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Senior Keith Atkinson Applies Computing Skills to Aid Food Pantry

Keith Atkinson

Senior Keith Atkinson Applies Computing Skills to Aid Husky FAN Food Pantry

December 13, 2019

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

For his CS 4099 Directed Study class this fall, senior Computer Science undergraduate Keith Atkinson developed and deployed a Food Inventory System (FIS) for the Husky Food Access Network Food Pantry.

“The Inventory System will allow the pantry staff to quickly know what they have in their inventory,” says Atkinson, adding that it also anonymously collects information on what’s leaving the pantry to gain insight into specific usage.

“Ideally, it will also track items that are both removed due to expiration and items that are actually taken by students to give some idea on what specific donations to ask for in the future,” Atkinson says.

The inventory system uses a Google Sheet as a database, which gives food pantry volunteers easy access to the quantities and products they have on site without a separate website or system. And because it’s like any other Google Sheet, staff and volunteers are likely already familiar with it.

“The benefits of the Food Inventory System are huge,” says Whitney Boroski, Michigan Tech’s manager of student health and wellness. “The Husky Food Access Network now has real-time data we can use to identify need or organize programming. Keith has also arranged for us to track how much food we’re donating to other community entities.”

Boroski’s hope is that the FIS will give the Food Insecurities Committee a better snapshot of need so they’ll know how to most effectively serve the campus community.  She is also very confident that the FIS will save the pantry coordinator and team loads of time counting donations and getting an accurate inventory.

Formed in 2014, the Michigan Tech Food Insecurities Committee helps to combat hunger issues on campus. The committee developed what is now known as the Husky Food Access Network (Husky FAN). It provides multiple resources for the campus community, including the Food Pantry.

Atkinson was first introduced to the Husky FAN Food Pantry in Spring 2019 in his Food Systems & Sustainability class taught by assistant social sciences professor Angela Carter. “I knew I wanted to do directed study again this fall, so I had been thinking of possible projects I could do on campus,” Atkinson explains. “I’ve had experience with inventory systems through work and immediately thought I might be able to help digitize some of their process.”

So, after meeting with Whitney Boroski, Michigan Tech’s manager of student health and wellness, Atkinson approached Husky FAN with his idea, and then met with CS 4900 instructor Leo Ureel, a lecturer in the Computer Science department, who agreed that it would be a good project.

“It was a great opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary group of people with diverse skill sets,” Atkinson notes. “The members of the MTU Food Insecurities Committee as well as the pantry volunteers all have different backgrounds which made it a fun challenge to think about the different ways someone might interact with or use the inventory system.”

One benefit of the inventory system is knowing what is in the pantry for planning events, like the recent Soup Meal Pack Giveaway. “For example, a pantry volunteer could quickly identify the quantities of peanut butter, bread, and jelly then put together a PB&J sandwich event with a good estimate of available quantities,” Atkinson says. “Right now, the only way to know what the pantry has is to manually count it, which is time consuming,”

“This tool that Keith has created and set into operation for us is invaluable.  I couldn’t even begin to think of how the Husky Food Access Network would pay for this type of service/program, not to mention something tailored 100% to our needs!” Boroski says.

In designing the inventory system, Atkinson worked closely with the Food Insecurities Committee, especially Boroski and student and pantry coordinator Elisha Houle. “I presented it at two meetings and they were helpful in identifying what to put together in a guide, as well as sharing some general concerns.”

One concern the Committee voiced was Atkinson’s Spring 2020 graduation, and whether he would be available in the future to help maintain the system and address any problems that may arise. To address this, Atkinson created a users’ guide along with thorough documentation on recreating the project, including explanations of how and why the inventory system works.

The inventory system, which includes UPC scanners, is now complete and the pantry is soft-piloting it this semester with plans to implement it fully next semester.  Atkinson has a job lined up in the Houghton area after his expected graduation in April 2020, so he will be close by to maintain the system if there are issues.

“Keith is a wonderful, very dedicated individual that I’ve enjoyed working with over the last year” says Boroski. “He is very professional, super smart, and has an amazing attention to detail!  Keith listened to the Husky Food Access Networks needs and took comments and feedback very well. I’m elated that he will be staying in the area after graduation to work professionally.”

Atkinson enjoys applying his computing skills to improve communities and lives. In a separate, earlier CS 4900 Directed Study course, he wrote curriculum and a grant to fund Copper Country Coders, a weekly educational program provided by Michigan Tech students, with assistance from Computer Science faculty members Leo Ureel and Charles Wallace, that introduces middle and high school students to the world of computer science and programming.

Atkinson has also volunteered for BASIC (Building Adult Skills in Computing), a Michigan Tech student-driven weekly computer skills workshop held Saturday mornings at the Portage Lake District Library that provides free one-on-one computer skills tutoring to community members.

“I’m very proud of the Food Insecurities Committee at Michigan Tech for their dedication and hard work organizing and maintaining Husky FAN,” says Boroski. “With Keith’s contribution of the FIS and his support, which he’s offered multiple times after he graduates, I feel Michigan Tech is one of the leaders in addressing food insecurities on college campuses. Food Insecurities work is never finished, but with creative innovations like Keith’s FIS we can concentrate more on feeding those who are hungry!”

The Husky FAN food pantry is located on the first floor of Fisher Hall, down the hall from Fisher 135, in the space formerly known as the Aftermath Café. It is open daily Tuesday through Friday, and on Mondays by appointment. The pantry is available free of charge to anyone. No paperwork or approval is required. Services are confidential and anonymous.

Learn more about the Husky Food Access Network Food Pantry here.


AI Is Number One in 2020 LinkedIn Jobs Report

Career site LinkedIn has released its third annual “2020 Emerging Jobs Report,” which identifies 15 roles that have seen the largest rate of hiring growth from 2015 through this year in the U.S. Guess what? The top five are all Computing-related jobs, and among the remaining 10, half of them are in Computing.

Number one on the list is Artificial Intelligence Specialist, which has grown 74% annually in the past 4 years alone with average annual salary at $136,000. The number two hiring area is Robotics Engineer, with 40% annual hiring growth, and the third is Data Scientist, with 37% growth from 2015 to 2019.

Fourth and fifth are Full Stack Engineer (35%) and Site Reliability Engineer (34%), eighth is Data Engineer (33%), 10th is Cybersecurity Specialist (30%), 11th is Back End Developer, 13th is Cloud Engineer, and 14th is JavaScript Developer.

Read more here.

Download the LinkedIn repot here.


MEDC Cyber and Mobility Division Visits Michigan Tech

MEDC Logo

Michigan Tech’s ICC Center for Cybersecurity and the MTEC SmartZone hosted members of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC’s) Cyber and Mobility division in Houghton, MI, on December 2, 2019.

The group’s visit included presentations by several Michigan Tech faculty who are conducting research in the cyber and mobility space, strategic economic development discussions highlighting Michigan Tech and the local community, and tours of selected Michigan Tech cyber and mobility labs, including GLRC, APS Labs, and the KRC.

The tour concluded with a talk to Michigan Tech students by Karl Heimer of the MEDC regarding information and student opportunities with MEDC-affiliated CyberAuto and CyberTruck competitions.

For more information, contact Associate Professor Guy Hembroff, director of the ICC Center for Cybersecurity and the Health Informatics graduate program.


SnowBots Storm the Yeti Cup

(Front row, from left) Yamato Tajiri, Tyler Gregersen, Maddie Minerick, Peter Rudnicki, Mason Heldt, Daniel Xie. (Back row from left) Rachel Bergstrom, Elizabeth Bergstrom, Kayleigh Matson, Ben Manchester, Nathanael Strome, Nelson Monte, Joel Brubaker, Kyle Hubert (SnowBot), Evan Massaway. Not in photo: Collin Damsteegt, Evan Hill, Edward Liu, Colton Sam, Anna Wu, Zhi Tao Yap, Joshua You.

The SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams competed in Kingsford, Mich., last weekend for the Yeti Cup U.P. FIRST Tech Challenge robotic qualifier competition. All three teams were in the finals and brought home awards from the competition. SnowBots teams are open to area sixth-eighth grade students, and meet at Houghton Middle School. The story, “Snowbots Storm the Yeti Cup” was featured on the front page of the November 15, 2019, issue of the Daily Mining Gazette.

The Kingsford event was sponsored in part by Michigan Technological University College of Computing.

SnowBots teams are sponsored by: Michigan Department of Education, GS Engineering, Destination Unstoppable, Boundary Labs, ThermoAnalytics, IR Telemetrics, Michigan Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department, Monte Consulting, and Houghton Portage Township Schools. The Copper Country was also well represented with 18 community volunteers supporting the event.


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


Health Informatics MS Program Is Among Top 20 in Nation

Health Informatics Graphic

The website OnlineSchoolsCenter.com has released the “Top 20 Online Schools for Master’s of Health Informatics Degree Programs for 2020.” The ranking provides readers with the twenty finest online colleges and universities offering graduate degrees in health informatics.

Michigan Tech was listed among the top 20 programs and was the only school from Michigan to make the list.

Find the full list here.

OnlineSchoolsCenter.com identified the following Michigan Tech Health Informatics program standouts: Michigan Tech is an excellent university that is well-decorated with glowing recognition. Namely for students’ professional success, the best online graduate programs, and one of the finest online Masters in Health Informatics in the nation! What makes this degree most exciting are the eleven different areas of focus in which students can concentrate their coursework. No other school on this ranking has as many specialization options. Online students learn from expert faculty members in the areas of healthcare systems analysts and design, cybersecurity, and much more. Graduates from Michigan Tech often go on to earn six-figure incomes, and the school has been recognized for this achievement in education, according to Money Magazine.


Weihua Zhou to Present Friday Seminar Talk

Weihua Zhou

The College of Computing (CC) will present a Friday Seminar Talk on November 15, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Featured this week is Weihua Zhou, assistant professor of Health Informatics. He will present his research titled: “Information retrieval and knowledge discovery from cardiovascular images to improve the treatment of heart failure.” Refreshments will be provided.

Abstract: More than 5 million Americans live with heart failure, and the annual new incidence is about 670,000. Once diagnosed, around 50% of patients with heart failure will die within 5 years. Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is a standard treatment for heart failure. However, based on the current guidelines, 30-40% of patients who have CRT do not benefit from CRT. One of Zhou’s research projects is to improve CRT favorable response by information retrieval and knowledge discovery from clinical records and cardiovascular images. By applying statistical analysis, machine learning, and computer vision to his unique CRT patient database, Zhou has made a number of innovations to select appropriate patients and navigate the real-time surgery. His CRT software toolkit is being validated by 17 hospitals in a large prospective clinical trial.


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.


Yooper Lights: Blue Marble Security Enterprise mentors 7th graders on an eCYBERMISSION

Students attending Lake Linden-Hubbell schools who live within one mile of their school are not eligible to take the school bus. Many walk to school, often in the dark, early morning hours. The same is true for students in another nearby school district, Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw.

The Yooper Lights eCybermission team, L to R: Olivia Shank, Rebecca Lyons, Chloe Daniels, and Jenna Beaudoin

A small group of 7th grade students from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank—decided to do something to help improve safety for students who walk to school. Each was highly motivated, for personal reasons.

“I have three younger siblings who walk to school, and they aren’t always aware of their surroundings,” said Daniels.

“My uncle was biking one night and didn’t have a helmet or a reflector and he got hit by a car. He had brain trauma and now has trouble remembering certain things,” said Beaudoin.

“I want to be able to walk safely by myself or with my dogs in the early morning or in the evening when it gets dark,” said Shank.

“We live in a really snowy area, and kids can get hit,” said Lyons.

Helping kids and others walk safely in the dark is their mission, but it was more than that—it is their eCYBERMISSION, a national science competition sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program. Nationwide, students in grades 6-9 work in small teams for over a year to develop a process or product that will benefit their community. Locally, the Lake Linden Middle School eCYBERMISSION team is advised by Michigan Tech Engineering Fundamentals instructor Gretchen Hein, and chemical engineering senior Ryan Knoll.

Because none of them knew anything about circuits, the team contacted Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. Archer introduced the seventh graders to electrical engineering student John Robinault, outreach manager of Blue Marble Security.

Born out of the Michigan Tech Enterprise program, Blue Marble Security is a virtual company comprised undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology.

Yooper Lights team tested their LED reflectors at night, with help from volunteers.

Twice a week, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank met with Robinault and computer science major Tyler Arthur in the Blue Marble Security lab, located in the EERC building on campus.

The girls modeled the casing of their LED reflector using Siemens NX software, created their circuit using National Instruments Multisim™ software, and modeled their circuitboard using Eagle PCB design software. They had never used the software or soldered. The Blue Marble students demonstrated how to model and solder, but the girls did the work.

Arthur was a brand new member of Blue Marble Security Enterprise when he began working with the girls. “It gave me an opportunity to teach some of the material that I was already familiar with, while also learning new things along the way,” he said. “We worked together to get familiar with CAD modeling, for instance.

In the process, Arthur learned a lot about working with younger students, something he hadn’t ever done. “The fact that the team members are all good friends made for an interesting group dynamic, because was easy for them to distract each other while working on the project.” Even so, the girls persevered. Throughout the fall, the team completed their research and designed their reflector. They took their preliminary design to their 7th grade science classes for feedback. Based on that, they updated the design, completed the circuit board and went back to the school for more feedback, this time visiting both 7th and 10th grade science classes, asking the students to compare their LED reflector to a plain reflector. After receiving more valuable feedback, the team modified their design.

At that point, they began testing their LED reflector—calling it the “Yooper Light”, and themselves, the Yooper Lights.

Outdoor testing was completed on a straight, flat road near their school, over a distance of 170 feet. Pedestrians (students grades 7-9), and drivers (students grades 10-12, plus college students and adults) were asked to report when they could see a person walking and wearing either the plain reflector or the Yooper light LED reflector.

Due to weather conditions, only the college students and adults tested outside. The remaining tests were completed inside the school, in a dark hallway lit only by security lights. The Yooper Lights found that everyone could both see the LED reflector and the person wearing it over the entire testing distance.

They decided to conduct another, independent test to see just how far their LED reflector was visible. The maximum visibility was found to be 91.3 meters—over twice the previous testing distance.

Yooper Lights submitted their report to eCYBERMISSION, learning in March that they had made it to the virtual regional competition. Once again, Michigan Tech helped them out. The girls presented to judges at the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning with help from Associate Director Jeff Toorangian.

In late April, Yooper Lights became the first place 7th grade team in Michigan—and a finalist in the North Central Region. In a word: Success! They were going to compete in Washington, DC at the national competition.

During the weeklong event in DC last June, the Yooper Lights team bonded with their eCYBERMISSION mentor, Michigan Tech alumna Sasha Teymorian, now a chemist in the US Army Research Laboratory. Teymorian graduated with her doctorate in Chemistry from Michigan Tech in 2015. Together they enjoyed a bevvy of cool activities, including one called “Houston, We Have a Problem,” that tasked the girls with engineering a solution to the Apollo 13 mission. They worked with radio-controlled cars and conducted ballistics on balloons, and even designed autonomous vehicles at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

While in DC, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank also visited their Congressional representatives. They first met with Representative Jack Bergman, and then with Robert Curis, a staff member in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, sharing just how they used engineering to develop their LED light.

Finally, the Yooper lights presented their project to a team of eCybermission judges. “Although the team did not win the national competition, they gained a great deal from the experience,” said advisor Gretchen Hein.

What’s next for the team? Something they’re calling “Yooper Power”. Collaborating again with students from the Blue Marble Security Enterprise, as well as Michigan Tech student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the girls, now in 8th grade, will develop outreach activity kits for fifth and sixth graders. Their new mission: introduce more young students to the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Chloe Daniels and Rebecca Lyons learn how to solder, with help from electrical engineering major John Robinault, a member of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise at Michigan Tech.
With more help from volunteers, the Yooper Lights team also tested their LED reflectors in a long, dimly lit hallway at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.
Yooper Lights team member Olivia Shank models the casing of the LED reflector using Siemens NX software.
The Yooper Lights team used the Design Thinking process to develop their Yooper Lights. Design Thinking training is offered on campus through the Pavlis Honors College.
The team created two sizes and colors of 3D printed cases to test with their LED reflectors.

 

 

 

 


Charles Wallace is Associate Dean for Curriculum and Instruction

Charles Wallace

Charles Wallace, Associate Professor of Computer Science, has been appointed Associate Dean for Curriculum and  Instruction for the College of Computing, effective immediately. Wallace has been teaching in the Department of Computer Science for 19 years, and he has a long track record of education research and building collaboration with Cognitive & Learning Sciences, Engineering, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

“Chuck brings to his new role an extensive breadth of experience that spans from outreach to curricular development to collaborations with multiple units across campus,” says Adrienne Minerick, dean of the College of Computing. “In this new role, he will help build campus collaborations to create additional pathways for Michigan Tech students to engage with computing curricula, and facilitate conversations within the College of Computing that enable creative, agile options for our students.”

“Barriers between computing and other disciplines are artificial and unproductive,” Wallace says. “Computing competencies are essential for Michigan Tech graduates in all fields, and the College and University should commit to building educational options housed in the College of Computing but available and accessible to all students.”

Wallace adds that students in the College of Computing should be free – and actively encouraged – to explore application areas where their skills can be used. He also wants to explore ways to build flexibility into Computing academic programs, maintaining the solid technical core that Michigan Tech graduates are known for, but also allowing students to pursue applications of their computing competencies in other disciplines.

Vision Statement from Charles Wallace:

Here are a few points that I consider vital to the future of computing education, based on 19 years of experience in the Computer Science Department, a long track record of education research, and extensive collaboration with Cognitive & Learning Sciences, Engineering, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Barriers between computing and other disciplines are artificial and unproductive.  Computing competencies are essential for Michigan Tech graduates in all fields.  The College and University should commit to building educational options housed in the College of Computing but available and accessible to all students.  This will require an earnest and focused investment in personnel – we cannot do it solely with the current cohort of instructors, who are already stretched thinly with increased enrollment in core computing programs.

Conversely, students in the College of Computing should be free and even encouraged to explore application areas where their skills can be brought to bear.  Complex degree requirements can hinder such exploration.  We should explore ways to build flexibility into our programs, maintaining the solid technical core that Michigan Tech graduates are known for, but also allowing students to pursue applications of their computing competencies in other disciplines.

Computing students are citizens, not just producers.  The degree programs in Michigan Tech’s Computer Science Department have a long and venerable tradition of preparing students who can “produce” – hit the ground running in the workplace and build high quality solutions. That is a precious gift, and we should not deprive future students of it – but the future demands more. Our world is increasingly dominated by computing – and by extension, dominated by human beings who understand computing. Michigan Tech graduates of the College of Computing must be known not only for the technical “value” that they produce, but also the ability to question and critique digital technology, to be empathetic and articulate ambassadors and leaders in the new digital order of the future.

There are two promising ways in which we can build better computing citizens. First, an awareness of the social and ethical consequences of computing must be woven into our curricula, not just taught as external service courses.  Second, service learning is a way to expose students to the human contexts of computing technology. There are many ways to get students involved in our community, but these have not been harnessed outside of ad hoc outreach efforts. Interaction with the community should be built into the academic experience of computing students.

Computing competencies include values and attitudes, not just skills and knowledge. Alumni of our degree programs acknowledge that collaboration and communication are essential components of their professional lives.  These competencies involve not only skills but also values and attitudes – willingness and even eagerness to engage with others, resilience in the face of uncertainty or ambiguity, and adaptability in the face of changing requirements.  To prepare students for the highly collaborative computing workplace, courses in the College of Computing should embrace the opportunities and challenges of working in diverse teams. As with ethics, issues of teamwork and communication must be integrated into “disciplinary” courses, not left to service courses or external experiences like internships.

These curricular pathways hold promise not only to develop competent computing professionals of the future, but also to attract a more diverse constituency to the College of Computing student body.