The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) has awarded Ferrum College $40,000 over the course of one year to help fund a cybersecurity Internet of Things (IoT) lab project.

“Our computer technology and information systems program has always trained students in software interfacing, network security, and hardware troubleshooting, explained Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Chemistry and Physics, Jason Powell. “By upgrading our computer hardware laboratory to the IoT Laboratory with the help of a $40,000 grant from the TRRC, Ferrum College will be able to expand training opportunities to include certificate programs and courses in human interfaces with emerging technologies in systems of interconnected devices.”

“The IoT are devices – most likely sensors, like security or smart home systems, smart cars, thermostats, even vending machines – that collect and exchange data without human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction. That data is then fed to machine-learning algorithms which convert it into knowledge to support decision-maker systems,” explained Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems Omar Darwish.

The IoT lab project, directed by Powell and Darwish, will focus on designing, programming, and debugging sensors, robots, and embedded systems that can operate and interact with humans in unstructured environments.

How does this happen? “Students will learn how to attach different types of sensors to drones and rovers to explore unreachable areas,” said Darwish. “Sensors will gather data and send them to specialized processing units that have models which are built using machine learning algorithms. Finally, the model makes a decision to do specific action.”

The program is aimed toward computer science students, but students in fields such as physics or chemistry may also want to participate. If necessary, the theoretical portion of the course can be administered online; however, the practical portion must involve classroom or lab study.

“As our world becomes more and more connected the need for experts in computer technology and cybersecurity will only increase. It’s important that we take advantage of the opportunities this growing field can bring to Southern and Southwest Virginia and this program helps ensure that we are able to do so,” said Tobacco Commission Chairman Delegate Terry Kilgore.

“We are thrilled to receive such a generous grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Aimé Sposato. “With technology continuously progressing, this program is a must for Ferrum College’s computer technology and information systems students. We look forward to working with TRRC to do our part in advancing cybersecurity.”

Learn more about Ferrum College’s computer technology and information systems program here.
Learn more about the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and its work here.