Category Archives: Undergraduate Students

Oliveira and Pavlis Honors students visit Federal University of Pará

Oliveira-brazilAurenice Oliveira (ECE) and several students from the Pavlis Honors College recently traveled to Federal University of Pará (UFPA) in Belem, Brazil. The purpose of the visit is two-fold. The work involving the students is to gather information to help determine the needs of the people in the Belem area and develop sustainable communication solutions, backed by the community, to isolated areas. The students involved in the Pavlis Global Leadership Pathway pilot program will spend five weeks immersed in the environment and culture of Belem, Brazil.

pavlis-rainforest-studentspavlis-jungle-students-1

While at UFPA, Dr. Oliveira gave an invited talk hosted by the IEEE Communication Society Student Branch titled “Enabling Autonomous Vehicles with Vehicular Communication Networks.” The presentation was open to the entire UFPA community of students, faculty, and staff. The talk included an introduction to vehicular communication networks and how these networks can support autonomous vehicles. Vehicular Networking has emerged as one of the most important technologies to enable a variety of applications in the areas of: safety, traffic efficient and eco-friendly transportation, and Infotainment. Vehicular Ad Hoc Network (VANET) is the supporting network for Intelligent Transportation Systems services.


Kyle Ludwig on Pitching Looma

Kyle Ludwig CMU NVC
Kyle Ludwig at CMU NVC

Kyle Ludwig, a fourth-year computer engineering student from Traverse City, Michigan, comments on the recent Central Michigan University New Venture Competition business pitch for funding.

We competed in CMU NVC business pitch competition for funding. If you’ve ever seen Silicon Valley on HBO, it’s like a the student version of TechCrunch Disrupt. Outside the satire, there are opportunities for us to meet investors, other entrepreneurs, and compete for $80,000 in funding. For almost two years, I’ve been beginning my startup Looma to automate meal planning to eat consistently healthy without the worry of time, depriving, or unsuccessful outcome. We’ve asked for a lot of direction from people, books, blogs and more to be systematic in our company intent and product development. Michigan Tech has helped not only with advice and resources through the Pavlis Honors College, but with continuous support we’ve gained from students and faculty as we get ready to launch our app.

According to Ludwig, Michigan Tech has helped not only with advice and resources through the Pavlis Honors College, but with continuous support the venture group gained from students and faculty as they get ready to launch their app. There are challenges to overcome in entrepreneurship:

When you want someone’s advice, don’t ask for it. Ask for the tools on how to learn what they know. Books are more valuable than quick responses.

The event took place on March 24, 2017.


FWF: News from Week 13

Casey Strom, 2017 Carl J. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding ECE Undergraduate Student, along with his wife Becky
Casey Strom, 2017 Carl J. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding ECE Undergraduate Student, along with his wife Becky

Welcome to a special double feature edition of FWF. I am playing catch-up this weekend, in my attempts to write one column per week, not always successful. This is the busiest time of the year at Michigan Tech, so there is plenty to write about, but sometimes doing stuff gets in the way of writing about it.

The week of April 10-14 is “Week 13” in the spring academic calendar. In the ECE Department, this is when the students wrap up their Senior Design and Enterprise projects and make their final presentations, on Thursday. Simultaneously, the ECE External Advisory Committee (EAC) is in town, from Wednesday afternoon to Friday noon. The timing of the EAC visit is no coincidence, as their primary mission in the spring meeting is help us judge the student presentations. The entire ECE faculty gets into the act as well, sitting in on the presentations and offering their feedback. For all of Thursday morning, from 8am to 1pm, we listened to student teams of 4-6 describe their various projects. Collectively we watched 26 different presentations spread out over 5 time slots and 6 venues.

My overall impression this year is that the presentations were quite good; there seems to be a gradual improvement in the quality of the oral communication skills and the level of comfort our students have with public speaking. If I were to have a concern, it would be that I wonder if we are doing enough to challenge our students with the electrical and computer engineering technical content. All of our Senior Design projects are industry-sponsored, and many of the Enterprise projects are as well. We are of course very proud of our relationships with our industry partners, and seek to do everything we can to ensure that they get the value they seek from supporting our educational programs. The trick is making sure that those needs include tough, interesting, electrical/computer engineering problems that require a concerted effort for several months on the part of our students to find a viable solution. The EAC echoed these concerns in our debriefing session on Friday, and it is something we will be taking a close look at next year.

As is to be expected there is a range of quality in the student projects, and the best ones are absolutely outstanding. Each year the EAC awards the Larry Kennedy Industry Innovation Award to the project they deem to be the very best. The award is named in honor of our recent EAC chair who was taken from us suddenly by a heart attack, two years ago, at a far too young age. This year’s award goes to the project titled “Surgical High Speed Drill Rotor Position via CAN bus” sponsored by the Stryker Corporation. Stryker is a medical device and equipment company headquartered in SW Michigan; this is their first Senior Design project in the ECE Department. The ECE faculty advisor is Trever Hassell and the Stryker point of contact is Keith Behnke, whom we also welcome to the EAC this year. The students on the team are Dan Bragg, Elliott Meese, Julio Saint-Felix Rodriguez, Hailey Trossen, and Yuguang Wang. My congratulations to everyone involved in the project – in terms of the scope of the project and the quality of the execution this is exactly what we hope for every year.

Senior Design Team 6 (Stryker) L-R: Julio Saint-Felix Rodriguez, Hailey Trossen, Elliott Meese, and advisor Trever Hassell. Missing from photo: Dan Bragg and Yuguang Wang
Senior Design Team 6 (Stryker) L-R: Julio Saint-Felix Rodriguez, Hailey Trossen, Elliott Meese, and advisor Trever Hassell. Missing from photo: Dan Bragg and Yuguang Wang

The award for best capstone project is just one of several awards given out at our Senior Banquet, which occurred the evening of Thursday, April 13, with student, faculty, and EAC members in attendance.

This year for the first time we recognized the many undergraduate students who serve the ECE Department in various capacities, some paid and some volunteer. These include participating in Fall Open House and Spring Preview days, telephone calling campaigns for student recruiting, departmental tours, and our Undergraduate Advisory Board. Some 18 students were presented with certificates. This community service by our students is highly valued and greatly appreciated by the department, and the recognition is long overdue. I plan to continue doing this at the Senior Banquet from here on out.

Recognition of Service to ECE
Recognition of Service to ECE

The Departmental Scholar Award is our departmental nominee for the Provost’s Award for Scholarship, given to a student who will be senior ranked in the following academic year, and who represents the very best in scholarship and leadership at Michigan Tech. The ECE Departmental Scholar for the 2016-2017 academic year is Sarah Wade, a double major in electrical engineering and computer engineering with an outstanding academic record and long list of extracurricular activities including being on the Nordic ski team. Sarah is a member of the Aerospace Enterprise, hosted in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and is making significant contributions there as a systems engineering and technical lead. Many of our award-winning students over the years have been associated with the Aerospace Enterprise so they must be doing something right over there. Like all but one of the Departmental Scholars at Michigan Tech, Sarah did not win the Provost’s Award, but the competition was stiff and we were proud to have her represent ECE.

Sarah Wade, 2017 ECE Departmental Scholar
Sarah Wade, 2017 ECE Departmental Scholar

The Woman of Promise Award was created by the Presidential Council of Alumnae, an advisory group to President Mroz. It is intended to recognize those women at Michigan Tech who go “above and beyond” what is expected in terms of being a well-rounded student, with considerations of academic achievement, campus leadership, citizenship, and creativity. This year the ECE Department had such outstanding nominees that we decided to give two Woman of Promise Awards. The first went to Jenna Burns, a high-achieving electrical engineering major with a minor in Spanish, who also is a percussion section leader in the Pep Band, and who has really distinguished herself in service to the ECE Department. Our second Woman of Promise is Elizabeth “Libbey” Held, a double major in electrical and computer engineering, a minor in Spanish (is there a theme here?), and a near-perfect GPA. Libby was cited by several faculty members as someone who asks the most insightful questions in class and during office hours. My congratulations to both Jenna and Libbey. Both have a year to go, so I say keep up the good work!

Jenna Burns, 2017 ECE Woman of Promise
Jenna Burns, 2017 ECE Woman of Promise

Elizabeth (Libbey) Held, 2017 ECE Woman of Promise
Elizabeth (Libbey) Held, 2017 ECE Woman of Promise

Our top student achievement award is the Carl S. Schjonberg Award for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the ECE Department. This year’s award choice was in my opinion a slam-dunk and I made that opinion known during our faculty deliberations, which I usually stay out of. Casey Strom is a truly remarkable individual. He is what we would call a “non-traditional” student, meaning that he comes to our program with a fair amount of life experience already under his belt. He lives and works on a family farm in Calumet, has a large family already, and had his own surveying business at the time of his coming into the department. In spite of all these demands on his time, he completes all of his coursework in the ECE Department with near-perfect attendance, all homeworks completed on time, and many exams close to 100%. This guy is motivated like you wouldn’t believe, and on top of that he has the most cheerful can-do demeanor of any student I have ever met. Casey, you represent the best of everything we try to do in the ECE Department and I couldn’t be prouder to call you a Michigan Tech graduate.

Casey Strom, 2017 Carl J. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding ECE Undergraduate Student
Casey Strom, 2017 Carl J. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding ECE Undergraduate Student

The final award of the evening at the Senior Banquet is presented by the students in Eta Kappa Nu to their selection for the Professor of the Year. This year’s award goes to Duane Bucheger. Duane is our Professor of Practice who runs the Senior Design program and teaches courses in design fundamentals, electric circuits, and electronics. He has been in this position for six years, and during that time he has done an outstanding job of building up our space and equipment devoted to Senior Design on the 7th floor of the EERC. As anyone in the ECE Department can tell you, Duane is a strong and vocal advocate for making sure students are aware of what will be expected of them in industry, and for preparing them to enter that world. I am delighted to see the Eta Kappa Nu students recognize Prof. Bucheger for his efforts on their behalf; I think it is a fitting tribute for all his hard work. For a variety of reasons and by mutual agreement, Duane will be stepping down from this position at the end of the academic year. We wish him all the best and thank him for his many contributions to the ECE Department.

Duane Bucheger, HKN Professor of the Year, presented by Libbey Held
Duane Bucheger, HKN Professor of the Year, presented by Libbey Held

All of that was almost two weeks ago! One more post and I will be caught up – and maybe the snow will be gone.

– Dan

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


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.


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.


Kyle Ludwig named University Innovation Fellow

Computer engineering major Kyle Ludwig
Computer engineering major Kyle Ludwig

Three Michigan Tech students are among 169 students from 49 higher education institutions worldwide to be named University Innovation Fellows. They are: Rachel Kolb (MEEM), Kyle Ludwig (ECE), and Adam Weber (CNSA).

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world. To accomplish this, the Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity at their schools.

Fellows design innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, host experiential learning events and work with faculty to develop new courses.

The program is run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. With the addition of the new Fellows, the program has trained 776 students at 164 institutions since its creation.

Ludwig, a computer engineering major from Traverse City, Michigan is involved in Michigan Tech’s Entrepreneurs Club, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Advisory Board, and the Pavlis Honor’s College. Ludwig would like to use his education in computer engineering, along with his passion for health and fitness, to improve health using technology.

“We believe that students can be so much more than just the customers of their education. They can be leaders of change and they can co-design the higher education experience,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program.

“This core belief has driven the program since its inception, and we’ve seen the results of this belief put to action at schools around the world. Fellows are collaborating with their peers, faculty and administrators to create more educational opportunities for students at their schools. They are making measurable gains, both in the number of resources and the students served by the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Individual Fellows as well as institutional teams of Fellows are sponsored by faculty and administrators and selected through an application process twice annually.

Throughout the year, they take part in events and conferences and have opportunities to learn from one another, Stanford mentors and leaders in academia and industry.


Robotic Systems Enterprise hosts first annual Ford Controlathon

RSE-controlathonECE’s Robotic Systems Enterprise (RSE) was host to the first annual Controlathon sponsored by Ford Motor Company on Saturday, November 12. Ten teams competed in the inaugural one-day event held on the Michigan Tech campus, Memorial Union Building.

Ford’s purpose of the event was to raise the interest of controls engineers in the automotive industry. The students competed against each other as individuals or teams to see who could program an Arduino-based robot to complete pre-assigned tasks, such as solving a maze and following an object. The goal of the Controlathon was to create a unique solution to the presented problems in a limited amount of time. The teams were tasked to complete three separate events, scores were assigned for each event.

At the end of the day, Sirius Cybernetics came away with first place; 2nd Desert, 3rd 2CS & an EE, 4th C Dogs, and 5th place was Team Mine.

Ford representatives Jeffrey DuClos and Matt Alessi look on with team Sig-Cont-Rho-lers team members Libby Held, Dan Hannah, and Alex Miltenberger
Ford representatives Jeffrey DuClos and Matt Alessi look on with team Sig-Cont-Rho-lers team members Libby Held, Dan Hannah, and Alex Miltenberger

RSE is advised by Dr. Glen Archer.

Check out @mtuECE for more highlights from the event.


CAT/SWE team takes 1st place at WE16

CAT/SWE (ECE) team members Derek Chopp, Ester Buhl, and Anna Marchesano
CAT/SWE (ECE) team members Derek Chopp, Ester Buhl, and Anna Marchesano
ECE’s Blue Marble Security (BMS) Enterprise team CAT/SWE took 1st place in the WE16 Team Tech Competition (sponsored by Boeing) this weekend.

The team’s project “Wheel Tractor Scraper Bowl Optimization System”, a joint venture between BMS (ECE) and Consumer Products Enterprise (Chemical Engineering), was sponsored by Caterpillar, Inc.

WE16 is the world’s largest conference and career fair for women in engineering and technology. Hosted by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a number of corporate sponsors, WE16 provides inspiring and invaluable ways to connect, discover career opportunities and pursue professional development. This year the global gathering took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 27-29 with more than 9,000 attendees at all stages of their engineering careers.

The ECE Department congratulations the CAT/SWE team!


Burrell awarded SPIE Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship

Burrell_SPIEscholarship_20160707Derek Burrell (ECE) has been awarded a 2016 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics for his potential contributions to the field of optics, photonics or related field.

Burrell is an Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate student at Michigan Technological University working toward a BS in electrical engineering with a concentration in photonics. He has academic and industrial experience in the fabrication and testing of optical interconnects, design of photometric simulations and creation of light-based models for virtual reality systems. His research interests include telecommunications, digital image processing and materials characterization. The scholarship will provide $3,000 toward tuition and research funding for the 2016-2017 academic year. Derek is the current president of the Michigan Technological University SPIE Student Chapter.

Burrell was also recently selected by Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) for a $2,500 research fellowship that will begin Fall 2016 and concentrate on free-space optical communications.

Derek plans to pursue an MS in optical engineering after graduation.

For more information regarding the 2016 scholarship awards see SPIE.


Fridays with Fuhrmann: Congratulations graduates!

FWF_image_20160506Well, here we are at the end of yet another academic year at Michigan Tech. Last week saw a flurry of activity leading up to to commencement, so much so that I overlooked writing this very column! (I doubt if anyone missed it, but if you did you will make me feel good.)

A lot of parents and other family members came to town on Friday. I got to meet many of them at a reception for ECE students that we host here in the department, followed by another university-wide reception hosted by President Glenn Mroz and his wife Gail. Most of our students have good jobs lined up, as one might expect with the strong demand for electrical and computer engineers that I have written about before. I was struck this year by the handful of students who did not have definitive plans for the immediate future. I did not get a sense of concern about this at all, it was just that students were so busy doing other things that they had not yet mounted a serious job search. I am not at all worried about the availability of good jobs out there, only about the complacency (for a small minority) that comes with being in a seller’s market.

Saturday was the big day. For me it started at 7:30am with the commissioning of the ROTC candidates. This year Michigan Tech had 11 graduating students assume their first positions as 2nd lieutenants in either the Army or the Air Force. Two of those were ECE students, Carrie Shuler and Michael Bartkowiak. I congratulate them and thank them for their service. The main commencement in the Student Development Center was at 10:30am, and this year with 993 students graduating and walking across the stage it turned into a 3-hour and 10-minute affair. Our commencement speaker, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, reminded us to look for the good in all people and to consider the satisfaction of a life of service. Despite all the pomp and circumstance, and the long wait for the last student to get his diploma and get off the stage, it really is a great moment in the life of the university and one that always leaves me energized.

This year, including the Fall 2015 commencement, the ECE Department granted 72 BSEE degrees and 34 BSCpE degrees, for a total of 106 undergraduates degrees. That number is a little low for us, 26 fewer than last year. With 169 new undergraduates predicted to enter next year, we should see a big jump in the total undergraduate enrollment in the fall. On the graduate side, we produced 95 MS degrees and 3 PhD degrees, for a net increase in 4. Our MS numbers are up, but the PhD degrees are down, which is a concern considering our strategic plan to graduate 10 PhD students per year. However, I am told we have 12 PhD students ready to finish up this summer. The department is going to be hopping this summer if that comes to fruition!

As we wrap up the year I like to take a few moments and recognize a few people that do an outstanding job of teaching, research, and service in the ECE Department. I will repeat here some of the acknowledgements I made at the last faculty meeting of the year three days ago. On the teaching side, I like to recognize faculty members that handle very large classes and still get very good to excellent student teaching evaluations; these include Glen Archer, Duane Bucheger, Bruce Mork, Ashok Ambardar, and John Lukowski. I also want to congratulate faculty members with student course evaluations very close to 5 on a 0-5 scale in small and medium-sized classes: Tim Schulz, Ashok Ambardar, and Warren Perger in undergraduate courses and Joshua Pearce, Wayne Weaver, and Tim Havens in graduate courses. Thank you all for a job well done!

One of the key metrics that we use in evaluating the strength of our research programs is the number of PhD students supported by external grants and contracts. Our goal is to have 50% of the PhD students on external support, and while we are not there yet we get a little closer every year. This year we had 23 students supported by 13 different faculty members, both numbers larger than we have seen in quite a while. The faculty members are: Feng, Guney, Havens, Hu, Middlebrook, Mork, Nooshabadi, Roggemann, Semouchkina, Ten, Wang, Weaver, and Zekavat.  Special recognition goes to Prof. Christopher Middlebrook for having the largest research expenditures in the department this year. Nice going Chris!

A special acknowledgement goes to our relatively new Graduate Program Coordinator Joan Becker, for the extraordinary job she has done in meeting the needs of our graduate students. Our program has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and we do not have a faculty or staff position dedicated to academic advising for everyday things like making sure all the degree requirements are being met and the appropriate forms are turned in. This task has fallen to Joan, and she has really gone above and beyond taking care of the steady stream of students outside her door.

Another person I need to recognize is ECE faculty member Ashok Ambardar, one of our absolute top instructors. Prof. Ambardar is old school: he likes to lecture with chalk on a blackboard, assign regular weekly homeworks, and give regular paper-and-pencil exams, just like he has done his entire career. Students love him. Ashok had an amazing Fall 2015 semester, in terms of student enrollments and responses. He taught three courses – one sophomore, one junior, one senior – with enrollments of 76, 73, and 11, and bottom-line student course evaluations of 4.51, 4.37 and 4.82 out of 5. Prof. Ambardar goes about his work quietly and does not seek a lot of attention, but I hope he knows how much we all appreciate everything he does.

Finally, I want to recognize Senior Lecturer Kit Cischke, this year’s Eta Kappa Nu Professor of the Year. Kit is another amazing instructor, someone who shoulders a lot of the teaching responsibility in our computer engineering program. He teaches courses in microcontrollers, hardware/software integration, and computer networks, and is the faculty advisor for the Wireless Communications Enterprise. His many students realize what an impact he has on their lives and here in the ECE Department. Congratulations Kit on being recognized by our students and thank you for everything you do!

I think that’s about it for this year – students have cleared out, and spring has returned to the Keweenaw.  Have a great summer everyone!

– Dan

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