Jennifer Parham-Mocello
Jennifer Parham-Mocello (left), assistant professor of computer science, works with a high school student.

Oregon does not have a policy to support computer science education, even though computing jobs are the No. 1 source of all new wages in the U.S. economy, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine, which tracks labor demand.

To face this challenge, Jennifer Parham-Mocello, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, has an idea to work computer science fundamentals into the existing K-12 mathematics curriculum.

Google is supporting her idea with funding for a project to teach computational thinking — the foundation of computer programming — to future secondary math teachers studying at Oregon State. The research project is a collaboration with Elise Lockwood, associate professor of mathematics in the College of Science, and Rebekah Elliott, associate professor of mathematics education in the College of Education.

“It’s great that this Google Education K-12 grant will support educating future teachers. It’s an area that’s been ignored,” Parham-Mocello said. “Everybody wants to start new computer science courses in K-12, and I just don’t think that’s realistic, especially when you’re talking about rural areas.”

The one-year award of $141,800 will support undergraduate and graduate students over the 2019-20 school year to develop new curriculum in pre-service secondary mathematics courses at Oregon State University, then test it in Corvallis middle and high schools.  In the process, the Oregon State students will learn the basics of computational thinking, which they can apply in their future positions as teachers.

“Computational thinking helps people better understand their field. But it also makes them literate in the world of computation,” Parham-Mocello said. “When you have to think in terms of the process — the algorithmic steps — you internalize it differently and gain a deeper understanding.”

The researchers will begin teaching the curriculum in fall term to the secondary mathematics pre-service teachers. During the winter term, the pre-service teachers will develop and deliver units on computational thinking to students in Corvallis schools. The one-year project will help to define and develop a multiple-year program with broader reach.

“My vision is that all of Oregon will benefit from this,” Parham-Mocello said. “Most of the education students at Oregon State will become teachers in Oregon schools of all types. So, the impact will be broadening participation in computing for schools of all sizes in both rural and urban communities.”

Travis Whitehead

Guest post by Travis Whitehead

Working at the Open Source Lab has been the highlight of my computer science experience at Oregon State University. It was just by chance that I came across a job listing for the OSL. I had never heard of the organization, and it certainly was not a factor in my decision to pursue computer science at Oregon State University.

I’d been running Linux as my primary operating system since high school, and over time I found myself becoming more and more deeply invested in the ideological underpinnings of FOSS (Free Open-Source Software). I appreciated the transparency of FOSS, and the benefits available through free licenses that allow anyone to use the software, change how it works, repurpose it, and distribute it.

Despite my strong interest in free software, I never imagined myself in the position of getting paid to contribute to open source. At the OSL I learned valuable skills and gained work experience, but the biggest thing to me was that I was able to do work that was ethical and important.

In a world shaped by a for-profit economy, our interaction with software and intellectual property is exclusive. If users cannot afford to pay for software, they are excluded access to the software or must access it illegally. Or worse, we become the products ourselves, subjected to all kinds of data collection and surveillance in exchange for access to services. The Open Source Lab offered me the opportunity to support open-source software projects, ultimately allowing me to contribute to The Commons, and better the world that we live in. It’s been very fulfilling for me to know that our projects create solutions that anybody and everybody may use.

Ethics aside, the work itself has provided me many opportunities to learn things that I couldn’t in the classroom. Experience with configuration management and automation tooling reshaped how I manage my personal systems at home. And I worked in a real datacenter! Tinkering with powerful hardware in a real production environment is way cooler than any academic project.

Looking forward, I hope that the Open Source Lab continues to grow and expand so that more students may have these same opportunities. The OSL is truly one of a kind, and I feel really thankful to have been able to work with the lab for the past several years.

Excitingly, this is my last term at Oregon State. I’ll be going on to work with Tag1 Consulting, where I will continue to tackle exciting infrastructure challenges and contribute back to the open-source community whenever I can.

Photo of scholarship recipients
Scholarship recipients at the Grace Hopper Celebration: (left to right) Elisabeth Mansfield, Stephanie Hughes, Sharlena Luyen, Sumegha Aryal, Clair Cahill, and Kaitlin Hill.

Attending the world’s largest gathering of women technologists was transformational for Stephanie Hughes, a computer science undergraduate. But it wasn’t enough for her.

“I was just one person and I wanted to make sure other women at Oregon State had that experience,” said Hughes who is the president of Oregon State’s women’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM-W OSU).

She teamed up with Sharlena Luyen who was similarly motivated to help women attend the Grace Hopper Celebration.

“I have huge passion for helping women expand their career paths in STEM and when I found out that OSU doesn’t offer any type of funding to send women to go to this conference, I thought something had to be done,” said Luyen a computer science undergraduate who is the outreach coordinator for Leadership Academy and an ambassador for College of Engineering.

Hughes and Luyen worked with staff in the College of Engineering to make the scholarship a reality. The funding was made possible through a joint effort of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Engineering, the OSU Women’s Giving Circle, and the Association for Computing Machinery—Women’s Chapter.

Seven undergraduates in computer science, including one Ecampus student from New York, received scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration which was held in Houston, Texas this year.

“I loved all the opportunity it provided through internships and professional development, but also meeting other women in computer science and seeing what they are up to was really interesting to me,” said Katlin Hill, a computer science student who received one of the scholarships. At the conference, Hill had nine interviews and received internship offers from Macy’s, Nike, and Juniper Networks.

There were over 500 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees at this year’s conference.

“It was valuable because not all of these companies come to Oregon State’s campus. And not only that, but they were looking specifically for women in computing,” said Luyen who had over 30 interviews with companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Sonos, Purview Solution, and Northwestern Mutual.

All of the scholarship recipients will be sharing their experiences at an awardee presentation on November 14, 2018 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. People can show their support for promoting and retaining women in computer science by attending the presentation or filling out a Google form.

Yvo DesmedtYvo Desmedt, the Jonsson Distinguished Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, will speak on the topic of cybersecurity on October 17.

The lecture is part of the Michael and Judith Gaulke Distinguished Lecture Series which brings internationally renowned scholars to Oregon State to ensure that students and faculty have access to important technology breakthroughs, as well as the fundamental science and engineering that is the foundation for today’s high tech advances.

The title of Desmedt’s talk is “The fundamental reasons information technological systems are insecure.”  The lecture will be held on the Oregon State University campus in Rogers 230 on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. The event website has more details about the talk.

In addition to being a Distinguished Professor at UT Dallas, Yvo Desmedt is an Honorary Professor at University College London, a Fellow of the International Association of Cryptologic Research (IACR) and a Member of the Belgium Royal Academy of Science.

Originally from Belgium, Desmedt earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. Although Dr. Desmedt was born in Belgium and graduated from a Belgian University, he has worked in the United States for most of his life. For this reason, he was appointed to become a “foreign member” of the Royal Academy of Belgium. He has worked in both industry and at universities in Belgium, New Mexico, Canada, Wisconsin, London, and Florida before joining UT Dallas in 2012.

Desmedt’s research interests include computer security, critical infrastructure, cryptography, entity authentication, information hiding, malware, network security, and cyberterrorism. His work has aided Fortune 100 companies in the United States, and American and European financial institutions such as bank and credit card companies.

Lawrence Roy

A graduate student at Oregon State University has won a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Lawrence Roy is one of fewer than 6 percent of applicants to receive the DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. Roy is studying toward a doctoral degree in computer graphics.

The fellowship, administered by the Krell Institute of Ames, Iowa, is funded by the DOE’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Each year, the program grants fellowships to support doctoral students whose education and research focus on using high-performance computers to solve complex science and engineering problems of national importance. Since it was launched in 1991, the DOE fellowship has supported 456 students at more than 65 universities.

DOE fellowship students receive full tuition and fees plus an annual stipend and academic allowance, renewable for up to four years. In return, recipients must complete courses in a scientific or engineering discipline plus computer science and applied mathematics.

Stephen Ramsey
Stephen Ramsey

In August, Stephen Ramsey, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, along with his collaborators, received an additional $351,443 in funding to develop a biomedical data translator, bringing the total funds this year to $788,443.

The award is part of a program by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to  build a tool that brings together medical data from various sources to better understand health and disease and, ultimately, to diagnose and treat patients more quickly.

Ten teams across the country are working on the biomedical data translator, in what started out as a competition, but is now a collaborative effort.

The unusual program required the teams to first solve a series of puzzles before they could view the RFA (request for application). The funding is not a grant, but instead called an “other transaction” award. The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the branch of NIH that is running the program, continually assesses the progress of the teams and doles out funding for short periods of time based on the progress of the teams.

“It’s a very flexible model which enables us to be nimble,” Ramsey said. “They can make adjustments to the deliverables to focus resources on things that are working, and not dedicate resources to approaches that aren’t working.”

Read the full story.

Photo of Mark Clements
Mark Clements, senior development and QA manager for CASS, teaches during the workshop.

Employees in the Center for Applied Systems and Software (CASS) in the College of Engineering are teaching a workshop for high school teachers to learn how to create mobile apps for Apple devices. The three-day workshop is being held August 13 – 15, 2018 by Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) at Oregon State University.

The course is intended for any interested teacher, even if they have no programming experience. By the end of the workshop the participants will create their own app that can run on an Apple device using the programming language called Swift. They will also have the tools, including lesson plans, to teach programming in their class. Another benefit is that they will continue to have online support with CASS when they are implementing the program in their class.

“By teaching this workshop, we are enabling teachers to use this really awesome curriculum from Apple in their high schools. And then hopefully that will help interest more young people in computer science,” said Carrie Hertel, director of the Software Development Group for CASS.

Hertel is excited to expand CASS’s outreach to high school teachers and hopes to hold more workshops in the future, as well as provide a modified workshop for professionals.

Zander Work at NW Cyber Camp
Zander Work (right) helps a student at the NW Cyber Camp held at Oregon State University.

A week-long camp to introduce high-school students to cybersecurity was held on the Oregon State University campus last week. Although it was the first time the camp was held in Corvallis, it is the third year the camp has been operating.

The location was not happenstance. NW Cyber Camp co-founder, Zander Work, just completed his freshman year at Oregon State where he made connections with faculty and graduate students in cyber security who helped teach the courses. Instructors also included alumni and other industry representatives from NuScale Power, McAfee, Splunk, NetSPI, Cylance, and PKI Solutions.

“The students were awesome,” Work said. “Everyone was very engaged with the speakers and they asked a lot of good questions.”

The goal of the camp is to get more students interested in the field of cybersecurity which has over 300,000 unfilled job openings, according to Cyber Seek.

“The camp has definitely shown me a lot more opportunities for what I can do in the future with cybersecurity,” said Grace, one of the camp participants. “There are a lot of different fields you can go into like data science, machine learning, ethical hacking, or security work. That’s been really cool to learn about.”

Jayde, another camp participant, already has plans to join the Air Force and focus on cybersecurity.

“I really liked the hands-on activities and learning about real examples of hacking,” Jayde said.

Both students mentioned it was harder than they were expecting, but in a good way.

“The guest speakers have been fantastic. Everyone is knowledgeable and teach at a rigorous enough level that people don’t get bored,” Grace said.

The 20 students at the Oregon State camp came from Corvallis, Albany, Philomath and Lebanon. The camp overall hosted 110 students this summer including sites in Portland, Gresham, Wilsonville, and Bend.

Rakesh Bobba, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and the faculty organizer for the event said, “It was really fun. We would definitely like to host it at Oregon State again, and hopefully expand it to reach more students.”

Students working at NW Cyber Camp
Students working at NW Cyber Camp held at Oregon State University.
photo Christopher Mendez and Alannah Oleson
Christopher Mendez and Alannah Oleson received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships this year.

Two students of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships that will provide three years of research funding while they attend graduate school. This prestigious award recognizes and supports outstanding early career graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Christopher Mendez, a graduate student, and Alannah Oleson, an undergraduate, received the awards for research in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). There were a total of eight students across the U.S. to receive the award for HCI research.

This prestigious award recognizes and supports outstanding early career graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. A total of 2,000 fellowships are awarded per year across all STEM fields.

Both Mendez and Oleson are advised by Distinguished Professor Margaret Burnett who co-founded the area of end-user software engineering, which aims to improve software for computer users who are not trained in programming. Her current research investigates gender-neutral software, uncovering gender inclusiveness issues in software from spreadsheets to programming environments.

Mendez and Oleson are extending Burnett’s research into different areas: Mendez is investigating how technology can empower people of low socioeconomic status; and Oleson is researching how best to teach inclusive software design methods and principles to university-level computer science students.

Mendez is continuing his research with Burnett at Oregon State, and Oleson will be starting graduate school next fall at the University of Washington.

photo of Oregon State team
Oregon State took first place at the regional DOE Cyber Defense Competition 2018. Pictured are (left to right) Zach Rogers, Khuong Luu, Hadi Rahal-Arabi, Yeongjin Jang, Devon Streit (DOE), Zander Work, Cody Holliday, and Aidan Grimshaw

A team of six computer science students at Oregon State University competed for the first time and won the regional Department of Energy Cyber Defense Competition held at Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

The competition simulates a real-world situation in which the teams defend a corporate network infrastructure from professional hackers. Each team built a mock infrastructure including a web server, a file server, a database server, email, and other network operations. During the competition, a group of users utilized the services while the hackers launched attacks. The defending teams had to monitor and respond to the cyberattacks throughout the day and were scored on how well they defended their infrastructure and how well they documented what they had done.

The Oregon State team placed first among six teams from the western U.S. at the regional competition, and placed fourth nationally among 29 teams.

“The competition was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun,” said Zander Work, a freshman in computer science who led the team. “The team put in many long nights leading up to the competition to finish hardening our defenses, and it paid off.”

Zander and the other five students who competed — Aidan Grimshaw, Cody Holliday, Khuong Luu, Hadi Rahal-Arabi and Zach Rogers — are all members of the OSU Security Club.

“Although it was a very first time the students participated in such a competition, they did a great job,” said Yeongjin Jang, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering who advised the team. “I was very happy to see the students working hard for an entire month of preparation, not hesitating to tackle difficult tasks, and working well as a team at the competition venue.”