You’re never too young to be an engineer.

The primary mission of the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology is to educate the next generation of leaders in national security technologies. One way they do that through is through outreach across the K-12 spectrum—to students who may not know, yet, that they’re already engineers at heart.

The Science Museum of Western Virginia’s Science Girls! summer camp offers elementary-school girls hands-on experience with science. Dr. Kira Gantt, the Hume Center’s Associate Director of Outreach and Education, visited the camp to talk about careers in science and engineering.

To learn about the kinds of things they might do as an engineer, rising kindergarteners, first-, and second-graders experimented with basic coding, instructing the computer to display text and to perform arithmetic equations. They also learned about cybersecurity, including geo-tagging of cell phone photos.  A second visit, to rising third-through-fifth graders, focused on basic coding, cybersecurity and general online safety practices—including knowing what information is included in those posted selfies.

Summer camps organized by Virginia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) introduce middle- and high-school students to engineering; this summer, as in years past, Hume Center scientists lent their expertise to the program. Zach Leffke, a research associate at the Hume Center, taught middle-school students in CEED’s Imagination camps and high-school girls in the CTECH2 program about how versatile radio communications are—including how software-defined radio can be used to listen in on land-based radios as well as satellite communications.

Hume Center faculty Dr. Joey Ernst and Dr. Chris Headley, along with graduate students Deirdre Beggs, Kayla Straub, and Seth Hitefeld, led demonstrations on topics including satellite communications, software-defined radio, and wireless security. These outreach programs gave students a taste of the cutting-edge technology that’s used in national security—and Virginia Tech research that they could, one day, be involved in themselves.

The Hume Center is organized under Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.