Category: News

Kyle Ludwig on Pitching Looma

Kyle Ludwig CMU NVC
Kyle Ludwig at CMU NVC

Kyle Ludwig, a fourth-year computer engineering student from Traverse City, Michigan, comments on the recent Central Michigan University New Venture Competition business pitch for funding.

We competed in CMU NVC business pitch competition for funding. If you’ve ever seen Silicon Valley on HBO, it’s like a the student version of TechCrunch Disrupt. Outside the satire, there are opportunities for us to meet investors, other entrepreneurs, and compete for $80,000 in funding. For almost two years, I’ve been beginning my startup Looma to automate meal planning to eat consistently healthy without the worry of time, depriving, or unsuccessful outcome. We’ve asked for a lot of direction from people, books, blogs and more to be systematic in our company intent and product development. Michigan Tech has helped not only with advice and resources through the Pavlis Honors College, but with continuous support we’ve gained from students and faculty as we get ready to launch our app.

According to Ludwig, Michigan Tech has helped not only with advice and resources through the Pavlis Honors College, but with continuous support the venture group gained from students and faculty as they get ready to launch their app. There are challenges to overcome in entrepreneurship:

When you want someone’s advice, don’t ask for it. Ask for the tools on how to learn what they know. Books are more valuable than quick responses.

The event took place on March 24, 2017.

FWF: A Special 50th Anniversary

ECE Academy inductee Patricia (Pat) Anthony, BSEE 1967
ECE Academy inductee Patricia (Pat) Anthony, BSEE 1967

Welcome to another Monday morning edition of FWF. As was the case earlier this month, all the action last week took place at the end of the week, so I needed the weekend to catch my breath. But what a week it was: final exams, commencement, and a very special recognition ceremony in the ECE Department.

The spring commencement ceremony was held Saturday morning in the hockey arena at the Student Development Complex. This is always a wonderful celebration and I love being a part of it. This spring the department sent off 7 PhD students, 76 MS students, and 92 undergraduates, and most of them were there to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. These are some pretty big numbers for us, especially the graduate students, and that contributed a little bit to the ceremony being some 3 hours long this year. Here’s a little confession: on Friday a number of guests in the department asked me how many students we were graduating, a number that someone in my position would know, one would think. This happens every year and I am always caught short. I usually don’t know until I open my commencement program and start counting!

One of those students was Marco La Manna, my first PhD graduate at Michigan Tech. Marco did his PhD dissertation in radar signal processing, and is now a post-doc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was a very nice moment to be a part of Marco’s hooding ceremony, and I know the same is true for all of our other PhD graduates and their advisors. Growing the PhD program is a key component of our departmental strategic plan, so being able to make an individual contribution to that effort was very gratifying. The personal and professional relationship that I have developed with Marco and his wife Samantha over the past few years is equally satisfying.

The main event for me this year was not commencement itself but rather a special event that took place the day before and rolled right into commencement. This year we recognized the first woman graduate of the ECE Department, Patricia Anthony, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her graduation in 1967. Pat was inducted into the ECE Academy on Friday afternoon, in a well-attended ceremony in the social area on the 5th floor of the EERC.

Pat came to Michigan Tech in 1963 following graduation from high school in Grandville, Michigan. She entered with interests in math and science, as one might imagine, and while here she was VP of the Lambda Beta sorority, a DJ at the Wadsworth Hall radio station, and was a member of the U.S. Army ROTC auxiliary, the Silver Stars. She graduated from Michigan Tech in 1967 with the degree Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, the first woman to do so at Tech. Immediately after graduation Pat took a position with IBM, where she spent most of her career. Her first assignment was in Kingston, NY, as a diagnostic engineer for large mainframe computers. She later transferred to Detroit as a systems engineer working in data communications. She become well-known within IBM as an expert in the area, and later took on responsibility for teaching data communications management to IBM customers. Her later assignments were in Dallas, Tampa, and Midland. Throughout her professional career Pat found time for community service activities, including Junior Achievement, United Way, and the Girl Scouts.

Again, one would think that someone in my position would have been aware of Pat’s story for a long time, but in fact I did not know about it until I received an e-mail this past January from her brother, Col. Stephen Anthony (USAF retired), nominating her as a distinguished graduate. At first I did not believe that the first woman graduate of the department would have been as late as 1967, but I checked with Brenda Rudiger, head of Michigan Tech Alumni Relations, and indeed it was true. Brenda also pointed out that this was Pat’s 50th anniversary year. That set everything in motion which eventually led to this weekend’s events. Not only was Pat honored in the ECE Department, she was recognized briefly by the provost during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday morning, and she attended commencement in the presidential skybox and got a shout-out from President Mroz in his opening remarks.

Pat was inducted into the ECE Academy on Friday afternoon, in a ceremony that was unusual for us for recognizing a single individual. We had a number of speakers lined up, all of whom were insightful, inspirational, and brief: Jackie Huntoon, Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs; Wayne Pennington, Dean of the College of Engineering; Martha Sloan, Professor Emerita in ECE and the first woman president of the IEEE; Linda Ott, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Computer Science; Glen Archer, Associate Chair of the ECE Department; and Rachel Kolb, Treasurer of the Michigan Tech student branch of the Society of Woman Engineers. In one way or another, everyone spoke to the value of pioneers like Pat in paving the way for other women in STEM fields. Pat herself got the last word, and recounted her experiences at Tech, her experiences in industry, and in an emotional closing she touched on the importance of service activities like Junior Achievement that encourage young people of all stripes to pursue their dreams.

One thing that really struck me about Pat’s remarks was how extraordinarily generous she was to the male professors in the EE Department in the 1960s who simply did not know what to make of a women engineering student. It would be easy to dismiss these men as dinosaurs, but Pat chose a different path. She realized that these were men who were raised in an earlier generation by both their fathers and their mothers to treat women in a certain way, and a woman in the engineering classroom was disruptive to their worldview. Pat was able to persevere in spite of their resistance, and in the end her talent and skill won the day. One could probably make the argument that being able to see the world through the eyes of another is a highly valuable interpersonal skill, and one that Pat used to her advantage as she moved up through IBM. (Note: I realize full well that one should only take this argument so far.)

An event like this, recognizing the first woman graduate of the EE Department, gives us the opportunity to reflect on where we have come in the past 50 years with regard to women enrollment in STEM fields. To this day we still struggle in the ECE Department, with undergraduate female enrollment hovering around 10%. I believe in my heart that we can and should do a better job of attracting more young women into ECE. At the same time, however, I have a deep admiration and respect for the pioneers like Pat who have struggled against the odds and have come out ahead. I feel the same way about the extraordinary women that I have met in the Presidential Council of Alumnae, the advisory group to President Mroz, all of whom have become leaders in industry and civic affairs. Female students at Michigan Tech are represented in student leadership positions campus-wide in numbers much higher than their proportion of the undergraduate population, and that has been true in the ECE Department as well. There is a spirit of Sisu in the Husky women students and alumnae that sets them apart, on campus and in their careers, and being here in small numbers probably has a lot to do with that. I am not suggesting for a second that we should slow down our efforts to bring more women into ECE, nor should we ever tolerate ANY attitude that would make the ECE Department less than fully welcoming, inclusive, and comfortable for all students (that goes for faculty and staff too.) I guess I am just being somewhat wistful and counting myself as lucky for having had the opportunity to get to know the amazing women like Pat who have been, and continue to be, on the leading edge of the movement to change the face of electrical and computer engineering.

– Dan

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

Jacob Staniszewski on Job-Stealing Robots

Jacob Staniszewski
Jacob Staniszewski

This story is the second in a four part look at ‘Robots and Michigan.’ Check back next week, when we’ll bring you part three.

Jacob Staniszewski is always looking for trouble.

I strongly believe that within the next 20 to 30 years, everything that can be automated, will be,

Staniszewski says.

Armed with an electrical engineering degree from Michigan Tech, he’s signed on to his first post-college gig with FANUC (FAN-uck) – the juggernaut Japanese company behind most of the industrial robots on American assembly lines today. Now it’s Staniszewski’s duty to stir up trouble with the factory-working robots of the future.

A born-and-raised Michigander, Staniszewski’s one of a growing number in the Great Lakes State looking towards a future in industrial robotics.

Read more at Forbes, by Hilary Brueck.

Senator Stabenow Learns About Robotics and Autonomous Vehicles


HOUGHTON — U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) heard from Michigan Tech faculty and students about projects related to the Great Lakes during her April 1, 2017, visit to the university’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) in Houghton.

Cameron Burke, Michigan Tech student in computer engineering, said he was excited to be working with the robotics program and autonomous vehicles and would probably focus on these in graduate school in the future. For example, he noted some of the experiments include sending the vehicles out into the snow or rain to determine how they could be safer than a regular car.

Read more and watch the videos at Keweenaw Now, by Michele Bourdieu.

Joan Becker is a Lean Facilitator

Joan Becker
Joan Becker

Michigan Tech’s new Lean facilitators were recognized April 11, 2017. These new facilitators completed a six-month training program with classroom learning and work-related projects. They received in-depth training on team building, conflict management, organizational change, facilitating techniques and Lean methods and tools. They are now ready to join the current Lean facilitators and will spread continuous improvement using Lean thinking across the University.

Among the graduates is Joan Becker, ECE Graduate Program Coordinator.

For more information about the Lean facilitator training, contact

Original story by the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Joan Becker
Joan accepts her certificate of completion.

Fridays with Fuhrmann: Autonomous Huskies on the Move

autodrivechallengeIt has definitely not been a quiet week in Houghton. Some pretty exciting news in the ECE Department was made public, and I will share that with you shortly below. There was also some bittersweet news for the entire university, and I think it best if I lead with that. This past Wednesday, two days ago, our university president Glenn Mroz announced in an e-mail to the campus community that he was stepping down as president and returning to the ranks of the faculty, effective June 30, 2018. That date is over a year away, so there is plenty of time for an orderly transition in the administration, and also plenty of time for reflections and best wishes which I am certain will be ample as the date approaches. President Mroz has worked tirelessly on behalf of Michigan Tech and is much loved by the university community. The institution has made some important strides forward under his leadership. I will leave it at that (for now), and just add that we have an interesting year ahead of us.

Now on to the good news. On Wednesday it was announced that Michigan Tech is one of 8 universities in North America selected to participate in the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge. This is a collegiate competition, jointly sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), with the goal of having students design, build, and test a fully autonomous vehicle. The students will take an existing vehicle – a Chevy Bolt, donated as part of GM’s sponsorship – and outfit it with sensors, processing, and control strategies to make it autonomous, over a period of three years. It is an ambitious project, with an ambitious goal, and I couldn’t be happier that we will be a part of it.

There was a competition just to get into the competition. The Michigan Tech team that prepared the winning proposal was led by Prof. Jeremy Bos of the ECE Department, who worked closely with Prof. Darrell Robinette of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. There was also close cooperation with Rick Berkey of the Pavlis Honors College, who is responsible for much of the oversight of the Michigan Tech’s signature Enterprise Program. The reason behind the Pavlis participation is that the competition activity will take place in the Robotic Systems Enterprise, which is hosted in the ECE Department but which includes membership from other parts of campus, most notably ME-EM and Computer Science. Next year Prof. Bos will take over as faculty advisor for the Robotic Systems Enterprise, and AutoDrive will comprise a major portion of his teaching assignment.

The announcement was made on Wednesday with much fanfare at the SAE World Congress, a large technical conference and exposition for automotive engineers held at CoBo Hall in downtown Detroit. There was a big lunch for all the winning teams and then a ceremony, with speeches by representatives of GM and SAE and announcements of the winning teams with plenty of photo opportunities, for ourselves and for the press. It was a wonderful moment. SAE was extraordinarily generous with us and the other teams, paying for all the travel expenses to attend the conference and particularly the announcement event. There were four us on hand – Jeremy, Darrell, ME-EM chair Bill Predebon, and me.

We had a chance to meet the other teams; they are:

Kettering University
Michigan State University
University of Toronto
University of Waterloo
North Carolina A&T State University
Texas A&M University
Virginia Tech

I have a lot of respect for these other institutions and I know the competition will be stiff. I welcome the opportunity to see how Michigan Tech stacks up.

I am excited about this turn of events for several reasons. First off, I have been advocating for the past year or so for the ECE Department to have a larger footprint in the areas of the robotics, control, and automation. A lot has been coming together in this regard, e.g. the growth of the Robotic Systems Enterprise, some changes to the curriculum, and development of our research programs, but this may very well become our most visible activity in the area. I have to add, this is not just about ECE: it will be a team effort involving ECE, ME-EM, and CS. This is a great opportunity for these three units to show what can accomplished when we break down the silos a little bit and work toward a common goal. In doing this we will meet another objective of mine, which is to ensure that our work is beneficial to the state of Michigan and the larger Great Lakes region. I see a renaissance in the state that is driven in part by the development of new technologies surrounding the “mobility” area, which leverages the considerable engineering talent that already exists here. Engineers who can cross disciplinary boundaries among ME, EE, and CS are needed to keep this movement vital. I want Michigan Tech to be known as an institution that is doing its part for the economic growth and revitalization of the region, through both our research and through educational programs that meet the state’s workforce needs.

I also believe a program like the GM/SAE AutoDrive Challenge will do a lot to stir the imagination of new and prospective students at Michigan Tech. A lot of high school students that come to campus have experience in FIRST Robotics, and when they visit us the first thing they want to know is, what do we have going in robotics? Do we ever have an answer now: how would you like to be part of a team building a fully autonomous vehicle? The aspiring engineers in FIRST Robotics – and just yesterday I met a very capable and enthusiastic team at the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Armada, Michigan – have the passion and the drive to see this project through to a successful conclusion as they mature as college students. I predict we are going to see another jump in enrollment in ECE and ME-EM as word of this competition gets around.

We see a lot in the popular press these days about autonomous vehicles and how quickly the technology is developing. I think this is the “moon shot” for the current generation. We may not know how we are going to get there, but it is pretty clear that we are going to get there one way or another. In analogy with the original moon shot in the 1960s and 1970s, this effort may be more valuable for new spin-off technologies that result than it is for the stated goal. If you think about it, what did we really accomplish in 1969? We put some men on the moon, they drove around in buggies, and collected some rocks – big deal. What was really launched in the NASA lunar missions was an entire electronics and computing industry, with far-reaching consequences leading right to present day and far beyond. The same may happen with autonomous vehicles, as entirely new paradigms for sensing, processing, and artificial intelligence give rise to new life-altering technologies that we cannot even imagine today.

When President Mroz issued his open letter to the campus community on Wednesday, he included this critically important statement: “I have no intention of allowing Michigan Tech to lose its forward momentum.” The AutoDrive Challenge is a perfect example of that forward momentum. There may be transitions and uncertainty in the university’s future, just as in the landscape of mobility technologies, but that is no reason to look to the future with anything less than optimism and a sense of wonder about the possible. I wish our AutoDrive team all the best of luck, and will do everything I can to support them. Game on!

– Dan

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

Robotic Systems Enterprise Visits Jeffers High School

RSE-jeffers-outreach-20170327Michigan Technological University’s Robotic Systems Enterprise (RSE) recently made a visit to nearby Jeffers High School to introduce students to robotics and programming.

Responding to a request from Mr. Sam Kilpela, Jeffers Science and Math teacher, the RSE Outreach team presented an introduction to Scratch and showed off their programmable miniature robots, the Hackbots and Zumos.

The Scratch programming language lets the user create a program from a drag-and-drop system, making it much easier to learn as an introductory venture into programming. Since the students had previous knowledge of basic HTML, the Outreach team provided a look into more advanced programs such as the interactive Madlibs where the students could choose a series of words and generated a sentence from those words.

Through on-site demonstrations in the classroom, the Outreach team hopes to give pre-college students a look into the world of robotics and other STEM fields.

Robotic Systems Enterprise is an industry-driven enterprise that focuses on seamlessly integrating exceptional knowledge in electronics, robotics, and programming to solve real world engineering problems. RSE is advised by Dr. Glen Archer.

Blue Marble Security Tours Georgia-Pacific

L-R: Matt Hargas, Victoria Fueri, Andrew Tallman, Johnathan Presti, Sandra Cvetanovic, Kyle Domas
L-R: Matt Hargas, Victoria Fueri, Andrew Tallman, Johnathan Presti, Sandra Cvetanovic, Kyle Domas

Members of Blue Marble Security Enterprise went right to the source this week to gain knowledge of their project sponsor’s operations and products.

Georgia-Pacific engineers, and Michigan Tech alumni, Mitch Edbauer (ECE) and John Cretens (MEEM) hosted the site visit and provided a tour of GP’s Green Bay-Broadway Paper Mill. The students were impressed by the company’s process automation, where they saw entire sections of the plant controlled by a single person. They were equally impressed by Georgia-Pacific’s environmental commitment including the use of 100% recycled fiber in their product production.

This year the BMS team has been researching ways to replace disposable batteries in automated soap and paper towel dispensers. The project includes finding alternative energy and methods to more efficiently disperse the products.

Blue Marble Security is a virtual company of undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology. The Enterprise is advised by Dr. Glen Archer.

Brian Flanagan Receives 2nd Place in 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium

flanagan-PosterBrian Flanagan, a computer engineering major, was among the winners of the 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium held on Friday, March 17 in the lobby of the Rozsa Center.

A record number of abstracts and posters were submitted this year – an astonishing 71 – representing every school or college on campus. Flanagan was awarded Second Place for his research on “The Effects of Uncertain Labels on Damage Assessment in Remotely Sensed Images”. Faculty advisor was Tim Havens, ECE and CS William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor.

The annual Symposium is conducted by the Pavlis Honors College and highlights the amazing cutting-edge research being conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduate students.