Category Archives: Research

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.

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, for additional information.Visit the NAVSEA online at: and Facebook:

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:

A related video can be found here:

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.


Bo Chen is PI of $200K NSF Research and Development Grant

Bo Chen, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Bo Chen (Comp Sci/ICC) is Principal Investigator on a project that has received a $199,975 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is titled “EAGER: Enabling Secure Data Recovery for Mobile Devices Against Malicious Attacks.” This is a potential two-year project.

Abstract: Mainstream mobile computing devices like smart phones and tablets currently rely on remote backups for data recovery upon failures. For example, an iPhone periodically stores a recent snapshot to iCloud, and can get restored if needed. Such a commonly used “off-device” backup mechanism, however, suffers from a fundamental limitation that, the backup in the remote server is not always synchronized with data stored in the local device. Therefore, when a mobile device suffers from a malware attack, it can only be restored to a historical state using the remote backup, rather than the exact state right before the attack occurs. Data are extremely valuable for both organizations and individuals, and thus after the malware attack, it is of paramount importance to restore the data to the exact point (i.e., the corruption point) right before they are corrupted. This, however, is a challenging problem. The project addresses this problem in mobile devices and its outcome could benefit billions of mobile users.

A primary goal of the project is to enable recovery of mobile devices to the corruption point after malware attacks. The malware being considered is the OS-level malware which can compromise the OS and obtain the OS-level privilege. To achieve this goal, the project combines both the traditional off-device data recovery and a novel in-device data recovery. Especially, the following research activities are undertaken: 1) Designing a novel malware detector which runs in flash translation layer (FTL), a firmware layer staying between OS and flash memory hardware. The FTL-based malware detector ensures that data being committed to the remote server will not be tampered with by the OS-level malware. 2) Developing a novel approach which ensures that the OS-level malware is not able to corrupt data changes (i.e., delta) which have not yet been committed to the remote server. This is achieved by hiding the delta in the flash memory using flash storage’s special hardware features, i.e., out-of-place update and strong physical isolation. 3) Developing a user-friendly approach which can allow users to conveniently and efficiently retrieve the delta hidden in the flash memory for data recovery after malware attacks.

Link to an Unscripted article about related research at

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

2018-19 Songer Award Recipients. Pictured Left to Right: Abby Sutherland, Billiane Kenyon, Jeremy Bigalke, Rupsa Basu, Matthew Songer, and Laura Songer.

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students. Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine. This is the second year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. In the Spring of 2019, the Songer’s gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 22. Applications may be emailed to

The selection committee will consist of Matthew Songer, Laura Songer, Shekhar Joshi (BioSci) and Megan Frost (KIP). The committee will review undergraduate and graduate proposals separately and will seek additional comments about the proposed research on an ad-hoc basis from reviewers familiar with the topic of the research proposal. Primary review criteria will be the originality and potential impact of the proposed study, as well as its feasibility and appropriateness for Michigan Tech’s facilities.

The committee expects to announce the recipients by early May of 2019. This one-time research award will be administered by the faculty advisor of the successful student investigator. Students will be expected to secure any necessary IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds must be expended by the end of spring semester 2020; extensions will not be granted. Recipients must submit a detailed report to the selection committee, including a description of results and an accounting of finds utilized, no later than June 30, 2020.

Any questions may be directed to Megan Frost (, David Hemmer ( or Shekhar Joshi (

On the Road

Timothy Havens

Tim Havens (ECE/CS) presented a paper entitled, “SPFI: Shape-Preserving Choquet Fuzzy Integral for Non-Normal Fuzzy Set-Valued Evidence,” this month at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence in Rio de Janeiro. Havens also co-authored two other papers presented at the conference. WCCI is the biennial meeting of the three leading computational intelligence conferences: International Conference on Fuzzy Systems, International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, and Congress on Evolutionary Computation. Co-authors on the paper were Tony Pinar (ECE), Derek Anderson (U. Missouri) and Christian Wagner (U. Nottingham, UK). As general chair of the Int. Conf. Fuzzy Systems 2019 in New Orleans, Havens also presented a pitch for the upcoming event at the WCCI awards banquet.

Additionally, Havens presented an invited seminar, “How to Win on Trivia Night: Sensor Fusion Beyond the Weighted Average,” at MIT Lincoln Laboratory on July 16.

Graduate Student Colloquium features two CS students

Two of the Computer Science graduate students attended the Graduate Research Colloquium hosted by the GSG this week.  This is MTU’s largest graduate research showcase and competition with grad students presenting more than 60 research papers.  See the article in Michigan Tech Today

“Improving Caching for Web Applications” by Daniel Byrne

Abstract:  Web applications employ caches to store the data that is most commonly accessed. The cache improves the application’s performance by reducing the time it takes to fetch a piece of data from the application’s database. Since the cache typically resides in a limited amount system memory, maximizing the memory utilization is key to delivering the best performance possible. In addition, application data access patterns change over time, so the system should be adaptive in its memory allocation policy as opposed to current staticDaniel Bryne allocations.In this work, we address both multi-tennancy (where a single cache is used for multiple applications) and dynamic workloads (changing access patterns) using a sharing model that relates the cache size to the application miss-rate, know as a miss-ratio curve. Intuitively, the larger the cache, the less likely the system will need to fetch the data from the database. Our efficient, online construction of the miss-ratio curve allows for us to determine the optimal memory allocation given the available system memory, while adapting to changing data access patterns. We show that our model outperforms the existing state-of-the-art sharing model in terms of overall cache hit-rate and does so at a lower time cost.


“Maximizing Coverage in VANETs” by Ali Jalooli

The sAli Jalooliuccess of vehicular networks is highly dependent on the coverage of message, which refers to the Euclidean spatial distance that a message once initiated by a given mobile node (i.e., source vehicle) can reach within time t. We studied the crucial problem of optimal utilization of roadside units (RSUs) in 2-D environments, and proposed a greedy algorithm, which by taking the V2V communication into consideration, finds the optimal locations for RSUs deployment to achieve the maximum message coverage.