CS Department News

Catapult Launching Computing Stations for Tech Entrepreneurs

For students who dream of creating the next greatest app, website or tech start-up, Catapult Creative House at Southeast Missouri State University is unveiling a computing space to help them move their entrepreneurial concepts to reality.

On Wednesday, March 21, Catapult, at 612 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau, will launch its new computing stations workspace for tech inspired student entrepreneurs. The launch is scheduled for noon-1:30 p.m. and will feature a presentation by Microsoft’s Chad Lich and Alex Zisser, both Southeast graduates, who will discuss “Digital Transformation.”

The computing stations are located on Catapult’s first floor in Room 102 with direct access to a 3D printer.

“Students can come in and work on their own personal business and start-up ideas,” said Leah Powers, operations manager at Catapult Creative House. “This allows them a direct work station with all the resources for app development and more.”

The idea for the space grew from interest expressed by computer science students who worked in Catapult’s former computer labs. Because they needed a specific set of programs and software unavailable at Catapult until now, efforts began to create the new tech area.

“Having their own working station with computers dedicated with specific software and programs came directly from meetings and discussions with students in the computer science program,” Powers said. “Computer science was a natural fit at Catapult because of its ties to entrepreneurship.”

Dr. Sumanth Yenduri, chair of the Department of Computer Science, said, “The Department of Computer Science is very excited about this new beginning. I am looking forward for both students and faculty to connect and utilize the various opportunities available at Catapult.”

Powers said several students already are working on a variety of projects, including educational apps and those for managing operations for large businesses.

“We expect a wide variety of apps and other projects to be created as our students’ interests expand after the stations open,” Powers said.

Fifteen students have been using the current space and are anxious to get started on the new computing stations, she said.  One of those students is Mathuran Suriyakumaran, a computer information systems major from Sri Lanka who has been using the current space to develop a prediction website for carGO to determine how many drivers are needed in, for instance, the next five or 30 minutes. CarGO is an on-demand ride hailing service in Cape Girardeau.

“We went to Catapult as a site visit. We were impressed with the space,” Suriyakumaran said. “This place is calm and good and available for night meetings anytime when we have an access card” for after-hours work.

Faizel Khan, a computer science major from India, is another frequent user and “appreciator” of the Catapult computing space. He and his friends are working on a startup concept, and they meet at Catapult to share their ideas.  They have contacted professionals in various fields to get feedback on their idea, and are now moving forward with their business plan and development of a mobile app for their business, he said

“I think this new space is going to bring a lot more opportunities for computer science (CS) students as well as students of other disciplines,” he said.  “New facilities, like 3D printing and Mac computers, will attract CS students to come and work at Catapult. This will create a unique opportunity for CS students to collaborate with other students, from the business field or others, to brainstorm start-up ideas. I think it’s an important step towards creating an inclusive environment, where students from almost every discipline can come together and exchange their valuable ideas to take a step forward towards entrepreneurship.

“The station will especially help those entrepreneurs that are keen in creating web-based businesses, as now they can easily approach CS students and ask if their ideas are feasible,” Khan said. “This may bring many projects into place that were just ideas before. I want to congratulate everyone at Catapult for achieving great heights and becoming a valuable part of this institute.”

Powers says Catapult expects student demand to continue to rise after the launch, as the new stations provide a unique and personal workspace for students to create their projects. The computing station space also offers students direct access to existing resources within the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Catapult Creative House. Students can come in and work on any of their projects any time of the day in their own work station during Catapult’s normal hours of 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. They also may apply to have afterhours access to the building outside of their normal operating hours, a benefit not previously available on campus.

“This area allows students direct access to the resources they need to start their own tech business,” Powers said. “Its location and connection to the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Catapult Creative House also offers students additional support while developing their business with an opportunity to launch with our existing resources and the University’s support.”

Launch Speakers

 The computing stations launch and presentation, featuring Lich and Zisser, are open to the public. Lich is an IoT Cloud Solution Architect with Microsoft and has been helping global enterprises in their digital transformation for three years. Prior to Microsoft, Lich worked with Build-A-Bear and Intelligrated (Honeywell Company) as a director of business intelligence and development, leading teams and building software to take advantage of business opportunities. Lich holds a Bachelor in Information Management from Webster University and an MBA from Southeast.

Zisser is an account executive for Microsoft, managing a team of local and virtual resources serving Enterprise retail and CPG accounts in the St. Louis area. Prior to Microsoft, he served as a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning at Southeast, a sales associate for Cape Bicycle Fitness and Missouri Running Company, and a sales representative for Mondelez International. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and an MBA from Southeast.

For more information on the computing station launch, contact Catapult Creative House at (573) 290-5372 or visit catapultsemo.com.

Southeast Cyber Defense Team Wins Multi-State Competition, 6th Straight State Title

For the sixth straight year, the Southeast Missouri State University Cyber Defense Team won the Missouri Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) March 3.

Eleven Southeast students participated in the all-day virtual combined competition that brought together teams from Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Southeast won top honors in the multi-state competition as well as the state championship after beating out the Missouri University of Science and Technology (MST) in Rolla, Missouri for the Missouri title.

The team now advances to the Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, also known as the Erich J. Spenger Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, March 23-24 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois.

Southeast students competing were Lucas Kossack of Grantsburg, Illinois; Jonathan Fulling of Bloomington, Illinois; Mackenzie Bonneville of Mapleton, Illinois; Bryton Herdes of Xenia, Illinois; Ben Shell of Marble, Hill, Missouri; Jonathan “Jonny” Johnson of Rolla, Missouri; Ethan Gyori of Eureka, Missouri; and Adam Elfrink of Jackson, Missouri; The team’s alternates are Drake Fisher of Carbondale, Illinois; Andrew Banning of Salem, Illinois; Scott St. John of Wildwood, Missouri; and Stephanie Graessle of Ballwin, Missouri.

“The students did an amazing job,” said said Dr. Vijay Anand, director of Southeast’s cybersecurity program, faculty advisor to Southeast’s Cyber Defense team and associate professor of computer science.  “Their commitment to the cause and their diligence to accomplish the cause by honing their skills with practices beyond the classroom is noteworthy and commendable. I am very proud of the team, and I do think they are one of the best.

“We have competed in the Missouri CCDC for the last six six years and have won it every time,” he continued. We have accomplished it with different teams, and we have strung together the wins. This speaks to the the quality and excellence of our program that provides a process and framework to accomplish such a feat.”

The competition was designed to test each student team’s ability to secure a networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. The scenario involved team members simulating a group of employees from an Information Technology (IT) service company initiating administration of an IT infrastructure. The teams were expected to manage the computer network, keep it operational and prevent unauthorized access. Each team was expected to maintain and provide public services, including a website, a secure website, an email server, a database server, an online curriculum server and workstations used by simulated sales, marketing and research staff according to the company’s policy and mission. Each team started the competition with a set of identically configured systems.

Southeast now has two and a half weeks to prepare for the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, which involves college teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and another wild card team. Southeast’s Cyber Defense Team is looking for a first place finish after placing second in 2016, third in 2015 and second in 2014 at this event.

Southeast Cyber Defense Team Prepares to Defend Missouri Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Title

Cybersecurity students on Southeast Missouri State University’s Cyber Defense Team will compete against teams from across the state March 3 in the Missouri Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

The students are among 10 teams from Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana vying for a spot in the 2018 Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Qualification Competition March 23 in Chicago, Illinois. State champions will be awarded for each state. Southeast has won the state title the past five years.

“It’s a virtual trench fight throughout the competition,” said Dr. Vijay Anand, director of Southeast’s cybersecurity program, faculty advisor to the Cyber Defense Team and associate professor of computer science. “They’ve spent a lot of work outside of the classroom learning, practicing for this moment.”To earn their spot, the Southeast team will have to best the field of Missouri teams in tomorrow’s half-day virtual competition, protecting a virtual company’s servers hosting emails, websites and essential networks from active virtual attack. While these attacks are occurring, the team will also have to maintain the company’s day-to-day information technology (IT) tasks and responsibilities.

The team has spent nearly 200 hours this year preparing, said Lucas Kossack, the team’s captain. That time is important for the students to develop their skills individually and to flourish as a cohesive team.

“I’m confident about our team in this year’s competition. I know we’re ready,” he said.

Southeast students competing are Kossack, of Grantsburg, Illinois; Jonathan Fulling of Bloomington, Illinois; Mackenzie Bonneville of Mapleton, Illinois; Bryton Herdes of Xenia, Illinois; Ben Shell of Marble, Hill, Missouri; Jonathan “Jonny” Johnson of Rolla, Missouri; Ethan Gyori of Eureka, Missouri; and Adam Elfrink of Jackson, Missouri; The team’s alternates are Drake Fisher of Carbondale, Illinois; Andrew Banning of Salem, Illinois; Scott St. John of Wildwood, Missouri; and Stephanie Graessle of Ballwin, Missouri.

Dr. Wang and Students Participate in February 17th Show Me Day

 Show Me Day 021718

Four students, Michael, Aaron, Andrew, Vincent and Dr. Wang participated in the Show Me Day on Feb 17th.  An AI based game was brought in for potential students to interact with. 

Top U.S. Companies Embedding Cyber-Savvy Southeast Grads

Southeast Missouri State University cybersecurity graduates are in high demand in today’s workforce and are quickly finding success among top U.S. companies dedicated to ensuring the integrity of customer data.

JoLynn Hallmark and Jeremy Wiedner hit the ground running after graduating from Southeast, using their skills to protect networks and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.

“They reflect the culture of excellence that is embedded in the cybersecurity program here at Southeast,” said Dr. Vijay Anand, director of Southeast’s cybersecurity program and associate professor of computer science.

Hallmark, of Andover, Kansas, earned her Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity at Southeast in December 2016. She now lives in Reston, Virginia, working as a security officer at AIG. Wiedner, of Imperial, Missouri, earned his Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity in May 2014, and was a member of the first graduating class of cybersecurity majors. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, working as a manager for the Cyber Threat Analysis Center (CTAC) at Secureworks.

As a manager, Wiedner oversees the work of 15 frontline analysts and interacts with many of the company’s 4,300 international clients to ensure satisfaction and solve problems. He is involved with process improvement and driving change within the company to better serve clients.

Wiedner also serves as the primary recruiting manager for the CTAC, which gives him the opportunity to see the quality of employees that cybersecurity programs are producing.

“I have looked at hundreds of resumes and interviewed dozens of students from cybersecurity programs all over the country,” he said. “Since I know the value of the cybersecurity program at Southeast compared to that of other schools, I have already hired three other graduates from the program and will continue to hire more. Southeast is among the best programs out there.”

Wiedner is not alone in his thinking, as many Southeast cybersecurity alumni often return to help employers recruit graduates from the program. Anand says Southeast has become a preferred University among top companies and corporations for recruiting employees in cybersecurity and cyber defense.

“These types of companies always recruit from Ivy League universities, but they are also coming to Southeast. Our students are that good,” Anand said.

During Wiedner’s job search, many of his interviews resulted in the networking Anand did to draw attention to the new program’s students. Wiedner said he landed his position at Secureworks through his involvement with Southeast’s Cyber Defense Club.

“Secureworks had a large presence at the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, where our Cyber Defense Club was competing, and there was a career fair,” Wiedner explained. “I was recruited into Secureworks from competing.”

Hallmark said she secured her position after serving as a summer intern at AIG. Now, she monitors security devices and investigates alerts to see if true security incidents have occurred. She is also responsible for investigating phishing emails that are sent to employees, ensuring the proper measures are taken to mitigate the risk. She also worked on a side project that required design and development of workflows that the analysts use every day in a new ticketing system.

“That was a big moment, designing a whole new workflow,” Hallmark said. “That made the process more automatic and efficient.”

Constant learning and challenges have been the keys in making Hallmark’s and Wiedner’s careers in cybersecurity so appealing to them.

“I wanted a job that combined my passions and skills. It’s exciting to learn how modern technologies work and how to make them secure,” Hallmark said. “It’s fun and challenging, and I work with some great people who make coming to work every day enjoyable.”

Wiedner added, “We (Secureworks) are number one at what we do. We get to not only see where the cybersecurity industry is going but also get to help drive it as well.”

He hopes one day to become a leader in the cybersecurity industry.

“Starting as a Secureworks analyst was the best way to get there,” he said. “I received two promotions within two and a half years, and now I manage analysts for the top managed security services provider in the world.”

Both alumni credit Southeast with giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for success in their field. Both have also served as leaders of the University’s Cyber Defense Club, which has won five straight state championships and has regularly advanced to regional competitions.

“I was able to start the Cyber Defense Club, and through this opportunity, I was able to further my organizational and leadership skills,” Wiedner said. “I sought opportunities to promote the cybersecurity program, and those helped increase and grow my ability to interact with clients.”

Hallmark, who was the only female member and captain of Southeast’s 2016 Cyber Defense Team, also credits the variety of clubs offered at Southeast as key to her college achievements.

“The friends I made through Ignite student ministry helped me find success away from my job by learning what the most important parts of life are,” she said.

Hallmark advises Southeast students to get involved and set high goals.

“Live in the moment, but don’t forget why you’re there.  Know your top three priorities in life and make sure your schedule aligns with those priorities,” she said.

Wiedner encourages students to be passionate and willing to put in time learning and seeking knowledge outside of the course curriculum.

“The industry needs inquisitive individuals with strong attention to detail that are willing to learn and explore on their own,” he said.

Hallmark and Wiedner are continuing to develop goals within cybersecurity. Wiedner has recently obtained Reverse Engineering Malware certification in preparation for a possible move to the Counter Threat Unit at Secureworks. Hallmark would like to become an incident responder or a security architect.

When not protecting data, Hallmark enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. She also coaches a little league girls’ basketball team, the Lady Unicorns.

Wiedner enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, and they also like outdoor activities, including fishing and kayaking. He does research in his home lab and spins poi, a Maori word for “ball on a string.”


Dempster Hall 021A
Department of Computer Science
One University Plaza, MS 5950
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701