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Tech Transfer Program Success Stories

Tech Transfer Success Stories | March 24, 2023

NSA Engages with Bowie State Students to Complete Summer Research Project

The National Security Agency (NSA) engaged with Bowie State University (BSU) students and professors for eight weeks over the summer through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that enabled joint research, development and collaboration. The seven students presented their research to NSA leaders, MAXAR Technologies representatives and employees from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) during a Virtual Challenge Showcase. Their research projects covered area of interest topics such as misinformation bot detection, overhead imagery aircraft machine learning, marine vessel object detection and Internet of Things (IOT) signature classifications.

Ms. Renee McDonald, the NSA Academic Liaison for BSU, explained the students presented research into the area of interest, giving statistical information, current capabilities and an overview of their research with results.  “One presentation included a video of the team’s AI research in action,” Ms. McDonald said. “The Aircraft object detection image analysis used a video received from YouTube to demonstrate how the developed machine learning algorithm detects aircraft within several videos.”

Dr. Benjamin Harvey, a BSU research professor and the BSU coordinator for this partnership, shared that this project allowed his students to obtain invaluable experiences like hands-on training with NSA experts focusing on programming, data science and artificial intelligence and learning to work together as a team. “We were able to demonstrate that BSU has the talent and resources to do quality, high impact research and translate research into understandings, products and technologies that can benefit the mission of government agencies or society.”

The partnership between NSA and BSU was established through a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) CRADA executed by NSA’s Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA). Karen Presley, ORTA Deputy Director, shared that the ORTA team established the MSI CRADA to allow the Agency to easily engage with MSI’s, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on various topics such as the IoT, national cybersecurity posture and cyber analysis and secure composition and system science. BSU is the oldest HBCU in Maryland and is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

The Agency prioritizes diversity, equality and inclusion throughout its partnerships and the continued engagement with MSI CRADAs is one avenue ORTA works to establish these opportunities. Ms. Presley said the MSI CRADA not only encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, but also encourages diverse collaborations with the Agency and among different universities. “These partnerships let us agilely engage with a larger pool of MSIs,” she said. “It could also help us diversify our recruitment pool, by establishing a relationship with young talent.”

Ms. McDonald shared that one of many goals for establishing this partnership was to catalyze high-impact, cutting-edge research that will meet the critical shared needs of private sector and government agencies alike. Through this partnership, Ms. McDonald hopes to encourage students to apply to the agency, joining their team of cybersecurity professionals and to identify BSU professors and researchers as collaborators on mission-critical cybersecurity research projects. The team also plans to continue this summer project in subsequent years, throughout the five-year term of the BSU CRADA, according to Ms. McDonald.

The NSA ORTA technology transfer program establishes partnerships between industry, academia, and other government agencies to help accelerate mission, advance science, foster innovation, and promote the growth and commercialization of technology originally created for Agency mission.

Questions? Contact NSA’s Technology Transfer Program
Office of Research & Technology Applications, NSA Research Directorate |