Drone Pilot SchoolTechNet Fort Bragg Symposium and Exposition fills ETI with sights, sounds of innovation

September 17, 2021by helo-10
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Red Springs High School senior Rigoberto Lopez, right, watches a drone Friday that he, his brother Jarrinson Lopez, left, and Phillip Hicks took control of during a hack-a-thon event that was part of the TechNet Fort Bragg Symposium and Exposition. The event took place at Emerging Technology Institute in Red Springs.

Jessica Horne | The Robesonian

RED SPRINGS — Emerging Technology Institute was abuzz Friday with the sounds of innovation and drones that local high school students learned to take control of as part of a hack-a-thon event.

Friday marked the end of the two-day TechNet Fort Bragg Symposium and Exposition that was held for the first time at ETI, located at 16824 N.C. 211 in Red Springs. Hundreds of people including military personnel, commercial vendors, tech companies and attendees gathered Thursday and Friday at ETI to discuss new technology developments, network and get feedback from each other.

About 600 people were in attendance Thursday. A total of 836 people registered to participate in the two-day event.

Students from Early College at Robeson Community College, and Red Springs and Lumberton high schools attended the symposium.

Red Springs and Early College students could be seen using codes to hack drones and take control of their systems on Friday. Some drones flew vertical, and others were programmed to flip in the air.

Phillip Hicks, a Red Springs senior, held a drone during the exercise, while his teammates, Rigoberto Lopez and Jarrinson Lopez, watched the computer screen and carefully typed codes into the system.

“I want to do cybersecurity and engineering,” Hicks said of his future career.

Hicks attended the Thursday hack-a-thon session with little experience in how to take command of a drone. But, after Thursday he left the ETI campus with a basic knowledge of the technology, Hicks said.

“It’s actually been really interesting,” said Ana Hernandez, an Early College student. “Like this is my first time actually hearing a lot about cybersecurity and drones.”

“I had a great, great time,” said Bryan Sanchez, who attends Early College at RCC.

“I recommend it to anyone just to come here and have fun,” he added.

Sara Spencer, the CEO of Solontek Corporation, led students in the exercise on Friday. Spencer said she knew the impact of events like the one she helped facilitate at ETI can have because the efforts of one person helped her get to the place she is today.

“I’m one of these kids … somebody took me under their wing and I’m happy to give back,” she said.

Breakout sessions also were held as tech leaders shared information about data, networks and cybersecurity. Live demonstrations were available at various booths throughout ETI’s Flight Room 1 area.

The event was of great interest to Burcu Adivar, an associate professor of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University.

Adivar attended to “understand how advanced the technology is,” government needs and what industries provide it. She also hoped to learn what threats were out there and what the university should be concerned about.

Adivar could be seen Friday inspecting a device at the CIS Secure booth, which consisted of a video teleconferencing screen, computer and phone secured for exclusive use by government officials.

Also at the event were Equitus Corporation, Adobe, Dell and other companies.

Maryland-based HeadWall unveiled the company’s secure virtual command center, which uses virtual reality goggles to place any person in the seat of a command center regardless of the person’s location. The system can be used by a variety of agencies and personnel. One example of a user could be a military commander.

“There’s been so much interest,” said Mark Templeton, of HeadWall.

Multiple people spoke highly of the symposium and their interest in returning to ETI.

“This is an amazing experience for us,” said Wesley Westmoreland, of Equitus Corporation.

The event allowed the company to get meaningful feedback from people who use their mapping services every day, he said.

“It’s really highlighting a lot of capabilities out there that aren’t necessarily known, but need to be,” said Robert Patton, vice president of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation.

Patton said a cross pollination is occurring from technology into industries and “what used to be kind of science fiction is becoming a reality.”

“I’m in it for how do we attract those industries here,” Patton said. “How do we attract the best and the brightest to our area?”

Ferd Irizarry, senior adviser of Fayetteville-based JMH Group, called the event “critical for military.”

Information across the internet is not enough to help the military solve problems. In-person events that contain human interaction and dialogue are important for advancement, he said.

“There’s no replacement for human interaction … the internet is just not conducive to that,” Irizarry said.

James Freeman, ETI founder and president, said he would be open to hosting another event.

“I think that there are discussions (underway) to do it here again,” Freeman said.

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]



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