My First Programming Class

(This post was authored by Dr. Bill Eberle)

So where do I go from here? Different people are telling me different things – you should do this, you should do that – but none of it felt like what I really wanted to do. I wasn’t even sure what school I wanted to attend. (Starting to sound like one of those teenage angst movies from the ’80s and ’90s, or maybe a bit like “The Graduate”, without Mrs. Robinson). When I was a junior and senior in high school, I toyed with a few different majors. Architecture. Journalism. (I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter). I didn’t even decide on what school I was going to (SMU? UH? UT?) until the end of my senior year when I picked the University of Texas (without even a college visit). Now, what was I going to major in? Since I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, I decided to apply and was accepted into the Honors program – basically an “undecided” major for students who had aspirations of going on to medical or law school (still not sure what I was thinking).

In the second semester of my freshman year, I decided to take an elective: Intro to Programming. I had played with Basic before, but other than the manual that came with Basic (there was no internet back then), it was all “self-taught” – and if I could look back on the code I wrote back then (primarily games), I am sure I would be embarrassed. But even then, I knew I didn’t really know how to program – or even the basics of computer science – so I was kind of excited to see what a programming class would look like.

Back then, the Intro to Programming and the Data Structures and Algorithms – the first two courses in the computer science curriculum – were taught in Pascal. When I look back on Pascal, I realize what a wonderful first programming language! Not one that would ever be used in the real world, but a great way to be introduced to variables, loops, conditional statements, strict type-checking, etc. I remember watching the instructor (there were about 100 of us in the class), writing on those clear plastic sheets that sat on a box containing a bright light that projected the image on the screen, showing us how concepts could be implemented in Pascal. I was ready to start hacking out my first working program – and fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait! Little did I know that it was not as straightforward as simply typing at a keyboard…

So, the way programming worked in the early ’80s (at least for the first year of computer science majors at the University of Texas) was that you wrote your program (i.e., lines of code) on a piece of paper. Then once you felt like you had the correct sequence of code, you went down to the University Bookstore and purchased a stack of punch cards. Don’t know what that is? Think of a paper airline ticket. Wait, don’t know what is either? Think of a time clock at the factory… Oh, never mind. It is a card about the size of a pocket protect… stencil… oh never mind – a long piece of stiff paper. Then you would put each card into what looks like a type-writer. (I am done making analogies). Then, as you typed on the keyboard, the line of code would be punched on the card along with holes that correspond to that line of code. Finally, once all lines of code have put onto separate punch cards, you were ready to get the program compiled and run. Unless you dropped all your cards while walking them to the computer operator… Remember: order of code (or in this case cards) matter.

Fortunately, someone had told me a trick one time to (a) put a rubber band around your cards, and (b) put them in a box. I still remember standing in line at the computer center (after having typed/punched my first program) and handing my stack of cards – rubber-band and all – to the operator. (Who was usually another student at the university). Now, today, we type the compile command with the name of the file (or files) to compile (or use a form of a Makefile) and then run the code getting an answer almost immediately. (In later classes I would learn about linkers and loaders – other topics long since forgotten in computer science education). In those days, you left your “baby” in the hand of someone else. And if you were lucky, you would come back in a few hours to see what happened.

So, now it is after dinner. I return to find on a table to the side a green and white striped stack of paper, with holes along both sides, about the size of a welcome mat (okay, I still had one more analogy), with my name and ID number of the top page. (Which helped when finding which was mine among all of the other freshmen who were working late that day). I pick up my first “job” and proceeded to find an open table where I could review my program and what it produced for results. The first few pages were my lines of code replicated in the order of their cards. Looking good! Then, I would get to the last page. Wait? Where is my output? What is this?

unknown variable – the variable x is not declared

Okay… How late is the computer lab open?

Net Time: Building Flight Simulators

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National Science Foundation Awards Tennessee Tech $4.4 Million for Cybersecurity Scholarships

(This post is authored by The College of Engineering)

The Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center at Tennessee Tech University has been awarded more than $4.44 million from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships for students completing a computer science degree with a concentration in cybersecurity.

The five-year National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship for Service grant enables Tennessee Tech to provide full-tuition scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as thousands of dollars in stipends and professional allowances.

The new award marks the second time the National Science Foundation has selected Tennessee Tech for the program, which aims to recruit and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to meet the growing cybersecurity demands faced by federal, state, local and tribal governments.

“We continue providing a highly skilled workforce to help solve the nation’s cybersecurity workforce challenge,” Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham said. “Our students benefit from the relevant and responsive approach we take to industries who need talent.”

“Tech has developed a national reputation in cybersecurity education, research and outreach,” said Joseph Slater, dean of engineering at Tennessee Tech. “This award solidifies CEROC as a national hub for cybersecurity and helps ensure more students have access to a quality cybersecurity education.”

Funding for students includes:

  • Full coverage of all tuition
  • $6,000 professional allowance
  • $25,000 stipend (for undergraduates beginning their junior year to earn an accelerated master’s degree while completing a bachelor’s degree)
  • $34,000 stipend (for graduate students to complete a doctorate while earning a master’s degree)

Upon graduation, students become cyber defenders protecting the national cyber infrastructure in mostly federal government positions. Tennessee Tech’s cybersecurity graduates are helping to fill a significant workforce gap amid highly publicized, increasing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as pipelines, food suppliers and even law firms.  

“In today’s technological world, patriots are desperately needed to defend their country in cyberspace, and this elite program provides for such an important undertaking. Students obtain a quality cyber education, gain critical, hands-on technical skills and join peers throughout the nation in the fight against cyber criminals,” said Ambareen Siraj, director of the center and the grant’s principal investigator. “We have been blessed to see some amazing students from our computer science program enter and thrive in a field that is seeing a workforce deficit of nearly half a million people. Our nation needs more cyber career professionals to keep the peace in cyberspace.”

The newly awarded grant exceeds the first, record-setting grant for CEROC, originally valued at $4.3 million and increased to $5 million through the addition of special projects. During the 2016-2021 grant cycle, 38 students have completed or are completing their computer science degree in cybersecurity with 92 percent of recipients finishing a Master of Science. 

Tennessee Tech was the first institution in the state of Tennessee to receive the CyberCorps grant from the National Science Foundation and remains the largest program in the state. The program has also helped CEROC launch several cybersecurity education initiatives, including the annual CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Bootcamp for incoming students. Additionally, Tennessee Tech was among 10 institutions throughout the country to participate in a pilot program working to better bridge cyber education programs at community colleges and four-year universities.

“It is very rewarding to see how the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program has had such a positive impact, not just at Tennessee Tech, but also in the region, state and nation. It is an honor to work with such an amazing program management team and cyber scholars” said Eric Brown, the center’s assistant director and co-principal investigator for the grant. The other co-principal investigators include Akond A. Rahman, assistant professor of computer science; Maanak Gupta, assistant professor of computer science; and Denis Ulybyshev, assistant professor of computer science.

The new grant will also provide funding for the development of a new minor in cyber-crime, law and society for computer science and sociology and political science undergraduate students, further expanding Tennessee Tech’s cyber education opportunities. Tennessee Tech is one of 93 institutions (8 community colleges, 85 four-year schools) participating in the program.

In addition to SFS, Tennessee Tech is the only institution in Tennessee to participate in the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship program, a similar program operated exclusively with Department of Defense agencies.

More information about the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, including a link to the scholarship application, can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/ceroc/education/sfs. General information inquiries can be sent to sfs@tntech.edu or by calling (931) 372-3519.

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ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION CYBESECURITY SCHOLARSHIP FOR SERVICE:

The National Science Foundation has awarded $4,443,669 (Cybersecurity Scholarship for Service, grant #2043324) to the Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center at Tennessee Tech University for its project “CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (Renewal): An Enhanced and Integrated Scholar Experience in Cybersecurity.”

ABOUT CEROC: 

The Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center at Tennessee Tech University, established under the direction of Ambareen Siraj, Ph.D., is a center of excellence in the College of Engineering focused on K-20 cybersecurity education program, research in emerging cybersecurity topics and outreach programs to stakeholders in academia, government and industry. CEROC is a National Security Agency-designated Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and host of the first and largest CyberCorps SFS program in Tennessee. CEROC, via Siraj’s leadership, is also the founding group for the Women in Cybersecurity initiative, the largest of its type in the world focusing on enhancing diversity within the cybersecurity workforce.  More information about CEROC and its programs can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/ceroc or by sending an email to ceroc@tntech.edu.

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Pipeline hack highlights cybersecurity worker shortage in the U.S.

(This post was authored by the College of Engineering)

Tennessee Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center working to fill the gap

Muhammad Ismail, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at Tennessee Tech University

Colonial Pipeline has restored operations after a ransomware attack forced a six-day shutdown of the 5,500-mile pipeline that led to panic-buying gas shortages in the Southeast, but a leading cybersecurity expert warns the attack and its repercussions exposed an ongoing problem facing the nation’s critical infrastructure: A gap in the U.S. cybersecurity workforce.

“First, this is a wake-up call for these companies to strength their cybersecurity defense,” said Muhammad Ismail, Ph.D., an assistant professor of computer science in Tennessee Tech’s College of Engineering and an expert in cyber-physical systems security for the school’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC). “Second, cyberwarfare is a reality. Future wars will no longer be traditional, and the country needs to be prepared on both the defensive and offensive sides. This starts by closing the cybersecurity workforce gap.”

To do that, banks, utilities, hospitals logistics companies and supply chains need to ramp up their cybersecurity workforces to defend the billions of internet connections spurred by organizations’ increasing reliance on remote systems to operate. The number of cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023, according to a 2018 report by telecommunications company Ericsson.

The U.S. has a total employed cybersecurity workforce of 956,341 professionals as of March, but there are still more than 460,000 jobs going unfilled. The supply of cybersecurity workers is categorized as “very low,” according to Cyber Seek, a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.

In Tennessee, the workforce gap mirrors what is happening around the rest of the country, with a cybersecurity workforce of 11,000 and job openings of 5,500 throughout the state.

These numbers will grow in the immediate future as cybersecurity experiences job growth of 31 percent between 2019 and 2029, Ismail said.

Americans are familiar with schemes that hack their personal information, and those should be taken seriously. “But targeted cyberattacks on cyber-physical systems–especially for critical infrastructures like the power grid, water grid, and oil and gas pipelines—are a growing threat that can affect the entire country or a significant portion of the population,” Ismail said.

The far-reaching effects of such events is clear: After the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, U.S. fuel prices rose six cents (up to fourteen cents in some pumps) per gallon in a week.

“What we have seen is that in the future, a more powerful attack that lasts for an extended period would affect fuel prices, affecting every American,” Ismail said. “Everyone should be concerned.”

In the meantime, government officials and universities have mobilized to ensure the country and its industries are prepared with an army of professionals. Tennessee Tech’s CEROC—where Ismail is an affiliate—is no exception. “We are investing in the future direction of cybersecurity,” he said.

Launched in 2015 and led by Ambereen Siraj, Ph.D., CEROC is home to one of the only three, four-year programs in Tennessee designated by the National Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Tech also has the only Tennessee program to offer cybersecurity-specialized degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.

Tennessee Tech has provided 45 students with federally funded scholarships from two programs designed to encourage recruitment of the nation’s top cyber talent. The CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program provides undergraduate and graduate students up to three years of support from the National Science Foundation in exchange for a commitment to work for the U.S. Government in a position related to cybersecurity. The Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Scholarship Program (CySP) offers scholarships to students pursuing a cyber-related degree at National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, Cyber Defense Research or Cyber Operations in exchange for working for the DoD in a position related to cybersecurity.

CEROC is equipped with resources that can help students develop hands-on experience on cyberattack and defense strategies. Its CyberRange offers a training and test environment for students and interest groups to learn these skills and conduct research.

The university’s computer science department added five faculty members in 2019—four of which are focused on cybersecurity—and new courses cover state-of-the-art topics in cybersecurity. In one recent course, students built the kind of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems used by pipelines and power grids, launched attacks, and defended these systems. In the upcoming fall semester, a course taught by Maanak Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science, will include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in cybersecurity. Ismail’s recent research examines machine learning techniques for detecting false data injection attacks on power grids.

Ismail stressed the importance of hands-on experience in training future cybersecurity professionals.

“Our courses provide students with experience through extensive labs and demos to prepare them with the skill sets needed to defend the country’s infrastructure,” Ismail said.  “However, as you can see from the (low supply) numbers, the cybersecurity workforce gap is still very high. There is tremendous opportunity here to fill this gap and ensure the U.S. can stay always one-step ahead.”

For more information on Tennessee Tech College of Engineering cybersecurity programs, visit: https://tntech.edu/CEROC

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Computer Science Graduate Student Club: Completion of the Spring 2021 Seminar Series

(This post was authored by Md. Ahsan Ayub and Katie Brown)

The Computer Science Graduate Student Club successfully conducted five seminars in the Spring 2021 seminar series. In this edition of the seminar series, the club hosted five Computer Science Master’s students to present their research work, among which four of them are scheduled to graduate this semester. The seminars are open for all students at Tennessee Tech University. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the seminars were streamed via Microsoft Teams.

The club extends their heartiest gratitude to all the speakers as well as participants during the seminars, faculty members to promote their Master’s students and share their expert opinion after each presentation, and faculty advisers and CS staff for their constant support and kind coordination throughout the semester. The details on each seminar are as follows:

Seminar 1: “Cloud Malware Detection using Deep Learning” by Andrew McDole (Advisor: Dr. Maanak Gupta)

Overview of Andrew’s Seminar: As more services move towards cloud environments, the threat of malicious actors injecting malware onto these cloud systems is greater. In response to this threat, malware detection methods must continually evolve to combat increasingly sophisticated malware. Deep learning methods can provide higher accuracies when analyzing low-profile malware in these online cloud-based systems. Link to Watch: https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/5f3cb775-174b-4195-9e68-252a729f9620

Seminar 2: “Insecure Coding Patterns in Julia Projects” by Justin Murphy (Advisor: Dr. Akond Rahman)

Overview of Justin’s Seminar: Julia is an emerging programming language that is designed to provide syntax similar to that of a scripting language, such as Python, and comparable program execution speed with low-level memory access, such as C. Despite reported benefits with respect to productivity, efficiency, and possessing unique properties, Julia programs can include insecure coding patterns (ICPs). ICPs, such as hard-coded passwords, can be used by malicious actors to perform attacks. The goal of the project is to help practitioners avoid insecure coding patterns (ICPs) while developing Julia projects by conducting an empirical study of ICPs in Julia projects. Link to Watch: https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/67096b95-a97c-416c-9c9f-36a030955e5b

Seminar 3: “Scheduling Elastic Message Passing Parallel Application in HPC Environment” by Debolina Halder Lina (Advisor: Dr. Sheikh Ghafoor)

Overview of Debolina’s Seminar: Elastic parallel application that can change the number of processors while running, promises improved application and system performance as well as new classes of parallel applications. From the application point of view users want lower response time and lower turnaround time, on the other hand from the system perspective we want higher utilization and throughput. Elastic application promises both by reducing fragmentation. In addition, elastic applications provide the possibility of predictive proactive fault tolerance via shrinkage in increasingly larger HPC systems where mean time between component failures is decreasing. The research work for elastic parallel systems is at a very early stage and rudimentary at best. The major challenges for elastic parallel sstems to become reality are: 1) lack of programming models for elastic applications, 2) lack of support from message passing libraries and middleware and 3) lack of adequate support from HPC resource management systems. In our research we are developing a model for elastic parallel applications and a model of their interactions with resource management systems. We are also investigating the impact of different scheduling algorithms for elastic parallel applications on system and application performances. Link to Watch: https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/6224d391-639a-4be6-8e21-471c25da06f1

Seminar 4: “Securing Cyber Physical System Networks and Communication” by Trey Burks (Advisor: Dr. Denis Ulybyshev)

Overview of Trey’s Seminar: Many aspects of cyber-physical systems (CPS) and the protocols they use in their networks are not secure. They are typically limited by the age of the protocols or the computation capabilities of the physical devices. This presentation will focus on my research to provide efficient solutions to secure these networks, including moving target defense (MTD), encryption through intermediary devices, and the addition of noise to the communication channels. Link to Watch: https://web.microsoftteams.com/video/d86128d2-bc4e-48b2-9804-6e437ab6682

Seminar 5: “Growing the Science of Validation and Verification for Julia Programs” by Raunak Shakya ( Advisor: Dr. Akond Rahman)

Overview of Raunak’s Seminar: Julia is an emerging programming language that was designed to provide syntax similar to that of scripting languages, such as Python, with similar program execution speed of compiled languages, such as C. Despite reported benefits with respect to productivity and program execution time, Julia programs can include defects that can have serious consequences, for example, producing erroneous scientific results that can potentially misguide scientists. We are conducting our empirical study on two subjects – the first is on the categorization of defects found in open-source Julia programs from GitHub, and the second is on fuzzing the Julia compiler binary to identify latent bugs in the compiler implementation. A taxonomy of defects for Julia programs can help researchers and practitioners understand the nature of defects and provide guidance in prioritizing validation and verification activities in Julia-based software development, and the discovery of previously unknown bugs in the Julia compiler will help the concerned developers to fix them, thus increasing the compiler’s performance and reliability. Link to Watch: https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/01fb928d-2837-431e-8750-d1922d352bf4

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It’s Not About Smart, It’s About Mindset and Hard Work

(This post was authored by April Crockett)

I have been inspired by a recent talk by Mr. Luis Velazco at the Computer Science Spring 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Seminar Series when he discussed that he was a “medium student” who struggled in calculus bu that he persisted through these struggles and now works at Microsoft as a Senior Software Engineer. His story really resonated with me because my academic background is so similar.

Whatever it is you have hopes to achieve, whatever looks like “success” to you, you have what it takes to get there. You don’t need anything that you weren’t given at birth.

You aren’t your numbers! No matter how good or how how bad your “numbers” are, this isn’t who you are and it certainly doesn’t limit what you can accomplish in this world. You are not your ACT score, SAT score, latest Calculus score, latest programming assignment grade, GPA, GRE score, max bench-press weight, or any other number that you have received in your life. These numbers indicate your current status in that particular content, but not your future abilities. I know plenty of people, including myself, who do not openly share what we made on the ACT. I also do not like to share my grades in my first year of college. Although I wasn’t proud of these numbers, if I had used them to determine what I would be able to do in life, I would never have followed the path that God set for me to become a Computer Science teacher. In my second year of college, I decided that I would be relentless about improving my grades so that I could do what I love. I quit putting a ceiling on what I was able to do. I wasn’t “bad” at math, I just didn’t know how to study and had a very unrealistic idea of the effort I needed to put into more challenging classes.

Improving meant I needed to develop a growth mindset and relentless determination. There are two basic mindsets – fixed versus growth. These mindsets and their descriptions come from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her book, “Mindset: The Psychology of Success”. In her book, she explained that a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static attributes which we can’t change and that the limit of our success is determined by this. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of intelligence but as a catalyst for growth. What type of mindset you adopt greatly affects not only your professional life, but also your personal life. One example of a person with a growth mindset in her book that was particularly inspiring to me was about Michael Jordan, who is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was a four-time gold medalist with USA Basketball, including winning two Olympic gold medals, and was twice named the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year. He is quoted as saying “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I”ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I”ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succees.” Michael Jordan said that his success was the result of hard work, not genetics and “if you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

My favorite phrase about failing was from Jessica Robinson at the Fall 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Seminar Series when she said she has succeeded in her life by “failing forward”. The times I have been most proud of my accomplishments are the times that I have failed forward, and because of my persistence through the challenges, have come out on top. Embrace challenge, find inspiration in other’s successes, and work as hard. as required to success because you are worth it!

Reference Links:

  • Recording of talk from Luis Velazco in the Spring 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Series:
  • Recording of talk from Jessica Robinson in the Fall 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Series:
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success book in the TTU Volpe Library:

https://tntec-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/search?query=any,contains,carol%20dweck%20mindset%20the%20psychology%20of%20success&tab=default_tab&search_scope=default_scope&sortby=date&vid=01TNTECH_default&facet=frbrgroupid,include,698911974&offset=0

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5 Tips for Success from a Graduating Transfer Student

(This post was authored by Julianne Cox)

When I geared up for my first semester of college, I wasn’t worried about which dorm I’d be in or who my roommate would be. I was attending Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin. My only concern was the length of time it took me to drive from my parents’ house to campus! As excited as I was to leave high school and pursue a higher education, I personally had to get started a little closer to home. But when the time came to continue learning at another institution, I was drawn to Tennessee Tech. I’ve learned quite a few things along the way of my five-year college journey. I thought I’d share my top tips for success with everybody. Check them out below.

  1. Do Your Research!

Whether you’re transferring schools, changing majors, or just planning out your course schedule for the next few years, it always pays off to do your research! See what classes are offered for your desired course program. When I was planning to transfer to Tech, I triple-checked that all of my Vol State courses would transfer over and apply to my CSC degree here. Fortunately, most public universities in TN have a simple transfer protocol, so all of my credits were able to come with me! The same thing applies if you’re wanting to change your major. A lot of your general education courses should still be applicable to your degree!

  1. Create And Stick To A Schedule!

There are a lot of things to keep up with in college! Not only are you responsible for your academic requirements, you’re also taking care of yourself as an adult for the first time. Then add in clubs, sororities/fraternities, working a job or two, trying to exercise…. There’s a lot to keep track of! There are also many ways to organize your to-do list, but my persona; favorite is Trello. I’m a sucker for lists, and Trello lets you make lists on lists on lists! Ultimately it is a little bit complex, but super easy to get used to and has kept me on track for the past three years in the midst of (usually) four classes, two jobs, and the general chores of living in my own apartment. Definitely consider making a (free) account if you’re too lazy for a written planner like I am!

  1. Try A Little Bit Of Everything!

Quite frankly, there are a ridiculous amount of opportunities in the Computer Science department at Tech. Whether you’re wanting to learn specialized cybersecurity at the Offense and Defense Cyber Interest Groups, pick up some info at the Game Development Club, learn something at the Data Science League, or find fellow female students at the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) Club, there is no shortage of things to do! Sometimes, these organizations will also have chances to attend conferences at no cost, like the TriWIC or WiCyS conferences (both of which I’ve had the chance to attend)! With all of my heart I encourage you to try something new in any of the mentioned (or unmentioned) clubs here in our department! Especially if you’re a transfer student and kind of struggling to find your “group” on campus. Not only do you have the chance to make new friends, you’ll also have the chance to learn new skills and add something to your resume. You might even get to do something unexpected, like speak at a big event!

Me, giving a Lightning Talk on club meeting idea at the TriWIC conference in February 2020!
Dr. Kosa and a group of students at the annual WiCyS Conference in 2019 that took place in Pittsburgh!
  1. If You Can, Take On Some Extracurricular Responsibilities!

While participating in clubs is a resume booster in and of itself, holding an officer’s position looks much fancier. It shows that you have the drive to be involved beyond just your college courses, and it shows that you’ve got the work ethic to get things done. I’ve been involved in various officer’s positions over the years, and recruiters have commented on that at each interview I’ve had! So keep your eyes open for any openings or elections in clubs that you’re involved in – it doesn’t have to be the role of President to make a difference, and it’s a great chance for personal improvement!

Here is a picture of me hosting my first meeting as President of the Women in Cybersecurity Student Chapter, after spending two years as the Vice President!
  1. Don’t Be Afraid To Say “NO”!

As fun as it is to learn new things and have new experiences, above all else your mental health in college is the MOST important. As a people-pleaser it is often super hard for me to say “no” when someone asks me to do something. But sometimes, you really do not have the time to take on any other responsibilities. Other times, you may just want to keep some time open for rest and relaxation – both of these are valid reasons to say no to a request from a student, organization, or a professor! Always make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to do your classes, homework things you enjoy, and take care of yourself, amidst all of the things you may be thinking about taking on in any semester.

I hope these tips will help you on your journey through college! Some of them I wish I learned a little bit earlier on my own journey, so I’m glad I can impart them now.

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10 Tips for a Smooth Registration

(This post was authored by Laura Nisbet, Academic Advisor)

Follow these steps from Computer Science advisor, Laura Nisbet, to become a registration pro and ensure a smooth registration process. Being a former student here at TTU, Laura knows the importance of being prepared to ensure registration goes well and is as easy as possible.

  1. Get Advised and Prepare a List of Courses

Make sure you have already been advised or have an official advisement meeting scheduled before registration opens. Registration opens on Monday, April 5th for the Summer and Fall 2021 semesters. Your advisor will give you an alternate PIN, which is needed for registration. Make sure to write down your alt PIN in your phone so you always have access to it.

Be prepared for your advisement meeting and create a 2-year plan with a list of courses you would like to take. Make sure you are referencing your Degree Works page found in Eagle Online under Student, Student Records, Degree Works as well as the Course Catalog for your major. Reference the 2-year CSC elective course schedule to make sure you are picking courses that are offered in the correct semester. It is always a good idea to have a few back-up options if the courses you want fill up before your registration day.

  1. Review Holds

It is important to be aware of and fix any holds on your account that you might have. Have a parking ticket? It might prohibit you from registering for courses until you take care of it (I was guilty of this 😊). Review yours in Eagle Online under Student, Student Account, View Holds. Have a hold and not sure what it means or how to fix it? Review the Records website for more information.

  1. Use Schedule Planner and the Registration Cart

Still hand writing a tentative schedule? Use Schedule Planner for an easy way to create possible schedules. Add breaks/downtime when you don’t want to be in courses. Watch this tutorial on how to create and save a schedule to your Registration Cart making the actual registration process really fast. When your registration time opens just pull the cart back up and register!

  1. Review Course Modality

Review the modality of the course (On Ground, Tech-Flex, etc.) you are planning to register for. You can view this in either Eagle Online or Schedule Planner. See these instructions on how to look this up and descriptions of the different types. This is something you will want to check periodically and closer to when the course starts. The modality could change before the first day of classes.

  1. Know How to Request a Permit

Are you getting an error when trying to register for a class? Review what the error means and if you should request a permit. If you feel as though you qualify to take the course, you can request a permit. Typically, this means contacting the departmental administrative associate via email. For CSC courses, you can submit a permit request form online. This should be done after you have tried to register for the course.

It is important to be patient with departments when requesting permits. Typically, during registration week, administrators have an influx of emails and permit requests. Don’t worry, they will always get back to you.

  1. Be Careful with Courses with Similar Names

If your advisor advised a specific course number, register for that. Look up a class by the course number and not the name. For example: BIOL 1010 (Intro to Biology) is not the same as BIOL 1113 (General Biology I) and PHYS 2010 (Algebra-Based Physics) is not the same as PHYS 2110 (Calculus-Based Physics). You could accidentally register for the wrong course and not be able to get the correct credit.

  1. Set a Reminder for your Registration Time

Take advantage of your registration day and time and register at exactly your time or as close to it as possible. All students are assigned a registration day and time based on their classification. Set a reminder in your phone so that you don’t forget. Courses will start to fill up the week of registration.

If you used the Schedule Planner Registration Cart, all you have to do is pull the cart back up (Eagle Online, Student, Registration, Schedule Planner Registration Cart) and click register. If a course has filled up, it will show you in the Status column.

  1. Be Patient

Registration week can cause some added stress for everyone. Be patient with your advisor, departmental contacts, and yourself! If a class fills up, there is still a good chance that you can get into the course by being diligent. Students will continue to add and drop courses until they start so there is still plenty of time to get everything worked out.

If a class fills up before you can register see below for how to add yourself to the waitlist. It is also a good idea to have a back-up plan or to be flexible with other sections that might be open. (Check out those 8:00AMs that tend to stay open longer than others 😊).

Remember that your advisor’s email is overflowing this week and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

  1. Add Yourself to a Waitlist

If the course you want has filled up, go ahead and add yourself to a waitlist. The departments monitor these numbers to see if they should increase the class size so it is important to add yourself. If a spot opens up, you will be notified via Tech email to claim your seat so be sure you keep your eye on your email. You will only have 24 hours to claim the spot before it moves on to the next person. If you miss your chance, you will have to add yourself back to the bottom of the waitlist.

You can add yourself to the waitlist in Eagle Online under Student, Registration, Add/Drop Classes, Type in the CRN number at the bottom and submit. When the drop-down menu comes up, select add to waitlist and submit again. Review more information on the Records website.

  1. Confirm Your Schedule by the Deadline

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Make sure you pay and confirm your schedule before the deadline. If you aren’t able to pay by the deadline, submit the “Save Your Seat” form to extend your deadline. If you don’t meet the deadline your schedule will be deleted and you will have to reregister for all your courses. Since courses do fill up, this makes it hard to get a schedule again. Review the deadlines for the upcoming semester.

Good luck and don’t sweat it! Remember students will add and drop classes all the way up until they start so if you don’t get the ones you want immediately, add yourself to the waitlist and keep checking on course availability.

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Violence Against APIDA and Asian Communities

Less than a year after the events surrounding yet more racial violence against African Americans, we are reminded that the effort to create inclusive and diverse communities needs to be part of a continuous process, and not just short-lived, one-time events. The recent violence and racism against Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) and Asian individuals and communities is especially concerning to me given the number faculty and students that we have that are, indeed, from these communities. As a department, we are and have been committed to creation of a diverse and inclusive environment. This commitment is not limited to words but has been backed up by action which we are prepared to continue and expand upon as we strive to ensure the safety and well-being for all of us that call ourselves Golden Eagles. To be clear, anti-APIDA and anti-Asian racism and xenophobia is not and will not be tolerated in our halls, both physical and virtual. The rhetoric of hate goes against what we are as a department, college, and university, and we must make every effort to stand against such behavior.  

As an APIDA individual that has personally been affected by discrimination, racism, and xenophobic behavior, I encourage anyone that experiences these forms of hate to seek out the resources available here on the campus. Below you will find a list of these resources and how to access them. These resources include counseling services, TN Ombudsman, the Office of Diversity, Multicultural Affairs, and the Tennessee Technological University Police Department.

The Department of Computer Science has long been working to develop an inclusive environment in which to study, work, and collaborate. I whole heartedly invite you to learn more about these efforts by visiting our Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s website (https://sites.tntech.edu/csc-diversity/) and attending the seminars that we provide every month that are intended to help build awareness of the many issues that are yet to be addressed. As I stated less than a year ago, our objectives when it comes to diversity and inclusion remain:  

  • To advocate for the full engagement, empowerment, and success of underrepresented groups in the Computer Science department and within the local community.  
  • To support the success of a diverse and inclusive culture and community.  
  • To actively recruit underrepresented students.  
  • To celebrate a diverse and inclusive culture and community.  
  • To provide outreach to underrepresented groups in our regional communities.  
  • To continually reflect on our successes and failures, and to identify and adopt the best practices for creating a diverse and inclusive environment.  

I again call on all of us to take part in these activities, to remain ever vigilant, and to be thoughtful towards others as we walk together during our time here at Tennessee Technological University. 

Dr. Gerald C. Gannod of us to take part in these activities, to remain ever vigilant, and to be Chair, Department of Computer Science others as we walk together during our time here at Harry C. Stonecipher Distinguished Professor 

Resources Available

TN Tech Counseling Center

Services

  • Personal Counseling
  • Crisis Services
  • Premarital Counseling
  • Workshops/Campus Outreach
  • Consultation Services
  • Community Providers & Other Referral Sources (Medication Management, Psychiatric, Additional Counseling)

Contact Information

  • Phone: (931) 372-3331
  • Email: counsel@tntech.edu
  • Eagle Eye After Hours Crisis Hotline: (855) 206-8997

The State of Tennessee Ombudsman

  • Gerald Papica – An Ombudsman is an official appointed by the government, who investigates complaints from private citizens against businesses, institutions, or other public entities.
    • TCCY Ombudsman Program Director
    • (615) 532-1572
    • Gerlad.Papica@tn.gov

TN Tech Office of Title XI

  • TTU Policy 142: Process for Filing Title VI Complaints
    • Claims regarding discrimination or harassment based on race, color, or national origin.
    • Compliance Officer: Greg Holt, gholt@tntech.edu

Multicultural Affairs

  • The multicultural affairs office provides programs designed to encourage cultural awareness as well as educational opportunities outside the classroom. They offer academic counseling, scholarship information, the Multicultural Affairs Ambassador program, the R.A.C.E Mentoring Program and internships help to improve the academic performance and professional development of our students.
    • Located in Roaden University Center (RUC) Room 258
    • Phone: (931) 372-3392
    • Email: MulticulturalAffairs@tntech.edu

Office of Diversity

TNTech University Police

            The University Police Department is committed to providing the highest quality professional law enforcement and public safety services to the campus community.

Tennessee Tech University publishes a clear and appropriate statement of student rights and responsibilities. The Student Handbook includes a comprehensive list of these rights and responsibilities and may be accessed online as referenced in new student orientation. In addition, students may access policies related to their rights and responsibilities through Tennessee The University’s Policy Central page.

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Making Software is More than Writing Code

(This post was authored by Cyril Focht)

When we look at software—and think about the process of creating software—it’s easy to assume that software is neutral: politically neutral, ideologically neutral and values neutral. Software is mere calculation, after all, and how could the numbers that comprise those calculations be anything but neutral? Because this is such a natural line of thinking, we as engineers and as creators of software, often aren’t cognizant of the ways in which we need to be critical of that software. Software may be a series of calculations, but it is human motivated: implemented by humans and used by humans. It’s in those human motivations that values and ideology emerge.

There are probably as many different ways to understand these ideologies as there are ideologies themselves, but in this blog post I’ll demonstrate two perspectives we can use to understand how that ideology comes into play: software as a model, and software as a tool. A model in the sense of a scientific model, like any number of equations used in physics or a scale model in architecture, and a tool in the sense of, well… a screwdriver or a hammer.

Starting with models—which are representations of human understanding of the world around us. All software is built on a model in some way, from a model of satellites’ orbital trajectories in GPS systems to conversions between Fahrenheit and Celsius that we’ve used in our first programming class (arithmetic itself is a model). Again, it’s easy to get caught in the thinking that the world around us is and therefore the way we understand it is neutral, but the way we represent that understanding is a decision. Considering two programmatic functions that calculate the Fibonacci sequence, one iterative and one recursive, those two functions are two fundamentally different ways of understanding and representing the same phenomenon. As someone with a lot of pride in my French heritage, I really like to use the adoption of the metric system to demonstrate how this affects us in practice. We’ll have to delve into some of the history of the metric system to see how it was influenced by human values.

The metric system was part of the first piece of legislation passed by the new government following the French revolution. Now, why would a system of measurement have been so important to be one of their first decisions following one of the most violent revolutions in human history? It wasn’t because they thought science was really neat. The short-short version is that before the revolution, France had common units of measurement, but to say they were inconsistent would be putting it lightly. Something that would often happen is that the measures being used by tax collectors weren’t accurate to what was owed, so if I owed some weight of wheat they would use a heavier weight on their scale. They would skim the difference off the top and keep it for themselves, and if they were challenged they had the legal authority to say” no, my measure is correct, this is what you owe.” By creating a more consistent, accessible system, it gave common people the ability to challenge their tax collectors by saying “I don’t think your measure is a kilo, like you say it is, so I’m going to measure a liter of water and compare that to your measure,” and if they don’t match, the tax collector isn’t able to skim off the top. Since this adoption by the French government was deeply intertwined with the very invention of the metric system, we see that its core values as a system of measurement are pushing back against exploitation and holding those in power accountable.

Considering software instead as a tool, I’m sure is how most of us who work in computing are already used to thinking about software, so I won’t dwell on demonstrating why that perspective is a useful one. To compare software again with an entity outside computing, let’s consider a firearm. Before I’ve done any more than invoke the topic, I’m sure you’ve already considered a handful of different ways I might approach this discussion, and many more political positions you’ve seen people take up in public discourse. That in itself demonstrates how our tools carry ideology better than any specific analysis I have to offer, but I will still offer some ways we can consider ideology when thinking about our tools. The most obvious questions are in regards to the tool’s intended use: what is the goal it helps to achieve, how does it help do so, and why is that goal of value? Sometimes the intended use on the part of a creator differs from its use in practice once it’s in the hands of others. Maybe less obvious—but nonetheless most of why people have such strong emotions about firearms as a topic—are the cultural context in which that tool exists, and how the tool affects that cultural context. Consider the cloth facemask, which existed in a drastically different context a year ago than it does now, and as such any analysis, we conduct on such a facemask as an artifact will have changed just as dramatically in that year.

These are all the kinds of things we should be mindful and critical of when we’re creating software. This applies, of course, to those hotly discussed in public discourse, such as social media, autonomous vehicles, AI and machine learning, automation, and surveillance technology, but it’s equally true for those that seem more mundane, like banking and tax filing software, word processors and spreadsheets, mailing systems, or OS kernels. Everything we make requires a series of decisions, and every one of those decisions reflects our values as designers.

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