Oceana Covington, Megan Howell, Aly Norling, Lasya Sreenivasan, Jeff Billings, Elle Dingwell, and Karen Mensing

Category : Innovation

PVWIT Students Wow Attendees at the Arizona CIO/CTO Forum

Wednesday , October 09 , 2019

Oceana Covington, Megan Howell, Aly Norling, Lasya Sreenivasan, Jeff Billings, Elle Dingwell, and Karen Mensing

From left to right: Oceana Covington, Megan Howell, Aly Norling, Lasya Sreenivasan, Jeff Billings, Elle Dingwell, and Karen Mensing

PVSchools had five high school students, who also participate as members of the PV Women in Information Technology (PVWIT) initiative, present during two sessions at the Arizona CIO/CTO Forum on Oct. 3rd. This event is designed to specifically address the unique interests and needs of Arizona's K-12 educational IT community.

The CIO/CTO (Chief Information Officer/Chief Technology Officer) conference has a call for proposals each year. PVSchools submitted several proposals, and two featuring students were selected. The student presentations were Administrator and High School Students Perspective on Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) and Highlighting K-12 Uses and Cybersecurity. 

In the AI/ML presentation, students Oceana Covington, a 10th-grade student at Paradise Valley High School, and Megan Howell, a 10th-grade student at Paradise Valley High School, presented with Jeff Billings, IT Director, regarding the curricular and adaptive application and cyber protection of resources. 

“The students explained what AI and ML are, as well as what they are not, and why AI/ML will likely shake IT in K-12 within the next few years. They did several demonstrations of how AI and ML are already being used in the classroom, including examples with students as young as first grade. Oceana and Megan were both PVWIT summer interns this past summer and have been extensively researching AI and ML,” said Karen Mensing, integration specialist.

The Cybersecurity presentation was facilitated by Lasya Sreenivasan, an 11th-grade student at Paradise Valley High School; Elle Dingwell, a 10th-grade student at Horizon High School; and Aly Norling, an 11th-grade student at Pinnacle High School. 

“These three students have been preparing for the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriots competition as a PVWIT team. They are part of the small group of the first U.S. K-12 students to participate in The CyberDefense Lab, a multi-million-dollar secure cloud by Cisco, simulating authentic attacks and defenses. These young ladies described what they have learned about cybersecurity and how they have been preparing for this intense competition,” added Mensing. 

The PVWIT students were professional, poised, and well-rehearsed. Both sessions were packed with attendees, and the audience was eager to interact with the students and ask them questions. 

“The feedback from the student presentations was spectacular! Comments from the audience included, ‘Can I hire you today?’, ‘Wow, this certainly wasn't on my radar when I was in high school!’, ‘Are you sure these are actually high school students and not androids in disguise?’, and ‘I really did not have much of an understanding of either AI or ML before today. Thank you for explaining it so clearly,’” said Mensing.

PVWIT was developed by the IT Department in response to the District's equity and access initiative. The IT Department focuses on gender equity since there is a national challenge recruiting and retaining women in the information technology field.  There are multiple projects occurring with PVWIT students, and members of the IT Department meet with these hardworking young ladies on a regular basis.