Category Archives: Research

Jinshan Tang, Jung Bae Receive Research Excellence Fund Awards

Jinshan Tang
Jungyun Bae

The Vice President for Research Office recently announced the Fall 2019 Research Excellence Fund (REF) awards. The awardees included College of Computing Professor Jinshan Tang, who was awarded a Portage Health Foundation (PHF) Infrastructure Enhancement (IE) Grants for his proposal, “High Performance Graphics Processing Units,” and College of Computing Assistant Professor Jung Yun Bae (ME-EM/CS), who was awarded a Research Seed Grant.

The REF Infrastructure Enhancement (REF-IE) grants are designed to provide resources to develop the infrastructure necessary to support sponsored research and graduate student education. Funded projects typically focus on acquisition of equipment, enhancement of laboratory facilities, or enhancement of administrative support structure to expand the research capability of the unit.

Typical REF Research Seed (RS) grant projects will develop preliminary data to be used in subsequent proposals to outside funding sources, support pilot studies developing new research methods or procedures, or support other activity leading to the development of an externally recognized and funded research program.

For additional information about the Research Excellence Funds, visit the REF website.


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.


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.


Keith Vertanen Is PI on $225K NSF Grant, “Improving Mobile Device Input for Users Who are Blind or Low Vision”

Keith Virtanen
Keith Vertanen

Keith Vertanen (CS/ICC-HCC) is the principal investigator on a three-year project that has received a $225,663 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is entitled, “CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Improving Mobile Device Input for Users Who are Blind or Low Vision.”

Abstract: Smartphones are an essential part of our everyday lives. 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. The project aims to:  1) help users avoid errors by enabling more accurate input via audio and tactile feedback, 2) help users find errors by providing audio and visual annotation of uncertain portions of the text, and 3) help users correct errors by combining the probabilistic information from the original input, the correction, and approximate information about an error’s location. Improving text entry methods for people who are blind or have low vision will enable them to use their mobile devices more effectively for work and leisure. Thus, this project represents an important step to achieving equity for people with visual impairments.

This project will contribute novel interface designs to the accessibility and human-computer interaction literature. It will advance the state-of-the-art in mobile device accessibility by: 1) studying text entry accessibility for low vision in addition to blind people, 2) studying and developing accessible gesture typing input methods, and 3) studying and developing accessible speech input methods.  This project will produce design guidelines, feedback methods, input techniques, recognition algorithms, user study results, and software prototypes that will guide improvements to research and commercial input systems for users who are blind or low-vision. Further, the project’s work on the error correction and revision process will improve the usability and performance of touchscreen and speech input methods for everyone.


Yakov Nekrich paper accepted by 2020 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms

Yakov Nekrich

A paper by Yakov Nekrich, associate professor of computer science, has been accepted by the 2020 ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA 2020), the prime conference in the area of algorithms research.

The article, “Better Data Structures for Colored Orthogonal Range Reporting,” was co-authored by Timothy M. Chan of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

The SODA 2020 conference takes place January 5-8, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Soner Onder Receives Year One Funding for $1.2M NSF SCALE Project

Soner Onder
Dave Whalley

Soner Onder, professor of computer science, was recently awarded $246,329 for the first year of a four-year NSF grant for his project, “SHF: Medium: Collaborative Research: Statically Controlled Asynchronous Lane Execution (SCALE).” The project is in collaboration with Prof. David Whalley of Florida State University. Michigan Tech is the lead institution in the project, it is expected to total $1.2 million, with Michigan Tech receiving $600,000.

Abstract: Enabling better performing systems benefits applications that span those running on mobile devices to large data applications running on data centers. The efficiency of most applications is still primarily affected by single thread performance. Instruction-level parallelism (ILP) speeds up programs by executing instructions of the program in parallel, with ‘superscalar’ processors achieving maximum performance. At the same time, energy efficiency is a key criteria to keep in mind as such speedup happens, with these two being conflicting criteria in system design. This project develops a Statically Controlled Asynchronous Lane Execution (SCALE) approach that has the potential to meet or exceed the performance of a traditional superscalar processor while approaching the energy efficiency of a very long instruction word (VLIW) processor. As implied by its name, the SCALE approach has the ability to scale to different types and levels of parallelism. The toolset and designs developed in this project will be available as open-source and will also have an impact on both education and research. The SCALE architectural and compiler techniques will be included in undergraduate and graduate curricula.

The SCALE approach supports separate asynchronous execution lanes where dependencies between instructions in different lanes are statically identified by the compiler to provide inter-lane synchronization. Providing distinct lanes of instructions allows the compiler to generate code for different modes of execution to adapt to the type of parallelism that is available at each point within an application. These execution modes include explicit packaging of parallel instructions, parallel and pipelined execution of loop iterations, single program multiple data (SPMD) execution, and independent multi-threading.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1901005&HistoricalAwards=false


US Navy to Present Talks September 17, 3-4 pm

George Anderson and Sally Sutherland of the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC)-Newport will present talks on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, from 3:00 to 4:00  pm, in Room 202 of the Michigan Tech Great Lakes Research Center. A reception will follow and refreshments will be served.

George Anderson will present his talk from 3:00 – 3:30 pm. Titled “Classification of Personnel and Vehicle Activity Using a Sensor System With Numerous Array Elements,” Anderson’s talk will  present the performance of a hybrid discriminative/generative classifier using experimental data collected from a scripted field test.

Sally Sutherland, NEEC Director, NAVSEA Headquarters, whose talk is 3:30-4:00 pm, will present, “An Overview of the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) Program,” in which she will share information about the Navy’s Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) program, whose mission is to educate and develop world-class naval engineers and scientists to become part of the Navy’s civilian science and engineering workforce.

One of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, NUWC Division Newport is the Navy’s full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, and fleet support center for submarine warfare systems and many other systems associated with the undersea battlespace. It provides the technical foundation that enables the conceptualization, research, development, fielding, modernization, and maintenance of systems that ensure our Navy’s undersea superiority. The NUWC Division Newport is responsible, cradle to grave, for all aspects of systems under its charter, and is engaged in efforts ranging from participation in fundamental research to the support of evolving operational capabilities in the U.S. Navy fleet. The major thrust of NUWC Division Newport’s activities is in applied research and system development.
This event is sponsored by the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) and the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC).

Please contact Tim Havens (906-487-3115, thavens@mtu,edu) or Andrew Barnard (906-487-2412, arbarnar@mtu.edu) for additional information.Visit the NAVSEA online at: https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NUWCNewport/


Keith Vertanen and Scott Kuhl Awarded $499K NSF Grant

Scott Kuhl
Scott Kuhl
Keith Vertanen
Keith Vertanen

Keith Vertanen, assistant professor of computer science (HCC), and Scott Kuhl (HCC), associate professor of computer science, are principal investigators of a recently funded three-year National Science Foundation grant for their project, “CHS: Small: Rich Surface Interaction for Augmented Environments.” The expected funding over three years is $499,552.00.

Vertanen and Kuhl are members of Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) Center for Human-Centered Computing. A 2018 ICC research seed grant funded by ECE Alumnus Paul Williams was used to produce some of the preliminary results in the successful proposal. More info about the Williams Seed Grant can be found here: https://blogs.mtu.edu/icc/2019/07/16/appropriating-everyday-surfaces-for-tap-interaction/.

A related video can be found here: https://youtu.be/sF7aeXMfsIQ.

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. Using the confidence of sensed taps, the project will investigate ways to intelligently inform aspects of the user interface, e.g. guiding the autocorrection algorithm of a virtual keyboard decoder. Initially, the project will investigate sensing via an array of surface-mounted microphones and design “surface algorithms” to determine and compare the location accuracy of the finger taps on the virtual keyboard. These algorithms will experiment with different models including existing time-of-flight model, a new model based on Gaussian Process Regression, and a baseline of classification using support vector machines. For all models, the project will investigate the impact of the amount of training data from other users, and varying the amount of adaptation data from the target user. The project will compare surface microphones with approaches utilizing cameras and wrist-based inertial sensors. The project will generate human-factors results on the accuracy, user preference, and ergonomics of interacting midair versus on a rigid surface. By examining different sensors, input surfaces, and interface designs, the project will map the design space for future AR and VR interactive systems. The project will disseminate software and data allowing others to outfit tables or walls with microphones to enable rich interactive experiences.


Computer Science Faculty Students Attend Innovation and Technology Conference

Computer Science doctoral candidate Briana Bettin

The College of Computing and the Computer Science Department were well represented at the 24th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education  (ITiCSE 19), July 14-17, at University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Senior Lecturer Leo Ureel, along with  James Heliotis,  professor of computer science at Rochester (New York) Institute of Technology, led a working group titled, “Towards an Ability to Direct College Students to an Appropriately Paced Introductory Computer Science Course.” Professor Linda Ott and Associate Professor Charles Wallace participated in the working group, “1.5 Degrees of Separation: Computer Science Education in the Age of the Anthropocene.”

PhD student Briana Bettin presented her paper, “More Effective Contextualization of CS Education Research: A Pair-Programming Example,” co-authored with Linda Ott and Leo Ureel.  Charles Wallace presented his poster, “A Prototype MATLAB Code Critiquer,” co-authored with Leo Ureel and undergraduate computer science student Marissa Walther.  Associate Professor Jean Mayo (ICC/CyberS) presented, ” Teaching Integer Security Using Simple Visualizations,” co-authored with Lecturer James Walker, recent PhD graduate Man Wang, Adjunct Professor and Professor and Chair of Computer Science at Western Michigan University Steven Carr, and Professor Ching-Kuang Shene.  Also attending the conference was computer science undergraduate Miriam Eikenberry-Ureel.