Category Archives: News

Tiny Microgrids, Fiercely Important

A microgrid is a standalone power grid requiring generation capabilities (often generators, batteries, or renewable resources) plus control methods to maintain power flow. Electronics, appliances, and heating or cooling are all responsible for consuming that power. In this project, Laura Brown and other Michigan Tech researchers are investigating a control system for such microgrids that are autonomous—able to work in isolation—and agile, flexible to rapid changes in the configuration of the electric grid to incoming sources and consumers of power.

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The world of microgrids is layered, each layer with a different purpose and speed. For stable power, the controls for the microgrid are considered hierarchically: low-level control responds to fastest events, and maintains regulation of stable voltages and currents in the system; the upper layer of control is responsible for power distribution, optimization, and long-term planning and prediction of resource availability and use. Brown’s work focuses on this high-level analysis in resource prediction at several timescales—in the next few minutes, next hours, next days. What if a generator is out of service for maintenance—what can be done? Brown uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and experts in other domains to turn off non-critical resources or add new power sources.

The United States Department of Defense and the Army Research Lab seek the expertise of interdisciplinary Michigan Tech researchers to solve, prevent, and adapt to these potential real-world scenarios.


Transfer Learning in Data Centers

Faster apps. More memory. Laura Brown and Zhenlin Wang bring efficiency to Big Data.

What memory resources will be available if applications A, B, and C all run together?

Big companies like Amazon and Google have even bigger data centers. Think 30 data centers each with 50,000 to 80,000 servers. And the underlying computer processors are not all identical; each year new improvements are integrated and added. Brown, Wang, and computer science colleagues from Western Michigan University are digging deep into the management of memory resources in these larger-than-life data centers.

The researchers use machine-learning techniques to create models that predict the cache and memory requirements of an application.

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The challenge is how to make accurate predictions with such a massive variety of applications using the data center, and the different computers the application runs on. Applications might include Netflix streaming a movie, Airbnb running database queries, or NASA processing satellite images. Each app is not run in isolation with a dedicated machine. To maximize resources, data centers may have two or more applications all running on a single machine.

“If we learn the memory requirements of application A on computer X, what if the same app runs on machine Y or machine Z? Or, what memory resources will be available if A, B, and C all run together?” Brown asks.


Computational Intelligence Aids in Explosive Hazard Detection

To detect buried explosive hazards in places like Afghanistan, and to save the lives of civilians and US soldiers, Michigan Tech researcher Tim Havens realizes it requires a team—a team
of sensors.

This technology has the potential to not only save lives, but also to advance the basic science of how to combine sensors and information together to get a whole better than the sum of its parts.

A new $983,000 research project, “Heterogeneous Multisensor Buried Target Detection Using Spatiotemporal Feature Learning,” will look at how forward-looking ground-penetrating radar, LiDAR, and video sensors can be combined synergistically to see into the ground, capture high-quality images, and then automatically notify the operator of threats. With funding from the US Army Research Office, Havens and Tim Schulz, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, will work with three PhD students to create a high probability-of-detection/low false-alarm rate solution.

“It’s a very difficult problem to solve because most of the radar energy bounces right off the surface of the earth,” says Havens, the William and Gloria Jackson Assistant Professor of Computer Systems at Michigan Tech. “This technology has the potential to not only save lives, but also to advance the basic science of how to combine sensors and information together to get a whole better than the sum of its parts.”

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This new project will advance additional sensor-related work Havens and collaborators completed between 2013–2015. The US Army-funded project studied signal processing and computer-aided detection and classification using forward-looking, ground-penetrating, vehicle-mounted radar.
The Army currently fields ground-penetrating radars in its fleet. The problem is they cannot detect hazards until they’re right above them, putting a multi-million dollar radar—and soldiers—directly in the path of danger.

“The big ideas here were to process data to obtain better images, see into the ground in a high-fidelity manner, and develop algorithms to automatically find buried threats—notifying operators of what the possible threats actually are,” Havens adds.

Havens has partnered with the Army since 2008 when he was a PhD student.


New faculty joins CS this semester

image143023-persToday, we take a look at and welcome faculty who have started with the Fall Semester.

Stephane Zuckerman has joined Michigan Tech’s Computer Science Department as a visiting assistant professor. He received his PhD in Computer Sciences at the University of Versailles Saint-Wuentin_en_Yvelines (UVSQ).

Prior to coming to Tech, Zuckerman worked as a research associate and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Delaware. He has contributed to and authored numerous journal articles and presented at conferences and workshops.


Computer Science Faculty, Students Teach Kids to Code

1481146201Charles Wallace and Leo Ureel, along with two of their graduate students and six undergraduates in Computer Science, are spending time in Houghton and Hancock schools this week, giving elementary, middle and high school students hands-on experience with computer coding.

The programs are in observance of Computer Science Education Week. They include two Hour of Code events at Houghton Elementary School, one multi-day event at Houghton High School and one at Hancock Middle School. At each Hour of Code, students learn to write code, primarily using the Scratch programming language.

“We are using a tutorial developed by Michigan Tech alumna Nichole Yarroch,” Wallace said. “We are also letting students know about Computer Science and Software Engineering degrees at Tech, as well as our Copper Country Coders group that meets on the weekends.”

This is the third year that CS faculty and students have conducted Hour of Code programs at local schools.


Faculty/Graduate Student Hour

Each semster Computer Science graduate students are invited to meet with faculty to share their views about the department and the graduate programs, ask questions, and discuss anything else that is of interest. It is a good time to build connections between faculty and students, and create a collaborative environment.2Faculty-Graduate Student Hour meeting photo


Code Ninjas Workshop Saturday

1474851781The Code Ninjas Workshop for middle school girls is from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Rheki 112.

Interested in virtual reality? Code Ninjas is for girls interested in programming computers, making and playing games,concerned about the environment and you.

Participants will learn about bees, learn to program in Processing, learn how their program can make a difference, talk to role models who program in their jobs and meet other young women interested in programming.

This workshop will focus on learning to program with an environmental theme: What is happening to the bees?  We will design 3D simulations and games around the theme of bees.

Then participants will view the games in an Oculus Rift interactive virtual reality. Included in the workshop are sessions teaching girls how to program computers, an expert will discuss the environmental crisis facing bees, and panel of programmers from industry will discuss their experiences.

The following is a tentative schedule for the workshop.

9 – 10:30 a.m. Introduction to 3D Programming

Students will learn to draw simple 3D shapes.  We will teach them how to use setup and draw methods, data types, and variables. Students will use graphics and colors to make a simple scene.

10:30 – 11a.m. Presentation about bees

A Michigan Tech student who studies hive-collapse disorder will talk to girls about things that impact bees, and how they can help bees to continue to pollinate our food supply.

11 a.m. – noon Programming with Objects

Girls will be introduced to objects and classes.  They will learn to use objects and the functions and variables inside of classes.  Girls will learn how to make a plan for their simulation and divide in into smaller steps that can be done sequentially.

Noon – 1:00 Lunch

1 – 2 p.m.  Programming

Girls will program their own simulations and will work by themselves or in small groups.

2 – 2:30 p.m. Role-model Interviews

Girls will meet women who have careers/educational backgrounds in computer science, and will be able to ask them questions.

2:30 – 3 p.m. Programming

Girls will continue programming their own simulations and will work by themselves or in small groups.

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Oculus Showcase!

Girls will demo their code in the Oculus Rift.   Parents are welcome to come at 4:00 to see their daughter’s simulation.

4:30 p.m. Parent pick-up.

Sarah Larkin-Driscoll and Miriam Eikenberry-Ureel, local high school students and Michigan regional winners of the prestigious NCWIT Aspirations Award, will present the workshop. They aim to teach middle school girls how to write programs that can be displayed in a 3D space.

This workshop is sponsored by an AspireIT grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and facilitated by the Michigan Technological University Computer Science Department.

Read more at Tech Today.


Teachers plan to educate computer sciences to all ages

Tech+WorkshopHOUGHTON Teachers are spreading knowledge of computer science into their classrooms. More than 30 teachers are on Michigan Tech’s campus to learn how.

A three day workshop is taking place for teachers from all grade levels across the state and surrounding areas. They’re learning the basic understanding of computer science. Including programming and coding. Teachers are also being taught how to increase interest in computer science among girls.

“More women are becoming involved because they’re required to take computer science and they discover that they enjoy programming,” said workshop instructor, Linda Ott.

“When they’re not required to take it they often shy away from it and they don’t realize that they might be interested.”

Read more at Upper Michigan’s Source, by Aleah Hordges.


Linda Ott blogs on STEM

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Linda Ott, Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean for Special Initiatives in the College of Sciences and Arts, was welcomed as a guest blogger on STEMconnector.org.

STEMconnector.org seeks to bring science, technology, engineering, and math educators a way to connect their ideas to improve STEM education. In The Thrill of Computer Science For All, Ott details her excitement around President Obama’s initiative to expand K-12 computer science education funding.

“We can make a difference more quickly through a concerted effort to attract more students today.  Here are some of the things we are doing at Michigan Tech.  Perhaps others will find inspiration here for immediate action:

If all of us involved in computing do something—help advise a local FIRST Robotics team, teach a Saturday class on programming at a local library, talk to a local Girl Scout troop, invite area students and parents to see how you actually use programming—there will be an immediate impact.”


Founder of HEET to help others learn about clean energy

The founder of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), Abhi Kantamneni, won the Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Award for his concern to help his fellow community members understand the aspects of alternative energy.   Abhi will be continuing his graduate studies in Guelph, Ontario and will pursue his passion to help others.  Please read the full article here.