Category: Achievements and Awards

Leo Ureel Is this Week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase Selection

Dean Adrienne Minerick and the College of Computing are pleased to announce that Leo Ureel, Computer Science Lecturer and Ph.D. student, is this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Leo is also coordinator of the College of Computing Learning Center (CCLC) in Rekhi Hall and faculty advisor to the Computer Science Learning Committee in McNair Hall. 

Most notable among his accomplishments, Ureel’s student-centric efforts are increasing retention and diversifying the cohort of first-year Computing students. Further, his work, in coordination with many other valuable members of the College of Computing, has increased the visibility of Michigan Tech and the College of Computing, both on campus and in the community, and contributed substantially to sustained enrollments in Computer Science and other College of Computing programs.

“What becomes apparent immediately when thinking about Leo’s contributions is how much Leo cares about and invests into his student’s learning,” says Dean Minerick. “Student success is at the heart of all that he does.”  

Ureel’s work has provided him the opportunity to develop rich collaborations with researchers across the U.S. and in the U.K., Europe, and Africa, and he recently led an ITICSE working group of international researchers examining first year student experiences in CS. 

Ureel teaches CS 1121 and CS 1122 courses, primarily to first year students, in which he works to broaden students’ views of computing, ground them in a programming language, and teach them problem solving skills. His research has been supported by NSF, Google, and NCWIT. 

Ureel’s nomination emphasizes in particular his innovative and effective teaching of the entry-level programming classes in Computer Science, for which Ureel has developed a WebTA tool that gives students near real-time feedback on their programming code. 

“My classrooms are hands-on learning environments where I combine small hands-on projects with blended learning techniques to engage students and provide individual feedback” Ureel explains. “I’ve developed a software system, WebTA, that provides students with individualized feedback on their code while they are working on it – even when I am personally unavailable. (For example, at 2:00 a.m. when students are working on their programming assignments!)” 

“This engages students in the following programming practice: design, code, receive feedback, reflect, and repeat. The more I can engage the students in these tight cycles of programming and reflection, the better they learn to program.” 

Ureel’s adds that his research efforts focus on a constructionist approach to introductory computer science that leverages code critiquers to motivate students to learn computer programming. The critiquer systems engage students in test-driven agile development methods through small cycles of teaching, coding integrated with testing, and immediate feedback. 

This interest in student success was one component of Ureel’s close collaboration with Linda Ott, chair of the Computer Science department, in a project funded by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). As part of the collaboration focused on first-year student retention, a structure was developed to more effectively place students in their first programming course. 

“By improving the placement of students based on their previous programming experience, both students new to programming and those with experience are more satisfied and more successful in their first programming course at Michigan Tech” according to Dr. Ott. “Leo is constantly thinking about ways to engage students in programming”. 

Ureel is also part of a student and faculty team that regularly hosts community outreach and workshops for middle and high school students like Code Ninjas, Copper Country Coders, and numerous other programs. 

“My work with K-12 outreach activities, such as Code Ninjas and Copper Country Coders, benefits both the K-12 students, who are learning to program, and Michigan Tech undergraduate students, who volunteer as K-12 mentors,” Ureel says. “The undergraduate students benefit from the teaching process; learning more about computer science as they 

strive to articulate basic computer principles in simple language and entertaining memes for the K-12 students.” 

Ureel’s success teaching students with no coding experience also sparked the pilot of a foundational computing course for non-majors at Michigan Tech. Ureel was the key thought leader driving course structure and content for CS 1090, Computational Thinking, a course for non-Computing majors that teaches computing fundamentals using the Python language. 

“I am teaching the course in the context of several problem domains, including Big Data, Machine Learning, Image Processing, Simulation, and Video Game Design,” Ureel says. “As students tackle problems in these domains, I introduce the Python language structures required to construct a solution. Teaching programming in the context of larger problem domains gives students a way to ground their learning in practical applications.” 

The course, which could help instill computational thinking across campus, is being piloted this semester with students from outside the College of Computing. Designed to be compatible with the College Board AP Computer Science Principles course, the CS 1090 pilot is expected to be expanded through IDEA Hub continuation efforts. 

Ureel also leads the College of Computing Learning Center (CCLC), which has pivoted in a couple of ways over the last year, in step with the College of Computing. A cadre of 20 outstanding student coaches from both the Computer Science and Computer Network and System Administration majors have transformed the CCLC into an inclusive learning hub for all CC majors and courses, with students from across campus seeking out the CCLC. The number of students utilizing CCLC services has increased steadily over the past few years. 

Ureel also worked closely with Dr. Nilufer Onder (CS) to incorporate into CCLC services an upper-level Student Academic Mentors (SAM) program that Dr. Onder developed and spearheaded in Computer Science courses. Their vision is to expand the SAM program under the umbrella of the CCLC, increasing access and courses supported. 

And finally, in response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Ureel and his coaches have creatively and effectively coordinated the transition of CCLC services to an online format. 


Todd Arney Receives Elite New Teaching Award

The Office of the Provost and the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning have announced that Todd Arney, lecturer in the College of Computing’s Department of Applied Computing, is one of four instructors who will receive The Provost’s Award for Sustained Teaching Excellence, a new teaching award that celebrates the work of individuals whose teaching consistently and dramatically benefits students.

Had this been a normal year, Arney would have again qualified as a finalist for the annual Distinguished Teaching Award, which he has been awarded three times. But because this was Arney’s fourth nomination, the Provost, academic deans, and the Center for Teaching and Learning agreed that Arney deserves special recognition that goes beyond consideration as a finalist.

Provost Huntoon, in collaboration with the Academic Deans, initiated this award because “It became clear that we had a group of instructors consistently delivering exceptional instruction to their students over many years, who are worthy of special recognition,” said a March 18, 2020, Tech Today news item.

“The intent in establishing this new award is to acknowledge that anyone named a finalist more than three times has been consistently exceptional,” wrote Michael Meyer, director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning, in Arney’s award letter. “Your commitment to excellence is worthy of significant recognition.”

The award, which consists of a plaque and $1000 in additional compensation, will be presented at the Academy of Teaching Excellence banquet on April 14, 2020. Each of the recipients of the new award will continue to be honored on an annual basis as members of Michigan Tech’s Distinguished Teaching Academy, an elite group with an established reputation for excellent teaching.

Arney is a lecturer in the Computer Network and System Administration (CNSA) program, Applied Computing. He teaches courses in Linux system administration, Microsoft system administration, infrastructure system administration, scripting administration and automation, data center engineering, cybersecurity, and cyber ethics.  In addition, he supervises CNSA Senior Design projects. He was also nominated for the Dean’s Teaching Award in spring 2019.  

“Todd’s energy and his rapport with the students creates a community within CNSA that promotes student success,” said Adrienne Minerick, dean of the College of Computing. “He is accessible and dedicated to the students, always encouraging them to try projects that lie outside of their comfort zones.”

“I am delighted, but not 100% surprised, that Todd Arney was selected as one of the inaugural recipients for this award,” said Dan Fuhrmann, chair of the Applied Computing department. “‘Sustained teaching excellence’ is a perfect description of Todd’s contributions to the CNSA program.  Our students are his number one priority, and in return he is respected and well-liked by his students. Todd represents the very best that Michigan Tech offers in undergraduate education.”

“I am very pleased to be part this award’s initiation, and to be associated with a place where there’s so much good instruction going on that we need to expand the ways we recognize people,” wrote Meyer. “Your [Arney’s] efforts motivated the creation of this award, and that alone is an outstanding professional accomplishment! On behalf of the students, staff, and faculty at Michigan Tech, I offer my sincerest congratulations and appreciation to you for your dedicated efforts and willingness to go the extra mile to connect with your students.”

As is the case for those that have won the Distinguished Teaching Award, recipients of the Provost’s Award for Sustained Teaching Excellence are members of an elite group with an established reputation for teaching excellence. Recipients of the new Provost’s award are ineligible to be named as a finalist in the future, but membership in the elite group is permanent.

Finalists for the 2020 teaching awards were selected based on the spring and fall 2019 semester teaching evaluations.


Capture the Flag Competition Incredibly Successful

The Capture the Flag competition at this year’s Winter Wonderhack, held the weekend of February 21-23, was incredibly successful, with a total of 35 students competing on 15 different teams.

The three top teams finished with 100% completion after 10+ hours of hard work, and the fourth place team was close behind with only two flags left. The entire competition was very competitive, with the top four teams constantly exchanging places throughout the weekend.

Winning teams:

First Place (Hak5 WiFi Pineapple and Manual) – Real Pineapple:
Eli Brockert, Cybersecurity, sophomore
Matthew Chau, Cybersecurity, freshman
Nathan Wichers, EE, freshman

Second Place  (Hak5 Packet Squirrel and Manual) – College Nerd Seeking Assets
Justin Bilan, CNSA, junior
Stuart Hoxie, CNSA, junior
Ben Kangas , CNSA, junior
Austin Clark, CNSA, junior
Nicklaus Finetti, CNSA, senior

Third Place (Hak5 USB Rubber Ducky and Manual)  – The Blue Tigers 21
Austin Doorlag, CS, sophomore
Harley Merkaj, CS, sophomore
Anthony Viola, CpE, sophomore

Fourth Place (Hak5 Sticker Packs and USB Rubber Ducky Manual)  – Fsociety
Sam Breuer, CpE, freshman
John Claassen, CS, sophomore
Samantha Christie, CS, freshman

All participants in the Capture the Flag Competition, February 21-23, 2020

Michigan Tech is #2 on WXYZ List of Highest-paid Grads

Michigan Tech is #2 on list of highest-paid grads in Michigan published recently by WXYZ Detroit (ABC-TV). The ratings are based on data from Payscale.com.

For Michigan Tech grads, the midpoint for early career salaries is $65,000 (five or fewer years on the job), and the midpoint for seasoned pros is more than $116,000 (10 years on the job). No school in Michigan awards a higher percentage of science, technology and engineering degrees that Michigan Tech.

Other schools on the list were Albion College (#7), University of Michigan Dearborn ( #6 ), Michigan State University (#5), Lawrence Technological University (#4), University of Michigan (#3), and Kettering University (#1). View the full story here.


Health Informatics Online Graduate Program Ranked Best in the Midwest, 11th in Nation

The Michigan Tech online Master’s in Health Informatics has been ranked best in the midwest and 11th nationally by Intelligent.com, ahead of universities such as Stanford, Northwestern, and Boston University. Michigan Tech’s 2020 ranking rose from 17th nationally in 2019.

See the full rankings here.

According to their website, Intelligent.com is a free, editorially independent, privately-supported website. It aims to “connect students to the best schools that meet their needs” through “unbiased, accurate, and fact-based information on a wide range of issues.” Their rankings are based on aggregated publicly available data about colleges and programs across the country.

In November 2019, the website OnlineSchoolsCenter.com ranked Michigan Tech’s online Health Informatics M.S. program among the 20 finest online colleges and universities. Michigan Tech was the only school from Michigan to make the list. 


Computing Majors on GLIAC All-Academic Team

Congratulations to College of Computing grad student Bernard Kluskens, Cybersecurity, and senior Robbie Watling, Computer Science, who are among 18 Michigan Tech students recognized on the 2019 GLIAC Men’s Cross Country All-Academic Excellence Team. https://www.gliac.org/general_news/2019-20/Fall_2019_Academic_Teams/GLIAC_Fall_Academic_Teams_2019

Bernard Kluskens

Robbie Watling


Jinshan Tang, Jung Bae Receive Research Excellence Fund Awards

Jinshan Tang

Jungyun Bae

The Vice President for Research Office recently announced the Fall 2019 Research Excellence Fund (REF) awards. The awardees included College of Computing Professor Jinshan Tang, who was awarded a Portage Health Foundation (PHF) Infrastructure Enhancement (IE) Grants for his proposal, “High Performance Graphics Processing Units,” and College of Computing Assistant Professor Jung Yun Bae (ME-EM/CS), who was awarded a Research Seed Grant.

The REF Infrastructure Enhancement (REF-IE) grants are designed to provide resources to develop the infrastructure necessary to support sponsored research and graduate student education. Funded projects typically focus on acquisition of equipment, enhancement of laboratory facilities, or enhancement of administrative support structure to expand the research capability of the unit.

Typical REF Research Seed (RS) grant projects will develop preliminary data to be used in subsequent proposals to outside funding sources, support pilot studies developing new research methods or procedures, or support other activity leading to the development of an externally recognized and funded research program.

For additional information about the Research Excellence Funds, visit the REF website.


Article by Alex Sergeyev Published in Journal of Engineering Technology (JET)

Alex Sergeyev

An article co-authored by Aleksandr Sergeyev, College of Computing professor and director of the Mechatronics graduate program, has been published in the Journal of Engineering Technology (JET).

The conclusive article, titled “A University, Community College, and Industry Partnership: Revamping Robotics Education to Meet 21st century Needs – NSF Sponsored Project Final Report,” summarizes the work funded by a $750K NSF grant received by Servgeyev in 2015 to to promote robotics education.  The paper details the achievements in curriculum and educational tools development, dissemination, and implementation at Michigan Tech and beyond.

Co-PIs on the project are  Scott A. Kuhl (Michigan Technological University), Prince Mehandiratta (Michigan Technological University), Mark Highum (Bay de Noc Community College), Mark Bradley Kinney (West Shore Community College), and Nasser Alaraje (The University of Toledo).

A related paper was presented at the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, June 21-24, 2019, in Tampa, FL, as part of the panel “Academe/Industry Collaboration” presented by the Technical Engineering Technology Division, where it was awarded the Best Paper Award in the Engineering Technology Division. Download the conference paper here: https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/140/papers/26234/view.

Conference Paper Abstract: Recently, educators have worked to improve STEM education at all levels, but challenges remain. Capitalizing on the appeal of robotics is one strategy proposed to increase STEM interest. The interdisciplinary nature of robots, which involve motors, sensors, and programs, make robotics a useful STEM pedagogical tool. There is also a significant need for industrial certification programs in robotics. Robots are increasingly used across industry sectors to improve production throughputs while maintaining product quality. The benefits of robotics, however, depend on workers with up-to-date knowledge and skills to maintain and use existing robots, enhance future technologies, and educate users. It is critical that education efforts respond to the demand for robotics specialists by offering courses and professional certification in robotics and automation. This NSF sponsored project introduces a new approach for Industrial Robotics in electrical engineering technology (EET) programs at University and Community College. The curriculum and software developed by this collaboration of two- and four-year institutions match industry needs and provide a replicable model for programs around the US. The project also addresses the need for certified robotic training centers (CRTCs) and provides curriculum and training opportunities for students from other institutions, industry representatives, and displaced workers. Resources developed via this project were extensively disseminated through a variety of means, including workshops, conferences, and publications. In this article, authors provide final report on project outcomes, including various curriculum models and industry certification development, final stage of the “RobotRun” robotic simulation software, benefits of professional development opportunities for the faculty members from the other institutions, training workshops for K-12 teachers, and robotic one-day camps for high school students.

The Journal of Engineering Technology® (JET) is a refereed journal published semi-annually, in spring and fall, by the Engineering Technology Division (ETD) of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The aim of JET is to provide a forum for the dissemination of original scholarly articles as well as review articles in all areas related to engineering technology education. engtech.org/jet


CNSA Major Gary Tropp Named University Innovation Fellow

Gary Tropp

Gary Tropp (Computer Network and System Administration ’22), along with Abigail Kuehne (Psychology and Communication, Culture, and Media/ Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors ’21), Sam Raber (Psychology ’22), and Lindsay Sandell (Biomedical Engineering ’21), has been named a University Innovation Fellows by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.

The global UIF program trains student leaders to create new opportunities for their peers to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and creativity. Michigan Tech’s team of University Innovation Fellows (UIF) support student interests, create an ecosystem for innovation, and encourage environmentally sustainable practices on campus. They aim to preserve a culture of inclusion, encourage creativity and self-authorship, and help students create lasting connections.

Current UIF proposals include a university-sanctioned gap year program, updates to campus wellness opportunities, student ambassador programs, and creating a space to reduce waste and encourage students to share and reuse common school items. Learn more about UIF here.