Author: College of Engineering

Sue Hill is the Digital Content Manager for the College of Engineering.

World Usability Day in TechAlum Newsletter

Driving Simulator

Photo Gallery Added!!

Usability Day

We celebrated World Usability Day Thursday. Held all over the globe, it highlights the importance of humans as participants in technology. Sounds like just the job for Tech students, and many projects on campus proved that point.

We started with a driving simulator, staffed by Jason Sterkenburg, a master’s student in applied cognitive sciences and human factors.

“We are looking at a couple of factors,” Sterkenburg said. “Emotional driving, like being in an angry state, and secondary tasks that affect driving performance, like drinking coffee and other things that can distract drivers.”

Steve Landry, a master’s student in psychology, was showing how a massive keyboard worked, too. Stepping on different parts of the floor, with different emphasis, he played and changed musical notes and tones.

Ultimately, Philart Jeon, an assistant professor in cognitive and learning sciences, wants to bring in dancers whose moves will create different notes.

“Instead of dancing to music, they will be creating new music when they move,” Jeon said.

Read more at TechAlum Newsletter, by Dennis Walikainen.

Risk Literacy in APS Observations

ObserverThe Association for Psychological Science featured a brief review of Edward Cokely’s recent risk literacy research in their “observations” section.

From Tech Today.

Visual Aids Can Help People Better Understand Health Risks

In a new article, researchers Rocio Garcia-Retamero of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and Edward Cokely of Michigan Technological University discuss the important role that visual aids can play in communicating health-related information. The article is published in the October 2013 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Read more at Association for Psychological Science (APS) Observations.

In the News

The APS has written a new review of Edward Cokely’s (CLS) work in the observer column, “Teaching Current Directions In Psychological Science”. The article focuses on “How Psychological Science can Support Smarter Medical Decisions.”

From Tech Today.

Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science
How Psychological Science Can Support Smarter Medical Decisions

Making smart, well-reasoned medical decisions. Two new Current Directions in Psychological Science articles — by APS Fellow Hal Arkes on hindsight biases in real medical decisions, and by Rocio Garcia-Retamero and Edward Cokely on harnessing visual aids to better communicate health risks — beautifully illustrate psychology’s contribution to informed medical decision-making:

Read more at APS Observer, by C. Nathan DeWall and David G. Myers.

Chadde Collaborates on Airborne Toxin Study

Wicked Problem
Illustration based upon Rittel and Weber 1973 1984.

$1.45 Million Study to Address the Northbound Flow of Airborne Toxins

Pollutants like these find their way north via a complex web of human and natural systems. Now, a team led by Michigan Technological University’s Judith Perlinger is working on a three-year project to better understand how those systems interact and find ways to address the problem.

The project also has an educational component. The team is teaching a web-based course this spring called Communicating Wicked Environmental Problems. “’Wicked’ has a special meaning,” Perlinger said. “It refers to very complex problems that have a high degree of scientific uncertainty, can be very contentious, and lack a set of solutions that will not be harmful or disadvantageous to someone in some relevant way.”

In addition to Perlinger, scientists collaborating on the project are Noel Urban of Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Shiliang Wu, who has dual appointments in Michigan Tech’s Departments of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences/Civil and Environmental Engineering; Emma Norman of Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences and Great Lakes Research Center; Hugh Gorman, Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences; Joan Chadde-Schumaker, Michigan Tech’s Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences and the Western UP Center for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education; Noelle Eckley Selin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Engineering Systems Division and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; Daniel Obrist of the Desert Research Institute’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences; Henrik Selin of International Relations at Boston University; and Juanita Urban-Rich, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Department of Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Read more at Michigan Tech News, by Marcia Goodrich.

Chadde Presents on Environmental Service

GLSIJoan Chadde and Lloyd Wescoat (Center for Science & Environmental Outreach) attended the 3rd annual Great Lakes Place-based Education Conference on Nov. 8-9 in Grand Rapids, sponsored by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. Wescoat presented on “Professional Book Clubs” and Chadde co-presented on “Environmental Service Learning Project” with funder/director Jan Sneddon, Earth Force.

From Tech Today.

Baltensperger Moderates Special Legislative Luncheon

Baltensperger Legislative LuncheonThe Copper Country Intermediate School held a special legislative luncheon Friday afternoon, inviting State Representative Scott Dianda and Senator Tom Casperson to address a group of representatives from local school districts. The legislators answered questions from attendees but also looked to the local school leaders for insight into how issues are specifically affecting the Upper Peninsula. The program was moderated by Brad Baltensperger, member of the Michigan Association of School Boards Executive Board and Houghton-Portage Township School Board.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Meagan Stilp.

Local Students Learn Digital Design After School

Digital Design GLRCStarting next Monday and continuing each Monday through Dec. 16, local 4th through 7th grade students will learn about digital design at the GLRC, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Topics to be covered include 3D printing, video game design, microcontrollers and high-tech gadgetry. Students will create key chains, video game controllers, toys, and more while learning programming, vector graphics, robotics and Bluetooth/smartphone technologies.

Chad Norman, science and technology specialist for the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach will teach the class with assistance from third-year civil engineering student Lacy Kaare and mechanical engineering graduate student Anza Mitchell. Also, members of the Husky Game Enterprise will pitch in.

For more information on future programs, contact Joan Chadde, Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, at, 7-3341.

From Tech Today.

Zombie U Symposium

Undead UZombies Are Coming to Michigan Tech!

They grace the covers of magazines. They star in a hit television series. And, they are featured in a popular new game on campus. Although from the world of the undead, zombies have certainly been enjoying their new star status. Now, there’s another venue to celebrate them—“Undead U: A Zombie Symposium,” set for 7-9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, on the campus of Michigan Technological University.

Presenter Adam Feltz, of Michigan Tech’s cognitive and learning sciences department, will combine psychology and philosophy in an analysis of why zombies are so appealing.

Read more at Michigan Tech News, by Dennis Walikainen.

A night for the living dead
Michigan Tech holds ‘Zombie U’ symposium

Adam Feltz from the department of cognitive and learning sciences at Michigan Tech led the symposium with an analysis of why we are so fascinated with zombies. To answer that question, Feltz looked to existing theories first. Those theories include the Stephen King theory, which poses the idea that our fascination with zombies reflects modern consumerism, and the war and atrocity theory, in which we like zombies more during times of hardship. Feltz dismissed those theories by simply tracking zombie movies made during those times and finding either no relationship or an inverse relationship with those trends.

So he went on to survey over 150 people and try to find common indicators that would predict who would like zombies. He found that people who like zombies are more likely to be male, to be young, to be less educated and to be liberal. But, of course, many people outside of those parameters also enjoy zombies.

“Why do we like zombies? It’s complicated because there is no ‘we.’ There are some people who like zombies and some people who don’t like zombies,” Feltz said.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Meagan Stilp.

Undead U

Michigan Tech staff included in the talk will be Syd Johnson and Ketty Thomas of the Humanities and Adam Feltz of the Cognitive and Learning Sciences. From the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Department of Biology comes the special guest speaker, John Dahl.

Read more at the Michigan Tech Lode, by Sarah Harttung.

October was STEM Awareness Month

Noyce Scholar Larry Hermanson
Noyce Scholar Larry Hermanson

Science is Spelled Excitement during STEM Awareness Month

October is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Awareness month in Michigan. All month long, events have been held across the state, and right here in the Copper Country, to help youth become more interested in STEM subjects.

Read more at Michigan Tech News, by Erika Vichcales.

Noyce Scholarships Turn STEM Majors into Science & Math Teachers

Bradley Baltensperger, chair of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Tech, explains: “If we can identify the best and brightest science, math and engineering students who would make good teachers, then prepare them for their own classrooms, it leads more top-notch students into STEM majors and scientific and technical careers.”

Read more at Michigan Tech News, by Monica Lester.

October is Michigan STEM Awareness Month

The Western U.P. Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education is a member of the Michigan STEM Partnership, a statewide, public-private collaborative that includes educators, employers, legislators and others who are concerned about creating the new Michigan economy and addressing the current lack of STEM skills in graduates and job applicants.

Read more at the WUP Center.

View the Photo Gallery for Family Physics Night – Barkell Elementary – 10/15/13 courtesy of Joe Charnawskas.

Adam Feltz and Kelly Steelman Join CLS

Adam FeltzAdam Feltz, PhD

Adam Feltz joins the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences as assistant professor. He comes to Michigan Tech from Schreiner University, where he was an assistant professor.

Feltz received his PhD in Philosophy from Florida State University, as well as a MS in Philosophy from Northern Illinois University and a BS in Philosophy from the University of South Carolina.

Feltz is a member of the Cognitive Science Society, Society of Judgment and Decision Making, and the American Philosophical Association. He published in Consciousness and Cognition, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry and the American Journal of Bioethics. His areas of specialization for research and teaching are philosophy of mind, applied ethics, and psychology of philosophical judgment and intuition.

Kelly Steelman, PhD

Kelly Steelman joins the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences as assistant professor. She comes to Michigan Tech from Flinders University, where she was an honors thesis co-advisor and postdoctoral researcher.

Steelman received her PhD in Psychology and MS in Human Factors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also received a MEng in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology.

Her research interests are basic and applied attention, models of attention, human performance in aviation, instructional design and display design. She has been published in Human Factors and Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

Read more at Tech Today.

Zimmer Contributes to Education Excellence

Image from WTIP 90.7 FM.

One of our graduates and current grad student in the MS in Applied Science Education program, Matt Zimmer, was recently honored by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) with one of the Michigan’s Best Awards for Education Excellence. Matt graduated from Michigan Tech in 1999 with a BS in Civil Engineering. He returned to Tech to get his teaching certification in science, mathematics, and technology & design in 2003.

Matt Zimmer and co-Coordinator William Rivest were recognized for their program “Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics (SOAR),” which was selected for an award in the Community Engagement category of the 2013 Education Excellence Award. The program was introduced to the Dollar Bay High School and Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools. SOAR designed, built and programmed two remotely operated vehicles to be used by Isle Royale National Park rangers to gather data on invasive zebra mussels. The project provided students with real world applications of math, science and engineering.

In addition to being honored as an Education Excellence winner in the spring, each winner received the coveted “Eddy” statue and a check for $2,500 from SET SEG School Insurance Specialists, exclusive sponsor of MASB’s Education Excellence awards program.

SOAR also earned the national George & Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group in 2012. They were interviewed by WTIP 90.7 FM and Upper Michigan’s Source.

Learn more about SOAR and other award winning educational projects at the MASB website.

Students win national award for volunteering

Twenty-five students make up the Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics, or SOAR, and have been awarded the national Hartzog Award for volunteer service.

Read more at Upper Michigan’s Soruce, by Sarah Blakely.

Students win award for underwater robot

“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal, and then the fact that they’re designing these things, not just to win a competition, but they’re designing them to help other people, is truly a testament to their will and drive to improve and make the community that they live in better,” said Matt Zimmer, teacher.

Read more at Upper Michigan’s Source, by Gabrielle Mays.

Matt Zimmer