Robots Go to Prison

Robots Go to Prison

On a sunny January Monday morning, a room full of female inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women were troubleshooting robots about the size of a chocolate chip cookie. The little robots were buzzing and wiggling all over tables spread across two rooms in the prison’s education building. TCC runs an education program at the prison and for this special day, partnered with Unloop, a Seattle-based nonprofit, to bring the tech industry and computer programming within reach of prison inmates. About 25 women attended the workshop, and it was a mix of general population inmates and ones who are currently in the TCC program. Lindsey Wilson and David Almeida (with Unloop), led the workshop along with their helpers. Both work in the tech industry, and both want to use software programming skills as a way to break the prison cycle. “Technology is an industry where your ability is what matters, not where you’ve been or the degrees you have. It’s a good fit for people making a life after prison,” said Wilson. After an icebreaker activity of building paper airplanes, the students broke into eight groups to build their AERobot (Affordable Education Robot). Each kit only costs $20, so these are ideal educational tools. After about five minutes, each group had a working robot that would vibrate across a surface using two vibrating motors that you find in mobile phones. With the hardware taken care of, it was time to move to the software side and start testing the robots. With the eventual goal of being able to program a series of commands – turn left, go straight,...
Networking at Night

Networking at Night

It’s likely this is one of the few classes taught at TCC where the instructor openly attacks students’ work. Actually, that’s the entire point of the class. “I will be running active attacks,” instructor Ed Hawkins said during the lecture section of the four-hour long class. The classroom has a very casual feel. You can tell these students are experienced. This Cyber Security Capstone class is filled with students nearing the end of their two-year program, and, like a well-oiled machine, the students start their prep work before class even officially begins. They start up computers and install updates. The lecture section of the night class is fairly simple. Hawkins goes over ideas, and poses questions and scenarios about networking security and strategies. As this is a night class (5:30-10pm), most students work during the day. Some of them work in computer-related jobs. This gives students invaluable, real-life perspectives into the classroom discussions. After lecture, the fun begins. Students break into groups and start working on their projects – the very ones that the instructor will be “attacking.” Walking around the classroom, you can see that each group chooses how to break down the work. One student is controlling the computer. One is recording each and every step the group makes. Others discuss virtual machines, DNS, SQL, DHCP and a host of other technical terms. The capstone structure of this class has students working on projects all quarter with the instructor doing intrusions near the end of the class. Being clever students, they asked Hawkins what techniques or software he would use, and being a clever instructor, Hawkins declined...
Megaphone Comes Home

Megaphone Comes Home

Alumnus Norman Bellamy came to TCC in the early 70’s for the same reasons a lot of his fellow Mt. Tahoma grads did: a. it was cheap and b. he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. “Back in our time, I think it cost us less than $40 per class,” said Bellamy, who came from a single-parent home where money was tight. “And the first two years of college is pretty basic anyway. TCC was the perfect environment to get some college under my belt, and by the time I got to UPS I knew exactly what I wanted to do.” With a job as well as a full class load, Bellamy would have been a typical “get in, get out” transfer student, with little time or inclination to hang around campus. “And there was no place to hang around besides the cafeteria anyway,” said Bellamy. But his friend Roger – last name unremembered – needed a second “Yell King” for the cheer squad. “I said, sure, I’ve got a big mouth,” said Bellamy. And just like that, he became a TCC cheerleader. “It was nothing fancy. We didn’t throw any women in the air like they do nowadays,” said Bellamy. “I think it was six women and two guys.” The squad had just one team to cheer for: TCC’s outstanding men’s basketball team. When the team went on the road, the cheer squad would occasionally hop a ride on the team bus, though mostly they’d follow along in a car. But even the biggest mouth would have had some trouble making itself heard in the earsplitting racket...