Category Archives: Technology and Computer Science

ECU engineering student awarded SMART scholarship

An East Carolina University junior is one of approximately 150 engineering students nationwide to receive a prestigious scholarship.



Jacob Swink of Roanoke Rapids was awarded the Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship by the American Society for Engineering Education and the U.S. Department of Defense. Approximately 1,900 applications were received.

The scholarship was established to support both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It aims to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers who work in national defense laboratories, according to the scholarship website.

The scholarship will cover Swink’s full tuition and books through the completion of his engineering degree at ECU – an estimated value of more than $14,700. It also will pay for a graduate degree program should he choose to pursue one. The award includes a $35,000 stipend each year, as well as a summer internship and post-graduation employment with Fleet Readiness Center East, the engineering support group for marine and naval aircraft, at Marine Corps Air Station – Cherry Point.

Swink believes he was selected because of his relatively high GPA and summer work experience. He also is an Eagle Scout. “I was asked multiple questions about that, and the interviewers expressed what a great accomplishment that was,” he said.

Swink was accepted into multiple engineering programs but chose ECU because of its size. “My engineering classes have no more than 30 students in them, and I enjoy the attention the professor gives each student,” he said.

Swink is the son of David and Nina Swink. His mother has a master’s degree in math from ECU.

ECU’s engineering program, established 10 years ago, has 520 students enrolled and resides in the College of Engineering and Technology.

For more information about the SMART scholarship program, visit or to learn more about the ECU engineering program, visit

Capstone projects provide a way to give back to the community

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Greenville Boys and Girls Club. (Contributed photo)

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County. (Contributed photo)

By Margaret Turner
College of Engineering and Technology

Students in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology helped revamp information technology systems and make process improvements for two Pitt County agencies dedicated to improving the lives of children.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County, and the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center in the Brody School of Medicine hosted senior capstone teams in the 2013-2014 year.

A capstone project is an assignment that serves as a student’s culminating academic experience, resulting in a final product, presentation or performance. The term means “high point” or “crowning achievement.”

The projects are designed to encourage students to think critically, solve problems, conduct research and develop oral communication, public speaking, teamwork and planning skills. At ECU, the capstone project often has been a way to connect and support the university’s strategic initiatives of leadership, service and economic prosperity in eastern North Carolina.

Senior information and computer technology students Richard Everhart, Ben McKinzie, Trevor Dildy, Daniel Pennington and Lindsey Esslinger worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Winterville. Misty Marston, director of the Boys and Girls Club, identified technological areas that needed improvement to help the organization continue to grow and provide services to more Pitt County children.

Some of the technology needs included faster infrastructure, increased reliability, secure access to files and remote access for leaders who may be traveling or working from another site. The upgrades allow for a more stable information technology platform.

“Knowing the project was going to benefit such a worthy cause gave it more of a purpose than just completing a job,” Everhart said. “We got a chance to see how hard the staff at the club works and how passionate they are about improving the lives of children they work with.”

Engineering students Bobby Cox, William Gurkin, and Patricia Pigg completed another community project at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, which provides child-centered and comprehensive services by experts in the field of child abuse.

Many parents scheduled for initial evaluation failed to show up, thus missing out on the help they needed and filling appointment slots other patients might have taken. The students developed new reminder systems and processes designed to decrease the number of missed appointments. As a result, there has been a significant drop in missed appointments, which will allow more children to be seen on an annual basis.

“The engineering students were the best group of student learners I have supervised in my ten years at ECU,” said Julie Gill, TEDI BEAR director and capstone supervisor. “I have no doubt of the significant positive impact this project will have for improving our ability to serve abused children in our region.”

Dr. Charles Lesko, assistant professor of information and computer technology, mentors each capstone team in his department. “One of the biggest challenges to any capstone program is finding projects with meaning and value,” he said. “I challenge the students to find projects to work on that will add value both to their education as well as to others. It’s a tremendous feeling when you can take the skills you have learned at the college and impact the lives of others.”

In 2007, information and computer technology and engineering began requiring yearlong capstone projects for senior students. The information and computer technology program is housed within the technology systems department. Both departments reside in the College of Engineering and Technology. Most departments in the college require an internship or capstone project, or provide opportunities for both.




Center for Sustainability Announces 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member

Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, has been selected for the 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member of the Year Award for the Center for Sustainability. The Center for Sustainability is housed in the College of Engineering and Technology at ECU.



Since 2008, Curtis has contributed to both the Center’s research and outreach activities and to the learning experiences of the students pursuing the master’s in sustainable tourism.

As the faculty lead in the Climate, Weather and Tourism Initiative, Curtis co-hosted the first Southeast U.S. Regional workshop for tourism businesses, researchers and policy-makers, chaired a master’s thesis addressing information use in decision-making by tourism businesses and conducted a focus group of tourism business owners in Beaufort, North Carolina on the effects of weather on tourism products and services.

Curtis received his bachelor’s in environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and then received his master’s and doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Wisconsin. His research areas include climate variability and smallholder farming in the Caribbean, climate, weather, and tourism and coastal storms.

Curtis co-authored the “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Bridging Science and Practice” publication, has presented at six conferences on behalf of the Center, developed the Seasonal Weather and Tourism Dispatch and contributed to the National Climate Assessment- Southeast Climate Consortium report. He participates in a wide range of Center- and student-sponsored events.

– Margaret Turner

Passion, persistence leads to success for ECU student

Anthony Peterson

Anthony Peterson

By Margaret Turner
ECU College of Engineering and Technology

At the end of July, at least one East Carolina University senior will be working full time in the Research Triangle area for Cisco, an international networking company.

Anthony Peterson Jr., a Sampson County native and first generation college student, is expected to graduate magna cum laude May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in information and computer technology. The program is in the Department of Technology Systems in the College of Engineering and Technology. Peterson spent a year at Cisco as an intern in their Customer Advocacy Lab Operations.

Peterson developed a passion for technology in high school. “I tinkered around a lot with computers in high school so I knew I wanted to work in information technology when I came to ECU,” he said. “The program is really hands-on, which is what attracted me.”

After initially being turned down for an internship with Cisco, Peterson was persistent and tried a second time. John Pickard, a teaching instructor in the information and computer technology program, encouraged him to “go for it and get your name out there.”

He was hired and agreed to intern for six months, while taking night and online classes so he wouldn’t have to postpone his graduation date. After his first six months, he stayed on for another six-month internship, earning several certifications through Cisco along the way.

Peterson credits his strong work ethic to his parents, Anthony Peterson Sr. and Charlene Peterson, both of whom work for the public school system in Sampson County. “I’ve seen them work hard their entire lives,” he added.

While at Cisco, Peterson became well known for his work ethic. He even mentored fellow interns. “Working at Cisco provided me with real world examples and lots of lessons of how to succeed in this world,” Peterson said. “It also showed me a glimpse of what’s in store for my future. My interpersonal skills grew and I just grew better as a person.”

After the internship, Peterson was able to share his newfound knowledge and skills with underclassmen when he returned to ECU and worked as a lab monitor.

“Anthony is an outstanding student and has excelled in our ICT program,” Pickard said. “His high level of maturity and ability to handle responsibility led me to hire him as a lab worker in our networking lab for multiple semesters. His hard work and determination have definitely paid off, and I know he will excel in his next endeavor.”

Peterson set several goals early on to “finish high school, then college, and then, to get a good degree with a job in hand.

“I know my parents are proud of me, and it makes me happy to make them proud,” he said.



Construction Management students compete in international event

ECU students Leanna Becker, Ben Avolis, Courtney Carter, Dylan Hutchinson, Brantlee Jobe and Alex Littleton (pictured left to right) competed in the international Residential ConstructionManagement Competition. (Contributed photo)

ECU students Leanna Becker, Ben Avolis, Courtney Carter, Dylan Hutchinson, Brantlee Jobe and Alex Littleton (pictured left to right) competed in the international Residential Construction Management Competition. (Contributed photo)

By Erin Acree
ECU Department of Construction Management

Six students from East Carolina University’s Department of Construction Management competed last month in the Residential Construction Management Competition at the International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas.

The 34 teams that participated from universities and colleges throughout the United States represented the top 2 percent of students in their field across the country.

The competition gave participants the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to a real construction project by completing a management proposal to develop a pre-selected plot of land. Proposals were submitted to a group of construction company executives who acted as judges. During the convention, students defended their proposals to the judges in front of an audience.

ECU students placed in the top half of the teams competing and they hope to be selected to compete again next year. Leanna Becker, Ben Avolis, Courtney Carter, Dylan Hutchinson, Brantlee Jobe and Alex Littleton attended. Alternates were Megan Sommer, Logan Hahm and Kacie Wolcott, who will serve on the team in 2015. Dr. Eric Connell served as advisor.

The International Builders’ Show is the premier event for National Association of Home Builders student chapters to network with builders from across the country. The competition, held during the show, gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to solve construction-related problems by working on real-life construction projects. There are three levels of competition: four-year programs, two-year programs and secondary school programs.

Technology Systems faculty receive awards

ECU technology systems professor Dr. Hamid Fonooni (right) receives an award from Rick Pollock, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers. (Contributed photos)

ECU technology systems professor Dr. Hamid Fonooni (right) receives an award from Rick Pollock, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers. (Contributed photos)

Two faculty members in the East Carolina University Department of Technology Systems in the School of Technology and Computer Science have been honored with professional awards.

Dr. Hamid Fonooni

Dr. Hamid Fonooni received the Dr. William E. Tarrants Outstanding Safety Educator Award for exemplary achievements in safety, health and environmental education.

Sponsored by the ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers) and PPG Industries, the award is the highest honor a safety educator can receive. It recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and professional services as part of the ASSE.

As award recipient, Fonooni presented at the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations in Canada. He was the only invited speaker from the United States representing academia.

Fonooni teaches in ECU’s master’s of occupational safety progam

Dr. Robert Chin

Dr. Robert Chin

Dr. Robert Chin

Dr. Robert Chin received the Orthogonal Medal, honoring outstanding contributions to the advancement of graphic science. The award is recognized nationally as one of the most respected in the field of engineering graphics.

In April, Chin will serve as the 2014 Distinguished Lecturer at the 30th Annual Distinguished Lecture series offered by the technology, engineering and design engineering faculty at North Carolina State University.

ECU students meet pharmaceutical reps, discuss jobs

ECU students enjoyed an opportunity to meet with pharmaceutical company representatives during an open house on campus. (Photos by Margaret Turner, ECU College of Technology and Computer Science)

ECU students enjoyed the opportunity to meet with pharmaceutical company representatives during an open house on campus. (Photos by Margaret Turner, ECU College of Technology and Computer Science)

A pharmaceutical open house on campus provided assistance to ECU students in networking and securing jobs upon graduation.

The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry and the College of Technology and Computer Science cohosted the pharmaceutical open house Sept. 25 in the Science and Technology Building.

Dr. John C. Sutherland, interim dean of Harriot College, and Dr. David White, dean of the College of Technology and Computer Science, presented introductory remarks at the event, which was attended by more than 87 ECU students and alumni. Both encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunity before them, with the first event of this type being offered.

“There are many great employment opportunities in the pharmaceutical field for our graduates,” White said.  He further encouraged students to “seek out opportunities for internships and co-ops to best prepare for these great jobs.”

Representatives in attendance from pharmaceutical companies across eastern North Carolina included DSM (Greenville); Hospira (Rocky Mount); Metrics (Greenville); PCI: Pharmaceutical Calibrations and Instrumentation, LLC (multiple locations); Purdue Pharma, L.P. (Wilson); Sequence, Inc. (multiple locations); The West Company (Kinston); and Novo Nordisk (Clayton).

Students were able to meet with the various representatives, ask questions, present their resumes and participate in impromptu interviews.

“We want to help students find jobs that will further their careers and also keep them in North Carolina,” said David Harrawood, event organizer. “ECU has a tremendous impact on the economic development of eastern NC. Offering an event such as this displays our commitment to furthering that development across our region.”

Dr. Rickey Hicks, chair of the Department of Chemistry, said, “Overall, the company representatives said they were very happy with the training, experience and professionalism of ECU’s students. They had their resumes, asked good questions and were engaged in the process.”

“The event was a great success. Our students gained valuable experience through the interview process and learned about potential career opportunities in eastern North Carolina.”

An open house on campus helped students meet with potential employers in the pharmaceutical industry.

An open house on campus helped students meet with potential employers in the pharmaceutical industry.

ECU students take construction management skills to Vegas


An ECU team from construction management traveled to Las Vegas to participate in the National Association of Home Builders Student Chapters’ Residential Construction Management Competition.


Six construction management students from East Carolina University competed this January in the National Association of Home Builders Student Chapters’ Residential Construction Management Competition in Las Vegas.

The event is part of the annual International Builder’s Show.

To participate, each chapter’s team was asked to design a residential development of a piece of land that spanned 118 acres, and included a portion that was zoned for commercial use. They were asked to develop a plan for acquiring financing to purchase the land, prepare a construction budget and schedule, a marketing and risk analysis and a project site and land development plan. Green building initiatives were also to be considered.

The juniors and seniors representing ECU were Brandon Haddock, Brantlee Jobe, Matthew Lorbacher, Chris Pecorino, Collin Silverthorne, and Kaitlyn Umphlet.

The students spent hundreds of hours during the fall semester – including time during their holiday break – meeting the project guidelines and designing a presentation for the competition. They consulted with a local developer and engineers to get feedback on their proposal.

After arriving in Las Vegas, the team presented their design proposal before a panel of five judges who are currently top contractors and developers from across the nation. Every team member had to speak before the panel.

“It was a great real-world learning experience that you can’t always get in a classroom,” said senior Matthew Lorbacher. “It showed me how competitive it is in this business and how important it is to have every detail correct.”

The ECU team placed 13th out of 31 schools. It was first team to compete for ECU in more than two years.

College of Technology and Computer Science’s industry partner Caterpillar Inc. helped pay for the students’ travel costs. Ron Sessoms, team advisor and teaching instructor in the Department of Construction Management accompanied them on the trip.

“The experience is unbelievable for these students” Sessoms said. “In the designing of the project, they extend the knowledge of what they have learned in the classroom.”

“Competitions are great learning experiences for our students,” agreed Dr. David White, dean of the College of Technology and Computer Science. “We are proud that our team carried on the tradition of excellence and leadership that is associated with construction management at ECU. “

The students did enjoy one day of leisure while in the Las Vegas area. They traveled to see the Hoover Dam – a famous example of a massive construction project.

ECU names department chair for Technology Systems

Mohammed mug


The College of Technology and Computer Science at ECU has named Dr. Tijjani (TJ) Mohammed as the chair for the Department of Technology Systems (formerly the Department of Industrial Technology).

Mohammed has been employed as a faculty member of East Carolina University for 16 years. He most recently served as the interim chair of the department for two and a half years.

He has served in various other capacities, including as graduate advisor for several master’s and PhD students, and as coordinator for the Digital Communications and Computer Networking Management concentrations and the Computer Network Professional Graduate Certificate program.

“I was surprised and humbled that I was one of the faculty’s top picks for the chair position,” Mohammed said. “It is very exciting to work in a department that has houses accessible technology programs in high-demand fields that directly impact regional and statewide economic development.”

Mohammed received his B.S. in Technical Education from the University of Central Missouri, an M.S. in Electronics and Computer Technology from Indiana State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Education from Texas A&M.  He has a strong history of collaboration on a variety of externally funded projects and on a number of publications in information and computer technology and related areas.

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