Month: December 2019

Persistence is the Key to Success … and Scholarships Really Help

Student with College of Computing t-shirt

Persistence is the Key to Success … and Scholarships Really Help

Employer demand for talented computing graduates is high, and the College of Computing is helping to meet that demand through an exceptional learning experience. But sometimes students need a little extra help to persist and complete their degrees.

University faculty and staff help students persist in many ways, such as innovative and effective teaching, wide-access computing learning labs, several tiers of academic and personal support, and coursework and extra-curricular opportunities designed to build and apply knowledge and instill self-confidence.

Computing alumni have shared with us many stories about how they overcame struggles in tough courses, sticking with it instead of changing their major. Often for these alumni the thought of losing a computing major-based scholarship was an important deterrent.

Building on this idea, the College of Computing has established the Persistence in Computer Science Scholarship Fund and the Persistence in Applied Computing Scholarship Fund to help undergraduate students persist in the pursuit of their College of Computing degrees. A student’s GPA will not be a major determinant in awarding this scholarship, as the goal is to encourage persistence, not perfection. The scholarship will be annually renewable for up to four years for each student, as long as recipients make satisfactory progress in their major.

Please consider making a gift to one of these scholarships, or even committing to a four-year pledge so we can encourage the persistence of many College of Computing students, now and for years to come.

Please visit mtu.edu/computing/giving to make your gift online, or phone Adam Johnson, Director of Advancement for the College of Computing, at 906-487-1087. Please indicate that your gift is designated for the CS Persistence Fund or the AC Persistence Fund.

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Nominations Open for Bhakta Rath and Michigan Tech Research Awards

The Vice President for Research Office is accepting nominations for the Bhakta Rath Research Award. The award offers an opportunity to promote and reward excellence in scientific and engineering research in the fields of physical and natural sciences and engineering. For complete submission guidelines, see Bhakta Rath Research Award.

The Vice President for Research Office is also accepting nominations for the Michigan Tech Research Award, which offers an opportunity for an individual to be recognized for outstanding achievements in research. For complete submission guidelines, see Michigan Tech Research Award.

Nominations for both must be submitted electronically in PDF format, per the guidelines, no later than 4 p.m. on March 5. All nominations must be sent to Natasha Chopp.

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Call for Proposals: Research Excellence Fund (REF) and Portage Health Foundation Mid-Career

Research Excellence Fund Proposals Proposals are being solicited for the Research Excellence Fund (REF) program, an internal award of the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Proposals are due no later than 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 5 and must be submitted electronically per the guidelines.

For additional information, see Research Excellence Fund.

Portage Health Foundation Mid-Career Proposals are being solicited for the Portage Health Foundation Mid-Career (PHF-MC) program, which is designed to support tenured faculty with an active National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant and/or consistent history of external funding with NIH or a related agency.

Proposals are due no later than 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 5 and must be submitted electronically per the guidelines.

For additional information, see Portage Health Foundation Research Awards.

If you have any questions or are interested in serving on a REF proposal review committee, email Natasha Chopp.

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Promote Your Innovation with Social Media Workshop on Jan. 15

Husky Innovate Logo

by Husky Innovate

Husky Innovate to host the workshop, Promote Your Innovation with Social Media on Jan. 15.

Billions of dollars have been raised worldwide through crowdfunding. Consequently crowdfunding has gained popularity as an alternative way to finance innovations and entrepreneurial efforts. Typically we think of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub. But did you know that Michigan Tech hosts its own crowdfunding platform called Superior Ideas to recruit funding for projects at the University?

Each year, in partnership with Husky Innovate, Superior Ideas hosts the Rekhi Innovation Challenge, a crowdfunding competition in which the winner receives awards including a match of up to $1,000 of funds raised on the platform.

This year’s project submission deadline is midnight Jan. 22. Email Natasha Chopp,  to apply. Those who are interested in getting prepped for the Rekhi Innovation challenge and other crowdfunding opportunities should not miss this workshop on Jan. 15. Register here.

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Rekhi Innovation Challenge

The Rekhi Innovation Challenge is a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation and entrepreneurship through the use of Superior Ideas. Enterprise and Senior Design teams (not industry-sponsored projects) are strongly encouraged to participate in the competition.

The competition will run for the month of February and the team that raises the most money will receive a monetary match up of to $1,000. Additional monetary awards will also be offered.

Projects must be submitted by 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 on Superior Ideas in order to enter into the competition. The application and guidelines can be found on Husky Innovate or by contacting Natasha Chopp.

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The Gift of Computing

Through the years and across generations, Huskies help their neighbors navigate the digital universe. In the season of giving, drop in on two volunteer programs that benefit both givers and receivers.

On any given Saturday during the academic year, you’ll find Michigan Technological University students serving as coaches and teachers in the community and on campus in a couple of programs that have been around since 2011. Building Adult Skills in Computing, or BASIC, helps older people with computer-related questions. Copper Country Coders introduces younger people to computer science and programming.

BASIC: Where No One is Left to Their Own Devices

BASIC walk-ins are welcome from 10-11 a.m. Saturdays at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. Sessions used to be earlier in the day before the library opened to the public, said Kelly Steelman, a Michigan Tech associate professor of human factors and psychology who, along with Charles Wallace, an associate professor of computer science, serves as a BASIC tutor and researcher. But as it turns out, technological newcomers as well as Huskies like to sleep in. The time adjustment is one of several tweaks that have taken place as the program — and the devices we use in our daily lives — evolve. For example, nobody’s gathered ’round the library’s desktop computer stations. On this particular Saturday, as rays of treasured winter sunlight glint on the ice-glazed Keweenaw Waterway and stained-glass art, participants are cozily tucked into the shoreside Michigan Room with laptops, phones and tablets at the ready.

“Easy for you to remember, but hard for them to guess.” That’s how Parker Young sums up the perfect password for Naomi and Eliot Haycock, who brought in a tablet and laptop. He explains to the lively couple that encrypted password management programs make it easier to keep track of all the passwords safely. “As long as you remember the one password, you have all the others,” he said. They also discuss PayPal — Naomi’s intrigued, Eliot’s skeptical. Both are interested in what kind of writing programs are already available on their newly acquired laptop. Young shows them options, from Google Docs to the preinstalled writing software.

“Good. We can do a Christmas letter,” Naomi said.

They move on to installing updates and discuss the necessity to perform them regularly (“There goes another one!” Parker exclaimed). Next, the trio walks through how to connect to Wi-Fi at home for the first time with the new device.

An older couple and a younger man with a Michigan Tech Huskies shirt on smile at the camera in a library.
Naomi and Eliot Haycock, BASIC Saturday regulars, work through their computing to-do list with Parker Young.
“They do a great job. We’ve come here quite a few times,” Naomi said. “People tell us, ‘if you had to pay for this, you’d be paying a lot.’”

“Give this guy a good grade. He’s good,” Eliot tells Charles Wallace, who is on the other side of the wide wooden library table helping a gentleman who’s never used a computer. First-timers are rare these days. Whenever a new user powers up, it’s exciting; both tutor and learner are smiling as he Googles for the first time, locating his church on the map and visiting its website.

Wallace encourages the beginner to keep exploring, then explains to the Haycocks that students aren’t graded for being part of BASIC. They’re here only because they want to be.

“We’re giving the gift of bringing people to the digital table,” said BASIC volunteer Abby Kuehne, a double major in psychology and communication, culture and media with research experience in human-computer interaction.

Today she’s working with a soft-spoken man looking for pointers on getting started with a tablet. “Because this is a mobile setting, the tablet is going to be set up differently,” she explained.

The work Kuehne does here aligns with her career goals; which include enhancing technology accessibility and effective communication across cultures. More than that, it’s establishing a lifelong pattern of service.

“It becomes a good habit,” said Kuehne. “I believe in karma, in giving back.”

For scientific and technical communication major Paige Short, showing up on Saturday mornings has also become second nature. Short, whose endeavors include work to communicate science on a global level, sees the relationship between students and the people who come for help as mutually beneficial. “It builds community,” she said. “It connects us to the local community, and helps them be a part of the digital community.” Never more so than on this Saturday, when Short is assisting with budget workflow strategy for a local community garden.

two women show people how to use laptaps on a wooden table with windows in the background as a man looks on.
Portage Lake District Library has been hosting BASIC Saturdays since the program’s inception. You’ll often find Huskies Abby Kuehne, left, and Paige Short, right, bringing fellow community members to the digital table.

The session wraps up shortly after 11; the group meets for a quick debrief. There’s just enough time for Young to do some work on his truck before he heads over to the Michigan Tech College of Computing, where Copper Country Coders meets every Saturday afternoon of the academic year. Wallace will be there, too — this program also benefits from his co-leadership, in this case with Leo Ureel, computer science senior lecturer and coordinator of the Michigan Tech College of Computing Learning Center.

Get Help. Meet Huskies.

Walk-ins are welcome to the Saturday BASIC sessions. Follow the Portage Lake District Library Facebook page for updates.
You don’t have to bring a computer. The library has Chromebooks available.

The call goes out for Copper Country Coders enrollment in early September. Learn more on the Copper Country Coders Facebook page.

Want to help support these and other computer literary programs? Find out more.

Programmed Snowflakes and the Python Boiz

Compared to the quiet of the library, the atmosphere is a tad more rambunctious in the first-floor labs of Kanwal Rekhi Hall, where the youngest of the Copper Country Coders teams is raring to go. In sessions that run from 1-3 p.m., Michigan Tech students work with young people from area schools who share a goal not dissimilar from those of their older counterparts: they’re learning how to make computers do what they’re told. They’re learning to speak the language of programming.

“Can we play games before the other people come?” asks one youngster, bouncing up and down on a computer desk chair.

Instructor Keith Atkinson smiles, patiently explaining that they’ll all be creating a holiday snowfall game once everyone has gathered. He doesn’t mind the rowdier element or the challenge of keeping active young people engaged. “I’m pretty high energy myself and I like thinking on my feet,” said the computer science major, who started with the Coders in 2015. He also clearly enjoys serving his community — for his directed study class this semester, Atkinson created an inventory system for Michigan Tech’s Husky Food Access Network pantry.

Atkinson is co-leading one of the middle-school teams with fellow computer science major Galen Resh Chimner, who was enrolled in the program as a youngster. “It was fun to come and learn and get challenged,” he said.

Today’s project is a holiday snowfall game. Students learn to program a snowflake — to draw it and make it move. Every click of the computer mouse adds a new snowflake.

Programming is the Universal Language

a young man in a black and gold husky sweatshirt leans toward a computer screen
Trevor Good, like many of the Huskies in Copper Country Coders, is in it for the fun of both learning and teaching.
Across the hall, Parker Young is at it again — this time teaming up with computer science major Trevor Good to introduce ninth-grade and middle-school students to the popular, easy-to-use programming language that inspired their tongue-in-cheek team name: the Python Boiz. Young has been doing both BASIC and Coders for three years; it’s Good’s second year and second time co-leading with Young.

“Last year, we did Minecraft,” said Good. “We picked Python because it’s the number-one programming language in the world; it’s used for AI, machine learning, automation … logically it makes a lot of sense. I wanted to learn it myself.”

Young was also new to Python. “Teaching others helps me learn,” said Young, who is also a coach in the College of Computing Learning Center.

The College of Computing is piloting a course to teach Python to non-computing majors across campus. For today, though, the focus is on the half-dozen younger students situated at monitors in the lab.

“What’s up man? Oooh, you’re so close!” Young moves between computer stations, checking out the ongoing project. “Let’s go, you guys! I wanna see some cool tic tac toes.”

“I love coming here every Saturday and I love teaching,” said Young.

The vibe is sedate in comparison over at the Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC), a short walk from Rekhi Hall, where high school-aged students are working with two graduate students, Marissa Walther and Shaun Flynn. Walther has been with Copper Country Coders for five years, Flynn four.

two Michigan Tech students watch students on computer monitors in a lab, one of the students, a girl, is looking intently at the screen
Marissa Walther, left, and Shaun Flynn’s group works on hardware coding.
Walther, who earned a bachelor’s in computer science in 2019, is studying for her master’s.

Flynn, who earned a BS in computer engineering, is working toward his master’s. In 2018, their lesson plans focused on teaching young coders Java development and how to create games using JavaFX morphed into the book The World of Java Programming.

The two instructor-mentors said that the goal this year is to introduce students to hardware and the work that goes into building it.

“They can choose what it can do. They can do a lot of hardware prototyping,” said Flynn.

“I like teaching students. It’s fun to watch them develop,” he said, as the pair watches students work intently at their lab monitors. “They chose to spend two hours with us, programming. I came to Michigan Tech not knowing any of this.”

altera computer board closeup with wires
“Think of it as giant programmable hardware” — that’s how Shaun Flynn describes the Altera Board.
Time and again Huskies involved in the programs mention the joy of both teaching and learning.

It’s Not You, It’s the Technology

Place the responsibility where it belongs. On the technology. Both Copper County Coders and BASIC give participants the confidence to deploy digital tools to do desired and necessary tasks. That benefits both the students teaching and the students who are learning from them.

Copper Country Coders organizes young people from local schools into teams of six to eight, depending on enrollment fluctuations and the level of difficulty of each team. Two Huskies co-lead each group — each group compiles its own lesson plans, learning objectives and means to measure outcomes. Sessions are adjusted as the academic year moves along to keep pace with student progress. If more time is needed, the group stays with a project longer. If something doesn’t go over well, it’s documented for future Coders planning their own programs.

Last year the group presented its first Computer Science Expo.

At the Saturday BASIC sessions, coaches often work with people who are familiar with some tasks, but are continually challenged by the pace of technology — if you’re retired, for example, you aren’t required to adapt to the latest program or process being used in your workplace. Things like running out of space on a smart phone or other roadblocks with apps and social media present have the potential to present discouraging or demoralizing roadblocks. BASIC eliminates the blame game.

“Our approach is meeting people where they are,” Steelman said.

“Tutoring is more about empathy and compassion. We’re paying attention and mirroring the words. What are the things that freak people out about computers? How can we alleviate those concerns?”  –Kelly Steelman, BASIC tutor and researcher

“It’s not that they’re not a good computer user,” Steelman noted. “We put those worries on the computer.”

BASIC offers one tutor training session every semester, the interdisciplinary program is open to students from all majors. Beyond résumé building, “it feels good, making differences in lives,” said Steelman. The regionally and nationally recognized service-learning opportunity aspires to expand; beyond Michigan Tech outreach Wallace has shared the concept with other libraries and organizations who could bring BASIC to their communities.

Eliot and Naomi Haycock are on their own until the student coaches return January 18. Given the skills they’ve acquired, and the knowledge that help will be available again in the new year, they don’t appear to be particularly worried.

“We miss them when they’re not here,” Naomi said.

“But they deserve a vacation,” Eliot said.

two young men in black and gold stripes play horns in front of black-gowned graduates in a wood gym

Talk about bandwidth: BASIC volunteer, Copper Country Coder and Learning Center Coach Parker Young also plays in Huskies Pep Band; this is the group serenading 2019 grads at Midyear Commencement on December 14.

Talk about bandwidth: BASIC volunteer, Copper Country Coder and Learning Center Coach Parker Young also plays in Huskies Pep Band; this is the group serenading 2019 grads at Midyear Commencement on December 14.
Naomi and Eliot Haycock, BASIC Saturday regulars, work through their computing to-do list with Parker Young.
Portage Lake District Library has been hosting BASIC Saturdays since the program’s inception. You’ll often find Huskies Abby Kuehne, left, and Paige Short, right, bringing fellow community members to the digital table.
Trevor Good, like many of the Huskies in Copper Country Coders, is in it for the fun of both learning and teaching.
Marissa Walther, left, and Shaun Flynn’s group works on hardware coding.

“Think of it as giant programmable hardware” — that’s how Shaun Flynn describes the Altera Board.

About the Researchers

Charles Wallace
wallace@mtu.edu
906-487-3431

Areas of Expertise

  • Software Requirements
  • Human-Centered Computing
  • Communication in Software Development
  • Formal Methods
  • Software Engineering Education
  • Agile Development Methods
  • Cyberlearning
  • Researcher Profile

Kelly Steelman
steelman@mtu.edu
906-487-2792

Research Interests

  • Basic and applied attention
  • Models of attention
  • Human performance in aviation
  • Display design
  • Tech adoption
  • Technology training

Leo Ureel
ureel@mtu.edu
906-487-1816

Areas of Expertise

  • Software Engineering
  • Computer Science Education
  • Intelligent Tutoring Systems

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2020 Summer Youth Programs Registration

by Center for Pre-College Outreach

Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs announces that the 2020 registration is now live. Since 1972, these programs have been providing a hands-on approach for middle and high school students to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and careers.

This year SYP is offering several new courses, including Intro to Machine Learning, Transforming Sunlight into Energy, Engineering Psychology and Human Factors, and the U.P. Summer Theater Institute.

Plus, there are more than 50 additional explorations in a variety of fields and eight competitive scholarship programs to choose from. Children and grandchildren of Michigan Tech staff and alumni are eligible for a $50 discount.

2020 computing-related SYP programs include:

  • 3D Models and Virtual Reality for Grades 9-11, June 14 – 20
  • App and Web Development: Designing for Humans, Grades 9-11, July 12 – 18
  • Coding for the Internet of Things, Grades 9 – 11, June 14 – 20
  • Coding for the Internet of Things, Grades 9 – 11, July 5 – 11
  • Introduction to Video Game Programming, Grades 6 – 8, June 21 – 27
  • Video Game Programming, Grades 9 – 11, July 12 – 18
  • Women in Computer Science (WICS), Grades 9 – 11, July 5 – 11
  • GenCyber, Grades 9 – 11, July 12 – 18
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering, Grades 9 – 11, July 12 – 18
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering, Grades 9 – 11, July 5 – 11
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering, Grades 9 – 11, June 21 – 27
  • Intro to Machine Learning, Grades 9 – 11, June 14 – 20
  • Mobile Robotics, Grades 6 – 8, July 5 – 11
  • Mobile Robotics, Grades 9 – 11, June 21 – 27
  • Mobile Robotics, Grades 6 – 8, June 14 – 20

View all 2020 courses and register your child soon, as seats fill quickly.

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All Researchers Invited to Research Development Day 2020

by Research Development Office

All Michigan Tech researchers are invited to participate in the 2020 Research Development Day at Michigan Tech. The event will be held Thursday, Jan. 9. The content of the 2020 event is new and designed for both new and returning attendees.

Multiple sessions are planned for faculty at all career stages and from all disciplines. Research staff and post-docs from any discipline are also likely to find sessions of interest. We are excited to welcome Jose Fuentes as our keynote speaker.

Fuentes is an experienced faculty researcher at Penn State, with a significant track record of international work and broad research impact. As in previous years, we will end the day with research recognitions, celebrating accomplishments from across the university over the past year, followed by a networking social.

A condensed agenda is found on the reservation form. Your RSVP is requested by Jan. 3 to finalize meal counts and room arrangements. If your schedule does not permit you to attend the full day, the RSVP allows you to sign up for morning, lunch, and/or afternoon sessions.

The RSVP form should take only a minute or two to complete. A reminder and final agenda will be sent in the new year. Please contact rd-l@mtu.edu with any questions.

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Spring Break Silicon Valley Experience 2020: Registration Open

by Husky Innovate

Aspiring student entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to apply for the Michigan Tech Silicon Valley Experience, a Spring Break immersive tour of California Bay Area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field.

The deadline to apply is Feb. 10. Register online. Up to 16 students will be guaranteed a slot on the trip. Priority will be given to students who have been previously engaged with innovation and entrepreneurship and articulate continued engagement on their application.

Major funding for this trip is provided by the 14 Floors alumni group. Husky Innovate—a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the College of Business, and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization is co-hosting this with 14 Floors.

Silicon Valley is known for its technology breakthroughs, high-tech startups, innovative companies and Fortune 1000 companies. Its innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem including culture, policies, talent, resources, and networks serve as inspiration for students.

The Silicon Valley Experience will showcase multiple perspectives of a day in the life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. This tour will provide an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample various innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and talk with successful alumni entrepreneurs.

Students who apply and are accepted will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour companies like Google, Netflix, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Ford, as well as the former Michigan Tech student startup company Handshake
  • Meet with entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Talk with Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field
  • Get answers to your real-world business, innovation, and leadership questions
  • Gain firsthand knowledge of the enterprises that are revolutionizing global business

Lodging, ground transportation to and from toured companies and some food will be covered. Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own air travel.

As part of the student application, students will create a 2-minute video describing how they will share their experience with the Michigan Technological University community upon completion of their travel in order to positively contribute to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students who have a demonstrated financial need can apply for a limited travel scholarship.

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Some Advice from the Dean

Dear Students,

Congratulations to our graduates who who walked across the stage on Saturday!

For the rest of you, as you finish up course projects and final exams, I thought I’d pass along some words of wisdom from my mentors and some things I’ve learned over the years.

  1. Routine is a valuable tool to optimize brain performance.  Eat at the regular times, get ample sleep, and strategize your time studying.
  2. When concentrating, the brain consumes lots of nutrients. To help active transport of those nutrients into the brain, it is best to stand up and walk around or stretch every 20-25 minutes.
  3. This short 25 minute intense study session with a 2 minute break is great for setting smaller goals (a single concept or a single type of problem), while 1/2 day or full day goals can be set around a certain class or set of chapters in a class.
  4. Give yourself rewards for your smaller as well as your bigger goals. (I tend to use a drink or walk/stretch for my shorter goals and a meal for bigger goals.)
  5. Intentionally build up your confidence.  Coach yourself by telling yourself “good job” when you do a practice problem correctly; also, tell yourself, “I can do it” when faced with a difficult concept or a problem with which you are struggling.You can do this!  Your professors and I are immensely proud of your hard work, learning and creativity.  These exams are a great opportunity to show off what you have learned this semester.Happy studying!Lastly, please drive carefully home for the holidays (and enjoy some R&R).

Dean Adrienne Minerick

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