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Cyber security, educational projects, faculty mentors, virtual research experience


Background: This virtual initiative, called Summer Engagement in Cyber Undergraduate Research Experiences (SECURE), was established as a response to support students who may have lost summer internships and/or have financial hardships due to COVID-19. Several students in the program were NSF S-STEM scholars, a mix of computer engineering, cyber security engineering, electrical engineering and software engineering students.
Purpose/Hypothesis: The main question addressed by this initiative was whether we could build a virtual undergraduate research experience that enabled students to apply their studies and knowledge similarly as they would in a traditional summer internship. Goals for the experience included providing small-group mentoring as well as broader opportunities for students to learn about design and research skills and to collaborate across projects.
Design/Method: Sixteen paid students were assigned to one of ten projects. Several students were classified as sophomores, and others were more advanced. Projects were proposed by faculty mentors with an emphasis on the development of educational experiences using research and/or design approaches. Several projects revolved around cyber security. We introduced students to the research process, while adapting to the limitations of a virtual program. While our main goal was to support students and provide summer work, we also made progress on projects that were established before the program.
Results: The SECURE program operated from May 18 through July 31, 2020. The program was funded using funds remaining in an NSF grant with the approval of the program manager. It was successfully implemented through the concerted efforts of faculty, staff and graduate students to rapidly set up program operations. The goals for the program were met, and the feedback from the students and mentors were very positive.
Conclusions: We demonstrated it is possible to rapidly build a virtual internship program to meet student needs, and we are working to obtain funding to continue the project next summer. The future goal will be to offer a hybrid model where students can be virtual or a combination of virtual and on-campus.




South Dakota State University


© American Society for Engineering Education, 2020. Posted with permission.


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