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Posted by raherschbach on 29 Jun 2017

The mood in Professor Andrew Mehri's class in not what many would expect from a college course.

Instead of stressed-looking students trying to sustain attention during a lengthy lecture, Mehri's class is engaged and enthusiastic. The students gather around the monitors, sharing ideas and finding ways to bring their collaborative projects to completion. They are on-task and focused, and seem to be enjoying their work. 

Meanwhile, Professor Mehri keeps an eye on the proceedings and is ready to answer their questions or offer assistance.

"Most of the work they are doing is based on their own research,” explains Mehri, who also teaches robotics and engineering courses. “They can consult with me as needed, but they’re doing most of the work themselves. My lecture gets lighter and lighter as the course progresses.”

During the early weeks of each semester, Mehri carefully presents the foundational knowledge students will need. As their skill levels improve, however, he increases their role and level of responsibilty. The reason, he says, is simple: this is how the real world functions. In actual on-the-job situations, employees don't spend every day studying textbooks or listening to an instructor. Rather, they do hands-on work. They collaborate with each other. They solve problems and brainstorm solutions.

“What happens is that by the time they get out, they’re in that mode – they know how to research, they know how to find things and put them together," Mehri says. "If I’m just here to lecture and give them a test, then it would become a course like any other – six months later they will have forgotten everything. Not only that, but they won’t have developed the habits of success.”

Mehri’s vision for the course reflects the guiding philosophy of the institution where he teaches.  The hands-on, practical approach has been favored at Capitol for decades – indeed, since its establishment in 1927. Founder Eugene Rietzke believed that engaging students in projects and tasks was as vital to learning as traditional instruction and study, and that guiding principle has persisted – primarily because decades of experience have shown it to be a recipe for success.

“The question I ask is ‘what do I want these students to be able to do afterwards,’” Mehri says. “I plant the seeds during the course so that they gain a level of independence.  They become more curious and start to explore further avenues."

“At the same time, they’re working in collaboration with other students, doing group projects. So you have these different ingredients working together: the students are independent thinkers and at the same time co-operating. That combination is what I’m looking for.”

Capitol may be a small school, but it delivers outsized results when it comes to preparing students for the job market: more than 85% of graduates have found a job in their field within the first few months after graduation -- and many are snapped up by employers before they walk across the stage at commencement The hiring rate over six months after graduation is double the national average. Employers, including federal agencies as well as private corporations, hire Capitol graduates because they know the university's students are well-prepared and ready to contribute from day one.

In part, this is because of Capitol's technology focus. The university offers degrees in fields such as astronautical engineering, business administration, computer science, cyber and information security, electrical engineering, software engineering, and web development – all of which are in high demand among potential employers.

But it also reflects the hands-on experience students gain in classes such as Mehri's. Capitol students graduate not only with theoretical knowledge, but experience applying that knowledge to real-time situations. That makes Capitol graduates quick starters, and also provides them with the agility and flexibility needed in today’s job market, where roles and responsibilities can change quickly and new opportunities are always emerging.

“They can adapt quickly,” Mehri notes.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 28 Jun 2017

Capitol Technology University is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its scholarship golf tournament this year, with the annual outing scheduled for October 16 at The Woodlands, in Windsor Mills, MD. Click here to register.

The event brings together alumni, benefactors, and other members of the wider Capitol community in an enjoyable day of golf and camaraderie, with proceeds going towards supporting students financially as they strive to realize their academic goals.

“The intention is to draw together alumni and friends of the college for a fun day of golf while also raising funds for scholarship support,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and University Development Melinda Bunnell-Rhyne, whose office is organizing the event.

 “The fund has supported two to four students each year since the tournament started, and allows students who have merit to receive additional support as sophomores, juniors or seniors.”

Bunnell-Rhyne said the annual tournament is always a memorable occasion – not only because of the opportunity golfers have to test their skills, but because of the friendships that are built and the connections that are made.

“It’s a lot of fun for the players, and also for the non-players that come out and have lunch with us. The tournament sponsors really enjoy seeing people out on the course and supporting scholarships. It’s a great opportunity to meet fellow alumni or to meet organizations that support Capitol and talk about how your interests align with their interests,” she said.

This year’s tournament location, The Woodlands, has been hailed by Washington Golf Monthly as “the best public course in the Baltimore suburbs.”  Lindsay Ervin, a leading golf course architect, designed the course, which opened in 1998. According to Ervin, The Woodlands “truly ranks as my best design.”

The scholarship funds raised by the tournament help students with academic merit realize their full potential while being less constrained by the financial burden of higher education, Bunnell-Rhyne said.

“Scholarships are vital to students,” she said. “They help students to control the cost and lower their debt leaving college. That enables them to be on a stronger financial footing when they go out and start their careers and raise families.”

Registration costs cover not only the greens fees and equipment, but also a continental breakfast, lunch, and beverages on course. Each participant will receive a golf shirt marking the occasion, along with a sleeve of golf balls bearing the name of the university. An awards ceremony will be held after play is concluded. Follow this link for a printable registration form. To become a tournament sponsor, click here. For more information about the event, send an e-mail to golf@CapTechU.edu.

Capitol Technology University is the only independent college in Maryland dedicated to engineering, computer science, information technology and business. Founded in 1927, Capitol is an accredited institution offering associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a doctorate in information assurance, as well as professional development training and certificates, and partnerships with government and industry.

Capitol is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. The college is located in Laurel, MD, a suburban setting midway between Washington, DC and Baltimore. Capitol is committed to providing a quality education that is technology-driven, accessible, affordable and practical.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 22 Jun 2017

When Zenas Valentine decided to begin a master’s degree in cybersecurity, he wasn’t sure how it would go. After all, he had just graduated from college. He’d be in a program that drew working professionals, some twice his age, with significant career experience. Did he have what it takes?

As it turned out, Zenas not only successfully completed the program, but did it in one year – half the time that is normally required and with a 3.99 GPA.

“It was a challenge put forward by my dad,” Zenas explains. “He had previously challenged me to finish my undergraduate degree in three years instead of the normal four, and I did.”

Dr. William Butler, chair of the cybersecurity program, and Sarah Alspaw, associate director of career services, sat down with Zenas and worked out a plan. They were encouraging, but forthright: finishing in one year was possible, they said, but it wouldn’t be easy. Typically, a master’s student takes two or three courses a semester, each of which meets twice a week. Zenas would have to take as many as five. That translated into a lot of classroom time, not to mention homework and exams.

“I was meeting every day of the week for class. Every day of the week I had homework; every day I had projects,” he recalls.

Zenas credits God for his blessings, and his father for encouraging him to strive towards an ambitious goal. He also believes the support shown by Capitol staff and faculty played a key role in helping him achieve that goal.

“Not many schools will take the time to nurture a student who may not have had much experience going in,” he says. “My professors and advisors at Capitol were aware I might struggle at the beginning, but they were behind me all the way. Because of their support I was able to become a better student.”

Capitol also assisted with his career search as he finished the degree, putting him in touch with an employer that had hired Capitol graduates before and was impressed with the caliber of the university’s students. He quickly landed the job.

Now, as a cybersecurity professional, Zenas has a new perspective on his master’s degree education. Capitol, he says, was able to prepare him for real-world challenges because courses in the program are taught by professors who actually work in the field.

That amounts to a level of training that goes above and beyond what many other schools have to offer, he suggests.

“With professors who are in the field every day, who came from work to teach you, the element of experience is added,” he says. “That makes a huge difference. The textbooks are there to teach you the concepts, and then the professors are able to add to that with real-life scenarios and experiences. So you’re not just gaining knowledge; you’re learning how that knowledge can be applied in different situations.”

“Transferring experience into knowledge is not easy. The professors at Capitol are exceptional at transforming their experience into knowledge and meeting the student’s level of understanding.  That makes the difference in generating future cybersecurity experts, and that is the specialty at Capitol,” Zenas says.

“I’ve come to appreciate this even more since completing the program and going to work,” he says. “Studying alongside professionals from the industry and taking classes taught by experts prepared me to fit into the industry. When I look at technical documents or when unexpected situations arise, I’m not nervous or flustered, because I feel I’ve seen and done this before. The master’s program prepares you not just to have a degree in hand but also to have the experience necessary to perform at work.”

With two degrees under his belt, and two challenges from his father successfully met, what’s next on the horizon? Zenas says he is looking at certifications and plans to begin studying for the CISSP, considered one of the major professional milestones in the field.

“Everyone should have goals, and be motivated by goals,” he says. “If you don’t have a goal, you’re never going to push yourself hard, because you have no endpoint to reach.”

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 14 Jun 2017

With nearly every technological field reliant on computerized systems, cybersecurity awareness is important for engineers as well as cyber professionals. Yet few schools incorporate cybersecurity education into their engineering programs.

Capitol has taken a step to close that gap by launching a new course that brings together students in two of the university’s flagship programs – astronautical engineering and cybersecurity.

As part of the course, which is focused on simulation and modelling, students learn how to operate drones – and infiltrate them via security holes. Student teams engage in competitive exercises that require them not only to test their drone flying skills, but to apply their knowledge of drone vulnerabilities to hack their competitors.

In another course segment, students use modelling to devise strategies for drone-based disaster relief in scenarios such as the 2016 Ellicott City floods. While planning and executing the disaster relief, they must deal with adversaries intent on sabotaging the efforts.

“The idea with this course is that half the students are going to come from a cyber major, and the other half from astronautical or electrical engineering,” explains astronautical engineering professor Dr. Sandy Antunes, who co-teaches the course together with cybersecurity professor Rick Hansen. “One group is going to know the hardware but not how to secure it, and the other group’s going to know how to secure it, but not the hardware. We do some IA material and some AE material, and we do a lot of hands on.”

“When you go out to work, you need to be comfortable outside of your niche,” Antunes notes. “If you’re a hardware person, then you need to know a little about software and about security. If you’re a software security person you need to know about the hardware assets and the operational environment.”

Antunes says the university is committed to providing more courses of this nature and cross-listing them across programs. Doing so allows students to complete their major requirements while also interacting with other fields.

“We have students who really want to go outside their discipline,” Antunes says. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for them. It’s not a neat academic exercise; it’s what people hire.”

“Companies like General Dynamics and Orbital come to us and say ‘wow, your students are out interacting with people from other majors. We didn’t do that until we hit the workforce.’ The career market is faster-paced now; our graduates don’t have time to slowly ramp up in jobs,” he says.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 14 Jun 2017

When Bryant Rogers II walked across the stage to receive his computer engineering degree from Capitol Technology University this May, he had many accomplishments to be proud of. He is a recipient of Capitol’s golf scholarship, awarded annually to a student with a strong academic track record. At Commencement, Rogers received an additional honor: he was a co-recipient of the university’s Distinguished Student Service award, together with fellow graduate Karen Tavarez.

During his time at Capitol, Rogers not only excelled academically, but found time to contribute to campus life. During the blizzard of 2014, he was part of the group that built a now-legendary snow cave near the student dorms. While that massive edifice vanished with the advent of warmer weather, Rogers has since spearheaded another project that is not subject to the changing seasons. Thanks to the efforts of Rogers and fellow students, Capitol’s student center is now home to a Linux-driven arcade game console, dubbed Capcade.

The idea occurred to Rogers one day as he was mulling over ways to enhance the student center, which serves as a social hub for students between classes.

“I thought it would be great to have an arcade there,” Bryant explains. “But they’re way too expensive. As an engineer, you’re always looking for ways to make something better and cheaper.”

He continued to think about the concept and talk it over with friends. At some point, he says, the recognition came that it could actually be done. A group of students, he saw, could indeed build arcade and program it with any number of in-demand games.

 He also realized that it would make a good senior project.

“My friends thought it was a great idea, and they started helping me. Everything came into place,” he says.

“We had a business student who secured funding, a computer science major who worked on the programming, two electrical engineering majors who helped me with the soldering, and a cybersecurity student who worked on the interface,” Rogers said. “The project brought all these different majors together.”

His team also included younger students, who can continue to maintain the arcade now that Rogers has moved on.

The result of their efforts, Rogers said, is a machine that surpasses most commercial equivalents.

“Most arcades, besides costing too much, only feature one game per machine,” he said. “Ours is simpler, cheaper, and open-source. It doesn’t require expensive parts if something happens to it. It’s customizable and can offer a variety of games on the same console.”

“I put out a list asking for game suggestions and it filled up in one day, he said. “People love it.”

 


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