RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (News release)–Arkansas Tech University is home to a new cybersecurity lab designed to help prepare the online security experts of the future.
Located on the first floor of Corley Hall on the ATU campus in Russellville, the cybersecurity lab was built in pods that enable team-based activities such as hackathons and programming contests.
The renovated space includes a server room dedicated specifically to the cybersecurity lab, an upgrade that allows students to engage in more project-based learning in a secure environment.
In addition, the lab provides students with real-time data about online threats that exist around the globe.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who facilitated funding for the ATU cybersecurity lab, toured the facility during a visit to campus on July 30. He spoke about the importance of producing graduates in cybersecurity and related fields.
“The demand is extraordinary across the country,” said Hutchinson. “Arkansas has as great of a demand as anyone because of Walmart and the industry that is here. They must have those information technology and cybersecurity professionals. You are in a good field, and you should have great opportunities right here (in Arkansas).
“This is so critical, what you are doing at Arkansas Tech, for our state,” continued Hutchinson. “We have to produce professionals in cybersecurity, information technology, computer science, software engineering and electrical engineering. We must have these graduates because otherwise we are going to lose companies and be unable to attract companies. It is so beneficial to us.”
Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president, expressed appreciation to Hutchinson for his financial support of the cybersecurity lab and noted that the lab was utilized by students in the 40th Arkansas Governor’s School during summer 2019.
Hutchinson met with two junior ATU cybersecurity students during his tour of the lab. Spencer Massengale of Dover and Zachary Spadoni of White Hall serve as co-presidents of the ATU Cybersecurity Club. They are on pace to be among the first ATU students to earn the Bachelor of Science degree in cybersecurity.
Spadoni explained that the previous classrooms utilized by ATU cybersecurity students did not have the capacity or security necessary to engage in full-scale projects.
“Now, since we have this awesome lab, we can keep everything right here and not have to leave,” said Spadoni. “With this lab, we’ve become probably the most sophisticated and growing cybersecurity program in the state. We can put our feet on the ground and start sprinting with that.”
The ATU cybersecurity program began in fall 2017. It is part of the ATU Department of Computer and Information Science, which serves 400 students pursuing five bachelor’s degrees (computer science, computer science education, cybersecurity, information systems and information technology), two associate degrees (cybersecurity and information technology) and a Master of Science degree in information technology.
Of the 400 students in the department, approximately 100 are majoring in cybersecurity.
“The curriculum in all of our programs is designed to help students be better prepared for the workplace,” said Dr. Luay Wahsheh, head of the ATU Department of Computer and Information Science. “The curriculum is always evolving to bridge the gap between what we offer at the university and what industry and government agencies need.”
Visit www.atu.edu/cis to learn more about the ATU Department of Computer and Information Science.