Archives—March 2018

Computer Science Faculty Awarded ICC Seed Grant

Computer Science faculty members Keith Vertanen, Scott Kuhl, and Myounghoon “Philart” Jeon, were recently awarded the 2018 Paul Williams Seed Grant from the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC). The grant will give the researchers the opportunity to develop a research program that could be eligible and attractive for long-term and higher-level funding from external grants and contracts.

The projectCS_Fac_ICC_SeedGrant entitled, “Sensing and Feedback for On-Body Input,” will investigate how to appropriate everyday surfaces, including one’s own body, as an input device for interactive systems. In a series of user studies, they will compare the performance of the on-body sensing approach with vision-based hand tracking.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Ruihong Zhang

Per the article in Tech Today, this week, College of Sciences and Arts Dean Bruce Seely recognizes Ruihong Zhang, lecturer in Computer Science for more than 13 years, as the newest member of the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Seely selected Zhang for her role in delivering foundational CS courses while enrollment has increased dramatically.

Asked to discuss her approach to teaching, Zhang says she finds herself balancing four pairs of ideas: her teaching goals vs. student learning goals; what she wants to teach vs. what students want to learn; her teaching style vs. student learning styles; and self-evaluation of teaching vs. student evaluations.

Zhang recently offered three foundational courses for CS majors: Data Structures, Databases and Introduction to Programming. None are easy. With its focus on different algorithms for structuring data, for example, Data Structures challenges students.

“During class, I constantly ask motivational questions, encouraging students to have short discussions with each other before presenting answers,” Zhang says.

The goal is to promote student engagement. Databases are equally essential, but this class is more practical and requires attention to detail. She relies upon lab sessions, not lectures, to “help students troubleshoot problems. They like these sessions and feel they learn a lot in one class period.”

Growing enrollment and larger class sections over the past three years have created serious teaching challenges, but Zhang has adapted in several ways. First, she begins the semester by asking students to introduce themselves and find a team partner. This enhances small-group work and short discussions. In each session, “I ask three to five interesting, but not too difficult, questions for students to approach as a team.”

After a few minutes, depending upon the problem, “I go over the answers or ask for responses from the teams. Many students actively participate and feel no pressure about giving wrong answers in front of the class.”

Zhang also has cut back on detailed PowerPoints, asking students to take their own notes. “Research shows that writing notes with paper and pencils helps people to retain knowledge.” Coincidentally, students must set aside electronic distractions to follow the discussion.

Because studeRuihong Zhangnts will not always ask questions in large classes, Zhang holds extra office hours and evening study sessions led by herself, student mentors or teaching assistants. “This semester we offered four weekly study sessions for Data Structures, led by mentors from the Computer Science Department’s new Student Academic Mentor (SAMs) program.”

Finally, Zhang is aware that different students have different skills and learning approaches and considers these when designing homework problems. “The problems have different levels of difficulty. I strive to use real life problems whenever it is appropriate. I often include challenging problems with extra points for students willing to study and work more after class.”

In summary, Seely indicates “This is the picture of a committed teacher constantly adjusting to changing conditions in her classes. The idea of balancing the potentially competing factors she identifies seems to be serving Ruihong’s students well.”

Zhang will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer, recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


Caden Sumner and HIDE team develop online learning center scheduling program

Problem: Scheduling learning center appointments. Solution: Apply education; develop online scheduling program.

Maybe you’ve heard the claim that Michigan Technological University students are crazy smart. In case you needed proof, meet Caden Sumner, a third-year who is double majoring in computer science and psychology. He’s also a coach at the Michigan Tech Multiliteracies Center (MTMC) and leader of the Human Interface Design Enterprise (HIDE) programming team that developed Timeslot.

Timeslot enables students to schedule appointments in campus learning centers from their mobile devices and computers, instead of having to sign up in person. A combination of factors inspired Sumner to develop the program: his interest in psychology, his first (intimidating) impression in a learning center, his experiences as a coach in the MTMC, and encouragement from his boss and MTMC Assistant Director Bill De Herder.

Sumner says, “We were using a software that was really difficult to use. It was hard to figure out how to schedule appointments. Students didn’t like it, coaches hated it. My boss mentioned ‘you should do something about that’ at about the end of last (academic) year. I said absolutely, I’ll give that a go.”

Sumner and his fellow HIDE teammates started working on Timeslot at the start of the fall 2017 semester. Though they didn’t keep track of the hours they put into development, Sumner says it was “a lot.”

Creatsumne-profile-personneling His Future

Timeslot went live for the MTMC the first week of spring 2018 classes. The HIDE team is taking a soft rollout approach so as to catch and fix all program bugs and prevent a huge scheduling snafu. The math lab will implement the software in the fall, and plans for the biology lab are in the works. Sumner and his team hope that in time all 17 University learning centers will adopt the system.


Please see the full story from Tech Today here.



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.