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Alumni Demonstrate Generosity Through High-Tech Philanthropy

Armed with a big idea and a short email list, Zoher Bharmal (MS, Computer Science’98) started a unique effort to fund scholarships for computer science students at USC. Bharmal, who is an employee at Microsoft’s Irving, Texas facility, wanted to establish an endowment to give back to the university where he and his wife, Farida, earned their degrees. But he could not fully fund the $25,000 required to endow a scholarship. He turned to Microsoft’s matching gift program, which provides dollar-for-dollar money to charitable organizations or institutions selected by Microsoft employees. Then, he looked to a group of employees within Microsoft who were USC alumni. Though he had not met any of these colleagues and they were scattered across the country, he sent them an email detailing his hope to fund a computer science scholarship through their collective contributions. Within a week, six USC alumni joined the effort. “What’s interesting about this group is that most of us don’t know each other, but we are joined by our interest in giving something meaningful back to USC, “said Bharmal. “We may live thousands of miles apart - Seattle, Dallas, Washington DC and Charlotte - but we have a common bond.” Using Microsoft’s payroll deduction and matching gift contributions, the group is expected to fully fund the scholarship within 18 months. For information regarding contributions to the USC Alumni/Microsoft Employees Endowed Scholarship Fund, contact Jeff Verver at The College of Engineering and Computing at or call (803) 777-3612. In Their Own Words
“I’ve considered giving to the university, but wanted my efforts to go to something beyond a general fund. When I saw the opportunity to participate in the endowment, I jumped on board. With Microsoft’s match, you feel even better that you can give even more.”
Evan Dodds – Microsoft employee, donor and alum
“USC enabled me to be at Microsoft today, and I am thrilled to give and help undergraduates succeed! I was very grateful for the help and education I received, and felt that in some way I should give back. I think about all the instructors who helped me, and even though it was years ago I can vividly remember all of them. The Microsoft match makes giving that much easier.”
Amy Vargo – Microsoft employer, donor and alum This articles is from the CEC News website.

Cyber Defense Team wins 2nd Place

The USC Cyber Defense Team placed Second in the state-wide Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition held yesterday in Charleston! The Team, consisting of Alex Cummings, Brian Flick, Jonathan Kilby, Patrick McIntyre, Aadel Ragaban captain, and Catharine West have been training and practicing with the expert assistance of Ronni Wilkinson and Joey Eckstrom. Each team in the competition, a "Blue" Team, had to defend the network of a small company against continual attacks from a "Red" Team, consisting of professionals from SPAWAR and NSA. At the start, each network was totally insecure and already compromised. Our team had to race to get their network secured, thwart the attacks, and able to conduct business operations. This is the first time we have entered the competition – all of the other teams have been there before – and next year we plan to win it! You can also hear Ronni Wilkinson being interviewed by the IT Minute podcast about this competition.

Outstanding Graduate Student Awards

Aspen Olmsted We congratulate the following graduate students for receiving recognition for their outstanding work. Aspen Olmsted, was named Outstanding Graduate Researcher, Computer Science & Engineering. James O'Reilly was named Outstanding Teaching Assistant, Computer Science & Engineering. They will be listed in the Graduate Student Day Awards Ceremony bulletin.

Connor Bain Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Connor BainWe are pleased to announce that one of our undergraduate students, Connor Bain, has received a Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater Scholarship is awarded nationally to sophomores and juniors pursuing bachelors’ degrees in natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering and who intend to pursue a career in research and/or college-level teaching. Connor has been active in the ARENA. You can read the official announcement.

Dr. Beer Receives Telerobotics Grant

Dr. Jenay Beer has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and Georgia Tech for her project on "Telerobotics Research". The goal of this research is to understand how robots can help older adults with disabilities. The proposed robots work like "Skype on wheels" allowing a person to remain connected with his friends and family. Her lab has already acquired some exciting new technologies: The full abstract of the project follows:
Age-related functional declines and secondary conditions can result in mobility and participation restrictions that can put individuals aging with disability at risk for further loss of functional capacity and social isolation. The purpose of this project is to understand the requirements of robotics interventions to compensate for loss of maintaining activity and social interaction among older adults with disabilities. Specifically, we are interested in the use of telerobots used for social communication. These types of robots function a lot like "Skype on wheels", and may provide opportunity to older adults to remain better connected with friends, family, and healthcare professionals. Specific aims of this project are to: 1) understand the barriers and facilitators to telerobot acceptance for older adults with disabilities and age-related declines; 2) assess the usability of a telerobot, and determine the characteristics necessary to enable older adults with hearing loss and age-related mobility limitations to control a telerobot; and 3) determine the effectiveness of telerobotic exercise interventions for enhancing exercise outcomes and social connectedness. The project will produce evidence to support the use of telerobots for interactive exercise interventions as well as recommendations for the design of telerobotic technologies.

Code-A-Thon Winners

The Code-A-Thon was a great success by all accounts! Great projects and great participation. There were 12 teams that entered, so competition was stiff, and the winners were:
  • 1st Place: Muhammad Nazmus Sakib, Hossen Mustafa, Junaed Bin Halim, and Daniel Pade for their app to do Personal Scheduling.
  • 2nd Place: Sujan Pakala, Lingxi Zhou, Yang Song, and Jie Huang for their website on Shopping for Groceries Economically.
  • 3rd Place: Daniel Vu, Tyler Wagner, and Mathew Velasquez for their app on Searching for Items You Own.
Congratulations to all entrants!! And special thanks to Barb Ulrich, Randi Baldwin, Ronni Wilkinson, Dr. Tang, and Sherri Altizer for the logistics, and to Boeing IT for their generous sponsorship.

Outstanding Senior Awards

We are proud to announce the following winners of the CSE Annual Undergraduate Awards:
  • The award of Outstanding Senior in Computer Information Systems goes to Gergely A. Uszkay.
  • The award of Outstanding Senior in Computer Science goes to Logan M. Hood.
  • The award of Outstanding Senior in Computer Engineering goes to Jonathan L. Kilby.
  • The South Carolina Professional Engineers' Award in Computer Engineering goes to Maximus R. Brandel.

Magellan Scholars: Ogunji, Piedt, and Twitty

We would like to congratulate three of our undergraduate students for winning Magellan awards. They are Jilbert Ogunji for his project titled "Cost Effective Method of Validating and Improving Computationally Modeled Protein Structures", Jared William Piedt for his project "Gamecock Mobile: Increasing Student Productivity Through Mobile Applications.", and Earron Twitty for "Development of an Integrated Software Package for Analysis of Structure and Dynamics of Biomolecules from RDC Data."

Dr. Buell Named AAAS Fellow

We are proud to announce that Dr. Duncan Buell has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This is one of the highest honors awarded to any scientist. It is bestowed upon AAAS members who have made scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Students Inducted to IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society

We would like to congratulate Tamara Nicole Richardo Nurse, Shannon Hood, Ming Wong, and Michael T. Brunson, II for being chosen to join the IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society. The IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society at the University of South Carolina honors excellence in engineering by recognizing the leaders of today and tomorrow in the areas of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Information Systems, and Computer Engineering. On November 19th, 2013, eight students were inducted into the Delta Phi Chapter of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu. The ceremony was held in the Electrical Engineering Conference Room in Swearingen Engineering Center. Congratulations to Eta Kappu Nu’s newest members: Tamara Nicole Richardo Nurse Shannon Hood Amanda Elliot Ming Wong Joshua Slice Michael T. Brunson, II Jeffrey M. Baker Matthew Watke The University of South Carolina established the Delta Phi Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu on May 17, 1962, and the chapter was recently reactivated last year. The chapter now has 16 undergraduate students, 1 graduate student, and 1 faculty member. Eta Kappa Nu is the Honor Society for the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering. In 2010 IEEE and Eta Kappa Nu merged to form IEEE-HKN. The organization currently has about 200 university chapters and thousands of student members. After graduation, members can continue their association with IEEE-HKN.