Bruce Mork is One of Top Ten Professors to Know in Power Systems Engineering

Bruce Mork
Bruce Mork

Online Engineering Programs recognizes Professor Bruce A. Mork as one of the most highly skilled educators in the area of power systems engineering. Mork teaches electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, where he was named the Dennis Wiitanen Professor of Electric Power Systems. Currently, his areas of interest include smart grids, power system protection, computer simulation, transients in electrical power systems, nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory, magnetic materials and saturation of transformers, power quality, photovoltaics, and renewable energy, including wind energy and solar energy.

Read more at Online Engineering Programs.

Michigan Tech offers an online Master’s in Electrical Engineering with a focus on power systems.


Fridays with Fuhrmann: That’s A Wrap

FWF-20180518
We have come to the end of another academic year at Michigan Tech. On Saturday, May 5, our spring commencement ceremony was held at the John MacInnes Ice Arena at the Student Development Complex (SDC), and the place was packed to the rafters with all the graduates and their families and well-wishers. I have been through the Michigan Tech spring commencement now nine times, and I enjoy it as much now as I did the first time. I get to sit on the platform with all the university leadership, the Board of Trustees, and my fellow department chairs, and when it is my turn I get to shake the hands of all our graduates from the ECE Department. When one has been doing this for a while, it starts to become apparent how many lives we touch at a place like Michigan Tech. This certainly must have been on the mind of our president Glenn Mroz, who after 14 years on the job is moving back to the faculty and thus this was his last commencement as master of ceremonies. President Mroz is an outstanding leader who always wears his heart on his sleeve, and we love him for it.

This year the numbers of degrees granted to students in the ECE Department, counting August 2017, December 2017, and May 2018 graduation dates, were: BSEE 83, BSCpE 41, MSEE 82, MSCpE 13, PhD EE 7, PhD CpE 2. That’s a total of 124 undergraduates and 104 graduate students. It is interesting to note that the number of graduate degrees is in the same ballpark as the number of undergraduate degrees, a major shift in the departmental culture over the past couple of decades. One of the things that caught my attention in the commencement program was that, for the spring ceremony, we actually had more MSEE graduates (63) than BSEE graduates (57). I have to imagine that is a first for us, and given current enrollment trends we may not see that again for a long time. Of course, because of the difference in the number of student credit hours required for BS vs. MS degrees, our undergraduate enrollment is still much larger than our graduate enrollment. The number of undergraduate degrees is typically around 20% of our undergraduate enrollment, whereas the number of graduate degrees is closer to 50% of our graduate enrollment.

Commencement not only marks the end of the academic year, but also the beginning of summer. The campus empties out and suddenly everything is quiet, for a while at least. The weather has been sunny and beautiful this May, in stark contrast to all the snow we got in April. Lawns have turned green overnight, it seems, and within a week all the trees will be green too. It’s like we go straight from winter to summer.

Summer didn’t really start for me until this past Monday, when I finally wrapped up the report from the Computer and Information Sciences Working Group and turned it over to Provost Jackie Huntoon. We had a number of recommendations, which is what we were asked for, and in broad terms I can report that the Working Group believes Michigan Tech needs to make some bold moves to enhance its visibility and impact in computing. Beyond that I do not want to go into all the details publicly, as the new university leadership should first have the opportunity to go over the report, give us some feedback, and start the process of deciding where the university should go next. I’ll have a few more opinions to share on computing and engineering in the next few weeks, but for now, I am just happy to have that weight lifted off my shoulders.

One of the things we do in the ECE Department during these lulls is take a moment to express our thanks to our highly capable and dedicated staff. Thursday May 17 was an unofficial “staff appreciation day” when several faculty members and I took the staff out to lunch and we enjoyed some time together. The way this comes about every year is that, on the last Wednesday in April, when we are all running around like headless chickens with end-of-year activities, I suddenly remember that it is Administrative Professionals Day. When that happens I ask if we can just put the celebration off until May, and of course everyone says yes. We are truly blessed in the ECE Department to have clerical, advising, and technical staff that do an amazing job individually and also work together really well as a team. It certainly makes my job a lot easier and I am grateful for their service to Michigan Tech and the ECE Department.

So now, on to the summer. The big thing on my to-do list is to prepare for the roll-out of our new online MSEE program focused on signal processing and communications, due to start in September (see FWF 2/23/2018). While Prof. Tim Schulz is working on a new course in Mathematical and Computational Methods in Engineering, I have volunteered to prepare and teach an online version of our course in Digital Signal Processing. Tim and I are both finding that building an online course to contemporary standards is a lot of work, as it requires us to think about delivering technical content in a whole new way. I am hoping one can teach an old dog new tricks, but I am optimistic, even confident. This is a great summer project and I am looking forward to it – along with everything else that one can find to do in the Copper Country.

Have a great summer everyone!

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann, Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University


Autonomous Ground Vehicle Funding for Bos and Robinette

Autonomous Vehicle
Autonomous Vehicle

Jeremy Bos (ECE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $5,000 research and development contract with the University of Michigan. Darrell Robinette (MEEM/ICC) is the Co-PI on the project “Robust Terrain Identification and Path Planning for Autonomous Ground Vehicles in Unstructured Environments.” The is the first year of a potential three-year project totaling $304,525.

By Sponsored Programs.


Fridays with Fuhrmann: Postcard from Yuma

Prometheus Borealis 20180503

Earlier this week I had the chance to join Professor Jeremy Bos and the students from Michigan Tech’s team Prometheus Borealis as they participated in the Year 1 competitive events in the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge at the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona.

I wrote about the AutoDrive Challenge when it was first announced that Michigan Tech would be one of the participants, a little over a year ago. The competition is jointly sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The concept is to get teams of college students, graduate and undergraduate, to convert a Chevy Bolt into an autonomous vehicle over the three years of the competition, with increasing levels of autonomy and more difficult challenges in each successive year. Unlike most of the SAE collegiate competitions, this competition has little to do with the automotive powertrain; it is focused more on the electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science skills needed to implement the sensors, signal processing, and artificial intelligence to make the car drive itself. To be sure, there are mechanical engineers and other disciplines such as social science represented on the teams as well. It is truly a collaborative effort, consistent with what all our external advisors tell us is the norm in industry today.

There are teams from seven other North American universities in the competition; they are: Michigan State University, Kettering University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina A&T State University.

At Michigan Tech the team is hosted in the Robotic Systems Enterprise, one of several multidisciplinary student organizations that serve both an academic and a social function (for more about the Enterprise program see https://www.mtu.edu/enterprise/). The faculty advisors are Prof. Jeremy Bos from the ECE Department and Prof. Darrell Robinette from the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. At last count there were something like 50 students in RSE and the majority of those, but not all, are on the AutoDrive team.

Retrofitting an automobile to make it autonomous is quite an ambitious task. There are sensors mounted all over the vehicle, including a video camera, one or more LIDARS up on the roof, and multiple radar units positioned around the vehicle at bumper level. The video camera typically sees the same scene a human drive would see. LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging; essentially these use lasers to measure the distance to anything and everything in the field of view. The radars do the same thing, at radio frequencies; they have longer range and can see through conditions like rain, fog, and snow. Some vehicles use ultrasonic sensors as well. All the sensor outputs are digitized and the data are fed into a powerful computer mounted in the trunk. Multiple computer algorithms process all this data and provide electronic controls for the acceleration, steering, and brakes. Nothing to it, right?

For most of this year, the students have been busy with the concept design for the vehicle – how to mount all the sensors and the computers, and designing the overall software architecture for the computer algorithms. As one might imagine, safety plays a critical role in the design of the algorithms. I wish I could say more about the details of the design, but I have not been close enough to the project to comment with authority (I should let the students write one these columns!) Bottom line, the team has a design and has implemented that design with the sensors (except the radars) and computers installed on the vehicle. It’s actually ready to roll, for certain rudimentary autonomous functionality – an impressive accomplishment for a single year.

So on to Yuma for the competition this week. Yuma, Arizona, is a little town, actually somewhat larger than I expected, in the desert Southwest near where California, Arizona, and Mexico come together. 30 miles outside Yuma, about as remote as one can possibly get, is the Yuma Proving Grounds, a gigantic U.S. Army facility of over 1000 square miles which has on it a large vehicle testing facility run by GM. Although it is not exactly convenient for any of the teams in the competition, 3 hours drive from Phoenix, it has everything that is needed for this competition and is fully operational and available this time of year.

I was only able to join the group on Tuesday, and my only role was to provide moral support and get in the way. I had nothing to offer of a technical nature – although maybe that will change next year when they start to use the radars. On Tuesday, the students made an hour-long presentation on their technical concept design, and underwent a technical and safety inspection of the vehicle. There was also a demonstration of a side project on navigation and mapping, which will be integrated into the vehicle in Years 2 and 3, and a presentation on the social responsibility aspects of autonomous vehicles. I was greatly impressed by everything I saw.

Unfortunately, because of my need to get back home for events leading up to commencement, I was unable to stay in Yuma for the actual autonomous driving events, which happen Wednesday through Friday. Since those events are ongoing as of this writing, I will have to wait until next Friday to report on the overall results of the competition. Preliminary indications I am hearing is that the team is doing extremely well.

I am certain my counterparts at the other university will say the same thing about their teams, but I could not be prouder of this group of Huskies and everything they have accomplished this year. I was even more pleased to see how happy Prof. Bos was with the student performance, since leading this group has been a challenging task and a lot more work than he signed up for. If we can do well, pushing the technology forward, educating the next generation of automotive engineers, and making Michigan Tech look good in the process, it will all be worth it.

Stay tuned for the overall results of the Year 1 competition next week. Also, stay tuned for comments on commencement which is scheduled for Saturday. No doubt it will be memorable, being the last commencement exercises with President Glenn Mroz at the helm.

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann, Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University


Cameron Burke on Autonomous Attitudes

Kyla Valenti and Cameron Burke
Kyla Valenti and Cameron Burke

HOUGHTON — Autonomous vehicles will spell major changes for Americans, including those living in rural areas.

Using Houghton as an area for a case study, a team of Michigan Technological University students set out to investigate possible impacts within rural areas.

The class was tasked with determining environmental, social and economic impacts of Level 4 autonomous vehicles, part of a competition known as the AutoDrive Challenge. Level 4 refers to vehicles that are self-diving but unable to deal with every scenario.

Once the results came in, the team was surprised by the level of neutral responses, with 20-30 percent answering questions as neutral, said Cameron Burke, an electrical and computer engineering student.

Unexpected topics, such as land use and parking situations, were also raised by participants. The team determined there would need to be significant changes to infrastructure, Burke said.

“We found that for autonomous vehicles to be even desirable in a community like this, there would have to be a lot of infrastructure changes,” he said.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Kali Katerberg.

Related:

Take Me Home, Country Roads: The Future of Autonomous and Electric Vehicles in Rural Areas


Fridays with Fuhrmann: News From Week 13, 2018 Edition

design-expo-bookToday is the last regular day of classes at Michigan Tech for the 2017-2018 academic year. Next week is Finals Week, which then leads into Commencement on Saturday, May 5. How time flies when you are having fun!

This is always a busy time of year for me, although having been in this job for 10 years now I have come to expect it and plan for it. What was a little harder to plan for this year was the added stress of wrapping up the work of the Computing and Information Sciences Working Group, and the launch of our new online MS program in partnership with Keypath Education. Just to top it off I had a mild case of the flu which had me going from one meeting to the next like the walking dead. I’m not complaining though – what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I am grateful and energized by having meaningful work to do.

Michigan Tech students, especially graduating seniors, celebrate the last day of classes with a tradition we call the Senior Walk, a pub crawl that makes its way from Hancock to Houghton in the late afternoon and evening. I am on a bit of a Senior Walk myself, on my way to California with my wife to spend time with good friends in the wine country near Healdsburg. It’s a short trip, and I will follow that up by heading to Yuma, Arizona, to offer a little moral support to our students in the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge as they put their autonomous vehicle through the Year 1 Competition. I will make it back just in time for some year-end meetings, and of course commencement.

Last week is what we call Week 13 in the academic calendar, the culmination of all our Senior Design and Enterprise projects. We followed our usual schedule, with the student presentations all morning on Thursday, the Design Expo on Thursday afternoon, and the ECE Senior Banquet in the evening. The ECE External Advisory Committee was in town, serving as judges for the projects and presentations. The entire ECE faculty gets in the act too; I ask everyone to sit in on at least two presentations and provide written feedback.

At the Senior Banquet we give out a number of awards to our top students, our top projects, and one special faculty member.

Following a tradition we started last year, we recognized all the student volunteers who help with Fall Open House, Spring Preview Day, departmental tours for prospective high school students, calling campaigns, and similar activities. These students act as ambassadors for Michigan Tech and the ECE Department. They believe in what we are trying to do here with our educational programs, and do an outstanding job of communicating that enthusiasm to others. We are deeply grateful to them for all they do.

L-R: Sarah Wade, Lanna Pirkola, Kyle Ludwig, Stephen Grulke, Derek Gheller, Derek Burrell, Christine Cauley; Missing from photo: Shaun Flynn, Meghan Friske, Mitchell Paris, Max Pletcher, DeShawn Presley, Jake Soter, Jack Swanberg
L-R: Sarah Wade, Lanna Pirkola, Kyle Ludwig, Stephen Grulke, Derek Gheller, Derek Burrell, Christine Cauley; Missing from photo: Shaun Flynn, Meghan Friske, Mitchell Paris, Max Pletcher, DeShawn Presley, Jake Soter, Jack Swanberg

Each year we give three awards to top undergraduate students in the ECE Department. The first is the ECE Departmental Scholar Award. It is given to a student who will have senior status next academic year, and represents the best in student scholarship in the department. The Departmental Scholar is our nomination for the Provost’s Award for Scholarship, a university-wide award that is announced the following Friday. The winner of ECE Departmental Scholar for 2018 is Elizabeth (Liz) Adams. Liz is an electrical engineering major with a departmental GPA of 3.92. She participates in the LEAP program, where she served as a near-peer mentor for students in Engineering Fundamentals 1101, answering students questions and teaching a one-hour lesson each week. Other activities at Michigan Tech include being a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Vice-President of the Fencing Club, and a project manager for Concrete Canoe. Faculty members Mike Roggemann and Kit Cischke both had high praise for Liz’ academic ability and intellectual curiosity.

ECE 2018 Departmental Scholar: Elizabeth (Liz) Adams
ECE 2018 Departmental Scholar: Elizabeth (Liz) Adams

Our second student award is the ECE Woman of Promise. The goal of this program, which is connected to the Presidential Council of Alumnae, is to recognize women at Michigan Tech who go “above and beyond” what is expected of them in terms of being a well-rounded student – those who have demonstrated academic achievement, campus and community leadership, good citizenship, and creativity. This year’s ECE Woman of Promise is Christine Cauley. Christine is an electrical engineering major with a GPA of 3.46. She was nominated by ECE academic advisor Judy Donahue, who writes “Christine is a cheerful ambassador of the ECE Department as she has helped with the Fall Open House department tour. She is a member of the Wireless Communications Enterprise, and is a Project Leader for her team, which worked on a bird-window collision sensor. She is a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society and Co-Chair for the Queens Committee. Christine was a guest speaker for the Michigan Tech’s Fall Open House event. She goes above and beyond, demonstrating campus and community leadership while successfully pursuing the BSEE, and is deserving of the award.”

ECE 2018 Woman of Promise, Martha Sloan Scholarship recipient: Christine Cauley
ECE 2018 Woman of Promise, Martha Sloan Scholarship recipient: Christine Cauley

The third and final student award in the ECE Department is the Carl S. Schjonberg Award for Outstanding Undergraduate in the ECE Department. This award was established to honor a long-time faculty member in the ECE Department and is given to our top student, usually a graduating senior. The Schjonberg Award recipient for this year is Lanna Pirkola. Lanna is a 3rd-year senior with a departmental GPA of 4.0. She plans to graduate in December 2018, in only three and a half years. She has served on the departmental Undergraduate Advisory Board, and is a member of Eta Kappa Nu. She is a recipient of the Michigan Tech Presidential Scholarship of Distinction, and the Air Force Recruiting Service Mathematics and Science Award. She is an absolutely top-rate student who works very very hard and will make us proud when she enters the workforce. Congratulations Lanna!

Carl S. Schjonberg Award: Lanna Pirkola
Carl S. Schjonberg Award: Lanna Pirkola

The ECE External Advisory Committee awards the Larry Kennedy Industry Innovation Award to the top ECE student project, based on the project reports and presentations from earlier in the day. This year the top prize went to the project titled “Medical Device Tool One-Way Communication Emulator” sponsored by Stryker Medical. This is the second year in a row that a Stryker project has taken the top prize, so they certainly must be doing something right to inspire the students and give them something meaty to work on. Congratulations to advisor Trever Hassell and all the students on a job well done.

L-R: advisor Trever Hassell, Kyle Ludwig, Benjamin Schaedig, Morgan English, Justin Evankovich, Charles Lubitz
L-R: advisor Trever Hassell, Kyle Ludwig, Benjamin Schaedig, Morgan English, Justin Evankovich, Charles Lubitz

Although not part of the Senior Banquet festivities on that Thursday evening, this is a good place to mention how the ECE Department fared in the Michigan Tech Design Expo, which is a university-wide event held on Thursday afternoon in the MUB, where students set up posters describing their projects and explain their work to judges and other attendees. For the first time in as long as I can remember, an ECE Department project won the best Senior Design project! The project was “Performance and Protection Characterization of Plug and Play Solar Systems”, sponsored by Consumers Energy. The faculty advisor was Prof. Sumit Paudyal, and the student team was Lauren Clark, Erik Romanski, Gabe Simmering, and Jason Wesley. I couldn’t be more pleased with this result. The ECE project titled “Human Machine Interface (HMI) Anunciator Replacement” took Honorable Mention in the Senior Design Projects, and our Wireless Communication Enterprise, advised by Kit Cischke, took Third Place in the Enterprise category.

The final award for the Senior Banquet is the announcement by the students in Eta Kappa Nu of their choice for Professor of the Year. I am delighted to report that this year the students selected Prof. Sumit Paudyal. Sumit has made a name for himself in the past six years as an outstanding instructor, although that reputation is based primarily on his teaching in graduate courses in the power and energy program. With only a little exposure to our undergraduates through a senior-level power systems course, and his acting as advisor for the project that took the top prize in Design Expo, our undergraduates have immediately recognized what an enormous asset Prof. Paudyal is for the department. In addition to this award, this year Sumit won an NSF CAREER award and is being promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, with tenure. It’s an academic trifecta! On top of all that, Sumit and his wife Saru Bhattarai had their first baby this year! Sometimes the universe just lines everything up in the same direction at the same time. I am delighted for all the good things that are coming Sumit’s way, and proud to call him a member of the Michigan Tech ECE Department.

HKN representative Sandra Cvetanovic presents the Professor of the Year Award to Sumit Paudyal
HKN representative Sandra Cvetanovic presents the Professor of the Year Award to Sumit Paudyal

Next week (probably) – news from Arizona. To all our students – good luck with finals!

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University


Kernel Classification Paper is a CIS Publication Spotlight

Kernel Classification showing  an array of circles representing a lattice of FM elementsTony Pinar (ECE), Tim Havens (ECE/CS) and Joe Rice’s (CS) paper, titled “Efficient Multiple Kernel Classification Using Feature and Decision Level Fusion,” in IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems was one of two papers from the transactions featured in IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine as a CIS Publication Spotlight.

DOI: 10.1109/TFUZZ.2016.2633372

Extract: Kernel methods for classification is a well-studied area in which data are implicitly mapped from a lower-dimensional space to a higher dimensional space to improve classification accuracy. However, for most kernel methods, one must still choose a kernel to use for the problem. Since there is, in general, no way of knowing which kernel is the best, multiple kernel learning (MKL) is a technique used to learn the aggregation of a set of valid kernels into a single (ideally) superior kernel.

Read more at III Xplore Digital Library.


Joshua Pearce on 3D Printing for Scientific and Humanitarian Use

Joshua Pearce speaking with another man.
Joshua Pearce at the University of Lorraine

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) gave an invited talk for the University of Lorraine entitled “Will you 3D print your next lab? : Leveraging Improvements in Distributed Manufacturing for Open Source Scientific Hardware” at the Lorraine Fab Living Lab in Nancy, France.

The visit was covered by the regional newspaper L’Est Republicain(circulation >123,000).

In Print

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) authored the chapter “Open-source 3D Printing” in “Managing Humanitarian Innovation: The cutting edge of aid.” Editors: Eric James and Abigail Taylor, 2018, Practical Action Publishing.

eISBN: 978-178044-953-1 | ISBN: 978-185339-953-4 doi:https://doi.org/10.3362/9781780449531.021

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) authored “Expanding the Consumer Bill of Rights for material ingredients,” in Materials Today.

In the News

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), John Gershenson (MEEM), and alumni Tobias J. Mahan and Benjamin L. Savonen are mentioned in the article “Researchers Develop the Kijenzi 3D Printer to Respond to Humanitarian Crises,” in 3DPrint.com.

Research by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), was featured in the story “Solar Microgrids for National Security: Study Finds 17 GW Could Fortify US Military Bases,” originally posted in May, 2017. The story was referenced recently in Microgrid Knowledge.

On the Road

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) gave an invited talk, “Production for the People: How open source hardware design and 3D printing enable real distributed manufacturing,” at the 20th Finnish Rapid Prototyping Association Conference and Nordic3DExpo last Thursday (April 19) in Espoo, Finland.


Fridays with Fuhrmann: Michigan Tech’s 10th President

richard-j-koubek-outdoorThis morning at 10am, with just the right amount of drama, suspense, and fanfare, the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees in a special meeting announced the selection of Dr. Richard J. Koubek as the 10th president of the University. Dr. Koubek will take office on July 1, 2018.

Dr. Koubek was introduced at the meeting, which was very well attended as you might imagine, and made a few opening remarks. He and his wife Valerie are on campus today for a quick introduction to the entire university community, spread out over multiple events. I hope he understands there will not be a quiz at the end of the day.

Michigan Tech has a web page announcing the selection, which has lots of good information about the president-elect. See http://www.mtu.edu/president-elect.

Obviously we as a community are just now getting to know Dr. Koubek for the first time. So far I am impressed with his credentials, his accomplishments, and his demeanor. All indications are that this is an outstanding selection; I congratulate and thank the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees. I am excited and optimistic about the future of this institution – as I always have been.

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University


Sweidan and Havens Publish on Target Tracking

Husam Sweidan
Husam Sweidan

Husam Sweidan, PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Timothy Havens (ECE), published an article entitled, “Sensor Relocation for Improved Target Tracking,” in the April, 2018, volume of IET Wireless Sensor Systems.

DOI: 10.1049/iet-wss.2017.0037 , Print ISSN 2043-6386, Online ISSN 2043-6394

Extract: In the first phase, the wireless sensor network tracks the targets based on the initial deployment. The second phase uses the location estimates from phase 1 to form a region of interest (ROI). The last phase carries out the sensor relocation to the ROI.