Archives—September 2019

Keith Vertanen Is PI on $225K NSF Grant, “Improving Mobile Device Input for Users Who are Blind or Low Vision”

Keith Virtanen
Keith Vertanen

Keith Vertanen (CS/ICC-HCC) is the principal investigator on a three-year project that has received a $225,663 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is entitled, “CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Improving Mobile Device Input for Users Who are Blind or Low Vision.”

Abstract: Smartphones are an essential part of our everyday lives. But for people with visual impairments, basic tasks like composing text messages or browsing the web can be prohibitively slow and difficult. The goal of this project is to develop accessible text entry methods that will enable people with visual impairments to enter text at rates comparable to sighted people. This project will design new algorithms and feedback methods for today’s standard text entry approaches of tapping on individual keys, gesturing across keys, or dictating via speech. The project aims to:  1) help users avoid errors by enabling more accurate input via audio and tactile feedback, 2) help users find errors by providing audio and visual annotation of uncertain portions of the text, and 3) help users correct errors by combining the probabilistic information from the original input, the correction, and approximate information about an error’s location. Improving text entry methods for people who are blind or have low vision will enable them to use their mobile devices more effectively for work and leisure. Thus, this project represents an important step to achieving equity for people with visual impairments.

This project will contribute novel interface designs to the accessibility and human-computer interaction literature. It will advance the state-of-the-art in mobile device accessibility by: 1) studying text entry accessibility for low vision in addition to blind people, 2) studying and developing accessible gesture typing input methods, and 3) studying and developing accessible speech input methods.  This project will produce design guidelines, feedback methods, input techniques, recognition algorithms, user study results, and software prototypes that will guide improvements to research and commercial input systems for users who are blind or low-vision. Further, the project’s work on the error correction and revision process will improve the usability and performance of touchscreen and speech input methods for everyone.

Edmund Schweitzer to Present Lecture October 2

Edmund Schweitzer

Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, Ph.D, president and chairman of the board and chief technology officer of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, will present a lecture titled “Creativity and Innovation” on Wednesday, October 2, at 4:15 p.m., in EERC 103.

Dr. Schweitzer is recognized as a pioneer in digital protection and holds the grade of Fellow in the IEEE, a title bestowed on less than one percent of IEEE members. In 2002, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Schweitzer received the 2012 Medal in Power Engineering, the highest award given by IEEE, for his leadership in revolutionizing the performance of electrical power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment.

In 2019, Dr. Schweitzer was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the first digital protective relay.

Dr. Schweitzer is the recipient of the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award and Graduate Alumni Achievement Award from Washington State University and the Purdue University Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award. He has written dozens of technical papers in the areas of digital relay design and reliability and holds more than 200 patents worldwide pertaining to electric power system protection, metering, monitoring and control.

He is the founder of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. (SEL), which develops and manufactures digital protective relays and related products and services.

Dr. Schweitzer’s presentation is arranged and sponsored by Calumet Electronics Corporation, key supplier-partner to SEL of printed circuit boards, to share ideas, advance innovative thinking, and build new bridges.

Download the event flyer here: Schweitzer Lecture Flyer

Yakov Nekrich paper accepted by 2020 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms

Yakov Nekrich

A paper by Yakov Nekrich, associate professor of computer science, has been accepted by the 2020 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA 2020), the prime conference in the area of algorithms research.

The article, “Better Data Structures for Colored Orthogonal Range Reporting,” was co-authored by Timothy M. Chan of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

The SODA 2020 conference takes place January 5-8, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Alex Sergeyev Wins ASEE Best Paper Award

Alex Sergeyev

College of Computing Professor Alex Sergeyev presented his research article, “University, Community College and Industry Partnership: Revamping Robotics Education to Meet 21st Century Workforce Needs – NSF Sponsored Project Final Report,” at the 2019 American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) annual conference, receiving the Best Paper Award in the Engineering Technology Division.

The conference took place June 16-19 in Tampa, Florida.

Co-authors of the publication are S. Kuhl, N. Alaraje, M. Kinney, M. HIghum, and P. Mehandiratta. The paper will be published in the fall issue of the prestigious Journal of Engineering Technology (JET).

ACIA Networking Mixer is Tues., Sept. 24, 4-6 pm

The Alliance for Computing, Information, and Automation (ACIA) and Michigan Tech Career Services invite students to a casual networking mixer with industry employment recruiters on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., in the Rozsa Center lobby. The event is free and appetizers and refreshments will be served.
Students in the following majors are encouraged to attend: Computer Network and System Administration (CNSA), Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Data Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Electrical Engineering Technology (EET), and Software Engineering.
Recruiters interested in hiring Michigan Tech students and graduates in the above majors will be in attendance.

The Alliance for Computing, Information, and Automation (ACIA) at Michigan Technological University is a collaborative effort between the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Computing. The mission of the ACIA is to provide faculty and students the opportunity to work across organizational boundaries to create an environment that is a reflection of contemporary technological innovation. The research arm of the ACIA is the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC).

Download the event flyer

Recruiters interested in hiring Michigan Tech students and graduates in the above majors will be in attendance. Invited companies include the following:

Amcor (fka Bemis)
Black & Veatch
CCI Iron Mountain
DTE Energy
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)
Ford Motor Company
Los Alamos National Lab (LANL)
Marathon Petroleum
Mercury Marine
Michigan Scientific Corporation
Milwaukee Tool
National Air and Space Intelligence Center
Nexteer Automotive
Oshkosh Corporation
Superior Technologies
Systems Control

Laura Monroe to Speak About High-performance Computing, Tues. Sept. 24

Dr. Laura Monroe

The Department of Mathematical Sciences and the College of Computing will present a lecture on high-performance computing by Dr. Laura Monroe from the Ultrascale Systems Research Center (USRC) at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Tuesday, September 24, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., in Fisher Hall, Room 133. The lecture is titled “The Mathematical Analysis of Faults and the Resilience of Applications.” Discussion will follow the lecture, and pizza and refreshments will be served.

Abstract: As the post-Moore’s-Law era advances, faults are expected to increase in number and in complexity on emerging novel devices. This will happen on exascale and post-exascale architectures due to smaller feature sizes, and also on new devices with unusual fault models. Attention to error-correction and resilience will thus be needed in order to use such devices effectively. Known mathematical error-correction methods may not suffice under these conditions, and an ad hoc approach will not cover the cases likely to emerge, so mathematical approaches will be essential. We will discuss the mathematical underpinnings behind such approaches, illustrate with examples, and emphasize the interdisciplinary approaches that combine experimentation, simulation, mathematical theory and applications that will be needed for success.

Dr. Monroe has spent most of her career focused on unconventional approaches to difficult computing problems, specifically researching new technologies to enable better performance as processor-manufacturing techniques reach the limits of the atomic scale, also known as the end of Moore’s Law. Dr. Monroe received her PhD in the theory of error-correcting codes, working with Dr.Vera Pless. She worked at NASA Glenn, then joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2000. She has contributed on the design teams on the LANL Cielo and Trinity supercomputers, and originated and leads the Laboratory’s inexact computing project that is meant to address Moore’s Law challenges in a unique way. She also provides mathematical and theoretical support to LANL’s HPC Resilience project.

Download the event flyer

Casting Call: College of Computing Video

Are you a Michigan Tech student? Do you have 30 minutes or more free on Wednesday, September 18? Do you enjoy being in the spotlight? Are you photogenic? Would you like to appear in a Michigan Tech College of Computing video? Please complete this brief form if you would like to participate. Responses are needed by 4:00 pm on Tues., Sept. 17.

Link to Google Form:

Please email Karen Johnson ( if you have any questions.

Tim Havens Quoted in The Enterprise Project Blog

Timothy Havens

Timothy Havens (CC/ICC), the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC), was quoted extensively in the article “How to make a career switch into AI: 8 tips,” which was published September 5, 2019, on The Enterprisers Project blog.

Bo Chen Receives $250K NSF Award for Mobile PDE Systems Research

Bo Chen, CS

Bo Chen, assistant professor of computer science and member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems Center for  Cybersecurity, is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $249,918 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is entitled, “SaTC: CORE: Small: Collaborative: Hardware-Assisted Plausibly Deniable System for Mobile Devices.” This is a potential three-year project.

Abstract: Mobile computing devices typically use encryption to protect sensitive information. However, traditional encryption systems used in mobile devices cannot defend against an active attacker who can force the mobile device owner to disclose the key used for decrypting the sensitive information. This is particularly of concern to dissident users who are targets of nation states. An example of this would be a human rights worker collecting evidence of untoward activities in a region of oppression or conflict and storing the same in an encrypted form on the mobile device, and then being coerced to disclose the decryption key by an official. Plausibly Deniable Encryption (PDE) has been proposed to defend against such adversaries who can coerce users into revealing the encrypted sensitive content. However, existing techniques suffer from several problems when used in flash-memory-based mobile devices, such as weak deniability because of the way read/write/erase operations are handled at the operating systems level and at the flash translation layer, various types of side channel attacks, and computation and power limitations of mobile devices. This project investigates a unique opportunity to develop an efficient (low-overhead) and effective (high-deniability) hardware-assisted PDE scheme on mainstream mobile devices that is robust against a multi snapshot adversary. The project includes significant curriculum development activities and outreach activities to K-12 students.

This project fundamentally advances the mobile PDE systems by leveraging existing hardware features such as flash translation layer (FTL) firmware and TrustZone to achieve a high deniability with a low overhead. Specifically, this project develops a PDE system with capabilities to: 1) defend against snapshot attacks using raw flash memory on mobile devices; and 2) eliminate side-channel attacks that compromise deniability; 3) be scalable to deploy on mainstream mobile devices; and 4) efficiently provide usable functions like fast mode switching. This project also develops novel teaching material on PDE and cybersecurity for K-12 students and the Regional Cybersecurity Education Collaboration (RCEC), a new educational partnership on cybersecurity in Michigan.

Publications related to this research:

[DSN ’18] Bing Chang, Fengwei Zhang, Bo Chen, Yingjiu Li, Wen Tao Zhu, Yangguang Tian, Zhan Wang, and Albert Ching. MobiCeal: Towards Secure and Practical Plausibly Deniable Encryption on Mobile Devices. The 48th IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN ’18), June 2018 (Acceptance rate: 28%)
[Cybersecurity ’18] Qionglu Zhang, Shijie Jia, Bing Chang, Bo Chen. Ensuring Data Confidentiality via Plausibly Deniable Encryption and Secure Deletion – A Survey. Cybersecurity (2018) 1: 1.
[ComSec ’18 ] Bing Chang, Yao Cheng, Bo Chen, Fengwei Zhang, Wen Tao Zhu, Yingjiu Li, and Zhan Wang. User-Friendly Deniable Storage for Mobile Devices. Elsevier Computers & Security, vol. 72, pp. 163-174, January 2018
[CCS ’17] Shijie Jia, Luning Xia, Bo Chen, and Peng Liu. DEFTL: Implementing Plausibly Deniable Encryption in Flash Translation Layer. 2017 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS ’17), Dallas, Texas, USA, Oct 30 – Nov 3, 2017 (Acceptance rate: 18%)
[ACSAC ’15] Bing Chang, Zhan Wang, Bo Chen, and Fengwei Zhang. MobiPluto: File System Friendly Deniable Storage for Mobile Devices. 2015 Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC ’15), Los Angeles, California, USA, December 2015 (Acceptance rate: 24.4%)
[ISC ’14] Xingjie Yu, Bo Chen, Zhan Wang, Bing Chang, Wen Tao Zhu, and Jiwu Jing. MobiHydra: Pragmatic and Multi-Level Plausibly Deniable Encryption Storage for Mobile Devices. The 17th Information Security Conference (ISC ’14), Hong Kong, China, Oct. 2014

Link to more information about this project: