Roane State computer program takes top honors in state competition

Roane State students Matthew Hurtubise and Lisa Messer won the cybersecurity competition gold medal at the Tennessee SkillsUSA Public Safety and Security Conference held in early March.
Roane State Community College is staying ahead of the curve when it comes to cybersecurity and once again has the gold medals to prove it.

For the second year in a row, a team from the college’s Computer Information Technology program won first place in Tennessee in the annual SkillsUSA Public Safety and Security Conference.

The winners were Matthew Hurtubise and Lisa Messer. Their advancement to the national SkillsUSA competition has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s state competition took place in early March at the Tennessee Fire Academy in Bell Buckle. Various teams from community colleges and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology participated in the event.

Roane State’s cybersecurity program has exploded in popularity and prestige since 2016, when the college’s computer information-technology program was in its infancy and only six students were enrolled.

Since then, enrollment has expanded to more than 150 students, more courses have been added, and recognition of the college’s prowess in cybersecurity education has spread. Today, the Cyber Defense students and graduates are known as tops in their field.

“We’ve built a strong culture of cybersecurity at Roane State,” said Dr. George Meghabghab, the program’s director. Meghabghab was the SkillsUSA contest coordinator back in March.

Roane State has also received the prestigious designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, joining a select few other higher education institutions in the Volunteer State and across the country.

A new high-tech computer lab to teach the principles of cybersecurity to Roane State dual enrollment students at Lenoir City High School was put in place over the summer and is now in full use. Roane State’s more than $125,000 investment in the lab is funded by part of a $999,950 state grant from the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education program.

An event to celebrate the grant-funded addition, as well as help kick off Cybersecurity Awareness Month, is set for Friday, Oct. 9, at 9:15 a.m. in the LCHS CTE Building.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month was created 16 years ago. The October observance was launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online.

“Roane State continually seeks internship opportunities in which to place our students so they get necessary ‘real life experiences’ before they graduate” said Kim Harris, director of workforce training and placement.