competition with Florida Power & Light Company during their STEM Classroom Makeover Reveal. FPL was joined by the Education Foundation of Indian River County and the Indian River School District to celebrate the completion of the STEM Classroom Makeover.

As a Title I STEAM school with a focus on Marine and Robotics, Gifford Middle is a part of a SeaPerch Robotics program through Embry Riddle. This grant will further support the school’s efforts to expose students to unique educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

“Having this opportunity to expose my students to cutting-edge technologies, cutting-edge processes and procedures that are out there in the industry is phenomenal. It’s a great opportunity and I can’t thank FPL enough,” stated Principal Chadwick Bacon.

FPL’s STEM Classroom Makeover Grant program provides grants for $50,000 each to up to five schools in Florida to provide transformational learning opportunities in historically disadvantaged K-12 classrooms. Funds are available to address needs in infrastructure, technology or resources that will advance STEM curricula, exposure and careers to students in a classroom setting.

For more information about FPL’s STEM Classroom Makeover Grant and its commitment to education, please visit FPL.com/ClassroomGrant.

 

By Nikki Cabus

FPL’s Classroom Makeover Grant Program helps underserved classroom access STEM education across Florida

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Florida Power & Light‘s Classroom Makeover Grant Program has transformed another five classroom across the state of Florida. 

As part of a $1 million, 4-year commitment from its charitable arm, the NextEra Energy Foundation, works to advance STEM curriculum, increase the exposure of Black students to STEM education and jumpstart students’ interest in STEM careers. Each year through 2024, five schools are selected in FPL’s service area to receive the $50,000 grant.

The grants are intended to provide transformational learning opportunities for Black students in classroom settings, as all recipient schools are comprised of at least 25% Black students. The Classroom Makeover Grant program and funds are available to directly addresses needs in infrastructure, technology or resources (i.e., software, equipment, books, training of teachers, tutors, paraprofessionals).

“Our STEM Classroom Makeover Grant allows us to invest in our next generation to help provide transformational learning opportunities for Black students in a STEM classroom setting,” said Pamela Rauch, Vice President of External Affairs & Economic Development for FPL, in a previous interview.

“We are excited that these projects will be one of the first, as we complete our inaugural year of implementing this grant, which allows us to support both educators and students, our next generation of leaders.”

Congratulations to this year’s 2022-2023 winning classrooms in Florida:

FPL’s five classroom makeover grant recipients in Florida for the 2022 inaugural year were:

Cypress Run Education Center School, an alternative school in Broward County, invested in a multimedia technology lab, web design programs, TV production arrangements, coding software, robotics education and Microsoft certifications. South Florida Tech Hub had the honor of being invited to their most recent student Hackathon hosted by STEM teacher, Ms. Osas Guis-Obaseki and Principal Harrigan.

Ms. Osas has spearheaded a STEM Club that meets biweekly to expose students to programming and the computer science field. She has given students the opportunity to to build computers, learn coding and programming, and gain skills using digital tools. Ms. O hosts quarterly Hackathons where students demonstrate their coding skills and compete with other students.

Under her leadership, students have complete the Microsoft certifications in HTML and CSS Programming, Website Design, and MS Office. She has also been able to collaborate with additional industry partners such as CloudHesive, Oracle, ReGenerate Tech, and many more.

Ms. Osas got in touch with South Florida Tech Hub in 2022 as a volunteer at the annual TECHpalooza in Broward County where she also brought students to educate them on the importance of networking, giving back and getting exposure to tech professionals in South Florida.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Riviera Beach was also one of five schools in Florida to be awarded a Classroom Makeover Grant from FPL last year to advance STEM curriculum, increase the exposure of Black students to STEM education and jumpstart students’ interest in STEM careers. The $50,000 grant that the school received supported a variety of professional education resources, including computers, robot lab packs, aerodynamics sets, and renewable energy education kits. See the full WPTV update here.

“As a Title 1 school with a 98% Black population, we are committed to providing children of color with vast learning opportunities and exposure to STEM education and careers,” Katrina W. Granger, the principal at Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School, said.

“We are so appreciative of FPL’s commitment to diversity in STEM, which has made the vision of hardworking and inspiring STEM educator with big dreams, Tracy Howard, come to fruition. This grant will support both Mrs. Howard and her scholars achieve their greatest dream.”

This grant is open to all public, private and charter schools and all grade levels in FPL’s service area in Florida. Grants are also available to schools in areas served by FPL’s sister company NextEra Energy Resources. As with all foundation grants, no customer dollars are involved.

Schools can apply now for the next grant cycle. Applications are now open and will close October 15, 2023! 

  Read more

By Nikki Cabus

IMLS invests more than $31 Million in grants to museums across America including Ft. Lauderdale’s MODS

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Just this month, The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced the Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) in Fort Lauderdale as one of eight recipients of the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage.

Over the past 29 years, the award has celebrated institutions that are making a difference for individuals, families and communities. This year’s grant awards total over a whopping $31 million for museums across the nation to improve services to their communities.

Through the agency’s largest competitive grant program, Museums for America, and its special initiatives, Museums Empowered and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums, a total of 218 projects were selected from 568 applications requesting $73,685,100. Institutions receiving awards are matching them with $46,546,077 in non-federal funds.

“It is a delight to announce the Museums for America grants for 2023 to an extraordinary group of Museums, Gardens, Zoos, and Aquariums. These funds will in turn put the riches of our cultural institutions in reach of so many of our communities,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper.

“The Museum welcomes individuals from all walks of life to visit, experience, connect, and discover inspiring science. MODS’ inclusivity and accessibility programs have a direct impact on the south Florida community, especially children.”

Crosby Kemper is the sixth director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He was commissioned by the White House on January 24, 2020, following his confirmation by the United States Senate. IMLS, an independent government agency, is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s museums and libraries.

Founded in 1976 as the Discovery Center, today the Museum of Discovery & Science, or “MODS,” is at the forefront of science education, innovation and exploration. The mission of MODS is Connecting People to Inspiring Science. Through our mission, MODS elevates the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in our lives, impacting more than 450,000 visitors annually.

The Museum embraces six enduring values: DISCOVERY through inquiry-based learning experiences; INCLUSIVITY in which equity and access are vital to success; COLLABORATION in pursuit of mission-based public and private partnerships; CREATIVITY where inspiration and innovation take flight; EDUCATION as an inspirational force for informal science; and VISITOR FOCUSED, fostering a warm and welcoming atmosphere with layers of learning. National recognition from IMLS is meaningful as it signifies the important role MODS has played not only in our region, but as a national leader in the museum field and a model for community engagement and social impact.

Selected from 30 national finalists, the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners represent institutions that provide dynamic programming and services that exceed expected levels of service. Through their community outreach, these institutions bring about change that touches the lives of individuals and helps communities thrive.

“To be singled out by IMLS from among the many thousands of museums in the United States is a tribute to our dedicated leadership, outstanding staff, devoted volunteers, generous supporters, and visionary founders who all give of themselves to fulfill our mission. We are grateful to IMLS and this honor will inspire us to do more,” said Joseph P. Cox, president and CEO of MODS.

“MODS is committed to a mission of connecting people to inspiring science for children and adults of all ages and abilities. The Museum is a changemaker, a dynamic hub for STEM learning that builds connections of trust and belonging. Museums are more necessary than ever before as institutions of learning. Together, we foster understanding and change that leads to a more just and healthy future.”

The IMLS award was presented at a ceremony this summer in Washington, DC. The 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service Medal Winners are:

Libraries:

  • Kuskokwim Consortium Library (Bethel, AK)
  • LA County Library (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Long Branch Free Public Library (Long Branch, NJ)
  • Toledo Lucas County Public Library (Toledo, OH)

Museums:

  • Center of Science and Industry (COSI) (Columbus, OH)
  • Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum (Buffalo, WY)
  • Museum of Discovery and Science (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  • Riverside Art Museum (Riverside, CA)

Additional programs funded by IMLS are Museums for AmericaMuseums Empowered, and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.

MODS, was also recently awarded funds via the Museums for America grant for $240,500. This grant supports projects that strengthen the ability of individual museums to benefit the public by providing high-quality, inclusive learning experiences, maximizing resources to address community needs through partnerships and collaborations, and by preserving and providing access to the collections entrusted to their care. 122 projects were funded through this year’s Museums for America program.

The Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida will expand its STEMobile program, a mobile maker space program for early learners ages three to five and their caregivers and teachers. The program will serve 123 early learning centers in the 10 lowest-income zip codes in Broward County that are also the most affected by intergenerational poverty, economic immobility, and lowest educational attainment levels. The project will provide interactive STEM experiences for young children aligned with Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards; a Family Science Night that reinforces the caregiver’s role as their child’s first teacher; and professional development resources that empower teachers to feel more confident about teaching STEM. The project will help reduce disparities in education for vulnerable young learners and help them succeed.

To learn more about MODS, visit https://mods.org/

By Nikki Cabus

IBM to grant $5M to schools to boost cybersecurity & AI skills

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In response to the growing threat of ransomware attacks against schools around the world, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced it will provide in-kind grants valued at $5 million to help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools. The deadline to apply is June 23, 2023.

Since its creation in 2021, the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program has expanded globally, and this year will also include enhanced offerings from IBM SkillsBuild on topics including AI and cybersecurity.

Ransomware is unfolding faster than ever, with attackers managing to cut down the time required to deploy ransomware attacks from over two months to just under four days between 2019 and 2021, according to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023. In fact, the share of cybersecurity incidents observed in the education sector more than doubled in 2022 compared to the year prior, experiencing the largest increase year over year than any other industry.

“Time and time again attackers go after the education sector, yet many of these institutions remain constrained in their security resources,” said Andy Piazza, Global Head of Threat Intelligence, IBM Security X-Force. “To date, this program has helped more than 350,000 students across schools in the US and abroad, with IBM Service Corps helping them recover from ransomware attacks, strengthen their security posture against future attacks, and prevent further disruption.”

Applications for schools are now open globally. Grants valued at $500,000 each ($5 million in total) will be awarded to six school districts in the US with an additional four around the world. Volunteers, through IBM Service Corps, will use their professional skills to help schools establish programs to address cybersecurity resiliency. Hear more from Andy here.

Each selected school will receive:

  • incident response plans and ransomware playbooks,
  • programs to help address the need for updating operating systems,
  • strategic communication plans to use in response to cyber incidents, and
  • training and digital credentials through IBM SkillsBuild on topics including AI and cybersecurity, and additional benefits such as enhanced access to IBM mentors, teacher training and toolkits, and customized learning pathways.

“The global skills gap across cybersecurity and AI is a growing challenge that demands immediate attention,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Chief Impact Officer. “To address this challenge, IBM awards Education Security Preparedness Grants to drive impact with schools worldwide. This year, we’re excited to expand the program to bring the benefits of IBM SkillsBuild training on topics like AI and cybersecurity for students and teachers.”

Robert Losinski, Manager of Information Security at Denver Public Schools, stated that “With IBM’s assistance, we improved our cybersecurity incident response plan and used it to better prepare us for handling incidents in the future.” He continued , “Attackers are targeting schools because many do not have mature security frameworks to effectively defend against ransomware and other cybercrime. Getting professional assistance in expanding your cybersecurity program will really help you identify the most critical areas to protect.”

Since its inception in 2021, IBM has received hundreds of applications for this award-winning program from school districts seeking to strengthen their security postures in response to the growing threats in the education space. Past recipients of the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants have encouraged other schools to apply.

The 2022 and 2021 Grantees included:

  • Brevard Public Schools in Viera, FL
  • City of Dublin Educational Training Board in Ireland
  • Cupertino Union School District in Sunnyvale, CA
  • Denver Public Schools in Denver, CO
  • East China School District in East China, MI
  • Goffstown School District in Goffstown, NH
  • KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools in Atlanta, GA
  • Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in United Arab Emirates
  • Newburgh Enlarged City School District in Newburgh, NY
  • Newhall School District in Valencia, CA
  • Poughkeepsie City School District in Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Prince William Country Public Schools in Manassas, VA
  • Rossville Cons. School District in Rossville, IN
  • Sheldon Independent School District in Houston, TX

Awards were allocated based on cybersecurity needs, experiences, community resources, and potential risks.

K-12 public schools and educational institutions/organizations that are interested in applying for IBM’s education cybersecurity grant can apply via IBM.com here: https://www.ibm.com/impact/initiatives/security.

For more information about IBM’s cybersecurity grants for schools, visit: https://www.ibm.com/impact/initiatives/security.

For more information about IBM Security X-Force’s services and capabilities, visit: https://www.ibm.com/security/xforce.

The 2023 grant cycle is now open. Apply by June 23, 2023 to receive one of ten available grants.

By Nikki Cabus

Palm Beach State College Designation as a Center For Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

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Palm Beach State College recently announced was approved as a designated Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD).

The CAE-CD program focuses on providing a cybersecurity workforce to meet the needs of the nation, government, industry, and academia. Complementary in nature, the CAE-CD program focuses on technologies and techniques related to specialized cyber operations (e.g., collection, exploitation, and response) to enhance the national security posture of the Nation.

The stated goals of the CAE-CD program are to:

  • Reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense
  • Produce a growing number of professionals with expertise in cyber defense disciplines
  • Proactively increase understanding of robust CD technology, policy, and practices that will enable our nation to prevent and respond to a catastrophic cyber event effectively
  • Contribute significantly to the advancement of state-of-the-art cyber defense knowledge and practice

The CAE-CD program is focused on several initiatives critical to the success of cyber workforce development. On the forefront, though, is addressing the need for qualified, skilled educators, who are the keys that unlock the door to a skilled cyber workforce. There is a recognized shortage of qualified educators, as the population of students continuing in cybersecurity to the doctoral or post-doctoral levels is shrinking, thereby limiting the number of those who can and will serve in the academic environment to teach. Schools consistently have multiple cybersecurity faculty positions open for long periods, and that is a critical limiting factor. Our recent partnership with the Palm Beach County School District underscores the colleges commitment to addressing this issue by providing faculty workshops and certification training to district and college faculty.

The designation process is a combination of elements related to the institution focused on outputs for determining academic achievement. This combination assures that the institution meets the desired characteristics of a CAE institution, and that the academic delivery to students is producing the qualified workforce needed by the nation. Palm Beach State College will receive the CAE-CD designation as a regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity degrees and/or certificates at the associate, and bachelor’s  levels. Palm Beach State College will now receive prestige for its status as CAE-CD  institution and represent the goal of vulnerability reduction in national information infrastructure. Promoting cyber defense in higher education and through research fosters critical cyber expertise and professionalism, worldwide. In addition to NSA and DHS, CAE funding is available from other sources such as the National Science Foundation. The programs as such include critical technologies surrounding cyber operations and specialties (collection, exploitation, etc.) that protect our national security infrastructure and are key elements for intelligence, law enforcement and military operations.

Institutions designated as CAEs in Cyber Defense:

  • Are recognized by the federal government for their cyber defense programs and curricula
  • Have curricula mapped to specified Knowledge Units, which align with the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, a cybersecurity language that educators, industry workers, and government organizations employ nationwide
  • Have degree programs that are a top choice for students who want to learn the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the cybersecurity workforce
  • Assist federal agencies by providing academic insight into cyber-related programs at DHS, NSA, and other federal agencies.
  • Serve as a potential source and facilitator for government-academic researcher exchanges
  • Facilitate the development of faculty and research leaders
  • Participate in an extensive network of cybersecurity professionals, educators, researchers, and advocates to grow the cyber field
  • Are privy to opportunities for student scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program and the Federal CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program

“We’ve been training students at the associate of science level since 2016,” said Dr. Don Gladney, interim dean, bachelor’s degree programs in PBSC’s 2022-2023 President’s Report.

“Our first-generation cybersecurity lab opened that year, and now we offer a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Information Management with a concentration in Security/Network Assurance that prepares people to manage and lead teams as opposed to just being a technician. The focus there is beyond tools and techniques, extending to developing policies, procedures, practices, audits, and the critical task of keeping senior management apprised of the state of security.”

The cybersecurity lab enablesprofessors to simulate all sorts of virtual environments without creating a potential hazard. “They are using the same penetration testing and network monitoring tools that are currently used in the industry. When they leave us, degree in hand, they can walk into a workplace and be ready to start on day one.”

At the end of the term, students participate in a “capstone” class incorporating all they have learned to resolve a real-world problem. “What sets us apart is that our capstone projects are presented not only to faculty but to members of our advisory boards comprised of some of the people who will eventually hire our students. It’s a crowning achievement,
right before commencement,” Dr. Gladney explained.

Palm Beach State is also creating cybersecurity career pathways in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County. “Some public high schools focus on cybersecurity, and through dual-enrollment, students can get an early start on certifications for their associate degrees.”

Some of the baccalaureate students’ training extends beyond the classroom, even involving other universities. “We have done some ‘war game’ exercises with students from Florida State, where teams compete to break into systems – monitored very closely, of course – in a virtual environment that’s safe and secure. Teamwork and learning can be fun!”

By Nikki Cabus

$1M in grants were awarded to underrepresented founders; 4 in South Florida

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Just in time for this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations (November 14 – 20, 2022), the recipients of the Antares REACH Grant Program were announced and four South Florida startups made the list!

Presented in partnership with Hello Alice and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), Antares Capital will provide small businesses grants to help them grow and scale. This initiative awarded $20,000 grants totaling $1 million to 40 historically underrepresented entrepreneurs including women, people of color, military-affiliated, persons with disabilities, or LGBTQ+.

Antares Capital aspires to increase representation in business by leveraging the organizations” financial resources and leadership skill sets to provide capital and support underrepresented entrepreneurs. The funds will support businesses as they prepare for the next stage of growth.

“Each grant recipient underscores REACH’s core mission of supporting diverse and historically underrepresented founders and ensuring they have the resources needed to expand their businesses,” said Mary (Gaede) Rose, managing director and head of the REACH program at Antares.

“We are thrilled to support these companies and enhance the flow of capital at a foundational level, expanding diversity in the ecosystem of business on the pathway toward private equity.”

This announcement comes just one year after women-founded companies received less than 2 percent of capital invested in VC-backed startups in the US, and Black-owned startups received just over 1 percent. REACH aims to address this discrepancy by expanding access to capital for these historically underrepresented groups at their earliest foundational stages.

Of the recipients, which were chosen from a pool of over 100,000 applications, 90 percent are businesses led by individuals of color, and 88 percent are led by females or gender non-conforming persons. Companies from over a dozen varied industries led by founders from 4 distinct generations are represented. The founders will use the grants to introduce products, expand their regional presence, and further promote a positive social impact within the communities in which they operate.

The four South Florida startups who made the list are:

  1. 2ndVault | Fort Lauderdale, FL | Jaclyn Strauss & Nicole Mayer
  2. Caribshopper | Davie, FL | Kadion Preston
  3. Rohi’s Readery | West Palm Beach, FL | Pranati (Pranoo) Kumar
  4. Tappas | Miami, FL | Sandra Portal-Andreu

Jaclyn Strauss, a licensed CPA in Florida for over 15 years, was given a second chance at life after experiencing a life-threatening condition while giving birth to her second child. Jaclyn has taken this second chance and allowed it to fuel her passion for helping others through the mission of tech startup 2nd Vault.

“Receiving the REACH grant is instrumental in enhancing our current digital vault by allowing us to further financially invest in our robust technology solution to cater to the business customer that serves hundreds, if not thousands, of clients daily,” said Strauss. “2ndVault could not be more grateful that Antares realized our value and, more importantly, the impact that we will have on the greater community. Thank you to both Antares Reach and Hello Alice. You have provided two female co-founders with a huge spark to continue fueling their passion.”

To qualify, businesses must have a viable product or service with less than $5M in annual revenue and they must be operated by entrepreneurs of historically underrepresented groups. In addition to the $20,000 grant, all recipients will be eligible to receive an additional $5,000 grant after completing a post-grant report demonstrating how the grant has impacted their business.. They will also be given access to professional development opportunities through Hello Alice.

 

 

By Nikki Cabus

PBSC and 3 other South Florida universities receive $6.2M in cybersecurity funding with support from Tech Hub

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Palm Beach State College was awarded more than $1 million by the state of Florida as part of a $15.6 million initiative to prepare students and mid-career professionals for jobs in the burgeoning fields of cybersecurity and information technology.

In total, four South Florida universities including Florida Atlantic University, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, and Palm Beach State College received $6.2M in state funding through the Cyber/IT Pathways Grant program.

Cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow by a faster-than-average 33 percent over the next 10 years, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited by the governor’s office. In addition, cybersecurity-related job postings have increased by 43 percent in the past year, as reported by the CyberSeek website.

The Palm Beach Collaborative Cyber Pathway Project is one of 24 funded through a joint endeavor of the FLDOE and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, housed at the University of South Florida. It was selected from 67 proposals vying for a piece of $15.6 million allocated by the Florida Legislature this year to prepare more students to pursue careers in cybersecurity and address state and national workforce needs.

With dozens in attendance, college and school district officials formally announced the Palm Beach Collaborative Cyber Pathway Project at a kickoff event in the Center for Bachelor’s Programs on the Lake Worth campus Aug. 25.

The celebration included remarks from Don Gladney, Interim Dean of Bachelor’s Degree Programs, Dr, Ava Parker, President of Palm Beach State College, Mike Burke, Superintendent for The School District of Palm Beach County, Deana Pizzo, CEO at I.T. Solutions South Florida, Henry Mack, Senior Chancellor at Florida Department of Education, Julia Dattolo, CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, and Nikki Cabus, CEO at South Florida Tech Hub.

“We owe an immense amount of gratitude to the governor and the Legislature for appropriating these funds,” said Henry Mack, Ed.D., senior chancellor for the Florida Department of Education where he oversees the Divisions of Career and Adult Education, Florida Colleges, Blind Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Commission for Independent Education.

“The most exciting thing is the alignment of the curriculums across the sectors to ensure seamless transfer and provide an accelerated pathway into the workforce for the students in Palm Beach County.”

During the one-year project, the school district’s curriculum for cybersecurity and information technology will be aligned with that of Palm Beach State College’s to provide students with the appropriate training programs, certifications, degree programs, and education pathways to acquire cybersecurity skills to work at all levels from entry-level technical positions to high level security leadership and management positions.

The project will enhance technology in some high schools and provide professional development and resources for K-12 teachers and PBSC professors.

The projects four objectives are:

  1. Increase the number of students enrolled in SDPBC and PBSC Cyber/IT Pathway programs by 5% in August 2023 compared to August 2022;
  2. Increase the number of industry certifications and degrees earned by SDPBC and PBSC students programs by 5% in August 2023 compared to 2022;
  3. Create articulated curriculum that aligns instruction at SDPBC with course objectives at PBSC programs by August 2023; and
  4. Increase student job readiness through participation in experimental learning programs by 95% or targeted students by August 2023.

Mike Burke, superintendent of Palm Beach County schools, spoke about his excitement for the grant because it will help students stay up to date on cybersecurity/IT issues and solutions. Before becoming superintendent, he was responsible for the district’s information technology division as its CFO.

“As the former CFO, I recognize the value and importance of cybersecurity/IT,” said Burke. “We are heavily dependent on all of our IT systems. We really can’t operate our schools without them. In cybersecurity, the work is never done. You have to continually invest and reinvest to make sure you’ve got the right staff and the right hardware and software, and I appreciate the state making this type of investment.”

Palm Beach County remains a major cybersecurity IT center and a cluster of more than 600 technology and support businesses employing more than 15,000 workers. Employment outlook data from EMSI indicates that Palm Beach County will have over 2,500 job openings over the next three years in IT fields with wages averaging $52.80 per hour, or over $100k in a full-time salary role. In Florida, a 12.9% increase is expected as almost one-fifth of the workforce are at or near retirement age.

As the president and CEO of CareerSource, Julia Dattalo knows the dire need to get workers into the pipeline for these critical fields. “When we get a job order at CareerSource now even in the agriculture industry every job order asks for knowledge in computer software,” Dattalo said.

“There are so many apps out there. We are shopping on apps, we are working on apps. We’ve gone from an eight-hour day in the workplace to a remote workforce and that means technology has to follow us. With that technology comes problems like malware and cybersecurity attacks. We have to protect our information, and we need people to help us do that.”

Deana Pizzo, PBSC alumna, CEO of I.T. Solutions, Board Member for South Florida Tech Hub, and member of the PBSC Bachelor of Applied Science Degree Programs Advisory Board, brought two of her interns, Collin Passmore and Gavin Pizzo, to the celebration. The project will help her hire more interns like Passmore, a junior network engineer at I.T. Solutions for the past two and a half year, and get them into the workforce.

“I could not be prouder to be the voice and represent our local business community and work with the College to figure out what we need,” she said. “It’s a fast-growing community, and I’m happy to be here representing that.”

Passmore, who graduated from PBSC with an Associate in Arts degree this year, took speech and computer technology classes at PBSC and says what he is learning in the classroom helps on the job.

“Those classes were great because the things I was learning such as how to install desktop software and how to better speak to clients, I was able to directly apply to my job at I.T. Solutions.”

Nikki Cabus, PBSC alumna and CEO of South Florida Tech Hub, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for tech development, lauded the partnership. South Florida Tech Hub supported the grant application. One component of the grant was regional coordination between higher education and the school districts which Tech Hub highly supports.

“Every single company that comes to us is asking for talent and how they can educate that talent and find their students opportunities for internships and apprenticeship programs, which is why it is so important for us to support this grant that will help us provide them that,” said Cabus.

“The only way we are going to truly move the needle in regards to tech talent is through collaboration. This is not a city or county issue, but an issue for the entire state,” stated Tech Hub CEO, Nikki Cabus.

The SDPBC’s six Cybersecurity Academies are located at Palm Beach Central High School, Wellington High School, West Boca Raton High School, Santaluces High School, John I. Leanard High School, and Jupiter High School, and they are housed in seven under-resourced classrooms with outdated computers. The focus will be on these schools, as well as students and instructors at other schools in the county.

To learn more on PBSC’s STEM Career Pathways, visit https://www.palmbeachstate.edu/career-pathways/pathway-stem/

See more photos from the event here. 📸

 

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