Posted by raherschbach on 28 Mar 2017

Some may be surprised to find out that Capitol Technology University hosts an annual poetry contest. After all, we’re a tech and engineering school. Students come here to learn how to code, build circuits, design apps and games, protect computer networks, and launch rockets. What does any of this have to do with poetry?

Yet the Puente Library is home to an impressive poetry collection that includes works by Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni, Keetje Kuipers and Mary Oliver. Through April 12, moreover, the library will be hosting the 16th Annual Sandy Pisano Poetry Contest, with prizes to be announced by the library.

In fact, the gap between the worlds of poetry and technology may not be as wide as people often think. There are notable examples of poets who are also engineers – among them Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration in 2012.

Blanco won praise for his inaugural poem, "One Today," which offered a panoramic view of modern-day Americans as we live, work and interact. He has published three collections of poetry and has received numerous national awards – and he is also a civil engineer by profession.

Nor is Blanco the only example. In 2010, Sarah Wetzel won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry for her book Bathsheba Transatlantic, hailed by Garrett Hongo as “a necessary book for our time.” Wetzel, whose second book won an award from the A Room of Her Own (ARHO) foundation, holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech.

Poets are also represented in computer-related fields. In 2014, The Atlantic interviewed TJ Jarrett, a young poet who has been garnering wide acclaim. In addition to authoring two books and serving as senior editor for Tupelo Quarterly, Jarrett is also a software developer.

Jarrett told The Atlantic that working in IT provides stability and pays the bills, and also has a puzzle-solving aspect that keeps her mind occupied.

She drew parallels between coding and writing poems. Both, she said, involve “parts that come together to perform a larger action.”

In a way, blending tech and poetry, far from being a peculiar idea, makes perfect sense – poets need to cover the rent, while engineers and technologists often crave an artistic outlet.

If that sounds like you, then the Sandy Pisano poetry contest might be just the impetus you need to take a break from the lab and experiment with words and imagery.  The contest is open to all students and there are no topic restrictions. Submissions may be a maximum of two pages (many of the most memorable poems in English are under a page), and each poem should have a title. One submission per student, please.  All poems entered in the contest must be original work.

If you’d like a chance to discuss poems and poetry writing ahead of the contest deadline, mark your calendars for March 29 – the library will be hosting a one-hour workshop. And it won’t just be about food for the mind – snacks will be provided!

For more information, contact the library ( or the communications department ( We look forward to reading your poems!

Photo of TJ Jarrett is from Used by permission.


Posted by raherschbach on 13 Mar 2017

Have you ever dreamed of building a satellite in your garage and launching it into space? The concept might once have seemed far-fetched, but that’s hardly the case today. With the emergence of small form-factor satellites known as CubeSats, satellite projects are now within the capabilities and budgets of university departments and student teams. Meanwhile, more and more opportunities are becoming available for launch.

Dr. Alex “Sandy” Antunes, associate professor of astronautical engineering at Capitol, wrote the book on DIY satellites – literally. In fact, he’s written four of them. He is also a faculty mentor for Capitol Technology University’s student-led CACTUS-1 project, which was selected by NASA as part of its CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and anticipates seeing its payload go into space later this year.

We asked Dr. Antunes to summarize developments in the burgeoning amateur space arena and to discuss the purpose and vision behind his book series.

Many people outside of the field are surprised to hear there is something called “amateur space.” What does this term mean?

“Amateur space” refers to the situation where anyone can launch a satellite – not just state agencies, countries, and major corporations. It’s simultaneously really new and really old. It’s new in the sense that with CubeSats and small form-factor satellites, you can literally build a satellite in the basement, and crowdfund or network your way into a launch opportunity, and launch a soda-can-sized satellite up into space to do something cool.

In another sense, though, amateur space has been going on for a long time. AMSAT has been launching amateur satellites for over 40 years – they started pretty much around the same time that the first commercial satellites were going up. Engineers, in their spare time, would work together and collaborate and fly as secondary payloads. 

What launch opportunities are available?

Here at Capitol, we won a competitive bid for a free NASA launch, via the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). We were one of 14 teams that received the award that year. Why? Because we’re an educational non-profit with a mission that they deemed valid. Currently, CSLI is the main channel for no-cost launch opportunities.

On the other hand, if you have $100,000, you can pay any of the launch providers to send up your CubeSat. Several organizations have raised funds at that level on Kickstarter. It’s likely that we’ll see more affordable options in the future. There are companies currently working to get the cost down to as little as $10,000 per launch.

 Almost every rocket that goes up has some ballast. Say, for example, that a rocket carrying a research satellite can lift 10,000kg. The satellite itself, however, only has to come in under that limit – say the final build ends up at 9,580kg.  Some companies, instead of putting water or lead on as ballast, would like to start selling that space, and that in turn leads to reduced costs.

So you see this is as a growth area?

 Very much so. NASA is working with three start-up rocket companies to conduct launches that will have lots of CubeSats on them, and plans to eventually have launches that are CubeSat-only.  United Launch Alliance, which handles most of the major U.S. launches, has declared they are going to carry 24 CubeSats on every launch that they do.

I anticipate that in 2-5 years every major university will have a CubeSat program. The number of launch opportunities is growing, and the technology is becoming cheaper.

What do these satellites carry?

Most people are sending radio beacons – sometimes jokingly referred to as “beep sats.”  Some cubesats will send a tweet from space – that’s really popular now. On our CubeSat, we’re sending up real scientific payloads. The shift has really gone from “can you send something into space” to “what are you going to send?” Are you going to send something useful?

Aside from the launch opportunity, how much does it cost to build a DIY satellite?

The latest edition of AMSAT Journal included an article on building your own CubeSat. Among other things, the article estimated that it requires about $2,500 in parts – if you know what you’re doing. For a new team, of course, there’s a learning curve – you’re going to break things and burn through a lot of parts, so the amount will be higher. I would recommend that a program have around $10,000 in parts.

You also have to factor in travel costs – travel to test sites, and maybe to conferences or events where you’ll share the results.

What do you see as the biggest hurdles and challenges involved in building your own satellite?

The hardest thing for an amateur getting involved is the licensing and paperwork.  Just finding out what paperwork you have to complete can be a daunting task in itself. It’s easy to build something. To be able to use it legitimately and to comply with the necessary regulations – that’s much harder.

You’ve written four books on amateur space and DIY satellites. What inspired you to begin this series?

I’d just finished up my degree and was working as a freelance science writer.  I said to myself, “we’re in an age when any idiot can build a satellite in their basement, and I’m the idiot to prove it!” A startup company, Interorbital Systems, was offering a $10,000 launch opportunity, so I decided to take up the challenge – and write a blog about this adventure. Every week I blogged about my progress and the mistakes I was making. I learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and published them all.

Starting in 2012, I got the chance to put all the stuff that had worked into a series of Maker Media books: DIY Satellite Platforms, Surviving Orbit the DIY Way, DIY Instruments for Amateur Space, and DIY Comms and Controls for Amateur Space. The idea was to cover the whole process, from starting your build to operating it once it’s in space.

I tried to focus on basic principles, because I knew the tech would change – as indeed it has. The field has already caught up and surpassed me, and that’s a good thing!


Posted by raherschbach on 13 Mar 2017

By Dr. William Butler, Chair, Capitol Technology University Cybersecurity Program

2017 can be a defining year in which the nation makes some fundamental decisions in terms of cybersecurity from a national security perspective.  Defining our response to cyber breaches, certifying IoT devices, and more international cooperation are key to securing our critical infrastructure and adding resiliency.

Also required is a commitment on the part of both government and the private sector to more funding for cybersecurity education to address the continuing talent shortfall.

The 114th Congress passed the Cyber Act of War Act of 2016, directing the President to: (1) develop a policy for determining when an action carried out in cyberspace constitutes a use of force against the United States, and (2) revise the Department of Defense Law of War Manual accordingly. This legislation will hopefully end the ambiguity that we or our potential adversaries may have in terms of our future response to breaches by foreign actors. Deterrence has proven to be the best weapon along with successful prosecutions of cyber criminals.

The White House requested Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to certify Internet of Things (IoT) devices, resulting in a cybersecurity certification of those devices. The UL cybersecurity division has initiated the test and certification program for IoT products. This is a welcome move that can address the ever-growing cyber threat to our critical infrastructure as evidenced last October by the devastating attack of the Mirai computer virus on IoT devices across the Internet.  Certifying these devices prior to deployment into our critical infrastructure will help seal off many of the vulnerabilities that are being exploited today.

Meanwhile, efforts to tackle cybersecurity threats at an international level are continuing. For example, the United States is currently assisting Ghana in fighting criminals and adversaries through an agreement called the Security Governance Initiative. This accord takes a three-pronged approach, providing assistance in three focal areas: law enforcement, border and marine security, and cybersecurity. The U.S. government needs to enter into more of these agreements, as these countries are used as launch points for massive cyber-attacks both against the United States and against other countries.

The shortage of cybersecurity professionals globally is well documented and discussed. This shortage is more than just a numbers issue. It is also a skills issue, in terms of graduates being “job ready” and being properly trained to protect our networks and data. States such as Virginia are beginning to address the issue by offering state level scholarships for service (SFS) and paid internships. More states and local governments should take notice of their tried and true approach to attracting and retaining talent.  Here at Capitol Technology University, we are doing our part to address the skills gap by keeping our cybersecurity curriculum updated and aligned with the emerging threat horizon. That includes a focus on the IoT and the proliferating attack vectors that result from our seemingly insatiable desire for IP-enabled devices.

In short, 2017 can be a year in which decisive steps are taken to protect networks and the people who depend on them. That depends, however, on closer collaboration among governments, the private sector, and academia.  Although important initiatives have taken place, including those discussed above, far more needs to be done.

 Measures such as cyber insurance and improved threat intelligence will become more prominent as the private sector seeks more tools to address the ever growing cybercrime issue. When global terrorism emerged as a top priority issue, policymakers agreed that it required a global response. Cybercrime is no different. It is global in nature, and thus also requires a global response.


Posted by raherschbach on 13 Mar 2017

Earlier this month, a sudden outage struck one of the country’s largest wireless service providers, temporarily preventing users from making 911 calls.

The 90-minute incident, which affected ATT Wireless customers in several states, has been chalked up to a computer glitch rather than hackers. Nevertheless, it illustrates the chaos and confusion that can arise when wireless communications systems are compromised. Such risks are generating increased concern with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT).

With a burgeoning array of wireless systems that are intertwined with the internet, the need for wireless professionals to become cybersecurity-aware has never been greater, says Dr. William Vic Maconachy, vice president of academic affairs at Capitol.

“More and more today, we’re moving to a completely wireless environment,” Maconachy said. “It’s not just about cellphones. So many devices in the home now have wireless connections – everything from the stove to the coffeepot to being able to access your home heating system before you get home.”

“Beyond that, there’s all the wireless at the industrial and federal sites,” he said. “Wireless is the present and the future, and it’s vulnerable.”

Maconachy and members of Capitol Technology University’s faculty will be taking this message directly to the wireless industry later this month, delivering presentations and seminars at the industry’s largest trade event – the International Communications and Wireless Expo, being held this year from March 27-31 in Las Vegas.

“It’s a place where we’re in the eye of international wireless technology companies, and these companies are in need of our education and our students,” Maconachy said.

Capitol’s presentations at the event will include an all-day introduction to cybersecurity offered by the chair of the university’s cybersecurity program, Dr. William Butler, together with professor Rick Hansen and Board of Trustees member Curtis Levinson, who is US Cyber Defense Advisor to NATO.

Butler and Hansen will also be featured panelists in a 90-minute session on ethical hacking, in which cybersecurity professionals deploy the same tools and knowledge used by malicious hackers, but with a different purpose: to locate system vulnerabilities.

Levinson will also be a panelist in sessions on network jamming detection and on network management and cybersecurity for the IoT. Meanwhile, Board of Trustees member Alan Tilles, a partner at Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, will be a panelist in several sessions, including one on the human element in cybersecurity.

This is the third year that Capitol is participating in the IWCE, with which it has an ongoing partnership. As part of the partnership, IWCE members receive a 10% tuition discount on master's-level courses at Capitol, which are provided online via a live, synchronous classroom (to apply, click here and be sure to choose IWCE in Section 2, question 6).

The IWCE is regarded across the industry as the authoritative annual event for communication technology professionals. Each year, it attracts technology buyers from a wide variety of professional sectors, including government/military, law enforcement, public safety, emergency response, the medical profession, transportation, and business enterprise. The event features over 350 exhibitors and attracts an estimated 7,000 participants yearly.

“Every one of the participants in this conference can benefit from the education and degree completions that we offer here at Capitol,” Maconachy said. “And the fact that we provide these programs live and over the net, with proven delivery capability and quality, is something we feel will be of great interest to IWCE attendees.”


Posted by raherschbach on 14 Feb 2017

When learning how to be an effective interviewer or presenter, it can sometimes be helpful to think out of the box.

At Capitol, students are sharpening their interview skills through -- among other things -- exploring the art of improv theater. A workshop being offered at the university's upcoming Career Conference will provide training and practice in techinques that improv actors use to overcome inhibitions and build rapport with an audience.

Often, the same techniques can help foster better communication during interviews and other business situations, such as meeting with clients or giving presentations.

Samantha Van Sant, who is pursuing a theater vocation while also serving as Capitol’s associate director of admissions, will be leading the workshop.

“It’s designed to help the students with interviews, in terms of spontaneity and flexibility in what they’re saying and how they’re responding to what they’re seeing," explained Van Sant, who has trained with the Baltimore Improv Group and currently works with an independent troupe, Topiary, that performs around Maryland and Pennsylvania.“It’s important to have the ability to carry on a conversation on the spot,” Van Sant said.

“Students often walk into interviews with a certain paragraph or dialogue memorized in their head, ready to go – but interviews don’t always go like that,” she said.

The improv workshop is one of several being offered as part of the Career Conference, which takes place on the Capitol campus on February 17th. Other sessions will cover such topics as body language and meeting preparation.

More than 25 area employers, including the CIA, the National Security Agency and Orbital ATK, will be sending representatives to the job fair portion of the conference.

“We require all of our students to attend, and we require all our students to be dressed appropriately,” Associate Director of Career Services Sarah Alspaw said of the event. “It’s good for employers because if you’re looking for qualified candidates, you’ll find them. You’re not going to show up and have two hours of no one to talk to. You’ll be meeting with students who are actively seeking internships and full-time opportunities.”

The conference is part of a year-round career mentoring program that includes interview practice, resume reviews, coaching by Career Services personnel, seminars on business etiquette, and other career preparation activities. For more information, contact Career Services at