A team of Houston college students laced in the top 10 percent of 7,800 students at the National Cyber League competition. Photo courtesy of HCC

A team from Houston Community College had a strong showing earlier this month at the spring National Cyber League competition.

A team of HCC students placed in the top 10 percent of finishers, according to a statement from the college. More than 7,800 students from 450 universities and colleges across the U.S.competed in the semi-annual competition that tests participants’ skills in identifying hackers from forensic data, penetration testing, auditing vulnerable websites and recovering from ransomware attacks through a series of games.

“Our goal is to empower our students with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed as leaders in information technology, including the fast growing and in-demand areas of cyber security and artificial intelligence,” Dr. Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, president of HCC Southwest College and vice chancellor of workforce, says in a statement. “Again and again, we find that our students perform exceptionally well when compared to those from colleges and universities across the nation.”

Hira Ali, a participant and mother of two who served as vice president of the HCC Cyber Security Club before graduating this year, says the experience pushed her and her teammates to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom.

“It was a great experience for us,” she says in a statement. “It presented us, as teammates, with the opportunity to venture beyond our comfort zones and delve into unfamiliar concepts."

Ali added that she ate almost nothing and slept little for a week because she and her team were "totally immersed in the competition.” She plans to enroll in a four-year online degree program through Dakota State University.

According to Samir Saber, dean of HCC’s Digital, and Information Technology Center of Excellence, there are about 57,878 cyber jobs in Texas alone. HCC also shared that the median salary for security analysts in the Houston area is about $101,000, according to Lightcast, a labor market data analysis firm.

Earlier this month, HCC also announced that it would be rolling out a new innovation 60-hour degree program in the fall. The Smart Building Technology program will train students on the installation of low-voltage controls. Students will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree after completing the program, which is part of HCC Central’s Electrical Technology program in the Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence (COE).

In late 2022, HCC and partners also received a $1.8 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to launch a new certificate program to help residents who come from some of Houston’s most underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods find career opportunities in the clean energy, disaster response, utilities, trades and manufacturing fields. Partnering employers included The City of Houston, Harris County and TRIO Electric.

Houston Community College will have a new program this fall focused on smart building tech. Photo via HCC.edu

Houston college to launch new smart building degree-program in the fall

coming soon

Houston Community College will launch a new 60-hour Smart Building Technology program this fall, the college announced last week.

The program will train students on the installation of low-voltage controls, such as audio/visual systems, energy management, lighting controls, security cameras, burglar and fire alarm systems, retail and grocery store automation, medical automation and more, according to HCC. Students will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree after completing the program.

“This program is both cutting edge and down to earth,” Matt Adams, instructor and program coordinator for HCC’s Electrical Technology program, said in a statement.

"A lot of new technology is coming into this industry, but a lot of the technology is the same as it has been for the last five to 10 years," he went on to add. "What is new is the integration of it all, making it all work together, to make people’s lives better.”

The Smart Building Technology program will be part of HCC Central’s Electrical Technology program in the Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence (COE). According to the college, it's one of the first programs of its kind.

Adams says that the earning potential in this line of work starts at around $50,000 a year, with the potential to earn double that with additional learning and training.

In late 2022, HCC and partners also received a $1.8 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to launch a new certificate program to help residents who come from some of Houston’s most underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods find career opportunities in the clean energy, disaster response, utilities, trades and manufacturing fields. Partnering employers included The City of Houston, Harris County and TRIO Electric.

Meanwhile, Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University graduated the inaugural class from its School of Engineering Medicine earlier this month.

Graphic courtesy of HCC

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Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.