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Cindy Lindstrom and a robot

Lakeland College has received a $50,000 grant from the West Foundation in Manitowoc to enhance its computer science program and to fund efforts to increase graduation rates.

A total of $31,200 will fund several new pieces of equipment that students studying computer science can access. With the new equipment, the program will give every computer science student an artificial intelligence programming experience with modern robots, delve into computer forensics and perform hands-on 3D printing with resin.

Lakeland will purchase three new humanoid robots to go with the two it currently has to expand its artificial intelligence program. The new robots will allow for team exercises and open the door to Lakeland students competing in regional or national robotics competitions. The two existing robots have benefitted Lakeland students and hundreds of area high school and middle school students who have visited campus for hands-on computer science experiences.

A portion of the funds will be used to create a forensic computer lab, where students will learn hacking, engage in penetration testing exercises and allow Lakeland to host hackathon competitions.

"The skills necessary to fend off hacker and malware attacks are in high demand in the marketplace, but we cannot teach these skills without appropriately safeguarded systems," said Cindy Lindstrom, assistant professor of computer science. "This lab will allow us to significantly expand this portion of our program."

Students interested in technical design will now have access to a new, state-of-the-art, 3D resin printer, which allows design in unbreakable materials and additional designs.

Previous support from the West Foundation had allowed Lakeland to create a state-of-the-art classroom and a lab with leading-edge technologies, including the first 3D printer and the two robots.

"Last year, every traditional computer science graduate found employment in their field," Lindstrom said. "With the support of the West Foundation, we are earning a reputation as a leading program and provider of quality computer science graduates, and this additional equipment will allow us to do even more. I'm excited for our students and the opportunities we will have for them."

The additional money will also fund a software program, Starfish from Hobsons, which will support Lakeland's student success and retention initiative.

The new software will provide a single communication platform for all student information including alert and intervention status. It will allow for advisors, faculty, staff and student success coaches to monitor students assigned to their classes, monitor student goals, create action plans and coordinate intervention strategies. This platform will be deployed for both traditional and non-traditional Lakeland students, serving nearly 3,000 students in the first year.

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