Champions: Computer students make it six straight national titles

Teams first, third in collegiate network design competition in Texas
​Jerry Poling | April 15, 2019

Computer networking students from University of Wisconsin-Stout successfully defended the school’s championship in one category and also brought home a second place and third pace in a national competition.

At the U.S. Information Technology Collegiate Conference held April 4-6 in Galveston, Texas, the team of Luke Bednar and Karl Carey won the network design competition, topping 33 other teams.

UW-Stout also took third place in network design, with the team of Nikki Ruf and Derek Muck. Second place went to Texas State University.

Bednar is a senior from Eau Claire; Carey a junior from Lakeville, Minn.; Ruf a junior from Eagan, Minn.; and Muck a senior from Manitowoc.

It was UW-Stout’s sixth straight championship in network design, dating back to 2014.

Nikki Ruf holds UW-Stout’s awards from the national information technology competition in Texas. From left are fellow students Luke Bednar, Karl Carey and Derek Muck.


Other top finishes included a second place out of 48 teams by Carey and Ruf in Microsoft Office and an honorable mention, top 10, by Carey in PC troubleshooting.

Of the 101 competitors in PC troubleshooting, all four UW-Stout students placed in the top 35.

All four students are majoring in computer networking and information technology.

Ruf said UW-Stout does well year after year in network design partly because of a course students take on the same subject. Students do case studies for two to three weeks with teams of five or six people. A competition, with a four-hour timeline like the USITCC event, is held to determine which students get to compete nationally.

Stout’s proposals always stand out at this competition because we use a specific format we were taught in the network design class on campus. The competition was identical to the proposals we have done in class,” Ruf said.

Professor Holly Yuan is the CNIT program director and the students’ adviser.

“Our success in the competition is a result of great collaboration between our programs and industry partners for all these years. We have guest reviewers from Cisco, Target, CDW and many other companies to read and comment on students’ case study proposals. Their continuous support and contributions are a big part of why our programs and students are strong,” Yuan said.

Four new CNIT labs were dedicated in February at Micheels Hall. The labs includes a data center with about $1 million worth of equipment.

The university was named in 2017 as a national Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense, the first in the UW System. The designation helps select higher education institutions with computer-related programs prepare the U.S. against cybersecurity threats.

CNIT workshop

On April 5, the CNIT program hosted information technology instructors from 13 technical colleges in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was the second of two workshops held in 2018-19 at new, hands-on ethical hacking labs developed by UW-Stout.

Participants examined how the labs might be incorporated into their courses. Topics included cloud computing, mobile technology, wireless security, VoIP and various operating system vulnerabilities.

“By partnering with technical colleges, UW-Stout is providing cutting-edge tools and adding to a national pipeline to address a critical lack of trained cybersecurity professionals in an increasingly networked society,” Yuan said.

The workshop was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense in connection with the Center of Academic Excellence designation.



Nikki Ruf holds UW-Stout’s awards from the national information technology competition in Texas. From left are fellow students Luke Bednar, Karl Carey and Derek Muck.

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