Category: News

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.


The Lode, Still Going Strong, After Nearly 100 Years

by Michigan Tech Lode

What is the Lode, anyway?

The Lode is Michigan Tech’s student newspaper, and we’ve been serving the MTU community since 1921, when we were founded as the Michigan College of Mines Lode.

We currently serve the campus digitally on our website and in print, though COVID-19 safety precautions have momentarily postponed our in-print issues.

Read the Lode!

We publish weekly on Thursday mornings. We feature local, state and national news, arts, cultural events and other happenings around campus, relevant opinion pieces, features on STEM and campus research, sports and more.

Check us out at http://www.mtulode.com.


Online Intercultural Exchange for Chinese and English Speakers

by Elizabeth A. Flynn, Co-director, The Elaine Bacon Literacy Program

New participants are welcome to join a newly-formed Chinese-English language and cultural exchange via Zoom at 4 p.m. every Friday.

To receive a Zoom invitation or for more details, contact organizer Denise Heikinen, or call (906) 482-4944. Along with Dr. Pichai Sripaipan, retired orthopedic surgeon from Houghton, Heikinen organized the exchange forum this fall as part of continuing free offerings, tutorials and classes with the Elaine Bacon Literacy Program, a 50-year-old non-profit community organization based in Houghton.

In the early days, the group catered to local resident adults who wished to improve their reading and writing skills. For the past several decades, however, volunteer tutors, teachers and conversation partners have offered free English As a Second Language lessons and practice opportunities for Copper Country international adults, including Tech students, exchange scholars, professors and spouses or family members of campus-affiliated residents.

For additional information, including an online schedule of classes, see the group’s website.


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).


Innovative, Active, Effective. Introducing Sidike Paheding, Applied Computing

Be Innovative. Be Active. Be Effective. This is College of Computing Assistant Professor Sidike Paheding’s teaching philosophy.

New to the Department of Applied Computing this fall, Paheding’s teaching interests include digital image processing and machine learning. This academic year he is teaching SAT3812 Cyber Security I.

A member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems’s Center for Data Sciences, Paheding’s research seeks to develop novel AI-driven technologies. His primary interests are image/video processing, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, and remote sensing.

Paheding comes to Michigan Tech from Purdue University Northwest, where he was a visiting assistant professor in the ECE department Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral research associate and assistant research professor in the Remote Sensing Lab at Saint Louis University from 2017 to 2019.

Paheding is an associate editor of the journals, Signal Image and Video Processing (Springer) and Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), and topic editor for Remote Sensing. He completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at University of Dayton, Ohio.

Computing is a part of my life.

Sidike Paheding, Assistant Professor, College of Computing

Active Research

Title: Cybersecurity Modules Aligned with Undergraduate Computer Science and Engineering Curricula
Sponsor: NSF
PI at Michigan Tech
Duration: July 2020 – June 2022
Total Award: $159,417.00

Research Abstract

This project aims to serve the national interest by improving how cybersecurity concepts are taught in undergraduate computing curricula. The need to design and maintain cyber-secure computing systems is increasingly important. As a result, the future technology workforce must be trained to have a security mindset, so that they consider cybersecurity during rather than after system design.

This project aims to achieve this goal by building plug-and-play, hands-on cybersecurity modules for core courses in Computer Engineering, and Computer Science and Engineering. The modules will align with the curricula recommended by the Association for Computing Machinery and will be designed for easy adoption into computing programs nationwide. Modules will be designed for integration into both introductory and advanced courses, thus helping students develop in-depth understanding of cybersecurity as they progress through their computing curriculum. It is expected that the project will encourage more students to pursue careers or higher degrees in the field of cybersecurity.

Recent Publications

Sidike, P., Sagan, V., Maimaitijiang, M., Maimaitiyiming, M., Shakoor, N., Burken, J., … & Fritschi, F. B. (2019). dPEN: deep Progressively Expanded Neural Network for mapping heterogeneous agricultural landscape using WorldView-3 satellite imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment, 221, 756-772. [Impact Factor: 9.085]

Sidike, P., Asari, V. K., & Sagan, V. (2018). Progressively Expanded Neural Network (PEN Net) for hyperspectral image classification: A new neural network paradigm for remote sensing image analysis. ISPRS journal of photogrammetry and remote sensing, 146, 161-181. [Impact Factor: 7.319]

Sidike, P., Asari, V. K., & Alam, M. S. (2015). Multiclass object detection with single query in hyperspectral imagery using class-associative spectral fringe-adjusted joint transform correlation. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 54(2), 1196-1208. [Impact Factor: 5.855]

Maimaitijiang, M., Sagan, V., Sidike, P., Hartling, S., Esposito, F., & Fritschi, F. B. (2020). Soybean yield prediction from UAV using multimodal data fusion and deep learning. Remote Sensing of Environment, 237, 111599. [Impact Factor: 9.085]