Category: In the News

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


University Research: A Multifaceted Endeavor

University Research: A Multifaceted Endeavor

The following commentary is part five of a six-part series featuring updates, national trends and personal perspectives from the University’s leadership team regarding the future of higher education and Michigan Tech. All questions or comments may be directed to the author of the article (ddreed@mtu.edu).    

Michigan Tech receives most of its research funding from the federal government. The federal research environment is challenging, with low and even declining funding rates, regulatory changes and the evolving federal budget climate, but Michigan Tech has managed to hold its own. Even in this difficult environment, in the last fiscal year Michigan Tech researchers achieved all-time highs in new sponsored awards ($63.5 million) and in research expenditures ($80.4 million). This was only possible through the outstanding creativity of our faculty and staff, a concentration on the development of outstanding proposals and a focus on areas where we can be recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions.

The campus developed these focus areas through the Tech Forward process last academic year. Several of the initiative areas include a significant research component. In particular, the Institute for Computing and Cybersystems (ICC, Tim Havens, director), the Health Research Institute (HRI, Caryn Heldt, director), and the Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture (IPEC, Jennifer Daryl Slack, director) were identified as highly exciting opportunities for future growth.  The Vice President for Research Office (VPR) is working with all three throughout this academic year to develop plans for continuing growth and eventual maturation as vibrant, self-supporting centers of scholarly activity.

Michigan Tech is well-positioned to reach $100 million in annual research expenditures within the next five years. To reach this will require continual work to improve the research environment on campus. There are several such initiatives underway this academic year:

  • Financial Services and Operations has removed the 3.5% annual administrative fee from all IRAD accounts, allowing all of these funds to be used to support and grow our research and graduate programs.

  • Our Shared Facilities were established five years ago. The associate vice president for research development is working with them to review their activities over the last five years and to formulate plans for their continued success and growth over the next five years.

  • Michigan Tech has made significant strides over the last few years in reducing the administrative workload associated with sponsored research activities. According to the Federal Demonstration Partnership’s 2012 and 2018 Faculty Workload Surveys, we have reduced the proportion of investigator’s research time spent on administrative tasks from more than 50% to 43%, below the national average of 44%. Many people in VPR and elsewhere on campus have worked to achieve this significant accomplishment. I think we can all agree, though, that there is still too much effort on administrative work when researcher’s efforts would be better spent on the creative activities involved in research and scholarship.  Thanks very much to all on campus who participated in the survey; the results shed light on a number of areas ripe for further process improvement, and we will prioritize and address them over the next few months and coming years.

  • Lastly, many of you may be aware that a number of cases have emerged nationally where university and other researchers have exhibited egregious behavior that has resulted in federal criminal charges of fraud and abuse. My understanding is that over 1,000 researchers across the country are under investigation. Many of these relate to failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest and also unfunded conflicts of commitment.  We expect there to be new federal requirements to change our disclosure practices at some point. In the meantime, it’s important for all to disclose any commitment and financial conflicts through our internal processes, as well as externally in technical reports and funding applications. When in doubt, the best practice is to disclose.

In closing, I would again like to recognize the outstanding efforts of all members of the University community, including researchers and the personnel who support them, both centrally and in their units, in developing and supporting a vibrant and creative environment. This improves our educational activities and strengthens our ongoing research efforts. Michigan Tech is in a great position with our outstanding strengths in areas of state, national and international significance.  Through progress in the Tech Forward initiatives and continued growth in our research and graduate programs, we will continue to increase our contributions to areas of great societal need.


Mechatronics Engineering Lab Spotlighted in Donald Engineering Newsletter

Michigan Tech faculty and students at Donald Engineering

An article about the future Mechatronics Engineering Lab was included in the November 2019 issue of The Pilothouse, published by Donald Engineering, an engineering and distribution company headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The article is reproduced below.

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Michigan Tech University is currently making space for a new Mechatronics Engineering Lab that we refer to as The Mechatronics Playground. Donald Engineering is proud to be playing a big role in this Playground development. MTU Professor Alex Sergeyev, MTU Lecturer/ME Advisor Kevin Johnson, and  MTU Mechatronics students visited Donald Engineering in October to view demonstrations and to continue the process of fine-tuning these units. Several modules that DE is currently working on will be ready and delivered before the end of 2019!

Force Sensing Module

Pictured at right is the Force Sensing Module installed on a Schunk Pneumatic Gripper controlled by a Clippard Cordis closed-loop regulator. With a little math and PI calculations (as discussed in the last Pilot House issue), students will be able to measure, set, monitor, adjust, and record the force being applied by the gripper fingers to objects. This unit will help to demonstrate how much force can be or should be applied to objects in order to pick them up without damaging gripper fingers or the object itself. With this module, students will be exposed to some of the best and newest components like:


Alex Sergeyev, NMC Featured in Article about Robotics Manufacturing in Michigan

Robotics manufacturing shows Michigan’s automation leadership

In August 2019 Michigan Tech and Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) formalized a partnership and seven new articulation agreements designed to expedite degree completion for engineering students transferring to Michigan Tech from NMC. Under the 2+2 agreements, which took effect with the fall 2019 semester, engineering students are able to complete their first two years of study at NMC and then transfer to Tech with junior status. In addition to ensuring a quality undergraduate education for engineering students, the agreement is intended to create a pipeline of talented students from the Grand Traverse region to Michigan Tech and highly qualified future graduates to enhance the Grand Traverse area workforce.

November 8, 2019 | By EVAN JONES | Capital News Service of the Spartan News Service, School of Journalism, Michigan State University

LANSING — Engineering students at Northwestern Michigan College program autonomous rovers to inspect environments underwater and in the air in-real time.The rovers aren’t the only things on the move in a burgeoning robotics industry that experts say is a key to Michigan’s economy.“We’re always going to be trying to move to some new technology – and we just kind of have to be ready for it,” said Jason Slade, the director of technical academics at the Traverse City school.Automation could reshape Michigan’s workforce, experts say.  And the state is a leader in both manufacturing robots and in training employers to use them.

Michigan leads the U.S. with more than 28,000 robots mostly engineered in state, 12% of the nation’s total, according to a 2017 Brookings Institution report.The state’s aging population creates a gap in the skilled labor pool that automation could fill, said Joseph Cvengros, a vice president at FANUC America, a Rochester Hills company that recently opened a 461,000-square-foot robot factory.“The next generation isn’t as large so the way that companies are going to stay competitive is to have a balance of highly technical skilled people and automation,” he said.The change doesn’t eliminate humans from the process, said Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City. Elder also chairs the House labor caucus.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to reach a point in which we don’t need human beings to do manufacturing work,” Elder said. “Every once in a while people will say, ‘everything is going to go away,’ and that’s just not true. Will things be different? Undoubtedly.

”The rise in Michigan of industrial robots that are getting smaller and smarter isn’t surprising, said Drew Coleman, the director of foreign direct investment, growth and development for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

“We’ve had robots and automation since Henry Ford invented the assembly line,” Coleman said. “If you think of anything that you buy, it’s been touched by a robot likely at some point.”

And experts say rather than looking at them as worker replacements, they should be viewed as the source of highly skilled jobs.

“We believe that this is opening up opportunities for Michigan in making us more competitive,” Cvengros said.Automation has applications as diverse as more precise surgeries and self-driving semi-trucks, said Otie McKinley, the MEDC’s media and communications manager.

It requires “a transition of skill sets from the current workforce in addition to the attraction of a new workforce,” McKinley said.

Elder said the recent deal between the United Auto Workers and General Motors allowed for specific automation technology training for workers.

“The corporations and the union understand that well-trained workers will continue to make products that are good enough to demand market share,” Elder said.

Community colleges are stepping up with training programs that work with local employers, said Michael Hansen, the president of the Michigan Community College Association.Schools with FANUC-certified education programs partner with companies looking to hire graduates skilled in programming and using robots in the workplace, Cvengros said.

Michigan Technological University partnered with Bay De Noc Community College in the Upper Peninsula to create a robotics and software development program in 2018. The  hands-on training program offers an easy path for transferring from the community college to the university, said Aleksandr Sergeyev, a Michigan Tech electrical engineering professor.

The “mechatronics” degree path encompasses electrical and mechanical engineering, robotics, automation and cybersecurity skills.

“I have seen that need in mechatronics for a long, long time,” Sergeyev said. “It doesn’t teach you the depth, it teaches the breadth.”

Sergeyev is a FANUC-certified professor who can train students for jobs in automation. Professors with that certification can also train company professionals, ensuring that they both use the most updated software, Sergeyev said.

Internal surveys showed that 80% of Michigan Tech undergraduates are interested in taking the additional time required to complete a mechatronics degree and 85% of companies want their workers to have it, Sergeyev said.

Slade said a challenge is to prepare technology students for rapid changes.“We have the hope that they’ll be able to use technology right now, but then adapt to new technology that comes online,” Slade said.


Kevin Erkkila, ’15, Featured in Midland Daily News Article

Kevin Erkkila

Michigan Tech Computer Science and ROTC alumnus Kevin Erkkila ’15, was featured in the article “Midland Remembers First Lieutenant Kevin Erkkila, Operation Inherent Resolve in the Middle East,” in the Midland Daily News. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Erkkila completed the Army ROTC program at Michigan Tech and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army upon graduation. Erkkila is currently deployed in the Middle East serving as an engineering officer with the 3-21 Infantry Division.

Errkila’s story is part of the “Midland Remembers” series this November in the Midland Daily News. The series shares stories of veterans with ties to Midland, Michigan.


Dean Minerick a Guest on Copper Country Today

Dean Adrienne Minerick

College of Computing Dean Adrienne Minerick was a featured guest on the Keweenaw Report radio program Copper Country Today, hosted by Todd VanDyke. The segment aired on Sunday, November 3, 2019, on the station 97.7 The Wolf.

Listen to a recording of the segment here: http://www.keweenawreport.com/c-c-today/copper-country-today-november-3-2019/attachment/cct-11-03-a-adrienne-minerick/.


Bo Chen Weighs In on Identity Fraud in WalletHub Article

Bo Chen, Computer Science

Bo Chen (CS/CyberS) was featured in the article “2019’s States Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft & Fraud,” published October 16, 2019, in WalletHub.

Link to the article here:https://wallethub.com/edu/states-where-identity-theft-and-fraud-are-worst/17549/#expert=bo-chen

Based in Washington DC, WalletHub is the first-ever website to offer free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis. The company also hosts an artificially intelligent financial advisor that provides customized credit-improvement advice, personalized savings alerts, and 24/7 wallet surveillance, supplemented by reviews of financial products, professionals and companies.


TV6 Features Story on Computing Week October 17

WLUC TV6 aired the story, “Michigan Tech holds first Computing Week,” on October 17, 2019. College of Computing Dean Adrienne Minerick and Timothy Havens, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems and director the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, were interviewed for the story, which includes film footage from the Computing Open House of Thursday, October 17.

View the video here: https://www.uppermichiganssource.com/content/news/Michigan-Tech-holds-first-Computing-Week-563325232.html.