The Computer Science and Software Engineering bachelor of science programs in the Michigan Tech College of Computing have recently been granted ABET accreditations through ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) and its Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC), respectively.
ABET accreditation, which is voluntary, provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates.
The announcement follows an 18-month ABET accreditation process, which included an in-depth self-study and report and an on-site visit from the ABET review team, which occurred in fall 2019. A lengthy readiness review was also prepared by the Computer Science department prior to the start of the accreditation process.
“I am grateful to all the faculty, staff, and students, as well as our alumni and advisory board members, who participated in this process,” says Department Chair Linda Ott, Computer Science. “It is time-consuming, but well worth the effort, to give our students even greater assurance that they are getting the quality education that they deserve and expect from us.”
“Linda, Nilufer Onder, Chuck Wallace, and so many others contributed to this accomplishment,” says College of Computing Dean Adrienne Minerick. “This accreditation status is one of many quality indicators that potential employers can use to assess the breadth and depth of our graduates’ knowledge.”
Associate Professor Nilufer Onder is the undergraduate program director for the Department of Computer Science. Associate Professor Charles Wallace, Computer Science, is the College of Computing’s Associate Dean for Curriculum and Instruction.
“With these accreditations, prospective and current students and their parents know that our programs are rigorous, and that our high quality curricula embrace continuous improvement,” says Minerick. “It reaffirms that as the Computing fields evolve, so do College of Computing academic programs.”
“The self-study process at the heart of accreditation is laborious and no one’s idea of a good time,” shares Wallace. “But the results of that intensive reflection have already led to constructive changes in our Computer Science and Software Engineering curricula. I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of my colleagues Nilufer Onder, Zhenlin Wang,Gorkem Asilioglu, and James Walker in pushing the process through to completion.”
“It is fantastic to see that ABET has recognized what we have known all along: Michigan Tech’s Computer Science and Software Engineering programs meet the highest quality standards and are committed to continuous improvement,” says Leonard Bohmann, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering. “Students, and the companies that hire them when they graduate, can be confident that their Michigan Tech education meets exacting global standards in these high-tech fields.”
“Our graduates have always been in high demand by industry,” Ott confirms. “The ABET focus on continuous quality improvement, core to the accreditation process, further ensures that our graduates’ knowledge and skills will continue to meet industry’s expectations into the future.”
The Computer Science and Software Engineering undergraduate programs were offered through the College of Engineering prior to the establishment of the College of Computing in July 2019.
“ABET accreditation demonstrates the direct involvement of faculty and staff in the self-assessment and continuous quality improvement processes, and validates that the pedagogical practices used in Computer Science and Software Engineering courses–and in all courses in ABET-accredited programs–are based upon learning outcomes, rather than teaching inputs,” Bohmann says.
ABET is considered the gold standard of accreditation in engineering and related programs. ABET accreditation has been granted to exceptional academic programs since 1932. (https://www.abet.org)
The Michigan Tech College of Computing, established July 1, 2019, offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in Computer Network and System Administration, Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Electrical Engineering Technology, Health Informatics, Mechatronics, and Software Engineering.
Huskies basketball student-athlete Isaac Appleby, a junior in the Computer Science program at Michigan Tech, was recently named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honor Court.
The accolade highlights the talents and gifts that the men’s basketball players possess on the court, and the hard work they exhibit in the classroom, according to an Athletics department press release.
A total of six Huskies were named to the NABC Honor Court, listed below.
Isaac Appleby, Junior, Computer Science Trent Bell, Junior, Civil Engineering Dawson Bilski, Junior, Wildlife and Ecology Management Tommy Lucca, Senior, Engineering Management Kyle Clow, Junior, Mechanical Engineering TeeAaron Powell, Junior, Business Administration
The Huskies men’s basketball team also earned the Team Excellence Award, holding a 3.4 grade-point average as a team. The award recognizes outstanding academic achievement by a team with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better for the 2019-20 season. Ferris State, Northern Michigan, and Wayne State were other schools from the GLIAC recognized.
The recipients must be junior or senior, hold a 3.2 GPA or higher at the conclusion of the 2019-20 academic year, must have matriculated at least one year at their current institution, and have an NABC member coach. More than 1,350 men’s basketball student-athletes across NCAA Division I, II, III, and NAIA Division I or II were honored. Northern Michigan and Parkside also had six players receive the honor to tie with Michigan Tech for the GLIAC lead.
Michigan Tech was 23-8 overall and 14-6 in the GLIAC in 2019-20, finishing second in the GLIAC North and third overall. The Huskies qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in school history after winning the GLIAC Tournament Championship.
Written by Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing
Computer Science master’s student and doctoral candidate Dylan Gaines is one of three Michigan Tech students recently awarded a multi-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.
The oldest STEM-related fellowship program in the United States, the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes exceptional graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines early in their career and supports them through graduate education.
NSF-GRFP fellows are an exceptional group; 42 fellows have gone on to become Nobel Laureates, and about 450 fellows are members of the National Academy of Sciences.
The additional Michigan Tech graduate students who received the fellowship are Greta Colford ’19 (Mechanical Engineering) and Seth Kriz (Chemical Engineering).
The fellowship provides three years of financial support, including a $34,000 annual stipend for each fellow and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for the fellow’s institution. In addition to financial support, the GRFP provides opportunities for research in national laboratories and international research.
Read an April 15, 2020, Tech Today article about this here.
Four years, two degrees
Gaines, who arrived as a first-year student in fall 2016, was awarded the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in spring 2019, also completing a concentration in Game Development. He’s pursuing on his master’s now, which he expects to complete in December 2020. He has also begun working on his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Michigan Tech, which he anticipates completing in spring 2023.
Commenting on Gaines’ award, Department of Computer Science Chair Dr. Linda Ott says, “All of us in the Department of Computer Science are very excited that Dylan is being awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This is clear affirmation that Dylan is an excellent student, and that even as an undergraduate he demonstrated strong research skills.”
“I am very thankful for this award, and for everyone that supported me through the application process and helped to review my essays” Gaines says.
Early interest, a first-year research assistant
Ott notes that it is also a tribute to Gaines’s advisor, CS Associate Professor Keith Vertanen who has established a very successful research group in intelligent interactive systems.
“Dr. Ott encouraged the pursuit of research in her CS 1000 class by bringing in faculty like Dr. Vertanen to present what they were working on,” Gaines says. “Because of this, I started doing research with Dr. Vertanen my first semester at Michigan Tech, and he has been nothing but supportive the whole time,” adding, “all of the faculty and staff at Michigan Tech are very supportive of students and make teaching a priority.”
Vertanen recalls that in fall 2017, Gaines approached him following a talk about Vertanen’s research in the CS department’s first-year seminar class.
“I was so impressed by him that I subsequently hired him as an undergraduate research assistant, something I would normally not do with a first-year student,” Vertanen confirms. “Since then, he has been a key contributor to my research group.”
“It became quickly clear to me he was a talented, hard-working, and curious researcher,” Vertanen says. I was pleased to learn NSF recognized this, as well, by awarding him a GRF. I’m excited to see what he’ll accomplish during his Ph.D.”
Text entry techniques
Gaines’s research with Vertanen focuses on text entry techniques for those with visual impairments. His master’s and doctoral research will continue this work. He also plans to develop assistive technologies for use in Augmented Reality.
His aim is to make smartphones—and technology in general—more accessible for people with visual impairments. Looking ahead, Gaines definitely wants to continue to pursue research, but he’s unsure yet if it will be in academia or in industry. “At this time, I am open to both possibilities,” he says.
In his first two years at Michigan Tech, Gaines was instrumental in research leading to two papers accepted for the 2018 and 2019 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, with acceptance rates of 24% and 26%, respectively. For both papers, Vertanen notes that Dylan helped design and execute the user studies, and also provided careful feedback that improved the submitted papers, the rebuttals, and the final papers. CHI is the flagship conference in human-computer interaction.
During his undergraduate studies, Gaines worked with Vertanen on his NSF project, “CAREER: Technology Assisted Conversations.” In the first year of his PhD, he worked on two NSF projects with Vertanen, “CHS: Small: Rich Surface Interaction for Augmented Environments” and “CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Improving Mobile Device Input for Users who are Blind or Low Vision.”
Gaines plans to continue his research in line with the above project, “Improving Mobile Device Input for Users who are Blind or Low Vision,” though now funded by the GRF. See below for more information about the research projects.
“Dylan is one of the strongest and easiest to work with students I have encountered in over ten years of advising undergraduate research students,” Vertanen concludes. “I have no doubt he will produce an exciting and impactful portfolio of research during his Ph.D. studies.”\
An active life
Gaines is an active member of Triangle Fraternity, which he says helped to shape who he is as a person and as a scholar. Triangle is a fraternity of engineers, architects, and scientists that develop balanced men who cultivate high moral character, foster lifelong friendships, and live their lives with integrity, according to the organizations’ website.
As an undergraduate, Gaines was active in the Organization for Information Systems, and he served on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council. He also participated for three years in Husky Game Development (HGD) Enterprise, capping his final year as HGD president and coordinating 66 students on 12 teams. In HGD, student teams design and build video games, often in collaboration with sponsors and alumni.
In summer 2019, he helped with a week-long Computer Science department Summer Youth Program for high school girls, assisting in development of the web API used in their projects, and helping the girls build their mobile apps.
Gaines competed in three seasons for the Huskies as a member of the cross country and track teams, Now, he’s a graduate assistant coach for the team. “I started running cross country about nine years ago,” Gaines affirms. “I ran in the 8k and the 3k steeplechase on the MTU team for three years during my undergrad. I have loved watching the Cross program grow and improve throughout my time here.”
View Gaines’s Michigan Tech Cross Country record here.
Trust, a novel interface, peer mentoring
As a third-year undergrad, Gaines conducted his own research project investigating a novel interface for eye-free text entry, developing an Android application and integrating it with the statistical decoder used in Vertanen’s research group.
“This decoder has evolved over many years and has served as the basis for a variety of projects,” Vertanen explains. “As such, it has a large code base with a complex API. Despite this, Dylan was able to incorporate the decoder into his project with only minimal guidance. He asked questions when stuck, but almost always figured out solutions on his own. His software engineering skills are excellent and he is one of the few students I trust to make changes to the decoder.”
An application programming interface, or API, is a computing interface which defines interactions between multiple software intermediaries. It defines the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, the conventions to follow, among other functions.
Upon completing the prototype of his eyes-free text entry interface, Gaines designed and conducted a longitudinal user study.
“In designing the experimental methodology for his study, he routinely challenged me with probing and insightful questions about how the study should be designed,” Vertanen says. “I felt like I was working with a senior Ph.D. student rather than an undergraduate. I cannot overstate how impressive this is; many students just blindly follow my suggestions, even my bad ones! Now, whenever I design a new user study, I always discuss it with Dylan as this helps refine the design and spot problems.”
Vertanen also asks his other students to pilot their studies with Gaines, as he often provides feedback that improves their studies.
ACM ASSETS 2018
Gaines’s eyes-free text entry interface work culminated in his solo submission to the ACM ASSETS 2018 Student Research Competition (SRC), “Exploring an Ambiguous Technique for Eyes-Free Mobile Text Entry.” And his related technical paper was accepted by the SRC competition, which had a 50% acceptance rate.
In October 2018, Vertanen and Gaines traveled to Galway, Ireland, where Gaines presented a poster and a talk at ASSETS 2018 about his interface, Tap123. Tap123 offers the potential for faster and easier-to-learn text input for users who are visually impaired. ACM ASSETS is the premier venue for research on assistive technologies and accessible computing.
“His writing skills are excellent; he produced a quality paper with minimal guidance from me,” says Vertanen of Gaines’s ASSETS 2018 participation. “At his poster presentation, he did an excellent job communicating his research and answering questions, and he advanced to the final round, where he gave an excellent talk to the entire conference, winning third-place in the undergraduate category.
Significant impact, contribution
Vertanen reflects that while Gaines is clearly very bright, he also demonstrates an ability to critically assess his understanding of a topic and asked questions whenever he suspects his solutions might be incorrect.
In his role as Dylan’s research advisor, Vertanen encouraged Dylan, when writing he was writing his research plan, to not only incorporate feedback he received presenting at ASSETS, but also to think about how his work might be relevant in a post-mobile phone world. I was pleased with the research plan he created,” Vertanen says.
Vertanen predicts that Gaines’s planned work will significantly impact the utility of future AR interfaces for people with visual impairments, adding, “More broadly, his work may also impact everyone, since limitations of device or situation may make audio-only AR an attractive alternative to visual-based AR interaction”
And Gaines has a head start on the publication process. “Throughout his time in my group, he has shown a keen interest in the academic publication process,” Vertanen says of Gaines. “This has already manifested itself; as a first-year Ph.D. student he has one paper in submission and another ready for submission.”
With this publication experience and motivation, Vertanen expects that Gaines’s Ph.D. research will be disseminated widely. Further, this work on interfaces for those with disabilities will provide motivating material in the College of Computing’s ongoing efforts to recruit students who are typically underrepresented in computer science.
NSF Research Projects
CAREER: Technology Assisted Conversations Sponsor: NSF PI: Keith Vertanen Abstract: Face-to-face conversation is an important way in which people communicate with each other, but unfortunately there are millions who suffer from disorders that impede normal conversation. This project will explore new real-time communication solutions for people who face speaking challenges, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities, for example by exploiting implicit and explicit contextual input obtained from a person’s conversation partner.
The goal is to develop technology that improves upon the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices currently available to help people speak faster and more fluidly. The PI will assemble teams of undergraduates to develop the project’s software, and he will host a summer youth program on the technology behind text messaging, offering scholarships for women, students with disabilities, and students from underrepresented groups. Funded first-year research opportunities will further help retain undergraduates, particularly women, in computing.
CHS: Small: Rich Surface Interaction for Augmented Environments Sponsor: NSF PI: Keith Vertanen Co-PI: Scott Kuhl The preliminary data for this project was developed through an Institute of Computing and Cybersystems faculty seed grant funded by Michigan Tech alumnus Paul Williams. Read a blog post about this research here. Abstract: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) head-mounted displays are increasingly being used in different computing related activities such as data visualization, education, and training. Currently, VR and AR devices lack efficient and ergonomic ways to perform common desktop interactions such as pointing-and-clicking and entering text.
The goal of this project is to transform flat, everyday surfaces into a rich interactive surface. For example, a desk or a wall could be transformed into a virtual keyboard. Flat surfaces afford not only haptic feedback, but also provide ergonomic advantages by providing a place to rest your arms. This project will develop a system where microphones are placed on surfaces to enable the sensing of when and where a tap has occurred. Further, the system aims to differentiate different types of touch interactions such as tapping with a fingernail, tapping with a finger pad, or making short swipe gestures. This project will investigate different machine learning algorithms for producing a continuous coordinate for taps on a surface along with associated error bars.
CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Improving Mobile Device Input for Users who are Blind or Low Vision. Sponsor: NSF PI: Keith Vertanen Abstract: Smartphones are an essential part of everyday life. 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.
Publications by Dylan Gaines
Vertanen, K., Gaines, D., Fletcher, C., Stanage, A., Watling, R., Krisstensson, P.O. 2019. VelociWatch: Designing and Evaluating a Virtual Keyboard for the Input of Challenging Text. In Proceedings of The ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘19).
Gaines, D., Exploring an Ambiguous Technique for Eyes-Free Mobile Text Entry. 2018. In Proceedings of the 20t h International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility Student Research Competition (ASSETS ‘18).
Vertanen, K., Fletcher, C., Gaines, D., Gould, J., Kristensson, P.O. 2018. The Impact of Word, Multiple Word, and Sentence Input on Virtual Keyboard Decoding Performance. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘18).
The Deans’ Student Advisory Council, College of Business, serves to foster effective communication among the Dean’s Office, faculty, and students, and provide advice to the Dean on matters relating to undergraduate business education and the College community.
Husky Game Development Enterprise (HGD). The mission of HGD is to design and develop games for business, education, and fun. We work as an interdisciplinary, student-run enterprise that fosters productivity, creativity, and effective business practices. Our goal is to create quality software that will attract and satisfy industry sponsors.
The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) is the research arm of the Michigan Tech College of Computing. It leads and promotes opportunities for faculty and students to work across organizational boundaries to create an environment that is a reflection of the contemporary technological innovation that mirrors today’s industry and society.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports individuals early in their graduate training in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
The Organization for Information Systems (OIS) is a student organization focused on the technical and professional development of its members.
Triangle Fraternity was founded in 1907 by sixteen engineers at the University of Illinois. From the start, it was meant to be a place where men of similar majors could socialize, support each other’s academic pursuits and better prepare themselves for successful careers. Since that time, our membership has grown and expanded to include mathematics and the physical sciences as well as architecture, making us STEM long before the term was coined in 2001. Today, we continue to provide a unique social, academic and professional experience for STEM majors.
Written by Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing
Tyler Marenger’s career goals include constantly improving himself, facing and overcoming the challenges he encounters along the way. The Michigan Tech Software Engineering undergraduate is making sure he’s prepared.
This spring, Marenger was awarded Michigan Tech University Honors, which recognizes the academic excellence of undergraduates.
Since his enrollment as a first-year student in fall 2017, Marenger, from Gladstone, Mich., has appeared multiple times on the 4.0 Deans’ List and the Deans’ List. In fall 2020 (December), he expects to complete his Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering and a minor in Mathematical Sciences.
Marenger says this recognition on the University Honors list encourages him as he continues on his academic journey and pursues his life goals.
“It is an incredible honor to have such a prestigious University recognize and commemorate me on my accomplishments,” Marenger says. “I also truly appreciate the words of recognition and encouragement from the College of Computing and the Computer Science department. I am proud to say that I am a Michigan Tech Husky.”
University Honors are reserved for degree-seeking students who rank in the top 2 percent of their class and maintain at least a 3.50 cumulative GPA while carrying 12 credits or more for both the fall and spring semesters.
In addition to University Honors, Marenger has three times received the Department of Mathematics’ Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Academic Achievement for his performance in the courses MA 2160, Calculus II; MA 3160, Calculus III; and MA 2720, Statistical Methods. For one semester, Marenger was a teaching assistant for MA 3160, Calculus III, grading mathematical essays (write-ups) and student coursework.
Marenger is a three-semester member of the Husky Game Development Enterprise, working with his teammates on the game, “Lost in Mazie Mansion,” which won Honorable Mention honors at this spring’s Design Expo. His primary role on the team is software development, and he also contributes to the design and layout of the game. His team plans to continue development of the game in the fall 2020 semester.
Making time for personal pursuits
Marenger says that by breaking tasks into manageable pieces, he feels he can better manage his time, meet his goals, and make time for personal pursuits.
“I have found that breaking up my work/studying in order to exercise helps promote a high level of energy and encourages me to complete my workload,” he notes. “Dedicating specific time slots to reduce my workload helps me get done in a timely manner. That way, I can enjoy my personal time exploring my interests or spending time with my friends.”
Marenger identifies his most substantial hobby as fitness, and says he enjoys pushing himself towards self-improvement. He is an avid weightlifter, constantly setting new goals and spending countless hours at the gym. He enjoys outdoor and recreational activities, as well, including jet skiing, dirt biking, hiking, skiing, camping, and fishing.
Supportive faculty mentors
Both Associate Professor Ali Ebnenasir, Computer Science, and Elizabeth Reed, a former senior lecturer in Michigan Tech’s Department of Mathematics, have been especially supportive regarding Marenger’s academic work, he says.
After finishing his MA 2720, Statistical Methods, course in fall 2018—with an outstanding final grade—and earning the Mathematics department’s Certificate of Merit—Marenger shares that in an email Reed extended congratulations and best wishes, encouraging Marenger to seek a minor in Mathematical Sciences and offering to write a reference letter.
And shortly after completing the senior-level CS 4710, Model-Driven Software Development class in spring 2020, Marenger recalls that Ebnenasir both congratulated him on his performance in that class, and encouraged him to consider continuing his education beyond the bachelor of science. CS 4710 focuses on mathematical methods for the design and verification of software systems. Marenger has since shared his resume with Ebnenasir, and earlier this summer they discussed Michigan Tech’s Computer Science Ph.D. program and funding and research opportunities.
“In spring 2020, Tyler demonstrated excellent performance in solving individual assignments, as well as professionalism in group projects,” Ebnenasir confirms, noting Marenger’s positive attitude towards learning new topics.
“Tyler is meticulous and hardworking, and I also I am sure that he will be a star if he maintains and improves his outstanding self-discipline and perseverance,” Ebnenasir says. “Good luck Tyler, and we hope to see you back for your Ph.D. at Michigan Tech in the future!”
Collaborations in software development
Marenger clearly excels at learning and mastering the ideas and content in his Computer Science courses. He says he especially enjoyed CS 4760, User Interface Design and Implementation, for which he and his CS 4760 team developed an application for use with the Micro:bit Web USB Grapher device, part of a teaching tool and curriculum aid already widely used for computing-related learning by K-12 teachers and students.
Marenger and his team reasoned that since the Micro:bit pocket-sized computer can record data through a variety of sensors, this capability, along with its board sensors and its extensibility, could also be used to augment classroom science demonstrations.
“Our application is designed to take the data that the pocket-sized Micro:bit provides and display it on one or more graphs,” Marenger explains. “The application graphs, manipulates, and saves data collected on the Micro:bit, which will help expose K-12 students to computing and programming principles while they learn about a wide variety of scientific phenomena.”
The team’s development and deployment of their React.js application was accomplished in collaboration with the Michigan Tech Humanities department, the Michigan Tech Graduate School, and Bill Siever, a teaching professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at Washington University of St. Louis, Mo.
Building the future
Looking forward, Marenger says he will continue furthering his education and building his software development skills.
“I plan to constantly educate myself on new and upcoming technologies so that I can pursue advancements in the field of computer science,” he confirms. “I want to gather as much industry knowledge as I can so that one day, I can take on project leadership roles or develop a product of my own that I can manage and promote.”
Michigan Tech has been ranked among the worlds best college and universities in a recent report by QS World University Rankings, which evaluated over 5,500 colleges and universities throughout the world, ranking the 1,000 best using six metrics, each individually weighted. The metrics include:
Citations per faculty
International Faculty Ratio
International Student Ratio
Here are the Michigan universities and their rankings: