Category: Computer Science

Accessible Computing Expert Dr. Richard Ladner to Present Keynote November 13

The ICC’s Center for Human-Centered Computing invites the Michigan Tech faculty, staff, and students to a keynote lecture by leading accessible design expert and research scientist Dr. Richard E. Ladner on Friday, November 13, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., via online meeting.

His talk, “Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education,” is the final event of HCC’s Accessible Design Week, a series of virtual lab tours, virtual mini talks, and lectures presented in a custom-created 360-degree Video format virtual space. Details will be announced shortly.

Ladner is a Professor Emeritus in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, where he has been on the faculty since 1971.

His current research is in the area of accessible computing, a subarea of human-computer interaction (HCI). Much of his current research focuses on accessible educational technology.

Ladner is principal investigator of the NSF-funded AccessComputing Alliance, which works to increase participation of students with disabilities in computing fields. He is also a PI of the NSF-funded AccessCSforAll, which is focused on preparing teachers of blind, deaf, and learning disabled children to teach their students computer science.

Lecture Title: Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education

Lecture Abstract: For the past twelve years there has been rapid growth in the teaching of computer science in K-12 with a particular focus on broadening the participation of students from underrepresented groups in computing including students with disabilities. Popular tools such as Scratch, ScratchJr, and many other block-based programming environments have brought programming concepts to millions of children around the world. Code.org’s Hour of Code has hundreds of activities with almost half using block-based environments. New computer science curricula such as Exploring Computer Science and Computer Science Principles have been implemented using inaccessible tools. In the meantime the United States has about 8 million school children with recognized disabilities which is about 16% of the K-12 student population. It is generally not the case that these students are adequately served by the current K-12 computer science education or any of the block-based programming environments.

In particular, the approximately 30,000 blind and visually impaired children are left out because only a few educational tools are screen reader accessible. In this talk we address this problem by describing two programming environments that are accessible: the Quorum Language and Blocks4All. The Quorum Language, created by Andreas Stefik, is a text-based programming language whose syntax and semantics have been created to be as usable as possible using randomized controlled trials. The language is not at all intimidating to children. For younger children, Lauren Milne created Blocks4All a block-based programming environment that can be used by anyone including children who are blind or visually impaired. Blocks4All uses a touchscreen platform similar to ScratchJr and takes advantage of the fact the blind children already know how to use touchscreen devices using their built-in screen readers. The challenge for the future of K-12 computer science is to be more inclusive to all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and disability status.

Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems, for the benefit of Michigan Technological University and society at large.

The ICC creates and supports an arena in which faculty and students work collaboratively across organizational boundaries in an environment that mirrors contemporary technological innovation. The ICC’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech.

The Center for Human-Centered Computing (HCC) focuses on the research and development of novel interfaces for human-agent interaction, assistive technologies, intelligent health, computational modeling, and examining trust and decision making in distributed systems.

The Center is directed by Associate Professor Elizabeth Veinott, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a cognitive psychologist who focuses on two main areas of research: decision making and learning using serious video games.


Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success

Briana Bettin, Ph.D., Computer Science: New Degree, New Position

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing

Michigan Tech Ph.D. graduate Briana Bettin, Computer Science, is among six new faculty members the College of Computing welcomed this fall. Bettin is an assistant professor for the Department of Computer Science, and an affiliated assistant professor for the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

She is teaching courses including CS1121 Introduction to Programming in C/C++, and pursuing research and other projects with faculty and students.

In August 2020, Bettin successfully defended her dissertation, “The Stained Glass of Knowledge: On Understanding Novice Mental Models of Computing,” and was awarded her Ph.D. in Computer Science.

“I’m excited to begin my faculty journey at Michigan Tech and I look forward to helping our students continue to learn skills that will allow them to create the future,” Bettin says. “Michigan Tech has always been an amazing place for me—the opportunity to continue to give back to this place that has given me so much is something I’m very grateful for.”

Bettin says that she is excited about several interesting research projects already being planned in the College, and she looks forward to helping the College advance its educational and research visibility and standing.

Bettin is a member researcher of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems’ new Center for Computing Education, which promotes research and learning activities related to computing education.


Neopets, HTML, CSS. Here’s how Briana Bettin got everything started.

Video games caught Bettin’s interest at a young age and as she grew older, she became interested in online games like Neopets, which allows the user to develop a profile using HTML.

“So, I became excited to learn about HTML and CSS in order to express myself in those online spaces,” she says. “This also got me interested in graphic design, and both of these things combined got me hooked on the idea of creating expressive virtual spaces.”

Bettin earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, with an Application Area in User Experience and Marketing, from Michigan Tech in spring 2014. Following, while working full time as a front-end web developer at a consulting firm, in summer 2016 she completed her master’s degree online. In fall 2016, Bettin began her Ph.D. studies.

The right fit.

“I wasn’t always sure if Computer Science was ‘right’ for someone like me,” Bettin reflects. “But my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Linda Ott, would encourage me by reminding me of the vast opportunities in technology. And since I became aware of the interdisciplinary area of User Experience, my interest in programming has only grown!”

“Dr. Ott is absolutely amazing,” Bettin says of Professor Linda Ott, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “I am thankful for her, and I knew that having her as my adviser would be one of the best things I could hope for. Our working styles are very complementary, and she is a great motivator and supporter. Laura Brown and Nilufer Onder have also been great mentors, offering me wonderful advice and support whenever I talk to them.”

Bettin adds that Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, was “wonderful in helping me develop my research vision. We often bounce ideas, and he has supported my ideas and given me many opportunities to implement research ideas in the classroom. Our talks give me so much perspective and energy.”

Early teaching success, fellowships, and awards.

Bettin was a CS 1121 lab instructor from fall 2016 until fall 2019, when she became the instructor of record, teaching her first semesters as a lecturer in fall 2019 and spring 2020. That fall, she received outstanding “Average of 7 Dimensions” student evaluation scores, one of only 74 such accolades earned by faculty that semester.

But Bettin’s excellence was recognized long before, in fall 2017, when she received the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award from Michigan Tech’s Graduate Student Government.

Bettin was awarded the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship from the State of Michigan in fall 2018. She received several doctoral consortium stipends from organizations including Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), the Frontiers in Education Doctoral Symposium (FIE), and the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W).

A Google Scholar award made it possible for her to attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, which supports women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. In fall 2019, Bettin was nominated for the prestigious MAGS Teaching Award.

Part II of this article will be published soon. In the second installment we’ll learn about Briana’s teaching and research, and the faculty and peer mentors who supported her as she completed her Ph.D.


Master’s Defense: Prathyusha Sreedhara, Computer Science

Computer Science department graduate student Prathyusha Sreedhara will present a Master’s Defense today, Monday, October 26, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The tiitle of his paper is, “Hometracker: A Household Level Field Intervention and Metabolism Tracker.”

Sreedhara’s advisor is Associate Professor Charles Wallace, Computer Science.

Link to the meeting here.


Copper Country Coders at GCEC 2020

Michigan Tech student Katie Schmidt talks about Copper Country Coders and what it means for the Houghton community at GCEC 2020.

View the webpage here.

GCEC 2020 – Copper Country Coders

The Copper Country Coders is a program that aims to provide education in Computer Science topics to local middle and high school students. Members of the help to put on weekly sessions that introduce these local students to new computing topics and programming concepts, which helps to develop their knowledge and skills in Computer Science.


Michigan Tech Ranked Among Best Colleges in the State and the Country

Michigan Tech is one of the top two universities in Michigan and among the best in the country, according to rankings by the website WalletHub, released Monday.

When compared to colleges and universities in Michigan, Tech was ranked No. 2. Among the 273 midwest colleges and universities listed, Michigan Tech was rated 30th, up one from a year ago.

WalletHub named 500 institutions on its “2021’s College and University Rankings.” Michigan Tech was ranked No. 138 on the overall list, up eight spots from last year’s ranking.

WalletHub looks to find the top-performing schools at the lowest possible costs to undergrads. The website compared more than a thousand U.S. institutions using 33 key measures. That data is grouped into seven categories such as Student Selectivity, Cost and Financing, and Career Outcomes.


CpE PhD Candidate Zhiqiang Zhao to Present Defense October 23

ECE Doctoral Defense Tomorrow

Computer Engineering doctoral candidate Zhiqiang Zhao will defend at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Oct. 23) via Zoom.

The title of his presentation is “High-Performance Spectral Methods for Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits.”

Co-advisors are Zhuo Feng (ECE) and Glen Archer (ECE).


Health Informatics MS: Virtual Info Night is Tues., Oct. 27

Are you thinking about attending graduate school? Are you open to learning about emerging career areas in which you can leverage your undergraduate courses in healthcare or computer science?


Register for Health Informatics M.S. Info Night

Join the Info Session

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, at 6:00 p.m., via online Zoom meeting, the Health Informatics Master of Science and Accelerated Master’s programs will present a virtual info session for current students.

Please pre-register for the free info session here.

A link to the virtual info session will be shared shortly.

From the general to the specific, the info session will cover what you need to know about applying for and completing a Health Informatics master’s degree at Michigan Tech.

Attendees will consider the benefits of an advanced degree, learn about the fast-track accelerated master’s program, review the the online application process, and more.

Associate Professor Guy Hembroff, Health Informatics graduate program director, and Jacque Smith, director of Enrollment Services for the Michigan Tech Graduate School, will host the info session.


Handshake CEO Garrett Lord Named 2020 Northern California EY Entrepreneur Of The Year

News provided by Handshake, Oct 12, 2020, 09:00 ET. Read the original article here.

Handshake CEO Garrett Lord has been received the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2020 Northern California Award, as announced October 8, 2020, by Ernst & Young LLP (EY US).

Lord is a 2014 alumnus of the Michigan Tech Computer Science B.S. degree program. Handshake has become the number one site for college students and early talent to find a job and get hired.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards program is one of the preeminent competitive awards for entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies. The award recognizes those entrepreneurial leaders who are excelling in overcoming adversity; financial performance; societal impact and commitment to building a values-based company; innovation; and talent management.

As a Northern California award winner, Lord is now eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 National Awards. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced Thursday, November 19, during a virtual awards gala. The Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner will then move on to compete for the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Award in June 2021. 

“To be recognized by Ernst & Young as a winner of the Entrepreneur Of the Year 2020 Award is truly humbling,” said Garrett Lord. “This award is a meaningful validation of the commitment of our entire team to work tirelessly to build the largest and most inclusive early talent community and democratize access to opportunity for all students.” 

Lord will go on to become a lifetime member of the esteemed multi-industry community of award winners, with exclusive, ongoing access to the experience, insight and wisdom of fellow alumni and other ecosystem members in over 60 countries — all supported by vast EY resources.

Handshake is the number one site for college students and new graduates to find a job. Today, the Handshake community includes 17 million students and young alumni at over 1,000 colleges and universities — including 120+ minority-serving institutions.

Handshake is democratizing opportunity and ensuring college students have the support they need to find a great job and kick-off a meaningful career regardless of where they go to school, what they choose as a major, and who they know, according to the company’s website.

The company is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Denver and London, England.

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, strategy, transaction and consulting services. Since 1986, EY US has honored entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, spirit of innovation and tenacity have driven their companies’ success, transformed their industries and made a positive impact on their communities.


NSF Research to Study Household Dynamics in Pandemic

David Watkins (CEE/SFI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $190,764 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The project is titled “RAPID: COVID-19, Consumption, and Multi-dimensional Analysis of Risk (C-CAR)“. Chelsea Schelly (SS/SFI), Robert Handler (ChE/SFI) and Charles Wallace (CS/SFI) are co-PIs on this one-year project.

Extract

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed household dynamics and dramatically changed food, energy, and water consumption within the home. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing has caused U.S. households to shift to working and schooling from home, curtail outside activities, and stop eating in restaurants. Furthermore, as many households face job loss and increasing home utility and grocery bills, U.S. residents are experiencing the economic impacts of the crisis, while at the same time assessing and responding to health risks. The project team has a unique opportunity to study these shifting household consumption and behavioral responses and quantify the associated economic and environmental impacts. The team will collect household food, energy, and water consumption data as well as survey response data from 180 participating households in one Midwestern county and compare it to data collected before the stay-at-home orders were put in place.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.


zyBooks Founder Frank Vahid to Present Lecture on Teaching Intro CS Courses

Frank Vahid will present his lecture, “Teaching intro CS: Online and in-person techniques for improved learning, cost savings, and reduced cheating,” on Friday, October 23, 2020, at 3:00 p.m., online via Zoom.

Link to the Zoom meeting here.

Vahid is a professor of computer science and engineering, University of California, Riverside, and zyBooks co-founder and chief learning officer.

His research focus is on improving college-level CS/CE/STEM education, and previously (and still) on embedded systems. He is author of textbooks from Wiley, Pearson, and zyBooks on topics including C++, C, Java, data structures, digital design, computer organization, embedded systems, computing technology, introductory math, and algebra.

Vahid has received several teaching awards, including UCR Engineering’s Outstanding Teacher award and UCR’s Innovative Teaching award, both in 2017. In recent years, he has spoken on CS/CE education at over 50 universities across the country.

His work has been supported by the NSF (university and SBIR grants), the SRC, the U.S. Dept. of Education (university and SBIR grants), and companies such as Google and Intel. He received his B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine.

Lecture Abstract

We describe the evolution and research findings of UCR’s intro CS courses over the past decade, including an online section taught every quarter since 2013. Starting with the common U-shaped grade distribution and high DFW rate, the courses now have strong grades, low DFW rates, and highly-positive evaluations. These results are consistent across instructors, even new instructors, and also only require a few hours of teacher effort per week and little preparation each term.

The improvements include: (1) creation and use of web-native interactive learning content having hundreds of animations and interactive questions, to replace textbooks, done before class time. (2) using class time for live-coding of examples, with online classes making extensive use of live typed chat, (3) replacing the weekly programming assignment by many-small-programs, with instant auto-grading and repeated submissions, and (4) positive supportive teachers who create a “culture of mistakes”.

To support the above, we started with an early OER attempt, but realizing its limitations, replaced it in 2012 by a company (zyBooks) to provide scalable growth and continual professional improvement of content and platform. That direction has grown to serve over 500,000 students at 600 universities. Our classes now build on top of the existing core to provide higher-level improvements, like new cheating prevention efforts in an era of online solutions and contract programmers, to hopefully continually improve the student learning experience and instructor teaching experience too.