This is an exciting semester for Lewis Computer Science students and faculty. There are a number of innovative offerings going on right now that are giving our students tremendous opportunities that extend far beyond the classroom.
In the new CS 396: Introduction to Robotics, Dr. Dana Dominiak is leading her students as they build a robotic hand from scratch. The students are designing and manufacturing the hand on our new Makerbot 2 3D printer, which we purchased thanks to donations from our Advisory Board members. The bones of the hand and fingers will be controlled using Arduino-based hardware which the students will program in C and C++ to command the hand to grasp objects. This is the first time we’ve offered the robotics course, but it will become a mainstay of our Computer Science and new Computer Engineering programs in future semesters., Over time, we will continue to add components to what someday will be a multifunction modular robot.
Another course being taught by Dr. Dominiak for the first time this semester is a one-credit-hour weekend workshop entitled “Starting and Managing a Software Company.” As Founder and President of two successful computer companies, Webfoot Technologies and Automate the World, Dr. Dominiak has a wealth of experience to share with students about the challenges, pitfalls, and glories of taking the risk to launch a hi-tech startup. The workshop, which will be offered on April 4 and 5, will give students a glimpse into what will likely be the future for many of them. Computer Scientists are at the forefront of the new digital manufacturing effort, which is emerging as you read this thanks to initiatives such as the new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute funded by the Obama Administration last week. I have no doubt that several of our students will launch startups in the coming years, and having access to innovators like Dr. Dominiak will position them well.
Thomas Fisher, an adjunct instructor with fifteen years of experience as a system administrator, will offer a weekend seminar entitled “Building a Data Center” on April 11 and 12. The seminar, which Tom also taught last Spring, teaches students how to design a data center from original specifications. It also gives them a chance to wire up a model of their design using components from our Cisco lab. Our Computer Science curriculum places a heavy emphasis on networking and communications, and this hands-on experience in applied networking design will provide an excellent opportunity for the students to enhance their mastery of computer networking concepts.
Thanks to a partnership with Illinois State University, Dr. Cindy Howard is offering a section of our Introduction to Computer Science course this semester that teaches the students how to write software using web services instead of the more traditional desktop applications we’ve had them write in the past. Web 2.0 technologies operate using a variety of tools called web services. Web services enable other programmers to develop apps that integrate with Facebook, Google Maps, various weather and traffic sites, calendar applications, sports and stock tickers, and a wealth of other online services. Students enrolled in Dr. Howard’s special section of CS 200 are cutting their programming teeth by writing applications that interface with these popular online services. As a result, their first forays into programming are yielding some truly impressive results that hopefully convince them just how awesome and rewarding programming can be.
Last but certainly not least is the new CS 423: Cyber Security and Forensics Tools course Jayme Speva has been teaching. Jayme, a cyber security enthusiast and passionate educator, created this course from scratch to teach students how to use a variety of popular tools for identifying vulnerabilities in computer systems. There is a field of study called “ethical hacking” that engages Computer Scientists in the science and art of exposing vulnerabilities in an IT infrastructure. The goal is to find those holes so that they can be patched before hackers with malicious intent take advantage of them. Each week, Jayme has the students explore a particular kind of hacking, showing them how to use various tools and, just as importantly from a Computer Scientist’s perspective, how and why those tools work. This is an accelerated course, offered over the first eight weeks of the term, and students are loving it. In fact, I’ve heard several students say they wish they could take eight more weeks of it.
Computer Science at Lewis is an innovative, envelope-pushing program that positions students to work at the forefront of computer technology. Our mission is to prepare innovators who work with integrity to serve others. We strive tirelessly to keep our curriculum as fresh as the field. Novel courses like this semester’s bunch prove those efforts are paying off for our students.