Trying to be in the right place at the right time is always a good strategy for graduates who are about to enter the workforce. For those majoring in computer science, it also helps to have developed a killer app.
That’s what Jobert Nombrado, a computer technology major in the cybersecurity track at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) who will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in spring 2019, discovered at Great Minds in STEM’s annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) in October 2018, where he hosted the Hackathon cybersecurity competition.
Nombrado was asked to return to the conference the next day for an interview with Northrop Grumman. While trying to find the interview booths he pulled aside Reina Villanueva for directions, who happened to be a systems engineer for the aerospace giant.
“Somehow we got to talking about the work I’ve been doing on the CyberPatriot program,” said Nombrado, referring to the national program created by the Air Force Association to inspire K-12 students for careers in cybersecurity or types of other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) work. Northrop Grumman also supports the CyberPatriot program.
“I told her I have developed a way to run the program from a phone, tablet, or netbook, which would cost less than half of what it costs now. She seemed impressed and told me she would love to present it to her partners,” said Nombrado, who has been a CSUDH CyberPatriot student mentor for two years. His new system for the CyberPatriot program is also his senior class project.
For a class to compete in CyberPatriot it needs to have access to computers capable of running technical software, which can be expensive. Nombrado’s design centralizes the software—currently on a webpage—enabling a full class of students to use their personal smartphones or other digital gadgets during competition as opposed to sharing one or two computers.
“I love CyberPatriot and working with the students—they’re so bright—but it has always been a struggle. Now they just connect to my project. It just pops up in their browser,” said Nombrado, who has also served as president of CSUDH’s Cybersecurity Club. “No fuss no muss. All the students don’t have to be huddling around a couple computers anymore.”
Nombrado can relate to the young, digitally savvy students whom he mentors. In middle school, he was already showing an innate talent for computer technology and was asked to help manage the school’s computers, and do other tasks such as running audio equipment.
“They just knew me as a geeky kid and asked me to do things. That’s kind of where I cut my teeth—making sure their stuff was secure. They were doing things like leaving passwords under the keyboard, or using ‘1234’ as a password,” he said. “In high school, I worked with a teacher who we called Mr. K. He worked on the school IT infrastructure. I helped him with work on their database dealing with things like students grades. Their system was pretty unsecure, too.”
In December 2018, Nombrado’s talk with Villanueva at the HENAAC conference paid off. He was invited to engage in a conference call with Northrop Grumman engineers to present his new CyberPatriot system.
“They became gung ho about it and decided to move forward. I’ve began working with them and their engineers to try to get this going,” said Nombrado.
Nombrado also landed a job with Northrop Grumman in its Mission Systems Department as a software engineer, and will start in July 2019. He currently works as a paid intern on the cybersecurity team for the major movie studio Lionsgate. The internship will end in April 2019.
On Feb. 26, Nombrado and a room full of STEM-loving students put his CyberPatriot management system to the test during Northrop Grumman’s Engineers Week 2019 “Engineers: Inspiring Wonder.” “I presented and test ran my new system with the kids and Northrop engineers. The event was a successful stress test of my senior project.”
Nombrado looks forward to creating more innovative computer applications. “In the future, I’d love to develop a security application that allows you to just scan anything—a web server, file server, the entire infrastructure of your company—to tell you exactly what you need to do to harden it. I’d love to create such an all-in-one solution while at Northrop. I’m pretty sure they’d grab it up, which would be great.”