All posts by Sue Hill

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.

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.


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

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:

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

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.

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.

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Postcard from California

Golden Gate Bridge

All this week I have been in the San Francisco Bay Area, either accompanying the Michigan Tech student group on their Silicon Valley Experience, or off doing side visits to alumni and companies on my own. Monday evening the students and I attended a delightful Michigan Tech alumni reception, hosted by Dave House on his beautiful hilltop property in Saratoga overlooking all of Silicon Valley. The weather was cool and rainy, as it has been all week; all of our hosts apologized even though no one is complaining since they can really use the rain. Tuesday the group visited Google, HP, Nvidia, and Facebook, and Wednesday we visited the Ford research facility in Palo Alto before I peeled off to do my own thing. It is always good to see the world beyond the Baraga Plain, and to get a sense of the culture that many of our graduates will be entering.

I have come away from this trip with a few impressions to share with you.

First, deep learning is everywhere. Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, made that point when he visited Michigan Tech last September, and it has certainly been in evidence at the companies we have visited. As a case in point, when we went to Nvidia, easily the most electronic hardware-oriented of any of the places we visited, the presentation from HR stated that 90% of their hiring is in “EE, CS, CpE, and ML/DL”, the latter being an acronym for “Machine Learning/Deep Learning” that everyone here seems to understand. Nvidia is primarily known for its graphical processing unit (GPU) hardware, but it is the advances in computing power represented by their hardware that makes today’s deep learning possible. Thus, it makes sense for them to show the connection between the two, in applications such as real-time processing for autonomous vehicles. All the big players are jockeying for position in artificial intelligence and machine learning, looking for the competitive advantage that such technologies can bring to their products and systems. This is not easy material to master, but if you can prove that you are an expert, probably at the PhD level and with several years of good experience to back it up, you can write your own ticket. This has actually created something of a crisis in academic computer science circles, as the research in artificial intelligence has become privatized and universities cannot compete on salaries.

Despite the strong economy and the high demand for computer scientists and engineers, it’s still not that easy to get a job here. Hiring managers have high standards, and you really need to know your stuff. Most interviews are pretty arduous, with multiple stages and with batteries of technical tests that one has to go through. I have heard multiple references to a book titled “Cracking the Coding Interview” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, which is now in its 6th edition and has become a guidebook for those looking to run the Silicon Valley gauntlet. Overall I think it is good thing that the better companies are not willing to compromise on quality in this job market. Certainly it is good for us in academia who are trying to motivate students to do their best. A diploma alone isn’t going to cut it; one really has to put in the work and develop the skills and knowledge that that diploma represents.

A third impression was really just a confirmation of a bias that I have had for many years, but it really seemed to come through loud and clear. We heard in meeting after meeting that the best preparation for a career leading to technical management, leadership, or entrepreneurship, starts with a technical degree in engineering or computer science, in most cases leading to a first job that is also technical in nature. There are no shortcuts here. We saw plenty of examples where the actual subject matter of the undergraduate degree was not closely related to the work 20 years later: the Assistant Treasurer for risk and strategy at Alphabet (parent company of Google), someone who is responsible for billions of dollars in investments, holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech. Likewise the person in charge of global supply chain for HP, Inc., holds a Michigan Tech BS in Electrical Engineering. At every turn we heard that a technical background teaches one how to think analytically and quantitatively and how to solve problems, and that those skills will serve you well no matter where your career takes you. There is no rule that says that someone with an engineering education will be an engineer for the rest of his or her life, but it is absolutely a great way to start out. I have written it here before, but it bears repeating: build your house on rock, not on sand.

Finally, I learned that the companies that are really successful are the ones that think long-term and are willing to take risks. This is the key to the meteoric success of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, companies that are not thinking about next year or 5 years from now, but 100 years from now. When they see the right opportunity, they are willing to place their bets and not insist on an immediate payoff. This is not to say they are foolhardy however. Our contact at Google reinforced something I remember vividly from the book How Google Works, by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, which is that in those boardrooms, decisions are based on data. One never goes to a meeting at Google to argue for some new initiative without the data to back it up. Of course, this requires that the company have experiments going all the time to generate that data, and this is one of the reasons there are so many opportunities for Google employees to have their own little side projects. Obviously this is a very engineering approach to corporate long-term strategy, but it certainly seems to be working for them.

Taking the long view, being willing to be bold and take risks, making decisions using data and careful analysis – sounds to me like pretty good advice for a university like Michigan Tech.

– Dan

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

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Postcard from Colorado

Fuhrmann at Steamboat Resort

Even department chairs get to take a break every once in a while. Here is a photo taken on Thursday, March 8, on the slopes of Steamboat ski resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This is my second time at this resort – the first time was last year – and I just love it.

One of the things in my personal life that I enjoy most about moving to Houghton some ten years ago is that it has rekindled in me an appreciation for outdoor winter sports. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing at Steamboat if it weren’t for our little ski hill in Houghton, Mont Ripley, which is owned and run by Michigan Tech. It is only 450 feet vertical and has two chair lifts and a T-bar, but the lake effect snow we get is every bit as good as what you will find in the big resorts out west. What it lacks in size it makes up for in convenience. I can go over on the weekends or after work and practice my technique (which still needs a lot of work) or just have fun. I started going my second year at Tech, first with rental equipment, then buying my own inexpensive gear at a ski swap, and later getting even better equipment as the years went by and it became obvious to my family how much I was enjoying it. This year I even took lessons from ski instructor Dan Dalquist, who is terrific and helped me a lot. So, kudos to Nick Sirdenis and his whole crew over at Mont Ripley: you do a great job and help make Michigan Tech the unique place that it is. Keep up the good work!

– Dan

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

Pearce Gives Invited Talk on Cutting Lab Costs

Joshua Pearce
Joshua Pearce

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) gave an invited talk on “How to Eviscerate Lab Costs: Advances in Materials, Electronics and 3-D Printing for Scientific Equipment” for the Industrial Engineering program at the University of Trento, Trento Italy, last Wednesday, (Feb. 21, 2018).


Red Hat, a $2.9 billion per year open-source software company, honored Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) as one of eight instructors globally who champion open source education. Read more here.

Lisa Hitch Goes Above and Beyond

Lisa Hitch
Lisa Hitch

ECE Business Manager and Technical Communications Specialist Lisa Hitch was recognized at the 2017 Making a Difference Awards reception on January 10, 2018.

“During our recent ABET visit, our department chair was suddenly called away from our department at a critical moment in the evaluation process. Without hesitation, Lisa organized the details of the department meetings between our ABET visitors and more than 50 students, staff, and faculty in a matter of hours. As a result of her intervention, the visit proceeded without interruption. When our chair returned, he found a department visit so smoothly tuned and ready that it went forward flawlessly. Without her initiative the meetings would have been hopelessly uncoordinated and left a terrible impression on our visitors. She saved the day for all of us.”

A total of 47 Michigan Tech staff members were nominated for 2017 Making a Difference Awards. Hitch received an award in the “Above and Beyond” category. The awards are organized by Michigan Tech Staff Council.

Congratulations to Lisa!

NSF CAREER Award for Sumit Paudyal

Sumit Paudyal
Sumit Paudyal

Sumit Paudyal (ECE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received $500,000 from the National Science Foundation. The project is entitled “CAREER: Operation of Distribution Grids in the Context of High-Penetration Distributed Energy Resources and Flexible Loads.”

This is a five-year project.


The number of distributed energy resources (DERs) and flexible loads such as photovoltaic (PV) panels, electric vehicles (EVs), and energy storage systems (ESSs) are rapidly growing at the consumer end. These small distributed devices connect to low voltage power distribution grids via power electronic interfaces that can support bi-directional power flows. Despite being small in size, if aggregated, these devices a provide significant portion of the energy and ancillary services (e.g., reactive power support, frequency regulation, load following) necessary for reliable and secure operation of electric power grids. In future distribution grids, with numerous such small active devices, real-time control and aggregation will entail computational challenges. The computational challenges further increase when the aggregation requires coordination with legacy grid control actions which involve integer decision variables, such as load tap changers, capacitor banks, and network switches. This CAREER project concentrates around solving operational and computational issues for distribution grids with large penetration of DERs and flexible loads.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.