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SITC Students Create Solve for Minesweeper

Technology faculty continually look for ways to combine coursework with real world applications. For example, at the end of the semester of Scripting II (CS 115), students are tasked with creating a program that solves, or can be applied, to a real world problem. SITC students Matthew Middlebrook and Brighton Mica decided to create a program that could beat the game Minesweeper. Minesweeper is a single-player puzzle video game where the objective of the game is to clear a rectangular board containing hidden mines or bombs without detonating any of them. Players receive help from clues about the number of neighboring mines in each field.

As you can imagine, this was no easy task as they set out to beat a computer at a game that is difficult for most people to win. Middlebrook and Mica had some doubt at the beginning of their endeavor, due to the sheer amount of work involved and wondering if it could even be done in the scripting language. However, using the tools they hadlearned from Scripting such as lists to store the game board, complex functions, and if statements they were able to start planning out a program.

After making the decision to go forward with the Minesweeper program as their final project they each began to brainstorm on possible ways to accomplish this task. Both students came up with ideas on how to solve the problem in different ways, based on ways they thought the game could be beat. Mica’s solution was to try and find the location of the items (numbers, blank spaces, and bombs) on the board by using r

eference images. While the solution did work correctly and was very accurate, it turned out to be a very slow method. Middlebrook’s solution was to get the coordinates of the game window and use some math to try and figure out where the spaces on the board were located. It took a long time to compile and figure out the correct positioning of everything, but this method turned out to be the fastest. Even though this idea was much more prone to error, especially if the window moved or resized, the pair decided to go the route of the most efficient method. Because this was such a complex program, the students also had to teach themselves some things that had not yet been covered in classes, such as opening a program. Through this research they learned enough to be able to write a working code.

Mica and Middlebrook were able to write the program and win the game a majority of the time in around 2-3 seconds. Writing such a complex program was well beyond what was expected but the pair says they were inspired by the difficulty of the game and wanted to find a way to beat Minesweeper, achieving their goal and presenting an excellent final project for Scripting. 

Lauren Mullen and the Magic of Disney

We’ve all heard about Disney magic. Lauren Mullen, a sophomore Digital Entertainment Technology major, got to experience that magic first hand when she participated in the Disney college program during the 2017 spring semester. The Disney College Program gives college students the opportunity to work in the Disney parks and resorts while participating in college coursework. Participants are given the chance to meet students from all over the world who have similar aspirations as well as learn the Disney principles of leadership and customer service skills that can only be learned through this unique experience. 44,000 people apply for the internships and only 4,000 applicants are accepted into the program.  

Lauren Mullen

At Disney, Lauren interacted with college students of all majors and with people from around the globe. “The opportunity that Disney gives people is incredible,” says Lauren. “Even if you are not interested in a career at Disney, it is impressive to have on your resume because it demonstrates the amount of work and ability you have.” She recommends other students to apply for the internship because it has the potential to shape your life and career in a dramatic way.

Lauren heard about Disney College Program when she was in middle school and it had been something that she had wanted to do since then. She went online to the Disney College Program website and signed up for an email list to get notifications about job opportunities. When she received an email about the semester program, Lauren almost immediately applied. After thirty minutes, she heard back from Disney and was asked to take a test about her knowledge of Disney and her priorities as a person and employee. After passing the test, she had a phone interview and was finally hired for a position at one of the restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.

Lauren’s average day in the Magic Kingdom can be described as very busy and very exciting. In the morning, she dressed in her costume and checked the Disney database to view her responsibilities, the time she worked, and how many people were expected in the park that day. She would leave from her home and drive twenty minutes to get to the park, where she caught a bus from the employee parking lot to Magic Kingdom. The bus dropped her off at the first floor of Magic Kingdom, which is actually underground because the park was built on the second floor. She would go to her locker, clock in, and check in with her boss. Her days ranged from eight to twelve hours. Lauren’s favorite days were the twelve hour days because she could watch the fireworks while shutting down the restaurant and, if she got off early, she could go into the park and play until it closed.

One of Lauren’s biggest takeaways from her time at Disney was learning the value of hard work. There were some days where she was filled with doubt about why she was there. She would remind herself that this was an opportunity to work for Disney and show them that she was a hard worker; that, when faced with obstacles, she could push through it and demonstrate her commitment. Lauren says that Disney was able to teach her how to make the “magic” for the most people. For example, one way Disney provides magical moments is by giving employees little things to give to their guests such as fast passes to a ride or food. Through simple acts like that, Lauren was able to spread joy anytime she worked.

The experience of working for Magic Kingdom was also beneficial because Lauren was able to see the inner workings of Disney: the behind-the-scenes on making magic happen. While there ,Lauren took classes on the history of Disney animation. Animation is a field that Lauren is very interested in and working there gave her the opportunity to ask questions and learn the Disney art of animation. Because of the heart and happiness that she showed on the job, Disney asked her to stay on longer to work for them. Though it was a tempting offer, Lauren said that she had to return to ACU. Overall, Disney taught her to have fun, enjoy her job and spread joy and magic to the people around her while equipping her with skills and experience to succeed in her future career. This internship with Disney is paving the path to Lauren’s future and giving her a headstart on achieving her dream job of being the first solo female director of a Disney movie. She is encouraged that because of her hard work, Disney has now taken notice of her. This Disney internship makes it more likely that she will have the opportunity to work for them in the future.

For anyone interested in applying for this amazing program, Lauren’s advice is “to just go for it.” Congratulations to Lauren for being one of the 4,000 chosen for this unique program. You can learn more about the Disney College Program here.

 

 

 

Technology December Graduates

As the semester is coming to an end, the School of Information Technology and Computing wants to highlight some of our seniors that will be graduating in December.  We asked Alicia Clark, an Information Technology major, Travis Cook, a Computer Science major, and Katey Bluel, a Digital Entertainment Technology major, a few questions reflecting on their time at ACU and specifically with us in SITC.

 

What degree are you finishing and what interests you about it?

  • Katey: Digital Entertainment Technology. What drew me to this major was my love of being creative as well as using computers in the process and this major perfectly encompasses those two things.
  • Travis: I am finishing a BS in Computer Science this December. I think an interesting aspect of CS is the ability to tackle problems in different ways; rarely are you bound to solve a programming problem in just one way. This allows you to be creative in your problem-solving.

 

Where are you headed after graduation?

  • Katey: I am moving to Austin, Texas and will be working at an entry-level position at Stitch Fix. My hope is to eventually get into their advertising department so that I can get the word out about what they are doing.
  • Travis: After graduation, I’m headed back home to Washington for Christmas then on to Scotland for vacation before moving to San Antonio to start work with USAA as a Creative Designer.

 

What was one of the most impactful things you did here?

  • Katey: When I worked with Austin Graham to relaunch the DET Club it was just us meeting for our sophomore year and occasionally we would get other people, but we stuck with it. Seeing the group grow and grow each year is amazing.
  • Alicia: I think the most impactful accomplishment are all of the different tasks that I completed as a student programmer for ACU’s IT department. Intangibly, my relationship with God was strongly impacted by my choice to come to ACU and the friends that I made here. The professors, fellow students, the marching band, best friends/roommates, and the wonderful girls in Alpha Kai Omega all helped me mature and grow closer to God in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.

 

What do you wish you had known before you came to college?

  • Alicia: I wish I had known more about what the information technology degree path entails, and come to ACU with prior computer language knowledge because it was difficult to just jump right in and start swimming in a computer world that I knew nothing about. But now that I’m about to graduate, I feel like God planned that out perfectly because I couldn’t be where I am now if it was any different.
  • Katey: I wish that I would have focused less on constantly and would have invested myself more into all the work and projects that I was doing with DET and the friends that I had made through the process.

 

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?

  • Katey: Just try. I was always scared to use new programs I knew nothing about because I was worried I was not going to be good at it, but of course, you are not great when you start but the more you work at it the better and better you get.
  • Alicia: Getting good grades, networking, and preparing yourself for the real world after college is the main reason you’re coming to ACU, and you should never lose track of that. However, your relationship with God and the experience you have with the ACU community while you’re here is also important – so try not to let low grades ruin your life because, in the end, relationships are what matter. Yes, the grades and GPA might get you your first job after college, but after that, no one looks at them. The friendships that you make with your professors and fellow students, and your relationship with God, are just as important as having a 4.0 GPA, if not more important.

 

What was your favorite class while you were here?

  • Travis: One of my favorite classes was HCI. I highly recommend every Technology major take the course. The course shows us how we can create software and systems to better people’s lives through human-centered design.
  • Alicia: The Intro to ITC class was my first major class my first semester freshman year, and being required to make an app in 10 weeks with no prior knowledge was really difficult. It stretched me to my limits, I pulled more all-nighters in that semester than I have in the following semesters combined, and my grades in other classes suffered from it. But through it all, I made some of my best friends, created my first mobile app, and created memories that will last a lifetime. My first group project in college was also in that class, and it gave me invaluable content for interview questions. Overall, Intro to ITC was my favorite class because it’s what set my foundation in the Technology department, and made me realize that since I survived that class, I might actually be able to successfully work in an IT career.

 

What are you saddest to leave?

  • Katey: All of my students in the classes I am a Teacher Assistant in, especially the DET 210 class, intro to Digital Entertainment. Every year we get more and more people that are really passionate about what they are doing and I wish I could see everything that they produce and what they do their time here.
  • Alicia: I am saddest to leave the ACU community behind. The ACU IT department, professors, classmates/friends, and the beautiful ACU campus all mean so much to me; words cannot express how grateful I am that God blessed me with ACU. These communities have shaped me into a person with a stronger foundation of faith, a wealth of IT knowledge to build upon throughout my careers, and with better-grounded values and morals. It’s going to be difficult to leave it all behind, but the memories and friendships will last a lifetime.

 

 

2017 7th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week Conference

This past weekend, four ACU students attended the 7th annual Texas Security Awareness Week (TexSAW) conference at the University of Texas at Dallas. TexSAW is a two day event created as a way to expose students interested in the field of computer security to various concepts, which will help not only expand their knowledge of the subject but also broaden potential career opportunities.

At TexSAW, ACU students were able to meet other students interested in the field of cybersecurity from universities and colleges all over Texas. On Friday, three different workshops were put on by UTD graduate students about web security, introduction to reverse engineering, and cryptography. Leo Lai, Senior Information Technology Major, said “I think what was presented by the graduate students and guest speakers really refreshed my memory on some of the subjects. But I was also able to learn more of the basics, which are important to truly grasp the subject as a whole.”

There was also a lecture from Sean Hollingsead, an employee of State Farm, who talked about the changes and growth in cybersecurity. State Farm was a sponsor of the conference and talked to students about potential internships and the need for jobs within the computer security field. Zane Burton, junior Computer Science major, said “The most helpful thing I learned at the conference was probably how much of a need there is for cyber security in the workforce. This was one of the things that State Farm talked about as well as the security they implemented within their business, really emphasizing the need for more people within the field”.

On Saturday, students participated in a competition called “Capture the Flag” where students were presented with problems that tested their newly-learned skills in computer security. Anna ter Kuile, junior Computer Science major, even expressed that it was her favorite part of the conference because it involved solving riddles that were fun yet challenging and really helped put into practice what they had learned the previous day. Both teams were very successful and enjoyed the experience. All of the students that attended want to encourage more students to attend next year as, not only is it free, but there is something new to learn every year. Watch the videos below to learn more about how our ACU SITC students prepared for the competition and what they valued about the conference.

 

 

 

See what the students in attendance thought were the most valuable aspects of the conference:

 

Here is Junior Computer Science and Political Science Major, Kevin Schurtz, sharing what he did to prep for the “Capture the Flag” competition:

 

For more information, go to TexSAW’s website, http://csi.utdallas.edu/events/TexSAW-2017/ , or contact Rob Byrd at rrb07a@acu.edu.

Wildcat Software

In 2014, Wildcat Software was started as part of the Griggs Center’s Wildcat Ventures, a program where students create and run their own small business. Wildcat Software provides software development to clients. Employees of Wildcat Software are generally technology students – students with majors such as Computer Science, Information Technology, Digital Entertainment Technology, and Management Information Systems – and are given access to cutting edge technology to produce high quality work at a reasonable rate. Student developers take the requirements they receive from clients and build out the software to meet their demands. They break down tasks step by step and are in charge of meeting with the client throughout the process to ensure that the software is what the client wants. The overall goal of Wildcat Software is to provide custom software solutions to a wide range of clients, which include small local business as well as larger corporations and banks across the nation.

One of Wildcat Software’s most recent projects was developing an app for ACU Theatre. The ACU Theatre Department contacted Wildcat Software through the library’s Innovation Foundry, wanting a mobile platform that would help audiences look for shows as well as allow for mobile ticket sales. They also wanted users to be able to view showtimes for the current season and purchase tickets not just for a single show, but for the entire season. Colin Blanchard and Holly Buff, two senior developers at the company, and  Gideon Luck, project manager, were the Wildcat Software employees assigned to this project. The WS team met with the client to get an idea of what they wanted and then began to build mock-ups, outlining the basic form of the app with wireframes so that the client could get a feel for what it would look like. After approval by ACU Theatre, the actual development began. The development team used PhoneGap with cross-platform HTML and Java, which allowed the app to work on both iPhones and Androids. In PhoneGap, developers tested the app, deployed it to a device, wrote the native code, and built the app into devices which were then brought to the client. The app was published to the App Store and Google Play in August. The ACU Theatre app was tested and ready in time to make ACU Theatre’s Homecoming production of Cats easy and accessible for students, alumni, and theatre lovers. You can download ACU Theatre in the App Store or Google Play for free today! (App Store:https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/acu-theatre/id1270835292?mt=8, Google Play:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.acutheatre.app&hl=en)  

Working for Wildcat Software gives student employees the skills and experience necessary for their future careers. Additionally, student employees get to see beyond the technical aspects of their job and learn how a business operates. Colin Blanchard, Senior Developer, said “it is very interesting working for a company run by my peers. I get to be more involved in the client and business side.” Blanchard noted that his favorite project with the company was building their own website. “It was fun because it was for us and by us, we got to make it what we wanted.” Virginia Pettit, Senior Developer, has also enjoyed her time as a student employee of Wildcat Software. She explained that the command structure is much more laidback because of the student-run aspect of the company, but thinks that there is a bigger sense of pride and accomplishment when they achieve things since they are students and it feels more like a team than a corporate environment. Pettit says she loves learning new things in her job and being able to teach them to others. “When we worked on making our own website, I got to mentor junior developers and teach them a lot about the job and working with web technologies,” she said. “I have input on big decisions and I know my opinion matters.”

Wildcat Software is constantly growing in numbers of  employees and clients. Soon the company will be moving into their own office down the hall from the Griggs Center, which will help to establish the company and give them even more tools they need to continue doing excellent work. If you would like to learn more about Wildcat Software, you can visit their website at http://wildcatsoftware.net. At the moment, they are looking for someone to replace their current CEO, Nik Grau, who will graduate soon.  If you are interested, apply today under the ‘Join Our Team’ tab on their website and email a resume and cover letter to Nik Grau at nrg13a@acu.edu. This position is a non-technical position and no technical experience is required. If you have any questions, email Brandon DeLano at bcd13a@acu.edu or stop by his office MBB 256.

Why you should to go to Texas Security Awareness Week

Can you describe what the field of cyber security entails and what job possibilities are out there for it?

Cyber security touches every part of our existence because “cyber” touches every part of our existence.  Cyber threats are everywhere, web sites, email, company networks, government departments, and more.

And it’s not just the cyberspace we have to consider. To keep an information system secure electronically, we also have to keep it physically secure. Data loss by “…and then we’ll smash it with a hammer” is even more effective than a virtual virus.

And the field of cyber security also gets into Forensics (it’s even made its way to CSI and other popular shows), home security, national security, and even offensive military operations. (I can’t go into classified details but offense operation are more common than we might want to accept.)

Have you all been before? And if so how was it?

Yes, we have attended the event several times. In general, we love it. The new information is presented somewhat like a firehose of water coming at you, but it comes with references to help you keep learning after the weekend is over. And the best part–no test!! The students love that :)  free breakfast at the free hotel and lunch is provided. And just to reinforce what we learn there is a low stress contest on Saturday. One year we won first place out of 25 teams who came from Texas A&M, Rice, and other well known universities with good cyber programs.

Why would you recommend students to go to this?

Anything they can do to increase exposure to this topic will help them in the long run. In the old days, businesses had mottos like”think safety” and had safety departments or offices. Then they realized it had to be part of EVERY department. The same was true for quality. There was a quality department and no one else thought that much about it–until managers realized that EVERYONE needed to think about quality and continuous improvement.  Cybersecurity is now in in fledgling stages compared to safety and quality. Cybersecurity is going to have to be part of EVERYONE’S business and those that know cybersecurity will be in a very sweet spot when it comes to employment pay and job fulfillment.

What should a student expect to get out of this?

You mean besides all the free, free, free? Well, as mentioned earlier, this will just give them another exposure opportunity to this discipline. They will get to meet students from other universities and get to know who from ACU is interested in cybersecurity. Right now–and for the next decade or two there are literally hundreds of thousands of job opportunities in cybersecurity.

Is there anything else that you would like to comment about this event?

Did I mention that it’s free?

 

Register Here http://csi.utdallas.edu/events/TexSAW-2017/