Day: June 2, 2020

Michigan Tech Team Places 4th Overall in TiM$10K Challenge

A team of five Michigan Tech students received Honorable Mention honors and 4th Place overall in the second annual SICK Inc. TiM$10K Challenge, a national innovation and design competition. University students from around the country participated in the event designed to support innovation and student achievement in automation and technology.

The Michigan Tech team members — Brian Parvin (ME), Paul Allen (EE), David Brushaber (CompEng), Kurtis Alessi (CompEng) and Alex Kirchner (CompEng) — earned Honorable Mention (fourth place overall) for their project, “Evaluating Road Markings (the Road Stripe Evaluator).

The team is advised by Tony Pinar, Lecturer and Senior Design Coordinator, Electrical and Computer Engineering. Their project was sponsored by SICK Inc. Watch the team’s video about the project below.

SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge 2020 – Evaluating Road Markings (The Road Stripe Evaluator)


Adrienne Minerick, dean of Michigan Tech’s College of Computing, said in a June 1, 20920, Tech Today article that the accomplishments of these outstanding students illustrates Michigan Tech’s creativity and tenacity when faced with a challenge. “Our rapidly growing presence in cybersecurity is built upon our students deep knowledge of the fundamentals combined with the learning environment that promotes agility to meet (and exceed) any challenge. These hardworking and bright students deserve this recognition of their competitiveness. All of us in the College of Computing are proud.”

For the competition, teams were supplied with a 270-degree SICK LiDAR sensor and accessories, and challenged to solve a problem, create a solution, or bring a new application to any industry that utilizes the SICK LiDAR.

Each team submitted a video and paper for judging upon completion of its project. A panel of judges decided the winning submissions based on creativity and innovation, ability to solve a customer problem, commercial potential, entrepreneurship of the team, and reporting.

The Tech team developed an innovative product to help resolve issues caused by poor road markings, while reducing maintenance costs and improving motorist safety. Their new software uses reflectivity values obtained using a SICK LiDAR unit to identify deterioration of road stripes and recommend timely repainting, also aiding in the safety and reliability of self-driving vehicles on roadways.

They constructed a prototype to demonstrate functionality, in the form of a pushable cart that evaluates road markings. An intuitive user interface displays the markings being evaluated, and indicates if they meet necessary levels of reflectivity.

Pinar said the team was well organized and demonstrated an excellent work ethic from day one. “It was exciting to watch them identify a salient problem and develop a functional proof-of-concept solution despite the setbacks that affected us all after spring break,” he said.

“This was a unique project in that the team was required to identify a problem and develop a solution to it that is based on SICK’s TiM LiDAR, while most teams are handed a problem and asked to create a solution,” Pinar noted. “I think this format allowed the team to exercise even more innovation than on a ‘typical’ project.”

The same team of students was awarded Honorable Mention honors at this spring’s Design Expo Senior Design competition for their project, “Road Marking Reflectivity Evaluator.”

SICK, Inc. is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sensors, safety systems, machine vision, encoders and automatic identification products for industrial applications.


Part I | Jason Hiebel, The College of Computing’s First Graduate

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing and ICC
This is the first part of a two-part article about Jason Hiebel, Ph.D., the college of Computings first graduate. Watch this blog and College of Computing social media channels for “Part II, A Supportive and Wise Network.”

PART I | THE FAST TRACK

A Profile of Dr. Jason Hiebel: The College of Computing’s First Graduate

In fall 2007, Jason Hiebel enrolled in his first semester at Michigan Tech. He’s been studying, teaching, and researching computer science and mathematics at Tech ever since, participating in December 2019 Commencement ceremonies. Shortly after, he successfully defended his dissertation and was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, the very first from the College of Computing.

“Graduating when I did, and becoming the first Ph.D. for the College of Computing, was really a fluke of timing,” Hiebel says. “But after all my time here in Houghton and with the Computer Science department, I am pleased to have the honor of being the college’s first Ph.D. It’s something that can be mine and mine alone, and I’m okay with being a little bit greedy about it!”

Husky Tenacity

Hiebel grew up north of Green Bay, Wis., and attended Bay Port High School, where he was active in the chess club and the marching band.

He says that during high school, “I was also the kind of person to push for opportunities far beyond those normally available. For example, while our school did offer some computer science courses, they were mostly self-taught in a small computer lab. But I wanted to be a computer scientist, and I wanted to be a professor—even if I lacked an understanding of what that truly entailed at the time.”

So, he pushed himself to complete the entire computer science curriculum before the end of his sophomore year, then took the AP exam. Following, Hiebel continued with the curriculum thanks to the State of Wisconsin, which paid for him to complete several computer science courses at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

“These were not opportunities that were typically available to me or anyone else at Bay Port,” Hiebel notes. “I had to fight for these opportunities, with the school and the state. But that Tenacity is exactly what Huskies are all about, right?”

All in all, Hiebel says he started at Michigan Tech as a junior in the Computer Science department and as a sophomore overall.

The Fast Track to Teaching and Research

During his first few weeks at Michigan Tech, Hiebel’s sole major was Computer Science. But soon, he began to pursue a double major in another field he enjoys: mathematics.

Hiebel completed his B.S. in Computer Science in summer 2010, and while he was finishing his B.S. in Mathematics, he dual-enrolled as a graduate student in Computer Science. He completed the Mathematics B.S. a year later, and in spring 2012 he received his Master of Science in Computer Science.

In pursuit of his Ph.D., Hiebel was supported by graduate teaching assistantships (GTA), teaching assistantships, and graduate research stipends (GRA). He spent several summers interning at MIT Lincoln Labs, the Department of Defense, and the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI).

“As a GTA, I did my fair share of grading and also led the lab sections for the introductory courses for three semesters,” Hiebel explains. For two semesters, as an instructor, he taught the accelerated introductory programming course (CS1131) and the undergraduate AI course (CS4811). Some semesters he was both a GTA and an instructor. Finally, with the support of his advisors, Hiebel was able to advance his research full time with a GRA stipend.

As a master’s student, Hiebel worked on developing tools for AI education with Laura Brown and another graduate student. As a Ph.D. student, his focus was on building his dissertation research under graduate advisors Laura Brown and Zhenlin Wang.

“Jason’s research applies machine learning to computer system optimization. He has become an expert in both fields,” says Professor Zhenlin Wang, Computer Science.

“The nature of this type of research makes it very challenging for a student to focus, as it requires continual effort and extended skills,” Wang adds. “Throughout his Ph.D. study, Jason consistently demonstrated diligence, perseverance, and creativity. For these reasons and others, Jason has always been a stand-out among our graduate students.”

In his dissertation, Hiebel investigates the application of online machine learning methods, particularly multi-armed bandit methods, to performance optimization problems in computer systems.

“Computers offer a myriad of configurations for customizing how the system performs. Depending on what you run on the system, different configurations can have a drastic effect on performance,” Hiebel explains. “Ideally, we would like to match the configuration to the workload, but doing so requires a broad expertise of how different components of an individual system interact.”

“My work focuses on modeling this type of configuration problem and uses artificial intelligence to automatically, without human intervention, select the best-performing configurations for a given workload.”

Looking Ahead

Hiebel signed on to instruct some spring 2020 semester courses for the Computer Science department while he waited on his paperwork to process for a job with the Department of Defense. “With the growing pains of the new college, there was a need for a few more people to teach and I was happy to lend my experience,” he says.

But like many in the wake of the global pandemic, Hiebel’s plans are in flux right now. He’s teaching a Summer Track A course at Michigan Tech, and advising an undergraduate research project, as well.

“Mainly, I’ll just be waiting for things to open back up so I can get processed for the job I’m waiting for,” Heibel says. “During that limbo, I hope to tackle some research problems and continue to keep myself busy.”
Hiebel says that in the short term, he is hoping to lend his expertise to government research. But in the long term, his aspirations are to return to academia.

“Only time will tell where I end up,” he muses. “But wherever I do end up, I think I will be happy if I’m working on interesting problems and using the skills and knowledge I gained as a Ph.D. student here at Tech.”

In the meantime, Hiebel enjoys living in the Houghton community. He’s a big fan of winter, and even Houghton summers are far too warm for his tastes. “Small town life suits my sensibilities better,” he confirms.


Dan Madrid ’10, CNSA, Elected to Alumni Board

Daniel Madrid ’10, Computer Network and Systems Administration, of Livonia, Mich., has been elected to a six-year term on the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors effective July 1, 2020, the Office of Alumni Relations has announced.

Madrid is a product manager in the Mobility Products Solutions: Connected Vehicle unit of Ford Motor Company, where he has worked for nine years. He is also a member of Ford’s Michigan Tech Recruiting team.

The Alumni Board is a group of volunteers elected from around the country. Board members work with the Alumni Engagement team to develop and support programs for students and alumni.

Learn more about Dan Madrid and his wife Kaylee in these Michigan Tech posts and articles:
https://www.mtu.edu/magazine/2017-1/stories/alumni-engagement/
https://www.mtu.edu/magazine/2015-2/stories/something-borrowed/
https://www.mtu.edu/techalum/issue/april-25-2017-vol-23-no-17/network-mentor-connect-volunteer/
https://blogs.mtu.edu/alumni/2020/02/10/cool-hobbies/

View Dan Madrid’s LinkedIn page here.

The additional new members are:
• Arick Davis ’15, Electrical Engineering, Grand Rapids, MI
• Darwin Moon ’79, Mechanical Engineering, Madison, AL
• Peter Moutsatson ’88, Mechanical Engineering, Manassas, VA
• Drew Vettel ’05 ‘06, Mechanical Engineering, Sheboygen Falls, WI
• Brandon Williams ’00, Electrical Engineering, San Diego, CA

Alumni Board Elections are held in even-numbered years, but nominations are continuously open. Learn more about the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors here.


IGSC3 Hosting Conversation Circle Thursdays, 10 am

Michigan Tech Graduate and Undergraduate Students

The International Graduate Student Communication and Culture Center (IGSC3) is hosting a weekly Conversation Circle on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. through June 26, 2020.

The aim of the conversation circles is to give international students opportunities to practice conversational English in an informal setting.

International students will discuss a range of topics selected by IGSC3 coaches, as well as students. Topics often include American culture, popular culture, travel, and history.

The meetings will be hosted through an online Zoom meeting. Sign up to participate here.