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Posted by raherschbach on 10 Aug 2016

Receiving data from CubeSats and other Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can be tricky: their passes over a given location last only a few minutes. That’s not enough time to download images and other large files.

This summer, Capitol students and their counterparts in the university’s Brazilian summer exchange program were involved in a project designed to address this problem.

The solution? Create a network of satellite ground stations around the globe, linked by computer and equipped with software that can co-ordinate the sharing of data – thus allowing a user in one part of the world to communicate with a satellite even when it is no longer in range.

The SatNOGS network, launched in April 2014, currently has three live ground stations, with several others in development.  It was designed with experimenters in mind, with stations that can be constructed for under $500 using readily available tools and the help of a 3D printer.

As it expands, the network will be able to provide vastly enhanced capabilities for retrieving status and telemetry signals as well as payload data from a wide range of LEO satellites, including the International Space Station (ISS).

“SatNOGS consists of a group of stations that are connected to the network; through the web you can download data from satellites even when they are not flying over your ground station,” explained Jonathas Kerber, who studies computer engineering at UFAM-Universidade Federal do Amazonas and was a participant in the Capitol summer exchange program, dubbed Capitol CubeSat Intensive. “If it’s within range of another ground station in the network you can still access your satellite, which is very helpful.”

Adjunct professor Nathan Weideman supervised the project, with Capitol students Xavier Allan and Jackie Cleves serving as teaching assistants. In addition to preparing documentation for SatNOGS, Allan and Cleves constructed a dome that will house the antenna system on top of the McGowan Academic Center and protect against weather hazards.

Weideman says the SatNOGS node will be an asset to ongoing satellite projects at Capitol – including TRAPSat, which is focused on collecting space debris with the help of aerogel.

With TRAPSat, we want to be able to retrieve images, Weideman noted. “And that requires constant contact with the satellite. Normally when you’re in LEO you get 7 to 11 minutes, as it passes over you, and that’s it. And often that’s just not long enough to download the data. With enough of these stations, in theory, you could have an orbit that’s constantly in contact -- so you can push things down like photos.”

Kerber, who worked with the antenna controller and tracking software, says the summer program experience was valuable because he’ll be involved in similar activities when he returns to Brazil.

“I will be a ground station manager at my university, and this was a first try that gave me an opportunity to see what should and shouldn’t be done. With this experience, it will be easier to get a team together and make things work quickly,” he said.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 8 Aug 2016

Ken Mayer has devoted much of his professional life to designing curricula and course content, and in developing ways to deliver them to students. He learned database programming while still ­­­­in high school, and maintained an interest in computer science while majoring in Greek and Latin during college. He was involved with an internet startup, delivering courses to high schools, prior to joining Capitol Technology University. In addition to supervising the university’s online education platforms, he is a member of the adjunct faculty, teaching mythology and other humanities courses.

Capitol embraced online education early on and continues to show a strong commitment to this mode of delivery, especially at the graduate level. Why?

The interaction between our professors, who are working professionals, and our students, who also are often professionals in their fields, is a key component of our success as an institution.  That’s why Capitol was an early adopter of online technology. Because we’ve wanted to have professors who are working, they needed to be able to teach in the evenings. Our students, too, are often only available in the evenings. Online was a natural outflow of that. We’re still very much about professionals teaching professionals, and it makes sense – in this fast-paced world – to do more things online.

What is the guiding philosophy beyond Capitol’s approach?

The key terms would be “live” and “interactive.” That was something that was missing in my previous job, where we were sending out course materials without getting any data back. These were primarily asynchronous, work-at-your-own-pace materials, and we had no metrics available on how students responded to the materials.

When I came to Capitol and looked at examples of the classes being offered, it was great to see that students were engaged and interested in responding in real time, and that the professors were responding to them. I see that as something unique about the Capitol experience, in comparison to a lot of other online programs.

Do you see a role for asynchronous delivery? Are there situations where asynchronous would be appropriate?

Sure. In fact, a lot of our courses are blends of live and asynchronous.

What do you see as some of the stand-out capabilities of our distance learning platform?

What really stands out is how the professors use it. When we have, for instance, faculty members  teaching cybersecurity, they will use the capabilities of our live platform in order to have students share their screens and work together on programming, live. They might collaborate in a diagnosis of malware in a virtual computer, with one student logging in to the virtual machine and sharing the screen to the class so that everyone can work in real time on diagnosing the problem. Meanwhile, the professor will be there, commenting and showing the students where they are on target or going off track. The professor can also take over control, if needed. So it’s hands-on in a way that’s actually not even possible in a traditional classroom.

How did you become involved in distance learning?

I started out as a database programmer in high school, then went to college and studied Greek and Latin – while still keeping up with computer science. In the early 2000s I was involved with an internet startup, delivering courses to high schools, and after that I came to Capitol. I’ve done a lot of work in designing tests and curricula, and in developing ways to deliver them to students.

Where do you see distance learning going in the future? What’s on your wish list?

I’d like to see more in the way of interactive quizzes and other assignments that can be incorporated within the live classroom. There are vendors with products that would enable us to conduct quizzes in Adobe Connect and then bring them back in and grade them – and this feature would even be accessible to students who listen to the recordings of the class session, as opposed to being there in real time.

Currently, our class recordings are useful supplements – allowing for review or reinforcement – but they don’t always work well as stand-alone materials. That is, you wouldn’t offer the recorded sessions on their own, without the context of the live class. I’d like to see us give more attention to developing recorded material that would work asynchronously as well as live. The software needed is not expensive; the challenge is producing the content. 

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 25 Jul 2016

Have you ever wished, while studying for a test, that you could go back and listen to the class lectures again so you could review key points?

Have you ever taken notes only to discover later that you missed something important?

One of the most popular capabilities of Capitol’s online learning platforms is that all lectures are recorded and archived for later use. For Melanie Young, a student in the MBA program, it’s been a key contributor to academic success.

Young says that having this resource available often means she can clarify questions without having to e-mail the instructor, and it’s also a significant study aid at exam time.

“Having the class session recordings is invaluable,” Young says. “Since I’m kind of a night owl, I sometimes work on assignments at a time when it’s not exactly feasible to contact my professor. Being able to go back to the recordings for clarification on notes or slides helps me get things done on my own schedule.”

“The recordings are available for the duration of the term, so I can go back and review them any time I need to. That’s a tremendous asset when studying for midterms or finals. In a regular classroom setting, the lecture happens and then it’s over. Having the lectures captured and available for later use is one of the best things about distance learning at Capitol,” Young said.

Capitol’s online master’s programs, including the MBA, are tailored for working professionals, like Young, who need to balance their jobs and academic schedules. All classes are scheduled in the evenings, with commute times factored in – and because the lectures are recorded, students don’t have to worry in the event that they miss a session due to overtime at the office, gridlock on the ride home, or a missed connection during a business trip.

Young, who previously took master’s-level classes at another institution before starting the program at Capitol, says she appreciates the extent to which the university accommodates the logistics involved in combining academic and professional life.

“The start times allow me to get home and get settled before the class begins,” she said. “Evening classes for the master’s programs at my old school started at 5 pm so I had to ask permission to leave work early every time I had class which was extremely inconvenient.  The program is also designed to really make the most out of the eight-week sessions so the MBA can be finished in a timely manner and help people advance in their careers more quickly.”

The accessibility of faculty members is also a huge plus, Young says.

“The faculty for the program are seasoned in their fields of expertise so I can trust that I am receiving instruction from people with real career experience who really know what they’re talking about,” Young says. “And they’re very accessible. My professors have been amazing about making sure they were available by phone and email to address any questions or concerns we had about the material. I had one professor, Jack Felsher, who said we could contact him for help even when he was on vacation with his family.”

 “That level of dedication is impressive,” she said.

Capitol currently offers, in addition to the MBA, online master’s programs in computer science, cyber and information security, electrical engineering, information systems management, and internet engineering. For more information, contact the graduate admissions office at gradadmit@CapTechU.edu or phone 1-800-950-1992.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 19 Jul 2016

Combining IT with business is a winning proposition in today’s economy, but it’s hard to find a university with a program that melds the two, says Capitol senior Mike Strittmatter, who is currently completing his degree in Management of Cyber and Information Technology (MCIT).

“I wanted to merge the two. I really like doing business but at the same time I really like doing network management,” said Strittmatter, who transferred to Capitol after completing an associate’s degree in networking at Cumberland Community College. “When I was looking around at different universities, I saw there weren’t many options – it was either going into doing more advanced networking, or business. There wasn’t a good middle ground.”

That’s when he heard about Capitol’s program.  “One of my friends, who is also going here now, talked to me about Capitol and so I came down and looked around. I saw they have a degree program that combines both – they have the business AND the information assurance, which is really close to what I was doing in networking,” he said.

The MCIT program aims to produce systems thinkers with both management expertise and technical competence. Students in the program study principles of management, organizational behavior, personnel management, and marketing, among other subjects, and also take IT courses such as programming, network security, secure data communications and data handling.

That made for a good fit, Strittmatter said. “I’m an Eagle Scout so I’m a natural leader, and when I looked at the way the program is laid out, I saw it has a lot of courses that are oriented towards leading and managing teams. I really liked the fact that when businesses look at your resume, they’ll see that you have a lot of leadership and management experience already, as well technical experience. Having a strong network background already, the IT component of the program complements my associates’ degree while the business side gives me the foundation I’ll need for a career in management.”

“I want to do the technical work but at the same time I really want to do management as well, and so it really kind of fell into place.”

Strittmatter’s affinity for business reflects his background: he and his father run a small family company that specializes in furniture reupholstering. He likes keeping busy, and he’s used to juggling classes and work responsibilities. “I’d get bored just sitting around,” he said.

At Capitol he soon sought out opportunities to supplement his coursework with involvement in student projects.  The TRAPSat project, which is focused on developing a method for capturing space debris using aerogel, was of particular interest.

TRAPSat was looking for someone with Strittmatter’s business acumen and he was welcomed on board. “I make sure all the tasks get done in a timely fashion, I make sure our projections for the project closely line up, and I do a lot of part procurement,” he explained. “Once we decide what parts we need, we still have to go through the process of ordering them, which involves procedures and paperwork.” Currently he is Lead Business Analyst/Engineer for the team, which is participating in NASA’s RockSat X program this summer and preparing for a full orbital launch opportunity as part of the CubeSat Launch initiative (CSLI).

On the engineering side, Strittmatter helped design the project’s camera subsystem, aided in the redesign of a raised aerogel support container, helped machine and mill our structural subsystem, and did electrical work on the payload, among other things. “Even though I’m a MCIT student, you don't have to be an engineering major to engineer,” he said. “Having a passion for creating and building things as well as the perseverance to learn the engineering processes and the willingness to do it right is what it really takes.”

He’s also had the opportunity to develop his interest in 3-D printing. Strittmatter says he learned how to 3-D print while at Capitol, and became so fascinated by the technology that he went out and bought two 3-D printers of his own. In recent months, he’s been assisting not only TRAPSat in this area but also the school’s SatNOGS group, which is endeavoring to set up a ground satellite communications system on campus. Many components of the system, including gears, ball bearing housings, and antenna elements have been 3-D printed with Strittmatter’s assistance.

Currently, he is spending this summer as an intern at the NSA, where he says he’s been encouraged to dive further into the information assurance field.

 “My plans are to fuse all these different areas of interest together,” says Strittmatter. “I’m really a jack of all trades – I like to do a little bit of everything.”

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 14 Jul 2016

A group of area high school students are on campus this week, gaining a detailed overview of computer networking at a brand-new camp launched by Capitol this summer and led by Professor Andrew Mehri. It is the second of two new camps offered this summer; an earlier one covered programming.

Capitology spoke with Mehri on Thursday, day four of the networking camp.

“We began with a general introduction to how the internet works, then moved on to the layering mechanism,” he explained. “We went into the OSI and TCP-IP models, and looked at the network the way a networking professional would see it.”

The camp participants aren’t just learning about networks, however; the camp is also giving them practice in applying what they learn.

“On day three, we went full hands-on,” Mehri said. “We started out on the physical layer by putting cables together, then moved up a layer to where they used hubs and switches, and then today they’re going be using routers. They’ve already been introduced to the application layer, by watching data on the network with WireShark. They understand what a packet is, what the payload looks like, what headers and trailers are – so they’re really getting a full picture of the technology involved in a network.”

The camp wraps up Friday with a session on network security, both internally using virtual LANs, and externally using firewalls.

Students drawn to the camp generally have an interest in computers but do not necessarily have any prior experience with networking, Mehri said. The event is open to any student in grades 10-12 with an interest in digging into the technologies underlying today’s internet and finding out how it all works.

Capitol plans to offer both the programming and networking camps in future summers. To find out more, contact the academic dean’s office at jlexner@CapTechU.edu.


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