New College of Computing External Advisory Board Meets

The College of Computing External Advisory Board (EAB) gathered virtually on October 23, 2020, for the first meeting of the the newly-established group.

The Advisory Board members will meet periodically with College leadership to share their expertise and provide outside perspectives.

“The members bring a diverse set of backgrounds and experience,” says Dean Adrienne Minerick. “We had an excellent discussion today, and I believe the group will mesh and work well together.”

Many of the EAB members are Michigan Tech alumni and all are executives, professionals, and business owners with direct knowledge of today’s technology workplace.

“This external engagement with the College provides us with essential information related to best practices and emerging trends in the industries and organizations where our graduates work,” explains Minerick.

“I believe it will also spark innovation and keep our focus on quality, agility, and delivering the education our students will need to meet the challenges presented by today’s global workplace,” she adds.

The College of Computing advisory board will work in close communication with the advisory boards of the Departments of Applied Computing and Computer Science. Advisory board members also act as ambassadors for the College in cooperation with the Michigan Tech Office of Advancement and Gift Planning.

The College of Computing External Advisory Board members are listed below. Learn more about the EAB on our website.

  • Randy Berry, Vice President of Utilities, Open Systems International Inc.
  • Chen Ding, Professor, Computer Science Dept., University of Rochester
  • Derek Dykens, Global Retail Industry Strategist, Splunk
  • Mark Gauthier, President/Owner, Donald Engineering
  • Dianne Marsh, Director of Device and Content Security, Netflix
  • Pavan Muzumdar, Chief Operating Officer, Automation Alley
  • Brian VanVoorst, Lead Scientist, Fellow, BBN Technologies, Raytheon


Leo Ureel Receives 2020 CTL Instructional Award

by Michael R. Meyer, Director, William G. Jackson CTL

Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, is among the Deans’ Teaching Showcase members who have been selected to receive 2020 CTL instructional Awards.

The awardees will make presentations next spring semester to share the work that led to their nomination.

When their presentation concludes, each will be formally recognized with a certificate and $750 in additional compensation .

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 — Curriculum Development: Katrina Black, Senior Lecturer in Physics

Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 — Innovative or Out of Class Teaching: Libby Meyer, Lecturer in Visual and Performing Arts and Leo Ureel, Assistant Professor in Computer Science

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 — Large Class Teaching: Kette Thomas, Associate Professor of Diverse Literature in Humanities

These events will take place from 3:30-4:30 on the dates listed. Detailed titles, topics, and registration links for each presentation will be circulated in anticipation of each event.

Many thanks to the previous CTL instructional award recipients and the Provost’s office staff who were instrumental in the selection process.

Please consider suggesting instructors whom you’ve seen make exceptional contributions in Curriculum Development, Assessment, Innovative or Out-of-Class teaching or Large Class Teaching to the appropriate chair or dean so that they can be considered for the upcoming (2021) Deans’ Teaching Showcase during spring semester.


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 Husky Research Celebration, a showcase of interdisciplinary HCC research through a series of virtual lab tours, virtual mini talks, and lectures presented in a 360-degree virtual space. More details here.

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 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.