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MadLabs collaboration begins at grand opening - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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MadLabs collaboration begins at grand opening

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:15 pm

Even as the Madison Cyber Labs at Dakota State University opened, the synergy the facility was designed to encourage was taking place.

Justin Blessinger, director of the AdapT Lab for Accessible Technology, had invited LifeScape to bring two of the Go Baby Go cars to the grand opening so those who toured the new facility could see one of the projects with which his team is involved.

Go Baby Go modifies toy cars for children with mobility disabilities, and the AdapT Lab is assisting with this.

"They will need a wheelchair someday," Blessinger explained, "but this gets them out playing with their peers."

This mobility enhances social, physical, emotional and cognitive development. And, at $150, the cars are significantly cheaper than a $30,000 wheelchair.

The AdapT Lab is working to develop a device and a smartphone app which will enable parents to monitor their children when they are in the cars. However, after seeing the Go Baby Go cars, Ashley Podhradsky, one of the co-founders of the CybHER Security Institute, could see how her team could become involved as well.

LifeScape CEO Steve Watkins couldn't believe their good fortune.

"As soon as the CybHER director came over, she started talking about putting artificial intelligence into it," he said, explaining how that would add value to a device which is already transforming lives.

That single example demonstrates the kind of cross-discipline collaboration the MadLabs are intended to facilitate. It was taking place before all of the labs have even moved into the clean, soaring space with its walls of windows.

The grand opening for the Madison Cyber Labs was held on Wednesday evening in conjunction with the Board of Regents meeting. Those in attendance included board members, their invited guests and area media.

A press release indicates the 37,500-square-foot facility has a capacity to house 250-300 researchers, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and staff from all of DSU's colleges.

Public and private partners will be involved with research projects intended to explore and advance technology application, workforce development, business expansion, economic growth and policy improvement across multiple disciplines.

"Through research, collaboration and leadership, we will achieve success in technology, cyber, innovation and economic growth," DSU President Jos‚-Marie Griffiths said in the press release. "We will redefine what it means to be a forward-thinking university with the promise of a transformational future."

The grand opening began with a short program during which Miles and Lisa Beacom and T. Denny Sanford were praised for their generosity. Their $30 million gift combined with additional support from former Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Sen. Mike Rounds, the Regents and the state Legislature made the research facility a reality.

Statements from Rounds and Sen. John Thune were presented, and Daugaard spoke about DSU's standing in the nation as a cyber leader. He also talked about the strong leadership provided by Griffiths.

"Denny [Sanford] has told me several times...he will not give to an organization unless he believes in the leadership," Daugaard said, and congratulated Griffiths for providing that kind of leadership.

Rounds, in a statement read by Mark Johnston, made reference to Ernest Lawrence, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1939, and his brother, John Lawrence, who was a pioneer in nuclear medicine. Both were raised in Canton but did their work at the University of California-Berkeley.

"Ernest and John had to leave South Dakota to do what they wanted to do," Rounds said. "Now, students won't have to leave South Dakota to make their dreams come true."

Rep. Dusty Johnson concluded the program. He spoke about what the MadLabs mean to the nation and shared a comment from a conversation about the cyber threats made in his office.

"`With all due respect, this is not a future problem'," Johnson was told. "`We are a nation at war with Russia'."

"There are bad countries that are working overtime to do this country damage," Johnson said.

To win this war, he said, the nation needs to support those who are waging the war, to give them the tools to win the war. Johnson said the MadLabs are part of that defense.

"Because of the leadership here, we will be safer tomorrow than we were today," he said in conclusion.

Hors d'oeuvres and beverages were served in the foyer of the new facility, but the students and faculty on hand to talk about the work being done in each of the 13 labs were the highlight for visitors. In some areas, nothing but a placard indicated an area designated for a team because the computers hadn't been installed.

Other areas were already holding equipment used or being developed by the lab. That was the case with the area designated for the CybHER Security Institute. Colorful coding robots and other learning tools filled the shelves.

"It gets them [young students] excited in a fun way," said Pam Rowland, one of the institute's founders.

She is excited about the collaborative space that will be available for their team of four undergraduates to brainstorm activities for the institute's programs. Previously, they had to reserve a conference room or work with one of the institute's founders on a one-to-one basis.

"It gives you a little bit of energy and excitement to come together," Rowland said.

Too, because CybHER Club members are interested in research, the design of the MadLabs will enable members to connect with projects of interest to them, she noted. With her interest in the LifeScape project, the institute's other founder, Podhradsky, has already demonstrated how that could work.

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