Blackbird Takes Blue Jays Under Its Wing

Winter 2008


Computer science major Matt Fedderly can’t say much about what he did last summer as an intern at Blackbird Technologies Inc., but he enjoyed it immensely. “I was working with really smart people, and I learned stuff you can’t really learn in school,” he says.

Based in Herndon, Virginia, Blackbird provides high-level information security and other technical support to government and corporate clients, and much of the work is confidential—some, topsecret. “We develop tools and capabilities critical to the success of the global war on terrorism, as well as to address the information technology needs of the intelligence and defense communities and similar challenges in the private sector,” explains Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Richard Moxley.

“We develop tools and capabilities critical to the success of the global war on terrorism.”Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Richard Moxley

“It’s a great place for a technical person to work,” he says. “We invest aggressively in internal research and development, becoming expert in the work of our customers and developing ideas for new products that we then take to them.” For example, the company conceptualized and developed a state-of-the-art, hand-held satellite communication device for the Department of Defense that is now being used in places around the world without a cell phone network. That includes areas where the U.S. military is currently engaged, Moxley notes.

The 10-year-old company’s growth recently prompted Blackbird to seek out potential sources for new employees and research collaborators, and Johns Hopkins was high on the list. In addition to the Whiting School’s stellar reputation in information security and related areas, Blackbird Executive Vice President Steve Pann had firsthand experience with the Whiting School through his son Nick, now a sophomore. After a few meetings with Dean Nick Jones and faculty at Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute (JHUISI), Blackbird executives were “very impressed with the quality of the students and with the school’s research and programs in the technical areas we’re engaged in,” says Moxley.

This fall, the company funded the Blackbird Technologies Scholarship, which provides a student with an undergraduate scholarship. “We wanted to invest in students,” says Moxley, “and we see this as a first step toward a more robust relationship.” The inaugural recipient is Barrett Duke, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering.

“We’re grateful for this gift, and tremendously pleased by the confidence Blackbird Technologies has shown in the Whiting School,” says Dean Jones. “We look forward to a growing collaboration on both the engineering-education and research fronts.”

Moxley, Pann, and their colleagues are actively exploring opportunities for new partnerships with the Whiting School. “We’re getting to know more about the students, the programs, the faculty, and the staff,” says Moxley. In addition to supporting the Blackbird Technologies Scholarship, the company will again seek out qualified Hopkins undergraduates for its summer internship program, which is being expanded. Matt Fedderly would be pleased to return for another summer, he says. “It’s a great opportunity.”