Author: Sue Hill

MTU Team Among Winners of TiM$10K Challenge

Group of five team members.
L-R: Brian Parvin, Paul Allen, David Brushaber, Alex Kirchner, and Kurtis Alessi

A Michigan Tech team is among the winners of the SICK Inc. TiM$10K Challenge. For the second year, students from universities around the country were invited to participate in the challenge, designed to support innovation and student achievement in automation and technology.

For the competition, teams were supplied with a 270-foot SICK LiDAR sensor and accessories, and challenged to solve a problem, create a solution or bring a new application to any industry that utilizes the SICK LiDAR.

The Tech team members — Brian Parvin, Kurtis Alessi, Alex Kirchner, David Brushaber and Paul Allen — earned Honorable Mention (fourth place overall) for their project, Evaluating Road Markings (the Road Stripe Evaluator). The innovative product aims to help resolve issues caused by poor road markings while reducing maintenance costs and improving motorist safety.

Each team was asked to submit a video and paper for judging upon completion of its project. A panel of judges decided the winning submissions based on creativity and innovation, ability to solve a customer problem, commercial potential, entrepreneurship of the team, and reporting.

“This was a unique project in that the team was required to identify a problem and develop a solution to it that is based on SICK’s TiM LiDAR — most teams are handed a problem and asked to create a solution,” said team advisor Tony Pinar, senior design coordinator in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “I think this format allowed the team to exercise even more innovation than a ‘typical’ project.”

Pinar said the team was well organized and demonstrated an excellent work ethic from day one. “It was exciting to watch them identify a salient problem and develop a functional proof-of-concept solution despite the setbacks that affected us all after spring break,” he said.

SICK is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sensors, safety systems, machine vision, encoders and automatic identification products for industrial applications.


Soft Community Detection

Sakineh “Audrey” Yazdanparast (ECE), Timothy C. Havens (CC), and Mohsen Jamalabdollahi have authored “Soft Overlapping Community Detection in Large-Scale Networks via Fast Fuzzy Modularity Maximization,” which is available under the “Early Access” area on IEEE Xplore.

Extract

Soft overlapping clustering is one of the notable problems of community detection. Extensive research has been conducted to develop efficient methods for non-overlapping and crisp-overlapping community detection in large-scale networks. In this paper, Fast Fuzzy Modularity Maximization (FFMM) for soft overlapping community detection is proposed. FFMM exploits novel iterative equations to calculate the modularity gain associated with changing the fuzzy membership values of network vertices. The simplicity of the proposed scheme enables efficient modifications, reducing computational complexity to a linear function of the network size and the number of communities.

Citation

S. Yazdanparast, T. C. Havens and M. Jamalabdollahi, “Soft Overlapping Community Detection in Large-Scale Networks via Fast Fuzzy Modularity Maximization,” in IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems.

DOI: 10.1109/TFUZZ.2020.2980502


Jeremy Bos on the Wild West of Automotive Lidar

Photonics Focus cover with infrared photo of a car.

THE CITY OF HOUGHTON is in the far north of Michigan’s upper peninsula, along the southern shore of Lake Superior. It’s famous for two things: the notable engineering school, Michigan Technical[sic] University, and being two miles past the end of the Earth. It’s more than 200 miles away from the closest freeway, and averages 250 inches of snowfall per year.

Jeremy Bos, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, finds this environment ideal for research on autonomous vehicles (AV).

Read more at SPIE Photonics Focus, by Gwen Weerts.


Elementary Students Build Circuits

Last Friday (Jan. 31, 2020), students from Michigan Tech, along with the Lake Linden-Hubbell eighth grade eCYBERMISSION team, visited the fifth-grade classes at Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Elementary. Students in each fifth-grade class learned about electrical engineering by making circuits from Play-Doh, creating a paper circuit, and building a small wiggling “BouncyBOT.”

The fifth graders were very curious about Michigan Tech and what it means to be a college student in engineering. They asked the Tech representatives about projects they had worked on during their time on campus, as well as what they did in high school to get ready for college.

These students—coming together from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mind Trekkers—represent the great characteristics of the Tech community: they stepped up to give back through hands-on engagement with engineering and science.


The Nine Oh Six Podcast

Michigan Tech alumna Archita (Sivakumar) Fritz ’06, recently launched and co-founded the Nine Oh Six podcast. The Nine-Oh-Six is a global podcast co-hosted by lifelong friends Meha (Pandey) Chiraya (Houghton High School ’06) and Fritz.

The name of this podcast is the area code (906) of the Upper Peninsula, which is where Meha and Archita’s friendship began, and is an ode to the sense of community they both experienced as young adults in Houghton. This podcast originated from a desire to share the stories of the extraordinary women in their lives, within their networks and communities, who are forging a path forward.

Too often podcasts and interviews are focused on women at the top of the proverbial ‘success ladder’. Yet, they were constantly amazed by women in their lives who are doing extraordinary things as they define success on their own terms. The podcast provides a platform to share and inspire others with these stories.

On the most recent episode they interview a fellow Michigan Tech Alumna, Andrea (Taglione) Bouman ’11 and MBA ’12 who is an ER Physician at UP Health System – Portage in Hancock. She shares how her time at Michigan Tech helped shape her journey towards becoming a physician wanting to serve the community while building a family.

You can tune into the episode. For more inspiring stories about women who are defining success on their own terms, one can subscribe to The Nine Oh Six on any podcast platform such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitchr and others. or you can listen to the episodes at www.thenineohsix. You can follow us on Facebook at The Nine Oh Six Podcast or on instagram @thenineohsix.


Pearce Group on Solar Systems

Renewable EnergyECE student Trevor Peffley co-authored an article with Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled: “The Potential for Grid Defection of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Using Solar Photovoltaic, Battery and Generator Hybrid Systems“, which was published in Renewable Energy.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2019.12.039

Based on the results of this study it is clear that it is already technically and economically viable for all scales of commercial utility customers to install a solar, battery and natural gas hybrid electricity generation system.

In the News

Joshua Pearce’s (MSE/ECE) research on bifacial solar photovoltaic (PV) performance in the snow was covered by PV Magazine.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) is quoted in “2020 energy trends affecting consumers” published in Save.

In Print

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) coauthored a study “Performance of Bifacial Photovoltaic Modules on a Dual-Axis Tracker in a High-Latitude, High-Albedo Environment” published in the Conference Proceedings of the IEEE Photovoltiac Specialists Conference (PVSC). 

New Funding

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE/IMP) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $182,580 research and development cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project is entitled, “The Energizer Bunny: Dual-Use Photovoltaic and Pasture-Raised Rabbit Farms.”

Chelsea Schelly (SS/IMP )is the Co-PI on this potential 15-month project.


Synchrophasor Data Project Funding for Chee-Wooi Ten

Chee-Wooi Ten
Chee-Wooi Ten

Chee-Wooi Ten (ECE/AIM) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $99,732 research and development cooperative agreement with the University of California Riverside. The project is entitled, “Discovery of Signatures, Anomalies, and Precursors in Synchrophasor Data with Matrix Profile and Deep Recurrent Neural Networks.” This is a 17-month project.

By Sponsored Programs.


Former EE Department Head Keith Stanek Passes Away

Eldon Keith Stanek
Eldon Keith Stanek

Funeral services will be held in Rolla, Missouri this morning for E. Keith Stanek, former head of Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical Engineering. He passed away Monday (Sept. 30) at the age of 77.

Stanek grew up in the Chicago area and earned bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees from the Illinois Institute of Technology (ITT). After teaching at ITT for two years, he spent 10 years at West Virginia University where he received an Outstanding Teaching Award.

In 1980, Stanek was named head of the Department of Electrical Engineering (now the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) at Michigan Tech, by Franklin Essenburg, then dean of Tech’s College of Engineering.

Stanek left Tech in 1990 to take a similar position at the University of Missouri-Rolla, which has since been renamed the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

His background in industry included positions with Commonwealth Edison and the power system consulting firm of Sargent and Lundy. He also served as a consultant for the Departments of Interior and Energy, Union Carbide and Bendex.

Stanek was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) serving on its national committee as well as the national committee of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

Listed among his survivors are his wife of 31 years, Mary Sandra, five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A full obituary is available online.

By Mark Wilcox.


Havens Discusses Artificial Intelligence in Plain Terms

Timothy Havens
Timothy Havens

Cognitive scientist and Dartmouth professor John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence (AI) in 1955 when he began his exploration of whether machines could learn and develop formal reasoning like humans. More than 60 years later, AI is the hottest tech topic of the day, from the boardroom to the breakroom.

“AI is a mathematical and algorithmic model that allows computers to learn to do tasks without being explicitly programmed to do those tasks.” –Timothy Havens, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems in the College of Computing at Michigan Technological University and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems.

For those who prefer analogies, Havens likens the way AI works to learning to ride a bike: “You don’t tell a child to move their left foot in a circle on the left pedal in the forward direction while moving your right foot in a circle… You give them a push and tell them to keep the bike upright and pointed forward: the overall objective. They fall a few times, honing their skills each time they fail,” Havens says. “That’s AI in a nutshell.”

Read more at The Enterprisers Project, by Stephanie Overby.


Ultrasound-Sensing Based Navigational Support for the Visually Impaired

Ultrasound Sensing-Based Navigational SupportECE graduate student Aliaksei Petsiuk coauthored an article with Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled, “Low-cost open source ultrasound-sensing based navigational support for visually impaired,” published in the journal Sensors.
https://doi.org/10.3390/s19173783

Low-Cost Open Source Ultrasound-Sensing Based Navigational Support for the Visually Impaired

Abstract

Nineteen million Americans have significant vision loss.

Over 70% of these are not employed full-time, and more than a quarter live below the poverty line. Globally, there are 36 million blind people, but less than half use white canes or more costly commercial sensory substitutions. The quality of life for visually impaired people is hampered by the resultant lack of independence.

To help alleviate these challenges this study reports on the development of a low-cost, open-source ultrasound-based navigational support system in the form of a wearable bracelet to allow people with the lost vision to navigate, orient themselves in their surroundings and avoid obstacles when moving.

The system can be largely made with digitally distributed manufacturing using low-cost 3-D printing/milling. It conveys point-distance information by utilizing the natural active sensing approach and modulates measurements into haptic feedback with various vibration patterns within the four-meter range. It does not require complex calibrations and training, consists of the small number of available and inexpensive components, and can be used as an independent addition to traditional tools.

Sighted blindfolded participants successfully demonstrated the device for nine primary everyday navigation and guidance tasks including indoor and outdoor navigation and avoiding collisions with other pedestrians.

Read the Open Access article at Sensors.