Students connect with industry leaders at ASU, IBM blockchain technology conference
ALBANY, Ga. – More than 100 people visited Albany State University (ASU) to learn about blockchain technology from industry leaders at Technology Link: Blockchain Conference 2018. It was the first event of its kind between IBM, one of the country’s largest tech employers, and a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
The one-day conference, hosted by the ASU Office of Career Services and IBM, brought together students and faculty from several HBCUs, as well as students and teachers from the Dougherty County School system, other colleges and universities and area business professionals.
“We are proud to be the first HBCU to host a blockchain conference with IBM. Preparing students for high-demand careers is one of our top priorities,” said Tracy Williams, director of the ASU Office of Career Services. “Partnerships with companies like IBM exposes our students to ground-breaking technology and opens the doors for future employment. Several ASU students have earned internships and have been hired by IBM because of this great partnership.”
Blockchain is a peer-to-peer network that uses a shared ledger, smart contracts, cryptography, and consensus to create secure immutable transactions between different organizations. Blockchain allows businesses to share data and exchange assets quickly and efficiently, and has the potential to transform finance, supply chains, healthcare and personal data.
“Our generation doesn’t really know about certain technologies because we only see things like Apple and Google. We don’t see what runs those technologies,” said Julious King, a senior computer science major at ASU. “We get a chance to experience them know.”
King was the first participant in the ASU-IBM Partnership and the first student to be hired by IBM from ASU since the partnership began in Fall 2016. He currently works as a software engineer at IBM, providing IBM z/OS support in addition to working with a host of other related database, operating systems and network services and programs. During the conference, he spoke to attendees about his experience.
“IBM believes that educational institutions play a critical role in partnering with employers and communities to prepare students with the skills of the future,” said Misty Decker, of IBM’s academic initiative. “We have a long history of supporting those efforts starting with the first ever computer science curriculum in the 1940s. Efforts like today’s blockchain conference with ASU prepare students for the innovative jobs of today – and tomorrow.”
Conference topics included an introduction to blockchain, design thinking, IBM academic initiatives, blockchain solutions, and blockchain marketing, among other topics.
ASU computer science student Melody Collins said the information she gathered at the conference has helped her better understand what she is learning in her academic classes.
“I love the conference. We’ve been working with blockchain a lot this semester and the conference has added to that knowledge. It’s been a great experience,” Collins said.
The conference wasn’t Collins’ first time interacting with IBM. In October, she and seven other ASU students won second place in the IBM Blue|Hack competition. The team designed RAMBOT, a system to take videos and pictures and detect suspicious objects and persons in a large crowd based on an IBM WATSON artificial intelligence facial and object recognition algorithm.
“This blockchain conference is important to have at ASU because these technologies are new. It’s really going to help to provide us with the knowledge that we need to succeed in the business world,” Collins said. “It’s not just for computer science students, it’s for all students that want to get involved with IBM. It’s for other companies, too. It’s just been a great experience.”
ASU faculty member received IBM award
Dr. Robert Owor, interim chair and professor in the ASU Mathematics and Computer Science Department, was announced as one of the first class of IBM Z Champions. Owor is one of only 10 faculty members from colleges and universities across the U.S. to receive the award. IBM Champions are recognized for demonstrating both expertise in and extraordinary support and advocacy for IBM technology, communities, and solutions.
First participant in the ASU-IBM partnership program presented during the conference
Julious King was Captain of the ASU Cybersecurity Team, which participated in the 2017 South Eastern U.S. Collegiate Cyber Security Competitions. He was the recipient of the IBM 2016 Master the Mainframe Award Part II. He was also Captain of the ASU Team that won 2nd Place in the IBM BlueHack Hackathon in October of 2017. Prior to enrolling at ASU, Julious served in the United States Army as a Logistics Specialist.
ASU alum instrumental in forging partnership
Norm Walton is a manager for blockchain development for IBM in Durham, North Caroline. He served as a senior software engineer manager for many years until 2017, and continues to drive academic initiatives on college campuses as a recruiter liaison supporting the development business. Walton started with IBM in 1979 in Boca Raton, Fla., after graduating from Albany State College in 1979, with a degree in Business. He was retrained as a computer programmer at IBM Chicago in 1987, after serving in different positions within IBM. Walton held several positions as a software engineer before being promoted into management in 2004.