Students upgrading EMA equipment


Cybersecurity students at the Delaware Area Career Center have partnered with the Delaware County Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DCOHSEM) to revamp all of the AV equipment with unique customizations.

DACC Cybersecurity instructor Eli Cochran, who serves as a technical volunteer at the Emergency Management Agency, said he was asked by the agency to update and upgrade some equipment at the Emergency Operations Center, which is used by emergency personnel to monitor dangerous situations like severe weather.

Cochran said the project sounded like a good opportunity for his students.

“(The EMA) was asking for recommendations for new equipment to buy and the more we got to talking about it, I was like, ‘You know what, I think this would be an awesome project for students to get some real world applications,” Cochran said. “We’re cybersecurity, but we’re also kind of teaching IT stuff. This is stuff that they’ll need to be able to do in IT.”

Cochran said seniors were able to list equipment for the agency at a variety of price points, which Cochran said teaches students how to spec out equipment and do quoting for future contracts.

“My role in that was pretty hands off,” Cochran said. “They are going to learn the best by doing.”

Cochran added the majority of the project centers around four screens that will be used in the operations center, and students are currently coding custom programming for the screens to meet the EMA’s needs. Cochran said his students are aiming to finish the project next month, and students in all four of his groups have been working on the project.

In addition to speccing out equipment, students also created documentation and how and where the equipment should be set up, since they won’t be able to access the command center due to the pandemic. Cochran said the students will also create documentation on how all the equipment works in case something goes wrong.

“They’ve already gone through and created troubleshooting programming steps, so they are even programming in self-help options for the users,” he said. “Some of the programming ideas they’ve come up with are better than what I’ve seen in industry.”

Dillon Driskill, a junior in the program from Thomas Worthington High School, said he’s enjoying the project and has built similar systems in the past.

“This is a lot more involved than anything else I’ve done,” Driskill said. “This is a real thing. People are going to use this, so I learned a lot about the process behind (making it easy to use).”

Taylor Quinn, a junior from Olentangy Liberty High School, said she’s also worked with building computers in the past and said the part that was new for her was doing all the documentation.

“When we’re just messing around at home, it’s not the same,” Quinn said. “I’ve definitely learned a lot in that way with making diagrams and doing graphs of your own documentation.”

Quinn said she enjoys the free form nature of the project.

“We got to create it from scratch,” she said. “When we’re doing the programming we get to make it whatever we want … It’s coming up with things with the limited things we have to create what we want. That’s been the cool part for me … It’s a cool opportunity.”

Matthew Weikel, a junior from Olentangy Berlin High School, said he enjoyed seeing the project come together.

“This isn’t something I’ve worked with in the past, and it’s kind of cool to see the new equipment and see what it does,” Weikel said.

Driskill joked that the project is also much higher budget than anything he’s worked on before.

“It’s a lot of money, and I’m messing around with it. What’s not to like?” Driskill said.

Quinn added that it felt good to work on a project that will help the EMA do its job.

“We signed up for it for a tech project, but it’s definitely really cool to have a project that has meaning,” Quinn said. “When we put together and take apart computers in here, it’s just so we can look at it. It’s really cool to work on equipment that will be used and have an impact.”

Weikel agreed.

“Important people will be using this to help everybody else, which is a lot cooler to think about than ‘I’m going to make a computer to play games,’” he said.

DCOHSEM Deputy Director Sandy Mackey said the agency is glad the students have been part of the project.

“We are pleased to have the DACC students assisting us on this project as technology is a significant part of our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) upgrade,” Mackey said. “The work the students are doing is remarkable. Our team has been impressed with each part of the project they have completed. Mr. Cochran is extremely knowledgeable and has shown how much he enjoys sharing that knowledge with his students. We are excited to see this project completed.”

Cochran said the students in all of his sections of the class are working on the project, along with the following individuals: Jordan Yonce, Adrian Self, Jason Tolle, Paul Silva, Simon Bates, Aidan Gatenbee, Nate Barnhart, Jonathan Cervi, Roy Volker Acapulco and Derrick Zimmers.

Cybersecurity students at the Delaware Area Career Center — Dillon Driskill, Matthew Weikel, Jordan Yonce and Taylor Quinn — stand next to equipment they’ve been developing and programming for the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s command center. students at the Delaware Area Career Center — Dillon Driskill, Matthew Weikel, Jordan Yonce and Taylor Quinn — stand next to equipment they’ve been developing and programming for the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s command center. Alicia Mowry | Delaware Area Career Center

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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