County notes


PNW to develop cybersecurity program for high schoolers 

Three Purdue University Northwest faculty members secured a federal grant of $205,921 to develop a program encouraging high school students to consider careers in the growing field of cybersecurity. The project is part of a national initiative sponsored by the National Security Agency.

The grant will feature a collaboration among faculty members in the university’s College of Technology and College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, and from three different programs.

The PNW team will develop a series of web-based, interactive cybersecurity games for students in kindergarten through high school. The goal is to encourage the development of high school courses that can be used as elective or transfer college credits.

The Purdue Northwest participants are Michael Tu, lead principal investigator and professor of computer information technology; Ge Jin, co-principal investigator and professor of computer information technology and graphics; and Yueqi Zhang, co-principal investigator and associate professor of communication and creative arts.

Tu said the activities will feature practical, game-based learning.

Zhang said the project will include phases in market research, visualization and programming during this year.

Dermody, Matias among new NIRPC board members

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) elected new executive officers and welcomed new members for the 2021 commission on Jan. 21. 

Commissioner George Topoll, Union Township trustee, Porter County, assumed the chair of the commission from outgoing NIRPC Chairperson Michael Griffin, clerk-treasurer of the Town of Highland. Topoll has served as a commissioner since 2015 and on the NIRPC Executive Board for three years. 

A new slate of officers for 2021 was elected during the meeting, including George Topoll (Union Township), chair; Justin Kiel (LaCrosse), vice chair; Richard Hardaway (Merrillville), secretary; and Greg Stinson (Porter), treasurer. Executive board representatives elected for Lake County: Wendy Mis (Munster) and Bill Emerson (Lake County Surveyor); for La Porte County: Sheila Matias (LaPorte County Commission) and Tom Dermody (City of LaPorte); and for Porter County: James Ton (Chesterton) and Sue Lynch (Portage). 

NIRPC is the metropolitan planning organization and council of governments for Lake, Porter and La Porte counties in northwest Indiana. NIRPC coordinates regional planning and programming for transportation, economic development and environmental policy. 

Varga is Unity Foundation’s new marketing/program manager

La Porte County native Lauren Varga has joined Unity Foundation as marketing and program manager. Varga joins the Unity team with over 10 years of business development, community outreach and government experience. She is a graduate of Indiana University.

Varga will provide marketing, program and administrative support to help Unity meet its mission to strengthen the county now and forever.  She most recently served as business development manager at Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. and has held positions as regional director and legislative correspondent for former U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly. She was a 2006 La Porte County Lilly Endowment Scholarship finalist.

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