Tech RSO searches for hands-on work

Some Registered Student Organizations can go overlooked, but the Tech Dawgs hope to stick out among the crowd by offering free computer assistance.

The Tech Dawgs, a student organization based on information technology, offers free technological support not only to on-campus groups but the Carbondale community as well. Tom Imboden, assistant professor and advisor to the Tech Dawgs, said despite being awarded “Most Improved RSO of 2011,” the group has struggled to find work anywhere on or off campus lately.

Imboden said this lack of public exposure not only hurts the people who don’t know about the group, but it also affects the students who are denied the opportunity for extra hands-on experience.

Darcie Cohee, a senior from Danville studying information stystems and technology, said this type of job preparation can be particularly necessary for students who study information technology.

“Before you go out into the real workforce, most companies look at several years of experience, and doing volunteer work like that is one good way of getting that experience,” she said. “Especially if you’re curious about a certain area that you don’t know anything about.”

Cohee said being a member of the Tech Dawgs has done many great things for her, one of the most notable being the ability to get involved in her field outside of the typical classroom interactions most students are limited to.

Belle Woodward, assistant professor and interim director of information systems and applied technologies, said being a member of the group helps create a reliable sense of community within the information technology department.

“It instills a sense of belonging, so I think it helps the university have a stronger relationship with the students who then become alumni,” Woodward said.

Leonard Goodsell, a senior from Saratoga, N.Y., studying information systems and technology, said the Tech Dawgs aren’t just about helping other people, but it also gives members the chance to assist each other.

“I just try to share my knowledge that I’ve gained over the past couple of years with people and show them a lot of the opportunities they have out there while they’re still going to school and afterwards,” Goodsell said.

This, among other reasons, is why it’s important more people and groups come to the RSO when they need help, Imboden said.

He said the RSO held its first meeting Aug. 12 with about 25 active and potential members attending.

“The information technology department is at a disadvantage because of the limited reach it has among other tech-based departments, so one goal the Tech Dawgs have is to make a stronger effort to reach out to students in the computer science and engineering departments.” Emboden said.

The RSO has attracted students in the past by hosting guest  speakers.

“I think people, even if they’re not interested in the group, might be interested to see some of these speakers who are coming in the next couple of months,” Imboden said.

Some of the speakers planned for this semester include business people from Carbondale, a security research analyst who works for a national security research firm and a member of the FBI who will speak about past investigations and how technology was used in the investigatory process.

The Tech Dawgs will look to add to its ranks and spread the word so students can get the hands-on experience they need while giving back to the community.

Cohee said, the department has substantially improved over the years with the help of excellent teachers despite a lack of off-campus exposure. If people begin to call upon the group for technology assistance, everyone involved will greatly benefit, she said.

“Our department has drastically improved over the years thanks to (Woodward and Imboden), and I think that should be advertised more,” Cohee said. “I also really enjoyed helping the Womens

Center and other organizations, so I think it is a positive experience for everybody.”

Although Tech Dawg members said they are overlooked on campus, they aren’t alone in this endeavor.

The Security Dawgs, much like the Tech Dawgs, is an information technology group composed of students both in and out of the department.

However, Woodward said the goal of the RSO is quite different.

She said the group is more of a team that competes with other universities in the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition to see who can best manage and protect an existing commercial network infrastructure with the knowledge team members have gained in their field.

The team has competed since 2006 and taken home first- or second-place trophies every year besides last year.

The Security Dawgs consist of not only Tech Dawgs members, but it is a completely interdisciplinary team with students who study anything from English to political science.

For further information regarding the group or its assistance, the Tech Dawgs can be contacted at techdawgs@siu.edu.

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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