SWIFT Club at Minot State cultivates tech literacy

Charles Crane/MDN The officers of the Minot State University Students With Interest for Future Technology Club, from left to right: Liela Koguchi, Cameron Abel, Sam Aannerud, Erik Ellingson and Amber Schmaltz.

Keeping up with the latest gadgets and technology available to the average consumer can almost seem like a full-time job at times, and for students and business owners it can be a struggle to learn even the basic ins and outs, let alone fully harness the applications they have to offer. Then there are those who enjoy mucking about and figure out how the heck these things work, and pushing the envelope on what they can do.

Such individuals at Minot State University have been gravitating around the student organization Students With Interest for Future Technology (SWIFT) Club, which has provided students and members of the public the opportunities to learn, experiment, and connect. Under the Management Information Systems program, the club is advised by assistant professor Chad Fenner, and is open to all students, allowing them to take part in a variety of projects, cyber security competitions, and other workshops and events. The through-line through all of the club’s endeavors is to provide students an avenue to try new things and acquire real world experience with the latest available technology.

“There’s two different areas. There’s obviously computer science where you can do a lot of programming. We learn software, we learn hardware, we learn project management,” said club president Amber Schmaltz, “We’re the middleman. We go to the accountants and understand this is what you want, but we also have a technical language so we can speak to programmers and ensure they get the best product.”

Club member Erik Ellingson finds that Fenner’s vision of an environment that was open to failure is what makes the variety of opportunities enjoyed by its members possible, and ultimately is what makes their successes even sweeter.

“We like to push the limits to experience possible success or failure. Where there’s no boundaries, it’s a safe environment to fail,” Ellingson said, “The same thing goes with MIS. You’re going to come up against stuff that may fail, but it’s how you figure out a way around those issues, those failures, those roadblocks to come up with the actual solution and success.”

Whether they’re exploring the various technological pitfalls and solutions in areas like accounting and finance, producing a podcast, or harnessing a 3D printer to startup an online keychain business, the SWIFT Club is open to tackling pretty much anything. This openness has allowed the club to integrate with a number of other clubs and organizations, with one example being the facilitation of a partnership between the MSU Esports club and iMagicCon.

“They can actually showcase their esports talents and passions. IMagicCon is looking to support Esports. We found a need, let’s fill it. We’ll keep doing the networking for them and support them as best as we can,” Ellingson said.

The club’s other projects veer from engineering a programmable wall of LED lights, developing boutique non-fungible tokens, to even starting and marketing an Etsy storefront. Where member’s really get to flex their muscles is in the cybersecurity competitions, they’ve been able to participate in, made possible by the highly sought-after NSA Cyber Defense designation the program received last April. One such upcoming competition is a “capture the flag” event where the students have to hack into a system in search of specific files.

“The good thing about doing competitions is that you don’t have to be too intense about it. You don’t have professional knowledge about tech, you can just give it a try,” said marketing officer Liela Koguchi, “The first time I tried it, I literally had no idea what was going on, but it was a really good experience. I think SWIFT is giving us a really good opportunity.”


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