Coast students earl scholarships through NASA-Mississippi Space Grant Consortium

The College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Southern Mississippi announced the awarding of 24 Space Grant scholarships and six winners for the Innovative Design in Computing Competition awarded through the state-wide NASA-Mississippi Space Grant Consortium program, which supports students in their pursuit of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degrees.

The NASA Space Grant program is designed to encourage and motivate excellence in student performance and to raise awareness of NASA employment and research opportunities among students with relevant majors at USM.

“As the Southern Miss campus coordinator for the Mississippi Space Grant Consortium since 2018, I’ve overseen the disbursement of $110,000 in Space Grant scholarships and IDCC prizes to students majoring in STEM fields,” said Dr. David Cochran, professor of geography in the School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences. “For me, it is gratifying to be able to reward our hard-working STEM students and share with the university community some of the career-altering opportunities available at NASA.”

The 2021-2022 NASA-Mississippi Space Grant scholarships range from $500 to $1,500. Recipients include:

  • Ian Beall, polymer science & engineering major from Hattiesburg;
  • Christian Bellew, ocean engineering major from Gulfport;
  • Christian Bird, geographic information technology major from Biloxi;
  • Douglas Bradley, geology major from Kingwood, Texas
  • Larry Byrd, polymer science & engineering major from Hattiesburg;
  • Cierra Carter, ocean engineering major from Waveland;
  • Nicholas Currie, polymer science & engineering major from Moss Point;
  • Kardarius Felton, biological sciences major from Roxie;
  • David Garcia, polymer science & engineering major from Hattiesburg;
  • Rachel Hamilton, ocean engineering major from Biloxi;
  • Joshua Hurnyak, geology major from Diamondhead;
  • Keely Hoppmeyer, polymer science & engineering major from Dacula, Ga.
  • Seth Kumming, geology major from Sumrall;
  • Luke Lewis, polymer science major from Kentwood, La.
  • Ryan Polizzi, geology major from Carriere;
  • John Rousse, polymer science & engineering major from Lumberton;
  • Blake Runnels, geology major from Petal;
  • David Sanderson, ocean engineering major from Long Beach;
  • Jacob Seal, geology major from Petal;
  • Thomas Stillman, geology major from Argyle, Texas
  • Matthew Tarver, ocean engineering major from Long Beach;
  • Jullian  Vannattan, geology major from Picayune;
  • Kobe Winsley, geography & sustainable development major from Purvis;
  • Rollin Young, information technology major from Summit.

Dr. Amer Dawoud, associate professor in the School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering and coordinator of the annual IDCC, said they were able to award monetary prizes of $1,000 to all six participants of the two winning teams of the competition, including undergraduate and graduate students all of whom are affiliated with USM’s School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering.

The two winning IDCC competition teams and their projects include:

Project: Unified Bilateral Sensor Driver Development

  • Wesley Affolter, computer engineering major from Moss Point;
  • Isaiah Bell, computer engineering major from Gulfport;
  • Cole Crosby, computer engineering major from Hattiesburg;
  • Quentin Musgrove computer engineering major from Soso.

 Some industries currently use large-scale sensor arrays which requires several man hours and materials that wireless sensor arrays would subvert. Because drivers allow large data centers to effectively communicate with many sensors simultaneously, the goal of this project was to create a driver that allows for full bilateral communication between nodes and clients.

Students proposed the development of a unified bilateral sensor driver that would allow deployment of a wireless sensor array over a multitude of industries.

Project: UAV Authenticating system using Hardware Acceleration Components (FPGA) 

  • Tom Henson, computer engineering technology major from Wesson;
  • Alex Biggs engineering technology major from Canton.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Drones are becoming more prominent in today’s world with a wide range of use. However, as they become more accessible to the average consumer, it will be easier for someone with malicious intent to acquire a drone. Growing problems, such as unknown UAVs entering restricted aerospace, lead to a major concern: How do we control an aerospace with many fleets of drones that are vulnerable to infiltration by rogue drones?  Students proposed a drone-to-drone authentication system that uses hardware acceleration components (FPGA) to provide a fast, low-power encryption that is secure and does not drain the UAVs resources.

MSSGC is a statewide non-profit organization supported by NASA whose membership includes 17 institutions of higher learning across the state. Headquartered at the University of Mississippi, MSSGC is led by Dr. Nathan Murray, director, and Dr. Earnest Stephens, assistant director. MSSGC provides opportunities for Mississippians who are interested in participating in NASA’s aeronautics and space programs by supporting and enhancing STEM fields, research, and outreach programs. For more information, visit

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