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Motlow prepares students to fight against cyber attacks
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Motlow students can excel at stopping cybersecurity threats, according to Larry Flatt, executive director of the Advanced Robotics Training Center.

Could anyone have blocked the ransom attack on the Colonial Pipeline, a digital disaster that sent gasoline prices soaring and threatened much of the economy in the Southern and Eastern U.S.?

Try calling a Motlow grad.

That was the confident suggestion of Larry Flatt, executive director of Motlow State Community College’s Advanced Robotics Training Center in McMinnville in an interview airing this week on public radio WCPI 91.3.

Motlow launched its cybersecurity training program a couple of years ago and already serves some 200 students, Flatt said. Graduates are well prepared, he said, “to help businesses avoid and avert what happened to that distribution facility.”   

A criminal hack, thought to have originated in Russia, shut down the sprawling Colonial Pipeline system, which pumps the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel required by some 45% of Americans in the multi-state region.

“A Motlow graduate could have blocked the Colonial Pipeline hack?” Flatt was asked in the radio interview recorded Friday.

“This is correct,” Flatt responded, noting, “We have to be smarter than the hackers. And the way we do that is each of our young men and women go out to hack. That way, they can anticipate and look for weaknesses in people’s internet and infrastructure in their facilities.”

Flatt explained Motlow cybersecurity students work on computer servers that are completely isolated from other data networks so as to eliminate accidental damage to other users.

With several decades in engineering and operational leadership in industry, including the former Carrier Air Conditioning plant at Morrison, Flatt moved in 2012 over to full-time teaching and academic leadership at Motlow, where he led the initial development of the Mechatronics program. With a background as a chemical engineer and an MBA, he was the logical choice to lead the creation of Motlow’s Advanced Robotics Training Center, housed in a distinct, $5.5 million facility behind Ascension Saint Thomas River Park Hospital.

The WCPI interview with Larry Flatt airs this Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.