It’s an unassuming blue box, not much bigger than a deck of cards.
So it might seem surprising to hear Dustin Ormond, a BYU Marriott alumnus and a Creighton University associate professor of business intelligence and analytics, refer to it as one of the most rewarding projects of his career so far. The aptly named BlueBox is actually a miniature computer run by either electricity or solar power and loaded with a digital library that contains open-source textbooks, Khan Academy videos, Wikipedia Education, and wikiHow. Even without internet, any device that can connect through BlueBox’s hotspot can access this wealth of information.
The project began when one of Ormond’s fellow professors at Creighton, Charles Braymen, was exploring ways to provide people in developing countries increased access to educational resources. Early on, he asked Ormond to join him to help with technology. The result of their efforts is a Raspberry Pi–based computer that the duo has now placed in schools and churches in the Dominican Republic, several African countries, and refugee camps around the world. “I’m honored to be involved in this because it has an impact on building the lives of others,” Ormond says. “It goes along the line of ‘if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’”
Ormond and Braymen have also created a service-centered, multidisciplinary university course in which students learn to not only build the computers but also fix bugs, suggest and implement improvements, and conduct local trainings for teachers in developing countries. So far, says Ormond, they’ve only scratched the surface of BlueBox’s potential.
Ormond, who earned an MISM and a BS in information systems from BYU Marriott in 2009, worked as a database developer at Xactware in Provo before entering a PhD program in business information systems at Mississippi State University. After completing his doctoral studies in 2014, Ormond, his wife, Amy, and their children (who now number five) moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Ormond had accepted a position at Creighton.
Ormond says he was drawn to the university because of its similarities to BYU: it is a private school with strong Christian values, a welcoming culture, and students who are striving for excellence. Ormond teaches database and cybersecurity courses, and his research interests lie in areas of behavioral information security and deception. “I love teaching and interacting with students,” he says. “It’s so rewarding to see people increase their understanding through my classes and then be able to apply what they’ve learned in industry.”
To enhance his teaching and research, Ormond built—and continues to expand—a web application for working with databases. It is a one-stop location where students can write code, diagram databases, build websites, write structured query language, take cybersecurity exams, and work on group projects, with the code synchronizing across students. The application also features conference calling, chatting, and project management tools and can track more than 200 points of student activity, including checking for cheating on exams. Ormond’s colleagues use it in their classes as well. “They say it rivals similar apps in the industry and that I should license it to other universities,” says Ormond. “That’s something I’m thinking about for the future.”
In recognition of his service at Creighton, Ormond was named Heider College of Business Faculty Member of the Year in 2015 and Graduate Business Faculty of the Year in 2019. He also received the college’s Cahill Award of Excellence in 2018 and 2019. Ormond credits professors at BYU Marriott with showing him how to effectively interact with students. “I felt like the faculty actually cared about me as a person,” he says. “I also saw that they were working on projects beyond teaching and research that made a difference in the world. They are role models for me, both as a professor and in my life outside of academia.”