Welcome to the inaugural newsletter, Link to the Webb, from the Webb School of Engineering at High Point University! My name is Michael Oudshoorn and I serve as dean of the school. It is our plan to produce Link to the Webb twice a year to keep you up-to-date on the activities within the school.
The Webb School of Engineering was created in Fall 2018 to accommodate the newly created department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the department of Computer Science, which was formed by the division of the previous department of Mathematics and Computer Science into two separate departments.
The creation of the school was made possible by a generous gift from Mark ’83 and Jerri Webb, members of the Board of Trustees at High Point University.
The Webb School of Engineering currently offers B.S. degrees in computer engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. The computer science degree includes a concentration in cybersecurity. The department of Computer Science also offers a B.A. in computer science to support those seeking a double major, and a minor in computer science. All of these are housed in Couch Hall which underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment in summer of 2019. In addition to refreshing the physical accommodation of the departments, the refurbishment also supported the purchase of significant resources to support the programs offered by the school. The resources available to students is outstanding and is supported by caring and dedicated faculty who nurture students on their journey to become professionals in their chosen career. This does not go unnoticed by potential students, as the number of majors in each program continues to grow. Our graduates are in high demand with almost 100% of the graduates finding employment or entering graduate school – all this despite the challenging times created by a global pandemic. The faculty have done an extraordinary job of continuing to deliver high-impact and high-value education to the students, even if they are quarantined. I know the students have appreciated the fact that we have continued with in-person education to ensure they get the best education we can provide. The students have been instrumental in helping us deliver those in-person classes by respecting the social distancing and mask-wearing policies on campus. It hasn’t been easy, but everyone is pleased with the outcome.
In this edition of the newsletter, we provide you with a description of the new cybersecurity lab, and introduce the new engineering programs. You’ll also get to meet the faculty with brief biographies, and it is our goal to provide a more in-depth focus on a faculty member in each future edition. We also want you to get to know some of our students and we shine a spotlight on two excellent students for you to enjoy.
We look forward to remaining in contact with you,
Dr. Michael Oudshoorn
Dr. Michael Oudshoorn is the dean of the Webb School of Engineering. He has more than 30 years of experience as an educator. His career began at the University of Adelaide in Australia, where he worked for 20 years teaching computer science.
He also served as the associate dean (international) for the faculty of engineering, mathematical and computer sciences.
Dr. Claire McCullough is the professor and founding chair of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at High Point University. She has over 30 years of experience in engineering practice and education, including industrial experience at the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and 20 years as a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is also a licensed professional engineer.
His expertise is in information assurance, and he has published numerous papers on digital privacy, security and computer science education.
Dr. Jason M. Pittman teaches courses in cybersecurity, discrete structures, networking and artificial intelligence. Pittman serves as vice chair of HPU’s Committee on Committees advisory board. He is also the director of the department’s Cybersecurity Engineering Learning Facility (CELF); wherein he coaches the university’s cybersecurity competition teams and leads a variety of undergraduate research groups.
Professor Roger Shore has taught almost every course in the CS curriculum and is a mainstay teaching courses such as operating systems, high performance computing, and Computer systems. He has worked with students to complete many research projects, as well as to compete in regional and national programming competitions. His interests include working with hardware and software to create computer graphics.
Dr. Kim Titus teaches courses in computer programming, web site development and programming for data analytics. She has a passion for teaching students and assisting them in developing their programming skills.
Her current interests include data science and developing web-based interventions to assist beginning and intermediate computer science students with the challenges of coding.
Dr. Lloyd Williams teaches classes in algorithms, web design and online technologies. Williams’s interests and expertise includes robotics as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, virtual reality, and the latest technologies and hardware being used to create the “Internet of Things.”
He is also interested in outreach aimed at bringing new and diverse populations into STEM fields.
She has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified Advanced International Organizing Professional.
She is also the founder of the home organization business, Organized Jill.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
This has been a great semester for the department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. The department chair, Dr. Claire McCullough, welcomed a class of 15 freshmen to the program who have been engrossed in their curriculum, assignments and projects.
The freshmen were creative in building their Rube Goldberg machines, and learned about team work and the engineering design process from the experience.
Our inaugural class of now-sophomores have been enjoying their newly renovated circuits lab and using our state of the art lab equipment to learn how to bridge the gap between the theories and practical devices.
Dr. McCullough has been busy making sure that the course work for all students is both enriching to their education and also within the guidelines of the accreditation commission, ABET. She has gathered a robust group of professionals in the industry to determine methods for gathering data and assessing the processes to ensure that the program stays on track for timely accreditation.
Electrical and Computer Engineering: Class of 2024 The Electrical & Computer Engineering faculty is getting ready to grow and welcome two new faculty members for the 2021-2022 academic year. Although the fall semester has been a different experience due to unique circumstances, we have continued to offer in person classes and lab experiences. Even when students were temporarily quarantined, we kept them engaged and provided them the necessary lab equipment in isolation so that they can keep up with all aspects of their courses.
Cybersecurity Competition: One of the best things to come out of the fall semester is our cybersecurity competition team. Cybersecurity competitions pit teams against each other in a race to score points by solving various types of challenges.
Topics range from cryptography and reverse engineering software, to analyzing network traffic captures. Competitions are rigorous, especially for students new to the field.
We started with five students in the last week of August.
The first competition was difficult and frustrating. None of the students had ever competed in any type of cybersecurity game.
Moreover, most students were first semester sophomores and had yet to take a cybersecurity course. They all stuck with it and continued to practice. Fast forward two months to October, where we increased the total number of students to 10 and fielded two teams to a competition. The students solved over 30 challenges. They placed in the top 20% amongst an open field containing other U.S. universities, international teams and professionals.
Computer Science students competing in the Cybersecurity Competition.
A fantastic performance, but was it just a fluke though? Had the students really come this far inside of a semester?
Dispelling any notion of a fluke, the teams entered one more competition and absolutely crushed it with another top 20% finish. This competition was also an open event with high school teams, universities, international teams and collectives of professionals vying for top spots.
We couldn’t be prouder of these students. We have come a long way in just 16 weeks. Moreover, we know the sky is the limit going forward.
Computer Science Club (C.O.D.E), by Conor Rybacki ’22
At the beginning of this fall semester, I knew that things were going to be different, but I just wasn’t quite sure to what degree. I was so thankful for the opportunity to return to campus that my happiness outweighed any doubts that I had. Being the president of the computer science club, which we call CODE, I can’t help but look back on the lessons that I learned and the challenges that I faced from this unique semester.
Like every semester, in the beginning, the most important thing to do is garner interest among the incoming freshman computer science students. Outside of a pandemic, this was challenging enough. Often the incoming students are intimidated to join CODE club due to their lack of knowledge in the field.
Any insecurities that they had were often left behind with a conversation at the involvement fair. The involvement fair however, like everything this semester, was different. It was virtual, and from the start it was apparent that the participation among the student body was down compared to the traditional in-person involvement fair. I was not shocked by this, but it still upset me that an involvement fair where the club would usually attract 30+ students, now only resulted in about 8. There was nothing anyone could do though; this was just a result of the circumstances that we found ourselves in.
The next challenge I was faced with was maintaining student involvement throughout the semester. I realized that this semester wasn’t only extremely difficult for me, but also many of my peers. This meant that they had less time to devote to the club and our activities. Not only was this a factor, but due to the school restrictions and decisions voted on by our members, we were holding our weekly meetings virtually. This was no problem for me; however, it did result in a dip in student involvement that I could only attribute to the less engaging virtual format that we were taking part in.
Now, while I realize many may argue that the virtual format of a computer science club has less of an effect on this than other clubs. However, they fail to realize that there are so much more to clubs than just the nature of their content. Regardless of what kind of club it is at its core, the thing that drives student involvement over anything else is the social aspect. People enjoy being around like-minded individuals, something that just isn’t the same virtually.
While these conditions weren’t ideal, they did teach me a very important lesson: consistency. Whether there were 20 students at a meeting, or 5, I was going to show up with the same attitude and energy. As much as I would love to have huge meetings every week, I knew that it just wasn’t possible, but I refused to let that negatively affect the students that were showing up. The least I could do for those that were as passionate as me was make sure they were having a pleasant experience. Not every situation that you find yourself in is going to be ideal, so the least you can do is show up with a good attitude and try your best to get something positive out of it.
Student Profile: Emily Lattanzio ’23
What are you studying at HPU?
Why did you choose HPU?
“I loved the small class sizes and the overall atmosphere of the campus. HPU’s motto of ‘Choose to be Extraordinary’ really connected with me. I have always believed that every day we choose to be the best possible version of ourselves, and I knew when looking at schools that HPU shared this mentality. Overall, everyone at High Point is so kind and encouraging, and it really is the perfect fit for me.”
What interests do you have outside of your major?
“I love to play the clarinet and I am also learning how to play a little bit of the flute! One of my favorite things to do for fun is spend time with my adorable dog at home. I also have a passion for reading and some of my favorite experiences have been going to book fairs and meeting my favorite authors.”
What are some of the challenges that you have faced or overcome this semester?
“At the beginning of the semester, I was offered two different teacher’s assistant positions for physics and computer science. Although they have added to my stress and my workload, I am so happy that I decided to accept both. It has been an amazing experience to be on the other side of the teacher/student dynamic. Explaining a concept or a question to someone else really helps me to better understand it myself. Sometimes I feel like I may not be up to the task, but struggling through these times is probably one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in college.”
What do you hope to do with your degree when you graduate?
“I have only recently decided that Computer Engineering would be my major. I am keeping an open mind, while I educate myself on my future possibilities. At this point, I think that grad school is a likely possibility, but I want to see where life will take me as well. What I love about High Point is that there is so much support to help guide you on your future steps and I plan to take advantage of that.”
Are you involved in any activities on campus? In what capacity?
“One of my favorite clubs that I am involved with on campus isYoung Life. The community of people in it are amazing and have helped me grow as a person and in my faith. I am also a part of Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society chapters on campus.”
What advice would you like to share with your peers or with future students?
“Family, friends and life in general can place all sorts of expectations on you, but the most difficult expectations are often the ones you put on yourself. My advice to my peers would be, of course, to work real hard and get a great education in college, but make sure to give yourself enough leeway to also enjoy the experience. It is only my sophomore year, but I can already tell that I will look back on these years and know they were few and fleeting and a very special time in my life.”