ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Cyber analysts from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Analysis Center, or DAC, mentored software engineering students during the 2022-23 school year while completing their senior capstone projects at The University of Texas at El Paso, known as UTEP. Nine teams presented and demonstrated final implementations of the Controller Area Network, or CAN, Bus Visualizer Tool, which allows cyber analysts to view information going through a vehicle’s CAN Bus Network in real-time.
Mr. Sebastian Quinones, a cyber analyst in the Cyberspace Methodology and Mission Assurance Branch led by Ms. Isabel Goode, is one of several analysts that participated in UTEP’s capstone projects. Mr. Quinones and Ms. Goode are both located at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, or WSMR.
The senior capstone project is mutually beneficial for both the Army and the UTEP students. These projects assist the Army by increasing capabilities in the field, while giving the students a chance to work on a real-world application prior to graduation. DAC analysts work side-by-side with students in this year-long project, from the brainstorming of ideas to project delivery.
The DAC cyber analysts that support the senior capstone do so on a volunteer basis, while still working their full-time analyst positions. Quinones happens to be a former DAC intern and UTEP alumni, allowing him to relate more closely with students.
“I will say one of the of side benefits of this collaboration is just the fact that right now the curriculum includes maybe 90 students per graduating class,” said Quinones. “It's a substantial course and an undertaking that's expected to continue growing as the university matures and more students learn about the curriculum.”
Quinones’ capstone was one of the first projects DAC and UTEP collaborated on in 2018. Having now been on both sides as student and civilian, internships like these help him see where DAC can take the project in the future. For example, he and the other cyber analysts met with the students bi-weekly to provide feedback on design documents and answer questions while still encouraging them to set the foundation for these tools themselves.
Goode explained how different approaches, tools and solutions that come from the seniors in the capstone course may not always be the final solution anticipated by DAC’s cyber analysts.
“Once the project is complete, it's transferred to the government where experienced cyber analysts can tweak it as needed as they head out and conduct assessments out in the field or laboratory,” said Goode. “It's a win-win situation that also enables the organization to then continue the recruiting of some of the best minds [in the field].”
Quinones’ favorite part of being a mentor is seeing the progression students make from the initial meeting to the end stages of the project. He says that being part of the senior capstone project is one of the most rewarding parts of his job that he hopes to continue being involved in for the rest of his career.