Winikus receives NSF scholarship to 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration Conference

Jennifer Winikus, PhD Computer Engineering student

Jennifer Winikus, a PhD Computer Engineering student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University, has been awarded a National Science Foundation scholarship to attend the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference to be held October 1-4, 2013, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Winikus was selected from a competitive pool of over 900 applicants. The scholarship award covers registration, meals, accommodations and travel support.

The annual conference, a program of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world and is expected to attract approximately 4,000 participants from over 40 countries in industry, academia, and government. The results are collaborative proposals, networking and mentoring for junior women, and increased visibility for the contributions of women on computing. Scholarship applications were based on this year’s theme “Think Big, Drive Forward”.

Winikus is very active in the ECE Department and the University. She currently serves as Treasurer for the Graduate Student Government and has created and delivered ECE Summer Youth Programs for Women in Engineering, the Engineering Scholars Program, and both the EE and CpE week long explorations. As a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), she has successfully instructed one of the more challenging EE labs, Electrical Design with Microprocessor, receiving high ratings from her students and earning the department’s 2013 Jonathan Bara Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant.  Jennifer’s PhD advisor is Dr. Laura Brown.


Bruce Mork Named Wiitanen Professor of Electric Power Systems

Bruce Mork, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named the Dennis Wiitanen Professor of Electric Power Systems.

The Wiitanen Professorship was established to honor longtime ECE faculty member Dennis Wiitanen, who retired in May 2012. Unlike most professorships, which are named for a single donor, the Wiitanen Professorship is supported by an endowment underwritten by a variety of industry, foundation, and alumni sources, including ITC Holdings, Consumers Energy Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation and electrical engineering alumnus David Brule.

Mork was named to the position after a yearlong selection process. He received high praise from leaders in the power industry and was unanimously supported by the major sponsors of the professorship.

“Bruce is the natural choice for the Wiitanen Professorship,” said Dan Fuhrmann, chair of electrical and computer engineering. “He has been a leader in teaching, research and curriculum development in the power and energy area within the ECE department and across campus for many years. He is a leading expert in power system protection, an area of critical need in the utility power industry as our infrastructure transitions to the smart grid. Plus, he was the driving force behind our online courses in power and energy, a model for the rest of the department and indeed the rest of the University.”

Dennis Wiitanen was also gratified by Mork’s appointment.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Bruce grow from a newly minted PhD assistant professor at Michigan Tech to an internationally recognized leader in the power field,” he said. “I am very pleased that he will be the first recipient of the professorship carrying my name.”

Bruce Mork was honored in his acceptance.

“It’s been a privilege to work with Dennis over the last 21 years of his outstanding 42 year career at Michigan Tech. He’s been an exemplary senior colleague and role model for us all. It’s an honor for me to be the first recipient of this prestigious Professorship. The resources provided will support ongoing developments in education and research which strategically address technology and work force needs of the Electric Power sector. We owe a lot to Dennis and this will greatly help us to maintain and advance our strong program.”

The professorship has a five-year renewable term and carries with it an annual discretionary stipend to support research equipment, graduate students and other expenses to build and maintain an active research program in the power area.


Endowed Professorships Announced for ECE & ME-EM

Two associate professors and one new assistant professor have been awarded named professorships in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

ECE faculty member Wayne Weaver has been named the Dave House Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering. Weaver is an expert in microgrids, electrical machines and control of power systems. He collaborates extensively with mechanical engineering faculty, in particular Gordon Parker, who holds the John and Cathi Drake Professorship.

Bo Chen has been named the Dave House Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. She is an expert in embedded sensor networks, multi-agent systems, and vehicle electronics and control.

Chen, who formerly held a sole appointment in the ME-EM department, will now hold a joint appointment in ME-EM and ECE, with the majority appointment in ME-EM.

Lucia Gauchia will join the Michigan Tech faculty this fall with a joint appointment in ECE and ME-EM, with the majority appointment in ECE. She has been named the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Assistant Professor of Energy Storage Systems. She is an expert in energy storage systems and state estimation for batteries and supercapacitors.

The awarding of two of these three professorships was the result of a cooperative agreement between the ECE and ME-EM departments, as it involved a “swap” of endowed positions. Dave House is an ECE alumnus, whereas Richard Henes is a ME-EM alumnus.

“I am delighted that ECE and ME-EM were able to work out this arrangement,” Fuhrmann said. “If Michigan Tech is to continue its success in energy systems, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and control and automation, it’s going to require the close cooperation of our two departments.”

ME-EM chair Bill Predebon agreed.

“I am very excited about the growth in collaboration between the ME-EM and ECE departments,” he said. “These joint appointments are significant step in that direction. Our vision to establish a leadership position in the energy systems area will require a continued strong cooperation between our two departments.”


Zhuo Feng receives DAC Best Paper Award

ECE assistant professor Zhuo Feng received Best Paper Award at the 2013 Design Automation Conference (DAC), held this week in Austin, Texas, for his paper titled “Scalable vectorless power grid current integrity verification”. 

The DAC is a major annual conference in the electronics industry, this year with 747 papers. Prof. Feng’s paper was the sole winner, topping a slate of 8 nominated papers from academic and research institutions across North America and Europe.

For more information or a copy of the paper see http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2488840


2013 ECE Student Awards

Each year five student awards are given by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Nominations are received from ECE Faculty and Staff and voting is conducting. We are pleased to announce this year’s recipients.

ECE Departmental Scholar

Adam Funkenbusch, BSEE, BSECP

Adam Funkenbusch is a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering with a GPA of 3.96.  Adam is a member of the Aerospace Enterprise, an interdisciplinary enterprise hosted in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, which won the AFRL University Nanostat competition in 2011 (a major point of pride for Michigan Tech), working toward launch of the Oculus ASR in 2014. Adam is a Software Team Leader, responsible for a group of ten CpE and CS students doing both software and hardware development and carrying out project management.

The morning of the Spring 2013 Career Fair, Adam delivered a polished 5-minute presentation to a group of industry recruiters on the Aerospace Enterprise as part of the “ECE Showcase” which the Department hosted in the Student Development Complex.

Adam spent two summers as an intern at 3M ESPE (Dental Products Division) working on 3M’s True Definition Scanner, an electronic device for recording and creating a high-resolution 3D digital model of patient oral cavity. Adam was fortunate enough to be involved in the project from early development to product launch, contributing on both the software side and in the design of a solid calibration target housing.

He is the Corresponding Secretary of Eta Kappa Nu (EE honor society). His other contributions of service to Michigan Tech include a presentation to the sophomore circuits class on EE areas of specialization and he is the Webmaster for the Research Scholars Program.

Adam plays mellophone in the Michigan Tech Pep Band and participates in intramural frisbockey, flag football, broomball, bowling, and floor hockey. He speaks English (native), German (intermediate) and Spanish (beginner). Adam also participates in BonzAI Brawl and ACM‐ICPC programming competitions and is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Honors Institute.

ECE Woman of Promise

Rachel Swaney, BSECP

Rachel Slabaugh (Swaney) is an Electrical Engineering major with focus in Power and a GPA of 3.96. She is also working towards a Power Certificate. Rachel is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Institute of Electrical and Electrical Engineering (IEEE). She serves as a committee head for Tau Beta Pi and as treasurer for Eta Kappa Nu (EE honor society). She acted as VP of Public Relations for Blue Marble Security Enterprise as well as project manager for the Enterprise’s Heart Rate Monitor project where she managed a team of engineers who design a circuit board and corresponding instruction set as an EE lab for middle school outreach activities. She also serves on the ECE Undergraduate Advisory Board. Rachel had a controls focus internship with Paper Converting Machine Company where she organized and set up a rental replacement program for Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems and developed HMI screens. Rachel is also active in her local church where she teaches a toddler Sunday school class.

Carl S. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding Undergraduate ECE Student

Andrew Hoekstra, BSEE, BSECP

Andrew Hoekstra is a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering with a GPA of 3.98. In addition, he has achieved an International Spanish Minor. Andrew is the president of the Honors Institute, a Student Ambassador, was on the Oculus ASR team of the Aerospace Enterprise where he has designed a circuit board and power supply for the Oculus Communication System, is an officer of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), and is a Co-President of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Enterprise. Andrew is also an assistant Karate instructor (black belt) and is certified as a Medical First Responder.

Andrew has been extremely helpful to the ECE department and is always willing to help when asked. He has volunteered with Preview Day, ECE annual phone campaign, and the Fall Open House. He has put together multiple initiatives as an HKN member including organizing the first ever “ECE Showcase” as part of the 2013 Spring Career Fair events, presenting information on concentrations to EE and CpE sophomores, and efforts to obtain corporate sponsorship for HKN.

Jonathan Bara Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)

Jennifer Winikus, PhD candidate in Computer Engineering

Jenn Winikus is currently pursuing her degree PhD in Computer Engineering. Her advisor is Prof. Wayne Weaver. Jenn has been active in many aspects of our graduate program and overall success of our department. Her contributions may be best described in her nomination for the award by ECE Associate Chair Glen Archer as he states:

[Jenn] has been a stalwart in one of our most challenging labs, EE3306, where she has shepherded many sections through the mysteries of the Motorolla HCS12 microcontroller.  In addition to her performance in the microcontroller lab, she has created and delivered our summer youth program for Women in Engineering, the Engineering Scholars Program, and both the EE and CpE week long explorations.   She has extended herself for her students by setting open lab hours on the weekends and evenings to allow them to complete their work.  She routinely receives high marks on the student surveys and glowing remarks in the written comment sections.

Matt Wolfe Award for Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)

Himanshu Bahirat, PhD EE

Himanshu Bahirat earned both his PhD and MSEE at Michigan Tech. In both degrees, he has distinguished himself, the ECE Department, and Michigan Tech, and drawn praise from his research sponsors and collaborators.

Himanshu entered the PhD program in Jan 2009, supported by a GRA on a $1.15M collaborative MTU-NTNU project, http://www.doe.mtu.edu/news/2010/mork.pdf. He took a 10-month research exchange at NTNU in 2011-12, working with two other faculty-PhD student pairs there and taking a leadership role throughout. He has advanced state of the art in computer modeling of offshore wind farms and developed new high-voltage dc collector system topologies and technologies.  Related to this work to date, he has 1 published journal paper, 1 journal paper under review, 2 journal papers being submitted, and 3 more in progress. A patent application is in progress. He has published 4 refereed conference papers (2 are IEEE PES). He successfully defended in August 2013.

Himanshu completed his MSEE in Dec 2009. He was supported as a GRA and quickly became an expert in computer simulation of transients in high-voltage power systems.  Responding to a NERC (North American Electric Reliability Council) mandate to retrofit a failure-prone high-voltage equipment installation design, Himanshu and I worked with the research sponsor to address the 72 instances in their system.  Himanshu led the effort to develop a lower-cost more robust design modification, carried out the mathematical development, implemented the simulation model, and performed an exhaustive set of performance simulations. This resulted in a conference paper, a journal paper, and a recommendation to the IEEE stds committee to modify their existing standards.  The sponsor estimates that utilizing this new approach has saved them $3.5M compared to prior common practice.

At the time of his nomination, Himanshu had published two journal papers, one journal paper under review, two journal papers being submitted and three more in preparation, four peer-reviewed conference papers, two conference papers, and is the holder of three patents with one more under review.

IProf. Mork stated in his nomination that “in addition to the capabilities Himanshu has developed as a researcher, he possesses great professional skills, is excellent at teaming, and is a good role model and mentor of younger students.  As evidence, he is continuing at MTU this academic year as a postdoctoral research fellow and instructor, teaching EE5200 and EE5220, co-advising MSEE and PhD students, and writing research proposals. He is an outstanding representative of Michigan Tech and is highly deserving of this award.”


Alumni Gifts Fund Two Major Learning Initiatives

Michigan Technological University is launching two major initiatives aimed at improving student success and providing faculty with new tools for enhancing student learning.

Both efforts are made possible through generous gifts from alumni. An $876,000 bequest from the estate of Waino Wahtera, who earned a BS in Chemistry from Michigan Tech in 1942, will fund the Wahtera Center for Student Success. The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning is supported by an outright gift of $1 million. The president of CableAmerica, William G. Jackson graduated from Michigan Tech in 1958 with a BS in Electrical Engineering.
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BSEE Senior Ali Haidar Earns Daktronics Midwest All-Region First Team Honors

Michigan Tech men’s basketball player Ali Haidar has earned Daktronics Midwest All-Region first team honors. He was a second team selection in 2011-12.

Haidar, a BSEE senior in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was named GLIAC Player of the Year for the second straight year and has broken four GLIAC records and seven school records this season. The Windsor, Ont., native broke the league record for points (541) and field goals made (188) in a season. He also established season records for free throws made (158) and attempted (209).

His school records include season scoring (698) and rebounding (273), rebounds in a career (881), most 20+ point games in a season (22) and free throws made (18) and attempted (20) in a game.

Haidar, who ranks fifth in career scoring (1,927) at Michigan Tech, ranks third in the nation in scoring (24.9 ppg) and 16th in rebounding (9.8 rpg).

Original story by Ian Marks, assistant director, athletic communications and marketing posted in Tech Today, 3/18/13.

For more information regarding Ali Haidar see http://www.mtu.edu/umc/services/pr-news/magazine/winter1112/stories/star-east/


The Circuit – Newsletter 2011-2012

ECE 2011-2012 newsletter The Circuit is now available. The publication highlights recent activities in the department including: 

  • ECE Education in Tune with Industry – electrical and computer engineers in demand at Fall 2011 Career Fair 
  • The Changing Face of Engineering – Women in ECE
  • Establishment of the Dennis Wiitanen Professorship in Electric Energy Systems – “Doc” Wiitanen to be honored at May 4 retirement celebration
  • Paul and Susan Williams Center for Computer Systems Research Dedicated
  • Student’s Winning Satellite to be Launched into Orbit
  • Senior Design: A Renaissance Approach

Dennis “Doc” Wiitanen Announces Retirement

After 42 years of distinguished and dedicated service to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Michigan Tech, Professor Dennis O. Wiitanen announces his retirement, to be honored May 4, 2012. Prof. Wiitanen is a nationally recognized leader in electric power and energy systems. His most significant impact and his lasting legacy, though, is in undergraduate education. Thousands of Michigan Tech students have completed his classes in power system design and analysis, and have gone on to take their place in the workforce.

Dennis was, and continues to be, a tireless team member and advocate for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. No one knows more about the inner workings of the Department. He has served as the Associate Chair for the Department for twenty-five years and for five different chairs. For many of those years he was Chair of the Undergraduate Programs Committee, guiding the evolution of our educational programs to keep pace with ever-changing technology and workforce needs.

We invite you to participate in a very special initiative being put forward by the ECE Department, an initiative to honor Dennis Wiitanen on the occasion of his retirement. In recognition of everything that “Doc” has done, the Department is establishing the Dennis Wiitanen Professorship in Electric Power Systems. The funding to make this professorship a reality is 70% in place, but we need your help to finish the job. Our goal is to raise $300,000 to bring the total endowment to $1 million. Endowments are private gifts invested to produce income annually for use as faculty support, scholarships, or other needs. In this case, the income would be used to support the Wiitanen Professorship holder and to provide funds for supporting ECE students, purchasing equipment, and funding travel. Your gift can make it happen.

This will be a unique professorship on the Michigan Tech campus, in that it will be named in honor of one of our own rather than a single external donor. Several years ago, a fund was established for a professorship in electric power systems; gifts were solicited from several industry partners, with the primary contributors being Detroit Edison, Consumers Energy, Northern States Energy (now Xcel Energy), Upper Peninsula Power, and Wisconsin Public Service. The account has sat dormant, accumulating investment income, but the time has come to put the money to its intended use. Because the funding sources are so diverse, the ECE Department decided that the best title to put on the position is the name of the one person with a common connection to all of these entities, someone who has had a bigger role in the education of power engineers than anyone else at Michigan Tech: Dennis Wiitanen. For more information or to make a gift or pledge.

It is our goal to have everything in place by the time of Prof. Wiitanen’s retirement dinner, which will take place on the Michigan Tech campus on Friday, May 4, 2012. Please join us in celebrating the many accomplishments and contributions of Dennis O. Wiitanen to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Michigan Tech University. See Wiitanen Celebration for event details and to purchase tickets.


Railroad Night Coming Up

The Rail Transportation Program (RTP) and the Rail Engineering and Activities Club (REAC) announce the seventh annual Railroad Night from 7 to 10 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Shelden Grill in the Magnuson Hotel, Houghton.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kevin Kesler, chief engineer in the operating practice division for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Student admission is $3 for the event (or $5 for admission plus REAC membership). REAC is open to all students of any discipline. For more information, see Rail.

Tickets will be on sale through Feb. 17 for students:

Feb. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.–Dillman

Feb. 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.–ME-EM

Feb. 16, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.–Dow

Feb. 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.–Fisher

There is no fee for faculty or administrators, but an RSVP to Pam Hannon at prhannon@mtu.edu is required by Friday, Feb. 17, as well.