Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Joppatowne C.T.E. explores homeland security science

Career and technical education programs, or CTE, help students chart a path to a career after high school or after college, and interest in the field of homeland security science is increasing fast.

Mike Zipay, a teacher at Joppatowne High School in Maryland, was featured in a video, in which he describes some of the teaching he does in the CTE program for homeland security.

“One of the big things we work on in our class is [weapons of mass destruction], which is chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, and explosive,” he explains. “So our students in our class get to learn how to detect these types of agents, and stuff like that.”

Some of the “stuff” he’s referring to can be harmful to people and hurt our national security. The National Library of Medicine reprints an article that calls chemical warfare, for instance, one of the most “brutal” weapons of mass destruction “ever created by mankind.” The article’s text underscores why it’s important to be able to detect the agents being used:

The rapid identification and qualitative and quantitative determination of the unknown agent is necessary for the selection of adequate protective measures (protective masks and clothing as well as medical treatment), the mapping of contamination area and decontamination procedures. For onsite verification, especially involving [chemical warfare] agents, several handheld detection devices are available, including Three Color Detector (TCD) paper, Residual Vapor Detection (RVD) Kit, Water Poison Detection Kit (WPDK) and chemical agent monitors. These devices have several limitations, such as low specificity and inability to detect all [chemical warfare] agents. Definitive identification of an agent can be carried out onsite in a mobile analytical laboratory or in an off-site laboratory, and this will generally take many hours.

Mayra Corea, one of Mr Zipay’s juniors last year, says she decided—thanks mainly to what she learned in the classroom and on field trips to the 9/11 Memorial in New York, the Aberdeen Proving Grounds near her home, and a unit at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore that was established after the Ebola scare—to pursue homeland security science and a future career as an ultrasound technician. She’ll be using the technology for any agents, biological or otherwise, that reach a human subject and can be detected or killed with ultrasound.

“It helps me learn, like, what chemical and biological warfare does to your body,” she says in the video produced last year. Understanding biology helps a lot, she says, because “we learn about different pathogens and how they form.”

But the courses reveal more than why foundation skills—math, biology, and so on—play an integral role in the homeland security science field; they show why the need for homeland security science is increasing and why more and more students choose such a career.

“With science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) driving the 21st-century economy and the military’s Base Realignment and Closure plan bringing tens of thousands more STEM-dependent jobs to Maryland,” writes the Maryland State Department of Education on its website, “programs like pre-engineering, biomedical sciences, manufacturing engineering technologies, computer networking, and homeland security and emergency preparedness are attracting more and more students.”

In 10th grade at Joppatowne, students start with the foundation courses, including some math, advanced health, and other subjects. As juniors they decide on one of three strands for the homeland security science CTE program:

  • Homeland security science
  • Administration of justice
  • Information/communication technology

And as much as biology is needed in the homeland security science strand, which was Mayra’s choice as an aspiring ultrasound technician, she says the foundation of math “helps a lot,” probably regardless of which strand students choose.

That third strand—information and communication technology—has drawn the outspoken support of the current administration, and the Department of Homeland Security has taken an active role in developing courses for CTE programs offering homeland security science.

“America needs well trained professionals working in cybersecurity roles,” the department writes on its website. “These professionals are critical in both private industry and the government for the security of individuals and the nation. The Department of Homeland Security is committed to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity workforce through standardizing roles and helping to ensure we have well-trained cybersecurity workers today as well as a strong pipeline of future cybersecurity leaders of tomorrow.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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