Category Archives: News

Joan Becker is a Lean Facilitator

Joan Becker
Joan Becker

Michigan Tech’s new Lean facilitators were recognized April 11, 2017. These new facilitators completed a six-month training program with classroom learning and work-related projects. They received in-depth training on team building, conflict management, organizational change, facilitating techniques and Lean methods and tools. They are now ready to join the current Lean facilitators and will spread continuous improvement using Lean thinking across the University.

Among the graduates is Joan Becker, ECE Graduate Program Coordinator.

For more information about the Lean facilitator training, contact improvement@mtu.edu.

Original story by the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Joan Becker
Joan accepts her certificate of completion.

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Autonomous Huskies on the Move

autodrivechallengeIt has definitely not been a quiet week in Houghton. Some pretty exciting news in the ECE Department was made public, and I will share that with you shortly below. There was also some bittersweet news for the entire university, and I think it best if I lead with that. This past Wednesday, two days ago, our university president Glenn Mroz announced in an e-mail to the campus community that he was stepping down as president and returning to the ranks of the faculty, effective June 30, 2018. That date is over a year away, so there is plenty of time for an orderly transition in the administration, and also plenty of time for reflections and best wishes which I am certain will be ample as the date approaches. President Mroz has worked tirelessly on behalf of Michigan Tech and is much loved by the university community. The institution has made some important strides forward under his leadership. I will leave it at that (for now), and just add that we have an interesting year ahead of us.

Now on to the good news. On Wednesday it was announced that Michigan Tech is one of 8 universities in North America selected to participate in the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge. This is a collegiate competition, jointly sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), with the goal of having students design, build, and test a fully autonomous vehicle. The students will take an existing vehicle – a Chevy Bolt, donated as part of GM’s sponsorship – and outfit it with sensors, processing, and control strategies to make it autonomous, over a period of three years. It is an ambitious project, with an ambitious goal, and I couldn’t be happier that we will be a part of it.

There was a competition just to get into the competition. The Michigan Tech team that prepared the winning proposal was led by Prof. Jeremy Bos of the ECE Department, who worked closely with Prof. Darrell Robinette of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. There was also close cooperation with Rick Berkey of the Pavlis Honors College, who is responsible for much of the oversight of the Michigan Tech’s signature Enterprise Program. The reason behind the Pavlis participation is that the competition activity will take place in the Robotic Systems Enterprise, which is hosted in the ECE Department but which includes membership from other parts of campus, most notably ME-EM and Computer Science. Next year Prof. Bos will take over as faculty advisor for the Robotic Systems Enterprise, and AutoDrive will comprise a major portion of his teaching assignment.

The announcement was made on Wednesday with much fanfare at the SAE World Congress, a large technical conference and exposition for automotive engineers held at CoBo Hall in downtown Detroit. There was a big lunch for all the winning teams and then a ceremony, with speeches by representatives of GM and SAE and announcements of the winning teams with plenty of photo opportunities, for ourselves and for the press. It was a wonderful moment. SAE was extraordinarily generous with us and the other teams, paying for all the travel expenses to attend the conference and particularly the announcement event. There were four us on hand – Jeremy, Darrell, ME-EM chair Bill Predebon, and me.

We had a chance to meet the other teams; they are:

Kettering University
Michigan State University
University of Toronto
University of Waterloo
North Carolina A&T State University
Texas A&M University
Virginia Tech

I have a lot of respect for these other institutions and I know the competition will be stiff. I welcome the opportunity to see how Michigan Tech stacks up.

I am excited about this turn of events for several reasons. First off, I have been advocating for the past year or so for the ECE Department to have a larger footprint in the areas of the robotics, control, and automation. A lot has been coming together in this regard, e.g. the growth of the Robotic Systems Enterprise, some changes to the curriculum, and development of our research programs, but this may very well become our most visible activity in the area. I have to add, this is not just about ECE: it will be a team effort involving ECE, ME-EM, and CS. This is a great opportunity for these three units to show what can accomplished when we break down the silos a little bit and work toward a common goal. In doing this we will meet another objective of mine, which is to ensure that our work is beneficial to the state of Michigan and the larger Great Lakes region. I see a renaissance in the state that is driven in part by the development of new technologies surrounding the “mobility” area, which leverages the considerable engineering talent that already exists here. Engineers who can cross disciplinary boundaries among ME, EE, and CS are needed to keep this movement vital. I want Michigan Tech to be known as an institution that is doing its part for the economic growth and revitalization of the region, through both our research and through educational programs that meet the state’s workforce needs.

I also believe a program like the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge will do a lot to stir the imagination of new and prospective students at Michigan Tech. A lot of high school students that come to campus have experience in FIRST Robotics, and when they visit us the first thing they want to know is, what do we have going in robotics? Do we ever have an answer now: how would you like to be part of a team building a fully autonomous vehicle? The aspiring engineers in FIRST Robotics – and just yesterday I met a very capable and enthusiastic team at the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Armada, Michigan – have the passion and the drive to see this project through to a successful conclusion as they mature as college students. I predict we are going to see another jump in enrollment in ECE and ME-EM as word of this competition gets around.

We see a lot in the popular press these days about autonomous vehicles and how quickly the technology is developing. I think this is the “moon shot” for the current generation. We may not know how we are going to get there, but it is pretty clear that we are going to get there one way or another. In analogy with the original moon shot in the 1960s and 1970s, this effort may be more valuable for new spin-off technologies that result than it is for the stated goal. If you think about it, what did we really accomplish in 1969? We put some men on the moon, they drove around in buggies, and collected some rocks – big deal. What was really launched in the NASA lunar missions was an entire electronics and computing industry, with far-reaching consequences leading right to present day and far beyond. The same may happen with autonomous vehicles, as entirely new paradigms for sensing, processing, and artificial intelligence give rise to new life-altering technologies that we cannot even imagine today.

When President Mroz issued his open letter to the campus community on Wednesday, he included this critically important statement: “I have no intention of allowing Michigan Tech to lose its forward momentum.” The AutoDrive Challenge is a perfect example of that forward momentum. There may be transitions and uncertainty in the university’s future, just as in the landscape of mobility technologies, but that is no reason to look to the future with anything less than optimism and a sense of wonder about the possible. I wish our AutoDrive team all the best of luck, and will do everything I can to support them. Game on!

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University



Robotic Systems Enterprise Visits Jeffers High School

RSE-jeffers-outreach-20170327Michigan Technological University’s Robotic Systems Enterprise (RSE) recently made a visit to nearby Jeffers High School to introduce students to robotics and programming.

Responding to a request from Mr. Sam Kilpela, Jeffers Science and Math teacher, the RSE Outreach team presented an introduction to Scratch and showed off their programmable miniature robots, the Hackbots and Zumos.

The Scratch programming language lets the user create a program from a drag-and-drop system, making it much easier to learn as an introductory venture into programming. Since the students had previous knowledge of basic HTML, the Outreach team provided a look into more advanced programs such as the interactive Madlibs where the students could choose a series of words and generated a sentence from those words.

Through on-site demonstrations in the classroom, the Outreach team hopes to give pre-college students a look into the world of robotics and other STEM fields.

Robotic Systems Enterprise is an industry-driven enterprise that focuses on seamlessly integrating exceptional knowledge in electronics, robotics, and programming to solve real world engineering problems. RSE is advised by Dr. Glen Archer.


Blue Marble Security Tours Georgia-Pacific

L-R: Matt Hargas, Victoria Fueri, Andrew Tallman, Johnathan Presti, Sandra Cvetanovic, Kyle Domas
L-R: Matt Hargas, Victoria Fueri, Andrew Tallman, Johnathan Presti, Sandra Cvetanovic, Kyle Domas

Members of Blue Marble Security Enterprise went right to the source this week to gain knowledge of their project sponsor’s operations and products.

Georgia-Pacific engineers, and Michigan Tech alumni, Mitch Edbauer (ECE) and John Cretens (MEEM) hosted the site visit and provided a tour of GP’s Green Bay-Broadway Paper Mill. The students were impressed by the company’s process automation, where they saw entire sections of the plant controlled by a single person. They were equally impressed by Georgia-Pacific’s environmental commitment including the use of 100% recycled fiber in their product production.

This year the BMS team has been researching ways to replace disposable batteries in automated soap and paper towel dispensers. The project includes finding alternative energy and methods to more efficiently disperse the products.

Blue Marble Security is a virtual company of undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology. The Enterprise is advised by Dr. Glen Archer.


Brian Flanagan Receives 2nd Place in 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium

flanagan-PosterBrian Flanagan, a computer engineering major, was among the winners of the 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium held on Friday, March 17 in the lobby of the Rozsa Center.

A record number of abstracts and posters were submitted this year – an astonishing 71 – representing every school or college on campus. Flanagan was awarded Second Place for his research on “The Effects of Uncertain Labels on Damage Assessment in Remotely Sensed Images”. Faculty advisor was Tim Havens, ECE and CS William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor.

The annual Symposium is conducted by the Pavlis Honors College and highlights the amazing cutting-edge research being conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduate students.


Olivia Burek awarded Carnahan Enterprise Scholarship

burek-oliviaThe Enterprise Governing Board and the School of Business Scholarship Committee has recently selected Olivia Burek to receive the Spring 2017 Carnahan Enterprise Scholarship. Burek is a double major in management and marketing. The selection was based on her strong application and essay communicating her role in Blue Marble Security Enterprise.

Burek will receive a $500 scholarship for the fall 2017 semester.


McGrath Receives Project GO Scholarship

McGrath-NatalieNatalie McGrath will be spending her summer in Narva, Estonia this year to further her studies in Russian language and culture.

Natalie was recently awarded a Project Global Officer (Project GO) scholarship through the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russian and East European Studies. Project GO is a collaborative initiative with the Department of Defense aimed at improving the language skills, regional expertise, and intercultural communication skills of future military officers within all of the U.S. Armed Forces.

In just eight weeks, students cover the equivalent of one academic year of training in a designated critical language, as well as weekend excursions and cultural activities. Scholarship awardees receive full tuition for the 8-credit University of Pittsburgh language course, coverage of travel, lodging, and textbook costs, and a living stipend for meals.

Natalie is a second year computer engineering major in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Michigan Technological University. She received a domestic Project GO scholarship in the summer of 2015 and studied first-year Russian at Indiana University in Bloomington.


ECE’s Microfabrication Facility launches new website

MFF_homepage Michigan Tech’s Microfabrication Facility, housed under the Department of Electrical and Computer, has launched its new website mtu.edu/microfabrication.

The Microfabrication Facility (MFF) consists of thin film, plasma etching, photolithography, and temperature processing equipment. MFF capabilities are broad and applicable to areas of biomedical engineering, chemistry, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, materials science, and mechanical engineering. Deposition, sputtering, etching, and photolithography capabilities together with microcharacterization measurement systems enable precision device engineering.

The new site enables users to schedule reservations and check the live status of the MFF equipment, along with other user friendly features. MFFmenu

The MFF was also recently selected as a member of the Northern Nano Lab Alliance (NNLA), a regional network of university fabrication facilities. The mission of the NNLA is to help each member improve their support of academic research in applied nanotechnology.

MFF managing director Chito Kendrick, PhD, says “Being a member of the NNLA allows for a partnership with some of the local regional universities that have similar nano/micro fabrication facilities, and will indirectly expose Michigan Tech to the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), which has replaced the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN). This opens up availability to systems that are currently not provided by the MFF. The partnership will also benefit the MFF staff with access to technical support and loaning equipment from the other groups; also we are exploring ways to reduce the operational costs of these facilities.”


Glen Archer Selected For Dean’s Teaching Showcase

archerThis week the Deans’ Teaching Showcase returns to the College of Engineering. Dean Wayne Pennington has chosen Glen Archer, principal lecturer and associate chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dan Fuhrmann (ECE chair), recommended Archer because of his long history of teaching EE3010, a service course primarily populated by other engineering majors.

Besides being very large (enrollment was 193 last fall), students tend to find the material difficult and perceive it as not directly related to their major. Despite these challenges, Archer earned an “Excellent Teacher” rating of 4.36 on a 5 point scale.

Fuhrmann wrote, “In addition to this traditional teaching assignment, Glen also teaches students in a wide variety of less formal venues. Glen serves as a mentor to two Enterprise groups. He has been a long-time advisor of Blue Marble Security. Recently, as an overload, he enthusiastically embraced adding the Robotics Systems Enterprise and has already grown membership in that enterprise from five to 30 students.

“Glen also leads departmental efforts to assemble course offerings and the binder process for the department. He also assigns and mentors the graduate teaching assistants in ECE, and has been known to have them to Thanksgiving dinner at his home in some years.

“But when asked about his favorite parts of teaching, it’s his mentorship of his Enterprise students, especially as they lead a substantial outreach program in ECE. Through Summer Youth Programs, Upward Bound and other programs, Archer’s team hosts hundreds of pre-college students annually. Glen says he ‘couldn’t be prouder’ of the work these teams are doing. He also cites a recent win and third place finish in international competitions for the Blue Marble Security team.

“Finally, Glen measures his success by ‘hearing from students that what they learned in EE3010 was useful in their senior design projects. That’s what helps me get up in the morning.'”

Fuhrmann says “I think that Glen is terrific, and I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

But given Archer’s student focus, perhaps the best endorsement in his unique teaching capacity comes from a Reddit.com review by an anonymous student. “I’m not an EE so I had him for circuits for non believers, and man is he funny. He is also super helpful. He sets up online help groups, encourages participation, suggests going to his hours, and suggests going to the help center. He’s a really good professor and teaches the material well.”

Archer will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.