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Hackers beware: Alfred State students are on the case

Posted Date: Friday, July 22, 2016 - 15:15

In today’s world, there are computers at every turn and people have come to rely on devices for commerce, communication, transportation, and virtually every aspect of their lives. While this sort of convenience has its upsides, it may also mean a dream environment for hackers, and have the potential to turn into a nightmare for everyone else. That’s why Alfred State students are looking to thwart that criminal activity.

Recent examples of massive data breaches include: 145 million records stolen from eBay in 2014, 80 million accounts compromised at Anthem health insurance in 2015, 76 million bank records taken from JP Morgan Chase in 2014, and 56 million debit and credit cards compromised in 2014 at Home Depot.

This has led to a heightened awareness of vulnerabilities among the public, and a greater demand for professionals who can stop these attacks. This requires education and training, which Alfred State is providing in order to produce professionals who can help make the world more secure from hackers.

Formerly known as “information security and assurance,” the college’s Bachelor of Technology degree in cyber security is designed to prepare graduates to enter the workforce as an information security professional, with a special emphasis in network and host security, secure programming, secure database applications, mobile device security, and cloud security. Courses ranging from security to programming to language sequences help these students to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s information security industry.

One of the reasons that Alfred State is such a terrific place for studying cyber security is the fact that students aren’t just learning the theory. They’re putting it into practice building networks, firewalls, access control lists, and more.

“In my classes, when I tell you to build a network, I expect you to build a network,” said Scott O’Connor, associate professor in the Computer and Information Technology Department and coordinator of the cyber security program. “The students are building an active directory with 16 servers running in our net lab environment and it’s running off a hypervisor, which is exactly the same thing they would do if they got a job working at a corporation.”

Students also perform security audits of the various buildings on campus. In their final semester, they are required to take a semester-long internship in which they complete supervised field work in a selected business, industry, government, or educational setting.

Furthermore, Alfred State has a long-standing Cisco Academy affiliation and in the past year became one of the first Palo Alto Networks Academies in the world.

Outside of the curriculum, the college also has a student club called the Alfred State Information Security Team (ASIST). This club encourages the exploration of topics related to information security and ethical hacking. ASIST also features weekly presentations that all students are encouraged to attend.

Additionally, ASIST students have honed their skills in a number of cyber defense competitions, such the CyberSEED: Cybsersecurity, Education, and Diversity Challenge Week, and the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC).

This past December, the club hosted a Cyber Security Capture the Flag Competition, in which four schools participated. The competition allowed participants to understand the technology and thought process of hackers, while also sharpening their security skills and learning new techniques.

With so many opportunities for learning, it’s safe to say that Alfred State is doing its part to produce graduates who are well prepared to help make the cyber universe safer.

“Through their hands-on learning experiences, their internships, the competitions, the security audits, and more, our students are receiving the knowledge and experience that employers are seeking,” O’Connor said. “They know what to expect on the job because they’ve done it already here, and that knowledge and experience will only grow and, as a result, further serve our field’s mission of making the world safer from cyber warfare.”


New program is first in the Northeast

Posted Date: Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 09:15

Continuing to add unique and in-demand academic offerings, Alfred State is pleased to announce the addition of a two-year motorcycle and power sports technology major that will be the first of its kind among all public colleges in the Northeast. Classes for this program will begin in the fall of 2017.

The Associate in Occupational Studies degree program will prepare students for a career as a motorcycle/power sports/ small engine technician, incorporating a progressively challenging format and hands-on laboratories, using full-size functioning vehicles.

motorcycle in front of Alfred State sign on Wellsville campusTraining will include all aspects of motorcycle and small vehicle repair, including the diagnosis and repair of gasoline and diesel engines, transmissions, electrical/electronic systems, brake systems, steering systems, and suspension systems.

Occupational opportunities for graduates of this program include motorcycle technician, marine vehicle technician, small engine/lawn and garden equipment technician, service manager, and shop foreman.

Kent Johnson, program coordinator and chair of the Automotive Trades Department, said, “I am excited to add the motorcycle and power sports technology curriculum to our department. The Alfred State Automotive Trades Department has 50 years of experience training technicians to repair trucks, equipment, and cars. That experience, combined with us working closely with industry to develop curricula, should help us make this a premier program very quickly.”

Dr. Skip Sullivan, president of Alfred State, said, “This major’s simulated real-world practice environment, experienced faculty, and diverse tools and equipment will give our students a competitive edge once they enter the workforce. We are delighted to add motorcycle and power sports technology to our academic offerings, and I thank all of the faculty who made this program possible.”

Dr. Kristin Poppo, provost, said, “Alfred State is pleased to provide the opportunity for students to engage in hands-on learning to service motorcycles and other recreational vehicles. Housed on our Wellsville campus, this program will prepare students to ‘hit the ground running’ in a growing industry.”


New students use Pokémon to explore the campus

Posted Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 11:15

Incoming students are catching more than just a glimpse of college life during Alfred State’s summer orientation, with the new Pokemon Go mobile game they are venturing across campus and making new friends along the way.

“As a college of technology, our first inclination is to look for ways to utilize technology for a benefit,” said Stephanie Hoyer, digital media coordinator. “When students are using Pokémon Go we noticed that they are going out and exploring the campus, finding where things are located, and sharing experiences with their new found friends. There are positive attributes to the game that can be embraced.”

Pokemon Go appStudents designated as Orientation Leaders at Alfred State are also trained regarding the dos and don’ts on how to use Pokémon Go. Players are cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and to stay safe while not placing themselves in harm’s way. Students who choose to play are encouraged to make the most of the experience by learning their way around campus and sharing their experience while interacting with fellow students.

“It’s our job at orientation to guide students to become successfully engaged and productive members of the campus community,” said Mallory Morehouse, coordinator of orientation. “We want to guide new students to keep their academic success a priority. We also understand the need for students to become engaged outside of class, to pursue their personal interests and passions while making new friends. Pokémon Go can be an incredibly social experience since it encourages gamers to go outside, explore and even enjoy some friendly competition.”

The Bell Tower at the center of the Alfred campus serves as one Poke Stop, where players can collect free Pokeballs, incense, potions, revives, and eggs. Other nearby stops include the Alfred Post Office, the Box of Books Library, and the Alfred Fire Department.

Whether playing solo or in groups, students have the option to join one of three color-coded teams, known locally as Alfred State BLUE, Pioneer GOLD, and Team Alf-RED. A Pokemon gym is located at the entrance to the Hinkle Memorial Library, where players often congregate for competitions. Another gym is located at the Theta Gamma House on Main Street in Alfred.

After a July 5 launch, the popularity of the game has grown rapidly across the country and by the first orientation session on July 10 a great number of students had downloaded the free app and were playing Pokemon Go as they explored the campus. The college’s 2016 summer orientation includes a number of overnight and daytime sessions from July 10-29. All full-time, new, and transfer students entering Alfred State in the fall of 2016 are required to attend a session.


Educators found Women Engineers are Pioneers group at Alfred State

Posted Date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 15:15

Pioneering women in STEM

Perhaps the best part about being an educator is sharing one’s knowledge of and passion for a particular subject with others.

As assistant professors and co-founders of a group to encourage female student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), Dr. Danielle Bond and Dr. Tabitha Sprau Coulter are igniting the imaginations of young women by showing students how rewarding and interesting engineering can be.

In August 2014, the two engineers’ paths crossed when they became assistant professors at Alfred State. During their very first semester, they co-founded a group for engineering students that came to be known as Women Engineers are Pioneers (WEP), which encourages young people to be interested in STEM fields of study, especially young women.

Dr. Danielle Bond, left, female student, and Dr. Tabitha Sprau Coulter
Assistant Professors Dr. Danielle Bond, left, and Dr. Tabitha Sprau Coulter, right

According to Bond, WEP has two main goals, the first of which is connecting female students in engineering and technology programs at Alfred State to enable collaboration, community, and support. The second goal involves leading and participating in outreach events to attract young people to engineering and technology programs.

The club, which has a core group of mostly but not exclusively female engineering students, has five student officers and meets on a weekly basis. It has also teamed up with the SAE Baja Club to earn a leadership suite in the Student Leadership Center.

Bond said she encourages women to consider engineering because it typically provides many job opportunities with interesting work and good salaries.

“Obviously these things are good for anyone, regardless of gender,” she said. “I would also say, for anyone career-shopping, so to speak, that engineers are creative problem-solvers who can make a difference in the world.”

Sprau Coulter noted that the goal in founding the club was “to provide opportunities, as well as to show young women that they can be successful and that there are other women in the field.” However, both she and Bond stressed that the club is open to anyone who wishes to join.

Both Bond’s and Sprau Coulter’s paths to becoming educators at Alfred State began in their native state of Pennsylvania. Hailing from Sweet Valley, Sprau Coulter graduated from Lafayette College in 2007 with her bachelor’s degree in engineering, and a minor in architecture. She then enrolled at Penn State, where she received her master’s in 2009 and her PhD in 2014, both of which are in architectural engineering.

Professionally, Sprau Coulter provided consulting services as an energy modeler for a small engineering design firm at Penn State. Afterward, she went on to work at KlingStubbins, an architecture, engineering, interior design, and planning firm headquartered in Philadelphia, which was acquired by Jacobs Engineering Group in 2011.

A Pittsburgh native, Bond received her bachelor’s degree in engineering with a minor in educational studies from Swarthmore College in 2006. She then earned her PhD in mechanical engineering in 2014 from the University of Pittsburgh.

Bond worked as a mechanical engineer at M-R/Innoveers LLC and URS Corporation before taking on engineering teaching positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Robert Morris University.

Through their efforts and outreach, Sprau Coulter and Bond are leading the way for future generations to discover the exciting world of engineering and to share their passion for the field with others as they both have done.


Sweating out the details of an Alfred State invention

Posted Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 13:30

A new cooling system invented at Alfred State gained inspiration from the human body to find a unique solution. The same way sweating cools body temperature, this new design can improve chilling efficiency by how it handles waste heat.

Current air conditioning and refrigeration technologies, based on hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, have improved lives by providing people with an easy way to cool their homes and food. However, compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), HFC refrigerants can have a more than 2,000 times greater global warming potential.

“Government and environmental organizations have been pushing hard to phase out the HFC refrigerants that we use today, but so far they haven’t been successful because there are very few good alternatives,” said Dr. Jon Owejan, assistant professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology at Alfred State.

Owejan and Nathan DeMario, of South Wales, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology, aim to change that. They have invented an advanced cooling system that doesn’t require a chemistry degree to understand how it works; it uses water instead of refrigerants to carry heat out of buildings.

“It works based on the same principle at play when you sweat,” said Owejan, who is the founder of the Energy Storage and Conversion (ESC) lab at Alfred State, where his research focuses on energy conversion devices. As you perspire, water evaporates from your skin, carrying away excess body heat and cooling you down.

“We are using that same concept, but we put our system in a vacuum so that evaporation happens much faster,” said Owejan. “Then we get rid of the water vapor, which carries away the heat used to make the liquid water evaporate, by sending it into the outdoors through a membrane that is permeable only to water. It’s an enhanced evaporative system that is very energy efficient, small in size, and uses no toxic refrigerants.”

Owejan, who previously worked as a fuel-cell researcher at General Motors, where he received 29 patents for his inventions, noted that his new cooling system is particularly useful for mid-sized buildings and facilities such as data centers that generate lots of waste heat. This is because Owejan’s system uses the waste heat that would previously have been dumped outside as an unusable by-product to accelerate the transfer of water vapor across the membrane, thereby increasing its already high cooling efficiency.

l-r: Nathan DeMario, Dr. John Owejan, and Dr. Matthew Lawrence
l-r: Nathan DeMario, Dr. John Owejan, and Dr. Matthew Lawrence

According to Owejan, larger facilities can take advantage of waste heat in a similar way by installing absorption chillers, but smaller companies can’t afford the high costs of installing and maintaining these systems. “Once you talk to customers who experience the pain and frustration of having to dump expensive heat energy outside during the summer, our proposition to utilize that waste heat becomes very appealing. It will save them a lot of money in the long run.”

Following selection through a competitive application process, the team is currently participating in NEXUS-NY—a NYSERDA-sponsored clean energy start-up accelerator program that has assisted more than 30 entrepreneurial teams across the state with financial, business, and educational support.

NEXUS-NY requires these teams to identify and seek input from potential customers to better position their technology for a successful entry into the marketplace. As a result of this exercise, the SUNY Alfred team pivoted its marketing focus from the environmental benefits of their water-based technology to the economic advantages of their unique architecture that leverages waste heat to improve chilling efficiency.

Now busy building a proof-of-concept prototype, the team plans to form a start-up company, called Phase Innovations, to commercialize the product. DeMario is working to integrate all of the parts to produce a standalone cooling unit. He is also testing various membrane materials to determine which ones will provide the optimal characteristics.

“Current membranes are expensive,” said DeMario. “We believe that by designing our system based on less expensive materials, we will significantly reduce the overall cost of ownership, including both purchase and maintenance of the system.”

Beyond the research, DeMario says working on the project has been an incredible experience. “The NEXUS-NY program and mentorship has made me appreciate how much value can be gained by paying attention to the business case early on. No matter where my career goes, I will use this experience to integrate customer feedback into my engineering specifications early in the development process.”

Owejan agrees that the relationship with NEXUS-NY, as well as with Steven Wood, assistant director for innovation services at the Research Foundation for SUNY and entrepreneurial lead for SUNY Alfred’s NEXUS-NY team, have been the key to their success so far.

“They really forced us to go after the customer and understand what the customer needed,” he said. “In fact, they asked us to contact 50 potential customers. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that without the mentorship of NEXUS-NY and the Research Foundation.”

NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle noted that while many interesting and innovative technologies are invented in university research labs, very few ever find their way into commercial use.

“Our mission is to promote promising, research-derived energy innovations and catalyze the formation of start-up companies in New York,” said Buerkle. “By helping entrepreneurs to get on the right track early on, we significantly increase their chances of commercial success.”

Owejan said the next step for his cooling system is to develop a strategic partnership with a large air conditioning manufacturer. “Ideally, we would shift a lot of our current design work to their engineers so they can get it ready for manufacturing,” he said. “Then we will continue to do what we do best, research and development of next-generation prototypes that are focused on improved cost, performance, and durability.”


Second annual golf tournament raises $27,000

Posted Date: Friday, July 8, 2016 - 15:30

Following its initial success a year ago, Alfred State’s Pioneers Drive for the Development Fund golf tournament was again a “hole-in-one” this year, raising $27,000 and including 31 teams.

Held June 17 at the Twin Hickory Golf Club in Hornell, the second annual tournament began with a 10 a.m. shotgun start and featured a Captain and Crew format. The members of the winning team were Steve Smith, Charise Nankivell, Mikey Smith, and Kevin Mazanec.

Trish Haggerty, director of Annual Giving at Alfred State, noted that the tournament was held on a picturesque day for golf, and that teams enjoyed hours of fun, competition, and camaraderie, followed by a dinner and awards banquet held at the Main Place in Hornell.

“This year’s tournament was a huge success,” Haggerty said. “Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and teams, we raised more than double what we raised last year.”

Kevin Mazanec, Charise Nankivell, Mikey Smith, and (team captain) Steve Smith
l-r: Kevin Mazanec, Charise Nankivell, Mikey Smith, and (team captain) Steve Smith

The top three teams took home $500, $300, and $200, respectively. In addition, a Weber gas grill was awarded to the drive closest to the pin on hole 4, and other prizes included drivers, putters, cash, a 50/50 drawing, and more than 60 door prizes.

All proceeds from the tournament benefited the Alfred State Development Fund, Inc., which raises funds for the college, primarily for student scholarships, new technology, student athletes, and many other needs. Numerous organizations, businesses, and individuals supported the event, either through volunteering, sponsorship, or donating prizes.

Event sponsors ($2,500) included Auxiliary Campus Enterprises Services, Inc.; Laborer’s Local #621; Mach Architecture, PC; and Pathfinder Engineers and Architects. Eagle Sponsors ($1,000) were Alesco Advisors, LLC; Kenworth Northeast Group; Liberty Mutual; Otis Eastern; and West Herr Automotive.

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