Posted by raherschbach on 8 Dec 2017

Since coming to Capitol in 2000, Dr. Helen G. Barker has served the university in many capacities: first as an adjunct professor, then as a member of the full-time faculty, and subsequently as academic dean.

She has helped countless students at the graduate and undergraduate levels, mentored faculty, and spearheaded new programs.  Now, as Capitol enters an era of new presidential leadership and expansion, Dr. Barker brings her experience and vision to a pivotal role at the university: that of chief academic officer (CAO).

Dr. Barker became CAO in the fall of 2017 and will chart a course forward as Capitol launches multiple new programs, including a PhD in technology, a master’s program in cyber analytics, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in business analytics.

We asked Dr. Barker about her priorities as CAO and the characteristics that distinguish Capitol from other colleges and universities.

What are your primary goals as CAO? What do you most want to accomplish?

I aim to foster a culture of growth at the university – a culture that thinks not only about where we are now, but where we can be, and what we can conceivably do. How can we make what we do even better and more exciting?

It’s not a top-down agenda; it’s an everybody agenda. We’re looking for creativity and innovation to spread throughout the institution. We’re a team in this journey that will shape what Capitol becomes in the future.

What perspectives do you bring with you as someone who has been a faculty member?

I bring the perspective of someone who understands faculty concerns, and also the perspective of someone who has worked closely with students for many years. I have an up-close understanding of the teaching and learning environment that our faculty delivers to students.

As CAO, my role involves finding the right balance between different sets of concerns. There are many great ideas out there for programs, classes, or resources, but not all these ideas align with the Capitol mission. And not all of them are viable from a budgetary standpoint. As an administrator, it’s part of my job not only to make these calls, but to convey to other stakeholders in the university the reasons for making them – the parameters we are working within. Because I’ve been a faculty member and a dean, I feel I’m in a good position to foster a productive dialogue among students, faculty, and administration.

While a faculty member, what are some essential things that you learned about how to deliver educational value to students?

Number one is to understand that you can and should learn from the students. The classroom is a two-way experience. No matter how bright we think we are as faculty, no matter how much we know, there’s always something to learn. That can mean, for instance, learning new ways of teaching that are effective with a younger generation of students – the millennials. It can mean learning how to better serve students who have a disability.  My experience is that students have greater respect for teachers who understand that education is a two-way process.

I also think it’s essential to stick your neck out on behalf of your students – experiment, modify your game plan as needed, and resist the temptation to stay in your comfort zone.  That could mean, for instance, collaborating with faculty in other disciplines to create a hybrid course, like Dr. Sandy Antunes of the astronautical engineering department has done together with cybersecurity professor Rick Hansen. It can mean taking on a mentoring role for students, as Dr. Garima Bajwa did when she assisted one of our students, Zalika Dixon, in developing a project that eventually went to the Grace Hopper Celebration and won a research award.

Our new president, Dr. Sims, has shown a commitment to encouraging out-of-the-box thinking – and that’s an opportunity we should all be excited about. We all have an opportunity to take Capitol to the next version of who we are.

Higher education is often said to be going through a period of considerable flux, as schools re-evaluate what their mission is and how best to meet the needs of a rapidly changing economy. What do you see as the major challenges?

It’s crucial to stay on top of what the market is looking for, while continuing to adhere to the highest educational standards and the requirements for accreditation.  Students need the fundamentals as well as specialized academic skills. It can sometimes be a delicate balance. A given program has a prescribed number of credits. Students pay tuition for all of these credits. We don’t want students racking up massive debts paying for courses that aren’t relevant to their educational and career tracks. At the same time, we don’t want students graduating without a solid, well-rounded education that includes critical thinking and the liberal arts.

For a small, independent university like Capitol, budgets are always a challenge.  At the same time, tight budgets can fuel creative thinking and wise decision-making. Capitol has thrived over the years because we’ve made good choices. Small size is also an asset in that it makes us more agile; we can respond more quickly.

What are some things about Capitol that inspire you, that make you feel excited to be here?

This is a close-knit, caring community. Not long ago, a member of our adjunct faculty became ill while teaching requiring emergency care. She told us later that she realized that day how genuinely concerned we all are here about each other’s well-being. It’s the Capitol culture. We’ve created an environment of caring, dedicated, hard-working people who think in terms of what’s good for the school, for the students, and for each other as members of the university community. I appreciate working in this type of environment.




Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Dec 2017

It’s the moment every astronautical engineer involved in satellite missions looks forward to: the launch date.

That’s when the weeks of effort – the team meetings and problem-solving sessions, the copious time spent in the lab, the seemingly endless adjustments and rebuilds -- reach their culmination. The planning and preparation transform into measurable results. For the Capitol Technology University astronautical engineering student team involved in the university’s Cactus-1 satellite mission, that moment is fast approaching. NASA is expected to confirm a date for lift-off within the coming months.

“Cactus-1 is launching in the spring or summer of next year and we’re in our final integration steps,” says Dr. Alex “Sandy” Antunes, the astronautical engineering professor who has mentored the student-led project team. “We’re soldering up the flight boards. Instead of green and black practice boards, you’re going to be seeing the white ones that are used for flight. Because they reflect sunlight, they have better thermal properties.”

Although the Cactus-1 payloads – a debris-capturing tool that uses an aerogel substrate, and a communications experiment – have generated the most attention, there are other, less glamorous aspects to the project that require just as much effort, Antunes pointed out.

“There’s also the bus,” he said. “That’s the power and coms and the computer that controls everything and makes it all work. It’s the least sexy and probably most difficult part of the system because if any part of the bus fails, everything dies” Especially since CACTUS-1 involves multiple student teams that depend on each other for overall mission success.

Lead engineer Pierce Smith, a senior, can be found most afternoons in the clean room of Capitol’s Space Operations Institute (SOI), busily soldering or checking specifications. “We’ve finished most of the design work and have reached the point where we’re saying ‘okay, it’s going to work – we’re ready to build!’”

CACTUS-1 is one of fourteen CubeSats selected for the CubeSat Launch Initiative, representing universities, non-profit organizations, and NASA field centers. Other schools chosen for CSLI include Arizona State, Cornell, Colorado State, Michigan State and the University of Central Florida.

It brings together two student projects – the TRAPSat debris-capturing experiment and Project Hermes, which is exploring methods of satellite command and control via TCP-IP. The teams have morphed over the years as members graduate and new members join.

With the mission now in its final stretch, Smith says it will be deeply rewarding for students to see their endeavors come to fruition.

“I’ve designed a lot of the boards and the mechanical parts and all of those parts are here now. It’s pretty cool to …see them actually made, to see that they will be flying. I think that’s the coolest thing for me,” he said.


Posted by raherschbach on 6 Dec 2017

When Typhoon Haiyan struck Southeast Asia in 2013, an estimated 6,300 people died in the Philippines alone, and millions were displaced. Williams Ojo, a doctoral student in Capitol Technology University’s PhD program in business analytics and decision sciences, believes those numbers would have been smaller if relief efforts had not been hampered by problems with communication and information management.

“There was a gap in terms of trying to identify precisely the number of people affected and the number of nurses and doctors that needed to be deployed in specific areas,” recalls Ojo, who served as an World Health Organization (WHO) information systems management officer in the wake of the disaster. “I observed that some locations had more doctors and nurses than needed, while others did not have enough. This was because of the lack of an integrated database.”

Lessons learned from the Haiyan relief efforts were the subject of Ojo’s presentation to the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) conference in Washington, DC, held in November. Data analytics and modelling provide tools that can enable resources to be allocated more precisely, Ojo said in his conference paper, Information Management During Disaster Response in Visayas Region of the Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan Experience.

Steps proposed by Ojo include the development of a simulation model that harnesses data from multiple sources, including satellite imagery and census information, to predict the human resources and medical supplies required for a given community.

Children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly all have different sets of needs, and data-driven modelling could allow relief agencies to calibrate their assistance more precisely, he said.

“If we have baseline data regarding the population, number of health facilities, and human resources in a given area, then we can use modelling to determine the appropriate number of doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, and other personnel that need to be sent to that area during an emergency,” Ojo said.

As a presenter at the annual Decision Sciences (DSI) Institute conference, Ojo had the opportunity to share his work and exchange ideas with a global community of decision scientists, all attending one of the key professional events in the field. The DSI holds its annual conference each fall at different locations around the world.

Ojo, who began his doctoral studies at Capitol in the spring of 2017, plans further research into the use of analytics and modelling tools as he completes his PhD dissertation in business and analytics, one of three online doctorates available at the university.

Capitol’s doctoral program in cybersecurity, launched in 2010, was the first of its kind and has received successive Center of Excellence designations from the DHS and NSA. In 2014, the university established its PhD program in business analytics and decision sciences, and in 2017 Capitol unveiled a new PhD in technology.  For more information about Capitol’s programs, contact


Posted by raherschbach on 1 Dec 2017

Do you remember a time when you used your mobile phone simply to make phone calls?

For most, those days now seem like the distant past. Smartphones have now become integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives. We use them to monitor our health. We use them to track our exercise routines. We use them to help us get where we’re going, and to keep abreast of the information we need.

And we use them to make financial transactions and shop.

Along with our increased dependence on mobile devices comes increased interest among cybercriminals and hackers. For cybersecurity professionals, this means a proliferation of new attack surfaces – and a major challenge when it comes to securing them.

“We’re at a game-changing moment in the field,” the chair of Capitol’s cybersecurity program, Dr. William Butler, says. “Suddenly everyone is carrying around these powerful, miniature computers, all connected to the internet, and all containing sensitive information that you do not want the wrong people to gain access to.”

“The potential risks are mind-boggling. And we have to figure out how to protect against them.”

The two major mobile platforms – Apple and Android – reflect starkly different philosophies, each with its pros and cons. Android’s operating system, developed by Google, is mainly open-source – an asset to app developers that comes with a potential cost in terms of security. Vulnerabilities are addressed through patches, which must then be applied by the individual vendor that sells you your phone. According to Slate magazine tech writer Dan Gilmour, Android is a “freewheeling mess.”

Apple, by contrast, controls its operating system tightly and automatically sending updates to iPhones. But the closed nature of the Apple environment, critics argue, hampers its flexibility.

Besides the question of how to secure current devices, there is also the problem of older devices that are still in use – but lagging far behind in terms of security.

“A major issue is protecting millions of legacy devices currently in use, which do not have the capability to implement the latest countermeasures (multi-factor authentication, encryption, VPN to name a few),” Butler notes. “The threat to these Internet-connected devices is very real and continues to evolve quickly as public reliance on these devices increases.”

At Capitol, Butler and other cybersecurity faculty are helping educate students to meet the challenges posed by mobile. The Capitol cybersecurity program, a DHS and NSA-designated Center for Excellence in cybersecurity education, draws its faculty from professionals working in the field and updates its curriculum regularly to reflect emerging developments, including the rising prevalence of mobile.

“The challenges are many,” Butler says, “but the rewards presented by these emerging technologies are two important to forgo their use.”

For more information on cybersecurity programs at Capitol, contact Dr. Butler at 240-965-2458 or



Posted by raherschbach on 30 Nov 2017

It’s a scenario that many people would prefer not to imagine: you’re speeding down the highway at 70 mph, and an unknown adversary takes control of your car, disconnecting your brakes and eventually crashing you into a ditch.

Two members of the Capitol Technology University Cyber Battle Team participate in a contest.That’s exactly what happened to Andy Greenberg, a writer for Wired magazine, in 2015. True, the incident did not exactly catch him by surprise: he had volunteered to be a “digital crash test dummy” in an experiment staged by two cybersecurity advocates, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. Together, they were out to demonstrate the serious security vulnerabilities associated with internet-enabled entertainment systems, a feature of many vehicles now coming off the assembly line.

With Greenberg behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee, the two hackers began to wreak havoc: blasting the interior with frigid air, blurring the windshield with wiper fluid, then disconnecting the transmission and, eventually, the brakes. Even though he was in on the stunt, the writer found it increasingly difficult not to panic – especially as an 18-wheeler bore down on his crippled vehicle.

Greenberg survived to tell the tale, warning that the rush to add internet-enabled features and services is outpacing our ability to secure them from intruders. “Chrysler, like practically all carmakers, is doing its best to turn the modern automobile into a smartphone,” he wrote for Wired.

Hackable cars are only one of the emerging security nightmares arising from the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, or the Internet of Things (IoT), as the phenomenon is commonly dubbed. Across a wide spectrum of industries, companies are eager to harness the capabilities – and, in many cases, the potential cost savings – that come with an IP address.

The result, too often, is a wide-open back door for cyber criminals and a raft of unsuspected consequences for businesses and consumers.

Cyber Battle Team members watch a monitor.An internet-enabled HVAC system, for example, was the initial point of entry when hackers compromised the Target Corporation’s internal network in December 2013, staging one of the most infamous data breaches to date. The thieves appropriated domain access privileges and disguised themselves as admins, then tunneled their way into database servers, gaining access to the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of 70 million customers and stealing 40 million debit and credit card credentials – which they then sold on the black market.

And it all started because of a convenient, cost-saving new feature added to many HVAC systems: network access. Such access enabled the vendor in charge of heating and air conditioning services to remotely monitor energy consumption and temperatures at individual stores.

An expanding attack surface

Staying ahead of the security problems posed by the dizzying array of networked devices is a key priority at Capitol Technology University, long known for its cutting-edge undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in cybersecurity. The university was among the first to offer a doctorate in the field, starting in 2010.

Today, Capitol continues to upgrade its curriculum and provide new resources in response to quickly evolving trends. The pool of students seeking cybersecurity expertise is changing as well. No longer merely a concern for specialists, cybersecurity is becoming everyone’s business.

William Maconachy, vice president of research at Capitol Technology University and a revered pioneer in the field, believes the general public can no longer afford to remain blissfully ignorant.

Dr. William Vic Maconachy “Tremendous vulnerabilities are there as a result of our becoming so web-reliant. Web reliant equals web vulnerable,” he said.

While the potential to wreak financial havoc is serious, Maconachy says it’s the implications for personal privacy that keep him up at night.

He cites, as an example, the experience of a friend who installed a home security video system, only to discover that it was being hacked. Instead of providing security to him and his family, the cameras were being used by an outsider to spy on their activities.

“The invasion of privacy is becoming a big thing,” Maconachy says. “It’s not just about thieves stealing money off of your credit card, bad as that is. We’re talking about serious intrusions into a person’s life space.”

Dr. Jason M. Pittman, a professor of cybersecurity at Capitol, sees a cybersecurity arena that is becoming increasingly complex and decentralized.

“The single most pressing area over the next five years will be low-power, embedded devices. These devices will accelerate in their penetration into daily life because of the huge benefit to society,” he said.

Pittman and his colleagues are working to bring about a fundamental change in attitude among stakeholders in cybersecurity technology, including application developers, businesses that offer services, and the consumers that use them.

“We need to massively rethink our approach to developing technology. Improving quality of life and reducing inane burden is the purpose of technology. But we need to begin producing technology that innately includes cybersecurity features,” Pittman said.

 “Secondly, we need to develop a collective ability to move faster when vulnerabilities are announced. Adversaries will always have n+1 steps while we only have n steps. We need to leverage that,” he said.

“We need to evolve a view in which cybersecurity is a baseline attribute.”

Capitol offers cybersecurity degrees at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels. Click here to request information about graduate level programs. For our undergraduate programs, click here.