Launching pad: Considering the potential of UCO’s Don Betz STEM Center

Michael Carolina, left, OCAST executive director, poses with Dr. Thomas and Carolyn Kupiec in the Don Betz STEM Research and Learning Center on the UCO campus.

I’ve always said that I would love to be involved in a STEM career, except for a few barriers – those being science, technology, engineering and math.

So, I’m content to write about those subjects on behalf of my friends at Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and i2E, Inc.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire an awesome new facility like the Don Betz STEM Research and Learning Center on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.

UCO officially opened the new 57,000-square-foot facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Wednesday. I was among about 200 people fortunate to attend.

After the speeches and the ribbon cutting, we were invited inside to check it out.

The Don Betz Center, named after the current UCO President, features state-of-the-art research and teaching labs for multiple academic disciplines and a striking lecture hall that can accommodate 80 students.

As I wandered the halls taking it all in, I encountered Dr. Thomas Kupiec, CEO of Oklahoma City’s ARL Biopharma and DNA Solutions. He and his wife, Carolyn, were visiting with Michael Carolina, OCAST executive director. I consider them all friends of mine and stopped to chat for a moment.

I knew that Dr. Kupiec was a UCO graduate, earning his undergraduate degrees there, but did not realize how involved he remains with the university. He is a member of the UCO Foundation Board of Trustees, and his Kupiec Family Foundation provided funding for the Betz Center’s lecture hall.

Dr. Kupiec pointed me to the lecture hall just across the corridor from where we were talking, so I walked over to check it out. A sign on the outside wall identified it as the Kupiec Family Foundation Lecture Hall, so I stepped inside.

The lecture hall is breathtaking, with theater style seating, sleek white tables and massive video screens scattered throughout.

The lecture hall also doubles as a storm shelter and is identified as such at the entrance.

The rest of the two-story Betz Center was equally impressive. I saw labs filled with microscopes and chemistry hoods. I toured a teaching facility for nurses that looked like an actual hospital room. I saw large racks of computer servers.

Hanging on the walls in the interior corridor were the original drawings of the building as envisioned by the architects at Elliot & Associates.

The Don Betz Center appears to be a perfect place to launch the next generation of chemists, health care professionals and research scientists for whom science, technology, engineering and math are no barriers.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing about it.

Inside the Kupiec Family Foundation Lecture Hall

 

 

 

Fondly recalling my first love in computing — an Apple //e

The original Apple //e, released in 1983

 

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour the NextThought, LLC, offices on the University of Oklahoma’s South Research campus. The company  specializes in educational technology and “connected” online learning.

As founder and CEO Ken Parker escorted me through the open office, I spotted what appeared to be an original Macintosh computer on one of the desks. Ken asked me if that was my first computer.

I said that my first computer was actually an Apple //e.

Ken turned and gave me a high five.  Turns out that his first computer also was an Apple //e, which debuted in 1983.

Of course, Ken learned how to write software on his Apple //e and went on to build an incredible career developing financial services and now educational software.

My interest in the Apple //e was all the cool things I could do with software already available on it such as the original Visicalc spreadsheet, word processing and games. AppleWorks became my go-to software product.

For instance, I used AppleWorks to develop a spreadsheet with which I ran a fantasy baseball league for several years.  Of course, I had to spend several hours each week inputing data from the newspaper into the spreadsheet to make it work.

I did make a couple of unsuccessful stabs at learning to write software on the machine.  Maybe it was a lack of patience that held me back.

i recall writing a little program that printed “My name is Jim Stafford.”  The first time I inputed “run,” into the program, the screen filled with my name and wouldn’t stop. I had to do a hot reboot to get it to stop.  Only later did I realize that my little program needed a line to tell it how many times to print “My name is Jim Stafford” and then a line that said “end” to make it stop.

The Apple //e sat on my kitchen table for a half dozen years before I finally, reluctantly, retired it. It controlled my checking account. I tracked stocks on it. I wrote articles and even created a little newsletter. I added a modem and surfed local OKC online “bulletin boards.”

Finally, I gave it to my uncle to use in his business.  I moved on to the more modern Mac.

I still miss my original Apple.

 

RNT Cyber Ethics Conference highlights importance of protecting computer data

Jonathan Kimmitt from the University of Tulsa addresses the recent RNT Cyber Ethics Conference as keynote speaker

Editor’s note:  I attended the recent RNT Cyber Ethics conference at Metro Tech’s Springlake Conference Center on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology.  My question up-front was “why cyber ethics” vs. “cyber security?”  I got my answer from keynote speaker Jonathan Kimmitt from the University of Tulsa.  Below is an article I wrote on behalf of OCAST, with an abbreviated version published in today’s editions of The Oklahoman:

Life-and-death consequences can result from decisions made by computer network administrators to keep their systems secure from outside attackers, said Jonathan Kimmitt, chief information security officer for the University of Tulsa.

Exhibit A: The Wannacry ransomware cyber attack on medical facilities across Great Britain in the spring of 2017 that crippled the ability of state-run hospitals to provide medical care.

Wannacry put lives of patients in British hospitals at risk because of delays in surgeries and urgent care, Kimmitt told an audience at the recent RNT Cyber Ethics Conference 2018 at the Metro Technology Center Springlake conference center.

Kimmitt was the first of several keynote speakers and session leaders to address the ethics of cyber security at the two-day conference, sponsored by RNT Professional Services, a Norman-based company that provides cyber security risk assessments, training and security project management.

“It really does come down to ethics and decision making,” Kimmitt said. “If I were to release everyone’s information out into the world, would that be ethical? I would say it’s not. But if I allowed a system to be vulnerable, which caused someone to release that information, is that the same thing?”

In the Wannacry cyber attack, network administrators shared in the blame because they delayed updating their computer servers with Microsoft-recommended patches that would have kept the malware at bay.

“We had a bunch of server administrators in the U.K., who had that mentality, who said ‘we’re not going to update our servers, we’re not going to make any changes,’” Kimmitt said. “Those who are in IT hear that all the time. Well, their machines were unpatched, and, therefore, they got ransomware.”

Other conference speakers followed with similar themes.

Kevin Owens, principal at Spokane, Wash.-based Cerberus Cybersecurity, LLC, outlined how Russian cyber attackers took down much of the electric grid in Ukraine by using “spear-phishing” tactics to gain an administrative password

In spear-phishing, attackers use personal information gathered online about targets to disguise themselves as a trustworthy friend or entity.

“The No. 1 thing that you guys can learn is we’ve got to learn to defeat spear-phishing,” Owens said “This is the No. 1 way these guys are getting in. We need to train users.”

Tom Vincent, banking, compliance and data security/privacy attorney at GableGotwals, conducted a session on the importance of ensuring data security and privacy in a corporate setting.

“More and more it’s a financial issue,” Vincent said, citing a case where a pharmacy lost a $1.4 million judgment because personal data of a single customer was released by an employee. “You should not have security and privacy be an afterthought.”

There are many examples that show the importance that ethical decision-making plays in maintaining data security, said Teresa Rule, President of RNT Professional Services.

“When I was 11 years old, my cousin Susan’s diary was stolen by my other cousin and he read it out loud,” Rule said. “She was very embarrassed, but only the people at the dinner table heard it. But now if you were to steal someone’s electronic diary, it goes global. Remember Sony? Ashley Madison?”

“If you are the owner of a business or someone who is responsible for protecting data and you are not taking due diligence you are not being an ethical citizen.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

A cup of joe with the new Mayor of Fort Smith

Whenever I drive over to my hometown of Fort Smith, Ark., to visit my widowed mother, I manage to squeeze in a visit to my favorite local coffee shop, Fort Smith Coffee Co.

Located just off downtown’s Garrison Ave., Fort Smith Coffee Co. has a great vibe with a mix of young hipsters and older folks like me (who skew the demographics of the place!). It has good coffee, good background music, plenty of sun and is a great place to hang.

So, I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat on a stool with the sun at my back watching people come and go.

Suddenly, a handsome man wearing a suit and tie came through the door. He seemed to know everyone, laughing and joking with other patrons as he ordered his coffee.

As I started to depart a few minutes later, it occurred to me that this was George McGill, Fort Smith’s newly elected Mayor.  He was seated near the exit reading the newspaper as I headed to the door, so I walked up and said “you look like you could be the Mayor.”

He laughed, stood up and shook my hand as we introduced ourselves. We talked for a few minutes, and he touted the city for all the good things that are happening like a recent music festival and a downtown public art project called “The Unexpected.”

Then he told me that his election as Mayor says a lot about the city because “African-Americans make up only 8 percent of the population.”

I agree. I’m proud of Fort Smith for electing George McGill as its Mayor, and for the exciting things going on like public art and construction of the new U.S. Marshall’s museum along the Arkansas River.

And that a place like Fort Smith Coffee Co. was thriving on a Saturday morning.

My friend Ed told me that I drove a long way to get a cup of coffee. Yeah, but I get to see my Mom and all the positive changes going on in Fort Smith, so it’s always worth it.