Summer Engagement in Cyber Undergraduate Research Experiences (SECURE)

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Jacobson, Douglas
Rover, Diane
Frickel, Allegra
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Zambreno, Joseph
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Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) contains two focuses. The focus on Electrical Engineering teaches students in the fields of control systems, electromagnetics and non-destructive evaluation, microelectronics, electric power & energy systems, and the like. The Computer Engineering focus teaches in the fields of software systems, embedded systems, networking, information security, computer architecture, etc.

The Department of Electrical Engineering was formed in 1909 from the division of the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering. In 1985 its name changed to Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. In 1995 it became the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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  • Department of Electrical Engineering (1909-1985)
  • Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (1985-1995)

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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.


This proceeding is published as Jacobson, Douglas W., Diane T. Rover, Joseph Zambreno, and Allegra Frickel. "Summer Engagement in Cyber Undergraduate Research Experiences (SECURE)." (2020). Paper ID #32225. 2020 ASEE North Midwest Section Annual Conference. Posted with permission.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020