Author: Lisa Hitch

Burrell awarded SPIE Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship

Burrell_SPIEscholarship_20160707Derek Burrell (ECE) has been awarded a 2016 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics for his potential contributions to the field of optics, photonics or related field.

Burrell is an Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate student at Michigan Technological University working toward a BS in electrical engineering with a concentration in photonics. He has academic and industrial experience in the fabrication and testing of optical interconnects, design of photometric simulations and creation of light-based models for virtual reality systems. His research interests include telecommunications, digital image processing and materials characterization. The scholarship will provide $3,000 toward tuition and research funding for the 2016-2017 academic year. Derek is the current president of the Michigan Technological University SPIE Student Chapter.

Burrell was also recently selected by Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) for a $2,500 research fellowship that will begin Fall 2016 and concentrate on free-space optical communications.

Derek plans to pursue an MS in optical engineering after graduation.

For more information regarding the 2016 scholarship awards see SPIE.

STEM & M (music)

Performing with Steve Jones & The Garden City Hot Club

Just for fun, I thought I would write about music this week.

As most of my friends and acquaintances know, music has always been a big part of my life. I started classical piano lessons at age 6, learned about jazz in high school, and have been a semi-professional musician on the side all my adult life. I play keyboards in a variety of styles – jazz, popular, salsa, blues – and have a great time doing it. Oddly enough, I have found as many opportunities to play publicly in the tiny little communities of Houghton and Hancock as I have anywhere I have lived!

A lot of people I meet say something like, “wow, that’s so unusual, you can be both an engineer and a musician!” Actually, it’s not that unusual at all. I know a lot of engineers, especially electrical engineers, who have music as a hobby. On the back cover of the latest edition of the The Circuit, our alumni magazine, there is a photo taken at the annual Christmas party of seven ECE faculty members who are also musicians (plus one student, a drummer who was there at the time and who just graduated and took a job with Black & Veatch.) I think there is a natural connection between the two. Electrical engineers have a natural affinity for concepts like signals, systems, frequency, harmonic analysis, etc. and so we “get” a lot of the physics of sound and the organization of music. The craft of music is rather abstract, and a bit mathematical, and we engineers like that stuff. In academics, we are all performance artists in the classroom anyway, so getting over our stage fright and hamming it up come naturally.

It is reasonable to ask, did the engineering influence the music or was it the other way around? In my case, I did well in both piano lessons and in math as a young boy, and as I got into electrical engineering in college, I realized that a lot of concepts I was seeing in communication theory and related courses were a piece of cake, because of that musical training.  So I think in my case the music really did have an influence on the path I chose professionally, and it is no accident that I went into signal processing as my technical area of expertise. On the other hand, we have the example of Tim Schulz, our former chair and dean who, after coming back into the ECE Department as a regular faculty member, decided to take up guitar as the first musical experience of his life. He has taken to it like a fish to water, and is loving every minute. So, I suppose it goes both ways.

I am writing about this not just to toot my own horn (no pun intended), but rather to make a point about the importance of performing arts in K-12 education. I love art and music so I am perfectly happy with the notion of ars gratia artis, that is, arts education is valuable in and of itself. However, even if one were to push singlemindedly for STEM education because of its importance to our national economic development, I would still claim that arts education cannot be overlooked.  There is something about the training that goes along with learning music that enhances the mind and opens it up to math and science.  Students who practice their instruments 30 minutes or an hour a day learn the discipline they need to master other academic fields. By participating in band and orchestra they learn teamwork and cooperation, and in a beautiful way they also learn the value of diversity because of the way all the different instruments contribute to the whole. Perhaps most importantly, performing arts gives young people the opportunity to learn how to do something specific and concrete, and to demonstrate that they have mastered their skills in a public performance. The self-image and the confidence that goes along with that is invaluable. (The same argument can be applied to athletics, and I can see that too.) Engineering students don’t get a chance to do that until much later. So, I will always stand behind music and arts education as an important piece of STEM education.

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend everyone! Get out there and support your local musicians!

– Dan

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

ECE Hosts SYP’s Women In Engineering Week

WIE participants learn soldering skills in the ECE teaching lab for their take-away Drawdio projects.

Fridays with Fuhrmann, June 24, 2016

This week Michigan Tech is hosting our Women in Engineering program, part of our larger Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs. WIE is a high school program that brings young women with an interest in science and engineering to campus, and gives them a chance to investigate a variety of engineering careers across all disciplines. Participants work in teams on interesting and challenging engineering projects, get insight from role models working in industry, learn about the college application process, experience college life, and enjoy team competitions, entertainment, and outdoor activities. As an added bonus this year, the weather has been absolutely spectacular and so our guests get to see what a great place the Keweenaw can be in the summer.

We have about 360 young women coming through ECE Department in this year’s program. ECE Associate Chair Glen Archer organizes things at a high level, and ECE PhD student and soon-to-be graduate Jenn Winikus is in charge of implementing the program and really being the face of the ECE Department for the participants. I thank them both for their hard work and outstanding efforts.

I have touched on this in previous columns, but it bears repeating that bringing more women into engineering fields, especially electrical and computer engineering, remains an important and perplexing problem. Our undergraduate female enrollment in the ECE Department has hovered around 10% for many years. Recent trends point to a slight increase, but we are nowhere near the percentage of female college enrollment overall, or even in engineering. We spend a lot of time wondering why this should be the case, and what we can do about it.

The first question that one unfamiliar with our field might ask is, are young women scared off because they cannot handle the rigors of an electrical engineering education? The answer to that is an unequivocal no, and in fact the suggestion of such a thing would be considered offensive around here. There is no evidence to suggest that women are any less capable in math, science, and engineering topics and engineering design skills than their male counterparts, in fact all of our everyday experience here points to a strong capable group of women making their way through our programs just like the men. They engage in all of our educational and leadership programs and are highly recruited by industry. Some might suggest there is a “confidence gap”, in which women who struggle with the material lose confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles and achieve success. While this can certainly happen, I see it just as often with some of our male students who aren’t getting it and decide to take a different path. Michigan Tech is making a major effort to support students, both men and women, who need a little extra push to be successful in their first year or two and continue in the program. How much we should be doing is a matter of some debate, but on the whole I am supportive of efforts to see our students gain the confidence they need to succeed in our educational programs and enter the engineering workforce.

So, if ability is not the issue, then could it be interest? Some say that women are more interested in the “helping professions”, which might explain the much popularity of programs in biomedical engineering and environmental engineering. Personally, I reject this notion.  What could be more “helping” than providing reliable electrical power to an entire population, providing reliable worldwide communication, developing the technologies that keep our soldiers safe abroad and our citizens secure at home, or designing a wide array of products for the audio and visual entertainment? Perhaps we need to work harder to educate everyone on all the ways that electrical and computer engineers have helped humanity. Even as you read this, you are taking advantage of technology developed over the past decades by thousands of electrical engineers, and as you walk away from your computer and turn to other activity, chances are you are going to pick up something else that has ECE fingerprints all over it. We help, we really do!

Maybe there is something about the profession itself that women find unattractive. This, outside of just not knowing what the opportunities are, is the argument that makes the most sense. It is true that electrical engineering (and mechanical engineering too) are fields that are dominated by men. Young women surveying that landscape simply may not see a place for themselves and their future. Women can look at biologists, doctors, or biomedical engineering, and easily project themselves into those professions because there is so much parity already. The workplace environment just looks so much more inviting in those fields. Stories about the “brogramming” culture in Silicon Valley don’t help much either. There is plenty of work to be done to make sure that our workplaces and our educational institutions are places that are welcoming to all, and a little extra effort is needed in electrical engineering to make that obvious, as it should be, when it comes to women.

It comes down to a chicken and egg problem – the fields of electrical and computer engineering need to attract more women, and the way to do that is for the fields of electrical and computer engineering to have more women in them. While we continue to struggle to reach a “tipping point” in this regard, we do what we can, like hosting the Women in Engineering program and diversifying the concentrations in our educational programs. More importantly, we need to be vigilant in maintaining a constant awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, and I am beginning to realize that inclusion is the more important piece of the two. It is not enough to bring people with a variety of gender and ethnic backgrounds into the organization; all people must feel like that are part of the inside group, making decisions and being responsible for the success of the organization. I see that here at Michigan Tech and I am certain it is an issue in engineering workplaces nationwide. This is an area where I will push for change as long as I am ECE chair at Michigan Tech.

Speaking of which – and I’ll close with this – last week I signed my reappointment letter which keeps me in this position for four more years (I have one year remaining in my current term, and will start a new 3-year term in 2017.) I look forward to serving Michigan Tech and the ECE Department, and continuing to share my experiences with you.

– Dan

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

Oliveira gives invited talk at Federal University of Bahia-Brazil

ECE Associate Professor Aurenice Oliveira

Aurenice Oliveira (ECE) gave an invited talk at Federal University of Bahia-Brazil (UFBA) on June 13, 2016. Dr. Oliveira talked about possibilities for research collaborations in communications, signal processing, and international education. She also gave an overview of study opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University. Dr. Oliveira had the opportunity to meet with several UFBA officials including the Vice President for Research and the International Office Director to discuss an international agreement between Michigan Tech and UFBA.

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Spring into Summer

FWF_image_20160520It is a fabulously beautiful day in the Keweenaw, and I am taking the day off to get some things done around the house, and to get ready to spend the weekend with some good friends at a cabin on Lake Superior, about an hour north of town.

Back around the time of Winter Carnival, I took a break from writing about engineering and education, and focused instead on snow and winter recreation in the Copper Country. Later on this summer I will do the same for all the summertime recreational opportunities, which are also abundant.

Today I just want to say that I am very much looking forward to the summer, which is starting about now. We don’t get much in the way of spring in Houghton. In April and early May there is an “in-between” time when the snow is melted but the days are still cold, often gray, and there is no green in the trees and grass. The town itself looks a little worn out from the long winter, and the streets are kind of dirty and dusty from all the stamp sand that was put down when there was snow. Then, all of a sudden – boom! – the weather warms up, the trees leaf out, the lawns turn green, the city cleans up the streets, and it is summertime.

Summertime also means long days in Houghton. They are made even longer, apparently, by a quirk in the time zones. Most of the Upper Peninsula, including Houghton County, is in the Eastern time zone. This is despite the fact that, if you draw a line straight north from Chicago, which is in the Central time zone, we are just to the west of that line. We are about as far west in the Eastern time zone as one can get. The “urban legend” is that this was done to keep the copper mines on the same time zone as the businesses in Boston that owned them. One implication for us is that, as we near the summer solstice in June, the sun goes down at around 9:50 p.m. and it stays light until 10:30 or 11:00. Even though we are not nearly as far north as, say, Alaska, in the middle of the summer one can still see a faint glow at night on the northern horizon that never gets completely dark.

Things are pretty quiet around campus. This is a time when a lot of faculty take vacation, go to conferences, or visit professional colleagues. We do teach summer classes in the ECE Department, but those classes tend to have a more relaxed and informal feel compared to the academic year. After Memorial Day things will pick up, as more people return to campus, taking advantage of the time to get some work done, make some progress on research projects, and maybe develop some new ideas and new directions.

One of the items on my “to-do” list for this summer is to develop a good strategic plan for the ECE Department, which the faculty can work on when we all get together again in August. I will let you know how that goes. Actually, the first item on the to-do list is to figure out how to do a better job managing the to-do list. But, I say that every year about this time.
Hope springs eternal.

Enjoy the summer everyone!

– Dan

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

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Thank you Mr. Dobelbower

Teacher with students in classroomThis is the first week of the Michigan Tech summer – a bit of a euphemism, since the leaves aren’t even out on the trees yet. I can remember a meeting of engineering chairs around this time a few years ago, after a particularly hard winter, when then-Provost Max Seel walked in and said “I have bad news for you. In six weeks the days start getting shorter.”

I am taking advantage of this somewhat quiet time in the calendar to visit family in my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma. When I make trips like this, I like to carve out time to visit high schools and talk to math and physics classes about electrical and computer engineering and about Michigan Tech. Yesterday I visited Union and Memorial high schools and enjoyed my time with the students there. My cousin Donna Hardway is a math teacher at Union High School and made the arrangements for me (thank you Donna). Memorial High School has a highly successful FIRST Robotics team, and I was very impressed with the facility they have created for that activity.

I thought this would be a good time to pay tribute to all the high school teachers out there, especially the math teachers, that do so much to prepare the students that eventually come to places like Michigan Tech. We could not do our job without them. By and large they are overworked and underpaid, but are dedicated to their students. They work every day to prepare students to make the first transition from being children to being independent adults, and in a lot of cases preparing them for the next step which is college. One or two good teachers can make a huge difference in a kid’s life. Often this means guiding students to find out that they really are good at something, giving them the confidence to go on and follow their dreams, which might include, say, engineering. I just can’t say enough good things about them.

I graduated from Tulsa Edison High School in 1975. I took trigonometry and calculus in my junior and senior years, respectively, from a local teaching legend named Jack Dobelbower, who taught at Edison for 31 years. “Dobe”, as all the students called him, was an imposing figure of a man who had an uncompromising commitment to academic excellence. He assigned homework every night, and every class period began with 10-minute quiz on the previous day’s work. I don’t recall their being any other major exams, just those daily quizzes that forced us all to stay up-to-date. He made it clear that in his position between the students and the school administration, he was totally on the side of the students, even to the point of allowing students who were not feeling well to come to class, take the quiz, then declare themselves absent and go back home. He raised the bar for everyone, and did it with such passion and conviction that most students rose to the challenge. Because of that experience, I have always carried the thought that “a good high school calculus class will beat a college calculus class any day.” (That thought may be flawed – I know we have excellent calculus instructors at Michigan Tech too.) Dobe also had a mysterious personal life, and there were lot of wild rumors that he and his wife lived in a converted school bus in the country out west of town, and adopted lots of foster children. I can’t confirm or deny any of that, although these stories did lend a certain mystique that made him seem larger than life for us students. As I said above, one good teacher can make a huge difference, and that was absolutely the case for Jack Dobelbower and me. In my own teaching I try to live up to the example that he set, and if I can do that I will be happy and proud.

Many of the readers of this column who have gone on to a professional life in electrical and computer engineering will have similar stories. If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to reach out and thank your high school teachers. Show your appreciation while you still have a chance.

I have to end this week’s column on a bit of a down note. I have learned over the past couple of years that there are a lot short-sighted politicians and demagogues who are slowly and systemically dismantling the whole public school education system in the state of Oklahoma. It hurts the economy, it makes the state look bad, and it’s just plain wrong. I stand firmly behind the teachers in this ongoing battle. I suppose that now that I live in Michigan I shouldn’t care so much, but these are my roots and I came out of an excellent public school that did a lot to shape me into the man I am today. I just hate to see that come undone. If you are reading this and feel that high-quality public education is important for our society, our culture, and our economy, please do what you can to support your local schools and the teachers that mean so much to all of us. Thank you.

– Dan

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

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Congratulations graduates!

FWF_image_20160506Well, here we are at the end of yet another academic year at Michigan Tech. Last week saw a flurry of activity leading up to to commencement, so much so that I overlooked writing this very column! (I doubt if anyone missed it, but if you did you will make me feel good.)

A lot of parents and other family members came to town on Friday. I got to meet many of them at a reception for ECE students that we host here in the department, followed by another university-wide reception hosted by President Glenn Mroz and his wife Gail. Most of our students have good jobs lined up, as one might expect with the strong demand for electrical and computer engineers that I have written about before. I was struck this year by the handful of students who did not have definitive plans for the immediate future. I did not get a sense of concern about this at all, it was just that students were so busy doing other things that they had not yet mounted a serious job search. I am not at all worried about the availability of good jobs out there, only about the complacency (for a small minority) that comes with being in a seller’s market.

Saturday was the big day. For me it started at 7:30am with the commissioning of the ROTC candidates. This year Michigan Tech had 11 graduating students assume their first positions as 2nd lieutenants in either the Army or the Air Force. Two of those were ECE students, Carrie Shuler and Michael Bartkowiak. I congratulate them and thank them for their service. The main commencement in the Student Development Center was at 10:30am, and this year with 993 students graduating and walking across the stage it turned into a 3-hour and 10-minute affair. Our commencement speaker, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, reminded us to look for the good in all people and to consider the satisfaction of a life of service. Despite all the pomp and circumstance, and the long wait for the last student to get his diploma and get off the stage, it really is a great moment in the life of the university and one that always leaves me energized.

This year, including the Fall 2015 commencement, the ECE Department granted 72 BSEE degrees and 34 BSCpE degrees, for a total of 106 undergraduates degrees. That number is a little low for us, 26 fewer than last year. With 169 new undergraduates predicted to enter next year, we should see a big jump in the total undergraduate enrollment in the fall. On the graduate side, we produced 95 MS degrees and 3 PhD degrees, for a net increase in 4. Our MS numbers are up, but the PhD degrees are down, which is a concern considering our strategic plan to graduate 10 PhD students per year. However, I am told we have 12 PhD students ready to finish up this summer. The department is going to be hopping this summer if that comes to fruition!

As we wrap up the year I like to take a few moments and recognize a few people that do an outstanding job of teaching, research, and service in the ECE Department. I will repeat here some of the acknowledgements I made at the last faculty meeting of the year three days ago. On the teaching side, I like to recognize faculty members that handle very large classes and still get very good to excellent student teaching evaluations; these include Glen Archer, Duane Bucheger, Bruce Mork, Ashok Ambardar, and John Lukowski. I also want to congratulate faculty members with student course evaluations very close to 5 on a 0-5 scale in small and medium-sized classes: Tim Schulz, Ashok Ambardar, and Warren Perger in undergraduate courses and Joshua Pearce, Wayne Weaver, and Tim Havens in graduate courses. Thank you all for a job well done!

One of the key metrics that we use in evaluating the strength of our research programs is the number of PhD students supported by external grants and contracts. Our goal is to have 50% of the PhD students on external support, and while we are not there yet we get a little closer every year. This year we had 23 students supported by 13 different faculty members, both numbers larger than we have seen in quite a while. The faculty members are: Feng, Guney, Havens, Hu, Middlebrook, Mork, Nooshabadi, Roggemann, Semouchkina, Ten, Wang, Weaver, and Zekavat.  Special recognition goes to Prof. Christopher Middlebrook for having the largest research expenditures in the department this year. Nice going Chris!

A special acknowledgement goes to our relatively new Graduate Program Coordinator Joan Becker, for the extraordinary job she has done in meeting the needs of our graduate students. Our program has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and we do not have a faculty or staff position dedicated to academic advising for everyday things like making sure all the degree requirements are being met and the appropriate forms are turned in. This task has fallen to Joan, and she has really gone above and beyond taking care of the steady stream of students outside her door.

Another person I need to recognize is ECE faculty member Ashok Ambardar, one of our absolute top instructors. Prof. Ambardar is old school: he likes to lecture with chalk on a blackboard, assign regular weekly homeworks, and give regular paper-and-pencil exams, just like he has done his entire career. Students love him. Ashok had an amazing Fall 2015 semester, in terms of student enrollments and responses. He taught three courses – one sophomore, one junior, one senior – with enrollments of 76, 73, and 11, and bottom-line student course evaluations of 4.51, 4.37 and 4.82 out of 5. Prof. Ambardar goes about his work quietly and does not seek a lot of attention, but I hope he knows how much we all appreciate everything he does.

Finally, I want to recognize Senior Lecturer Kit Cischke, this year’s Eta Kappa Nu Professor of the Year. Kit is another amazing instructor, someone who shoulders a lot of the teaching responsibility in our computer engineering program. He teaches courses in microcontrollers, hardware/software integration, and computer networks, and is the faculty advisor for the Wireless Communications Enterprise. His many students realize what an impact he has on their lives and here in the ECE Department. Congratulations Kit on being recognized by our students and thank you for everything you do!

I think that’s about it for this year – students have cleared out, and spring has returned to the Keweenaw.  Have a great summer everyone!

– Dan

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



Fridays with Fuhrmann: ECE careers for the good of the Earth

FWF_image_20160422Today, April 22, is Earth Day, so it seems appropriate to say a few things about the environmental impact of the work of electrical engineers.

Actually, there is a whole lot to say, much of it surrounding the topic of generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power. This is not my own area of technical expertise – I am more of a communications and signal processing engineer – so I have to exercise caution in pontificating too much on the topic. I will hasten to point out this is an area of strength for the ECE Department at Michigan Tech, as it has been ever since the department was founded in 1928. We have a lot of good people contributing to the next generation of power and energy technology, and to the education of the next generation of power and energy engineers who are going to make that technology work.

It is safe to say that the development of electrical power has had a huge impact on human civilization over the last 100 years. As a species, we learned how to burn fossil fuel in enormous rotating machines, and through the magic of electromagnetic induction we convert that mechanical energy to electrical energy which can be transmitted over long distances and distributed to homes and businesses everywhere. The development of “universal electrification,” as this is called, was named the #1 technical achievement of the 20th century by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. It has had an immeasurable positive effect on the standard of living and quality of life for us all. Think about that the next time you turn on a light switch in the middle of the night.

We now understand that this technological advancement comes with a certain environmental cost. One cannot burn fossil fuel without putting some residue back into the atmosphere, and the consensus of the vast majority of professionals who know what they’re talking about is that this is having a detrimental effect on our world (I don’t claim to be one of those people.) As electrical engineers we have to take some responsibility for that problem. Fortunately, if we are part of the problem, we are also part of the solution. A great many smart, dedicated electrical engineers are looking at alternative means for generating and distributing electrical power that do not have the same environmental cost, or so we hope. I can’t begin to go into all the technology and the tradeoffs in alternative and renewable energy generation, and the smart distribution systems that go with them – we have entire courses on that topic – but I encourage all young engineers with a passion for making a big contribution to the planet to consider this as a career possibility.

From my own casual observations, I see a lot of potential in solar power. Everything that we are and everything we consume ultimately comes from the sun anyway. I am particularly fascinated by passive solar technology, whereby arrangements of mirrors are used to concentrate solar energy, creating localized areas of intense heat for turning steam turbines or melting salt. I can’t help but think that there is a lot of real estate in the desert Southwest of the United States where such technology could easily be deployed. [I’ll probably catch a lot of flak from some people for that position – the desert is much more than a lot of sun-baked nothingness, and I get it – but it’s easy to see how one might get that impression when you fly from here to California.] The dropping costs and widespread adoption of solar photovoltaics is a positive sign too – although from an environmental perspective one needs to factor in the cost of acquiring natural resources and manufacturing the panels.

I’m not a big fan of wind power (no pun intended), mostly because I think that the big wind farms popping up all over American farmland are kind of ugly. Other people find them stately and beautiful, so I am willing to be wrong about that. As an alternative means of providing much-needed power that we are most certainly not going to give up, I can see the value. I did read a fascinating article recently in IEEE Spectrum about how wind power is a testament to our dependence on fossil fuel, when one considers everything that goes into the manufacturing, transportation, and deployment of wind turbines: see

Steering away from power and energy for a bit, let me add that there are other ways that electrical engineers can practice their trade and have a positive impact on the environment. Watch out for water as a big growth area in the coming decades. Water is something we all take for granted, until something goes horribly wrong as it did with the recent slow-motion trainwreck in Flint. People are now talking about the “water-energy nexus” in which our dependence on water and energy makes one big interconnected system: we need water to produce electrical energy, and we need electrical energy to produce clean water. I foresee a lot of important work to be done, and also a lot of career opportunities.

I’ll use that last assertion to put in a plug for our new Concentration in Environmental Applications, offered as part of our undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. We created this concentration to give students with an interest in air quality, water quality, and/or remote sensing an opportunity to pursue those interests and at the same time apply their engineering talents. There are going to be a lot electrical engineers needed for the electrical machinery, automation, industrial control, communication, and signal processing that go into the systems that monitor and improve our air and water quality. Please take a look if that sounds interesting – the ECE Department will be happy to provide all the information you need.

Happy Earth Day!

(Also – happy last day of classes to all our graduating seniors! Take it easy on Senior Walk, OK?)


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

Fridays with Fuhrmann: It’s a great time to be an ECE!

ECE Woman of Promise, Alexis Dani, presented by ECE chair Dan Fuhrmann
ECE Woman of Promise, Alexis Dani, presented by ECE chair Dan Fuhrmann

Happy Tax Day everyone! Actually the real Tax Day this year isn’t until Monday, and that’s a good thing considering how busy things have been in the ECE Department this week. Here’s a little factoid I just learned this week: April 15 is the birthday of Swiss mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Leonhard Euler (1707). Everyone knows Euler’s Formula, right?

This is the time when all our seniors are wrapping up their Senior Design and Enterprise projects, and we have a lot of visitors in town to see what we are doing and to help us out with the evaluation of the projects.

The ECE External Advisory Committee, or EAC, is here for the Spring 2016 meeting. This is a group of about a dozen industry representatives, most of them Tech alumni, who visit us twice a year to help us in our quest for continuous improvement. A lot of their time in the spring meeting is devoted to judging Senior Design and Enterprise projects, which happened yesterday (Thursday April 14). We had a total of 24 projects this year, and each project team is required to present their results and field questions in a 45-minute session. All of the ECE faculty and the graduate student TAs also participated in the judging. This is a great day in the life of the ECE Department, when we get to see all the hard work of the students over four years brought to fruition. My thanks to everyone, especially the EAC, that helped make the day a success.

We concluded the day with the Senior Awards Banquet at the Memorial Union Ballroom. Here we recognize both individuals and teams for their outstanding contributions to the ECE Department.

The individual student award winners are:

ECE Woman of Promise / Martha Sloan Scholarship: Alexis Dani (pictured above)
ECE Departmental Scholar: Derek Gheller
Carl S. Schjonberg Outstanding Senior: Ian Cummings

Derek Gheller, ECE Departmental Scholar
Derek Gheller, ECE Departmental Scholar
Ian Cummings, Carl S. Schjonberg ECE Outstanding Senior
Ian Cummings, Carl S. Schjonberg ECE Outstanding Senior

The Larry Kennedy Industry Innovation Award, the award given by the EAC to the top design project in the department, went to Senior Design Team 8, Traveling Wave Fault Location, sponsored by American Transmission Company (ATC) with faculty advisor John Lukowski.

L-R:  ATC's Joe Kysely, SD8 members Jacob Marshall and Kevin Schoenknecht (Troy Johnston not pictured), SD assistant/ECE PhD student Dustin Drumm, and team advisor Prof. John Lukowski
L-R: ATC’s Joe Kysely, SD8 members Jacob Marshall and Kevin Schoenknecht (Troy Johnston not pictured), SD assistant/ECE PhD student Dustin Drumm, and team advisor Prof. John Lukowski

Finally, the Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Professor of the Year award was given to Senior Lecture Kit Cischke. Kit teaches many of the core courses in our computer engineering program, and is the faculty advisor for the Wireless Communications Enterprise. He does a fabulous job and all the students love him. Congratulations Kit, and thanks for all you do!

Professor of the Year, Senior Lecturer Kit Cischke, presented by HKN's Matthew Andres
Professor of the Year, Senior Lecturer Kit Cischke, presented by HKN’s Matthew Andres

Earlier in the week we had a visit from another “unofficial” advisory group – a group of 5 industry leaders and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, led by Brocade CEO Dave House. Dave has been a very good friend of the ECE Department for many years, and in fact you may recognize his name from the professorship that I hold. Dave and company were here to advise and encourage the entire university, not just the ECE Department, on matters of innovation, entrepreneurship, and where technology is headed from their point of view. Dave has been very influential on my thinking about the importance of building closer ties among the ECE Department, the Department of Computer Science, and the School of Technology. On Tuesday I was very pleased to be able to report to the group that the performance results in the new Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, measured in new research awards, research expenditures, publications, and student support, was much higher than expected. The ICC is the most significant effort arising from the joint activity of the three units mentioned above, and so it is gratifying to see things coming together as they are.

On top of all that, we had some fantastic news from the ECE faculty this week. Assistant Professors Durdu Guney, Timothy Havens, and Chee-Wooi Ten have all been recommended by the Provost for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor, with tenure. The final vote will be taken at a meeting of the Board of Trustees in two weeks’ time. My congratulations to Durdu, Tim, and Chee-Wooi on reaching this major milestone – we expect many great things from them in the years to come.

All for now. Get those taxes in!

– Dan

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

Presentation Day for ECE Senior Design and Enterprise teams

SD2015This Thursday, April 14, 2016, will be a huge day for students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Senior Design and Enterprise programs. Not only will they participate in Michigan Tech’s Design Expo, but they will also make their final presentations for the year to ECE faculty, staff, students, and the department’s External Advisory Committee.  To see a complete list of teams, including a description of the projects, see: presentation schedule.

Please feel free to attend any or all presentations and good luck to our teams!