ECE student volunteers reached out to nearly 300 prospective students last week in the first texting campaign of the year. Volunteers answered a wide range of questions such as, “What has been your favorite class?” and “How hard IS college actually?” and “Why do you like Michigan Tech?” Photo credit: Liz Fujita, ECE academic advisor and outreach specialist.
Participants gathered in the Plexus Innovation Lab late last week to create Christmas tree ornaments, an event sponsored by the IPC & Electronics Student Chapter at Michigan Tech with some help from the Blue Marble Security Enterprise. Pictured are students creating their ornaments using the pick and place machines within the lab, and others optically inspecting the boards’ soldered connections to detect and identify defects. https://www.involvement.mtu.edu/organization/ipc-electronics
On a Mission to Make Hundreds of Outreach Kits, ECE Hosts Work Bees
by Liz Fujita
On multiple evenings in October, the lab space in EERC 722 was the image of organized chaos. Bags of LEDs, resistors, capacitors, switches, and batteries spilled out on lab benches, waiting to be counted out into bags. Soldering irons heated up, fume-extracting fans whirring. Empty boxes steadily filled with kits ready to bring to pre-college students. With 600 hands-on outreach kits to prepare, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been hard at work this fall with the help of phenomenal student volunteers, and there is still plenty more to go.
Interim chair Dr. Glen Archer is the PI on a grant from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) for the 2020-21 academic year that focuses on getting electrical engineering projects out to pre-college students at multiple levels. Along with co-PI Dr. Gretchen Hein (MMET) and academic advisor Liz Fujita (ECE), the program centers on multiple layers of mentorship.
“It’s an ambitious idea,” says Fujita, who in addition to advising helps to coordinate outreach efforts in the ECE department. “Michigan Tech has a lot of successful outreach programs that rely on this idea of near-peer mentoring—that idea that college students presenting information is more engaging, cooler, and better-received by high school students.” The MSGC proposal calls for several layers of near-peer mentoring to take place at several schools:
College students teach high school students how to solder and the basics of electronic components with the heart rate monitor boards.
Under the guidance of those college mentors, the high school students teach middle school students similar skills on the (slightly easier) tree circuit boards.
And, lastly, the middle schoolers take bouncy bot kits to their elementary school to teach 4th and 5th graders the basics of circuits.
All of this requires a tremendous amount of preparation. In October alone, members of Blue Marble Security Enterprise and the Society of Women Engineers spent a combined 50+ hours soldering, counting, stuffing bags, and organizing materials.
ECE has on multiple occasions joined forces with the Society for Women Engineers. Funding for this project includes support for not only the activity kits themselves (circuit boards, LEDs, resistors, batteries, etc.), but also for soldering stations, storage bins, and travel to schools in the local area as well as downstate. The combined funding secured by SWE and ECE will enable them to prepare 200 of each activity kit.
Notes Archer, “Near-peer mentoring allows younger students to picture themselves in a future state. They see this person in front of them and imagine their own life, in that role.” Although current COVID-19 restrictions leave the group unsure of when they will be able to visit schools, they remain optimistic. And, as work bees continue, they will be more than ready!
The ECE Virtual Senior Recognition and Awards Ceremony was held Thursday, May 7, 2020.
Kit Cischke, senior lecturer and undergraduate program chair, presented ECE’s departmental awards.
Andrew Bratton was the recipient of the 2020 ECE Departmental Scholar Award, given to a senior who best represents student scholarship at Michigan Tech. This outstanding student is considered excellent not only by academic standards, but also for participation in research scholarship activity, levels of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and communication skills. Andrew was nominated by Academic Advisor and Outreach Specialist Liz Fujita.
The 2020 ECE Woman of Promise was awarded to Samantha Fincannon. Samantha received several nominations for this award. The goal of this program is to recognize women at Michigan Tech who go “above and beyond” what is expected of them in terms of being a well-rounded student – one who has demonstrated academic achievement, campus and community leadership, good citizenship, creativity, etc. In short, women who exemplify the early-on criteria that would be considered when selecting future inductees to the Presidential Council of Alumnae. The departments’ Women of Promise are recognized at the annual Presidential Council of Alumnae (PCA) Induction Ceremony/Luncheon held during the Fall semester. Recipients are also invited to other PCA activities where they have the opportunity to provide input on a variety of topics.
The 2020 Carl S. Schjonberg Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award was given to Katy Lichty. Katy received several nominations for the award. This award is given annually to an outstanding undergraduate student who exemplifies a dedication to learning and a commitment to the University. Professor Schjonberg was a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering Department from 1936 to 1970. He contributed significantly to the growth and development of the department and was dedicated to the education of electrical engineering students. This endowed award was established by his wife as a memorial to his long and dedicated career as an educator.
ECE’s External Advisory Committee (EAC) presented the EMP Mitigation Testing Team with the Larry Kennedy Industry Innovation Award. The team is advised by John Lukowski, and Systems Control of Iron Mountain, MI sponsored the project. Team members are Chris Bousho, Darin Shillair, Joshua Romanowski, Alexander Kellogg, Jacob Phelan, and Addison Waege.
The ECE External Advisory Committee (EAC) is a collection of volunteers from many different industries whose goal is to ensure the ECE academic program is aligned with industry to produce graduates companies would want to hire. Larry Kennedy is an ECE alumnus who served on the EAC for many years and succumbed to illness while serving as chair. Each spring, the EAC members observe ECE’s senior design and enterprise team presentations and poster displays and select a team that best meets or exceeds specific criteria related to today’s industry needs. The Larry Kennedy Industry Innovation Award is given to the senior project that shows the highest level of project management, applied engineering and application to industry.
Each spring, the IEEE – Eta Kappa Nu Honors Society (HKN) polls the ECE student body to select the winner of the Professor of the Year award within the ECE Department. This event allows ECE students the opportunity to thank and encourage outstanding ECE faculty.
The 2020 HKN Professor of the Year was awarded to Chris Middlebrook. The students said Dr. Middlebrook makes class fun, and takes feedback to maximize understanding. Homework is pointed toward further understanding the material taught. Says a nominator, Professor Middlebrook has taken the PCB Fabrication course and turned it into an incredible experience for students with guest lectures and the lab component. He is hoping to develop this into a focus area, and grow the department’s use for this in the future. He also has been an integral part in the foundation of the new student organization, IPC and Electronics. Dr. Middlebrook is easygoing and funny – he keeps classes light and fun while still getting the required material across.
MasterPiECE Mania is an event held each spring and sponsored by the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers) student organization and the ECE department. Students design, build and demonstrate projects and win cash prizes for the best innovation. All majors are welcome to participate. This year’s top prize of $500 was awarded to Gabe Allis for his high torque motor innovation. Second place ($300) was given to Jared Engwis for his Covid Globe innovation, and third place ($200) went to Jacob Allen for his Smart Respirator. The IEEE student organization is advised by Jeff Burl.
April 11th is Michigan Tech’s first 24-Hour Giving Challenge! Support your favorite area of campus by making a gift of any amount! There are so many opportunities throughout the day to have our gifts matched along with additional funds from generous donors. Leroy Keranen ’61 has generously agreed to donate $25,000 to the robotics engineering fund if 25 people donate any amount. Simply go to www.give.mtu.edu and click on the Robotics Engineering campaign. #goldblackgiveback
This week we learned that Michigan Tech, along with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, has been selected for a grant from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Pacesetters program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Google and Qualcomm. The aim is to develop aggressive goals and plans to increase the participation of women in computing and information technology. Michigan Tech is pleased to be recognized for its efforts to bring more women into the field. I congratulate Linda Ott from the Department of Computer Science on her leadership in bringing the grant proposal process to a successful conclusion.
This is a good opportunity for me to offer a few informal thoughts about the issue of women in electrical and computer engineering and what we can do, and need to be doing better, to bring more women into the field. This has been a conundrum for the ECE Department for a long time. We are not alone in that struggle; it is a nationwide issue. The female undergraduate enrollment in the ECE Department has hovered below 10% for many years, although there has been a very slow rise and this past fall we were at 10.8%, a minor victory of sorts I suppose. Many of us in electrical engineering are left wondering why this has to be the case. We can jump up and down and stand on our heads and say what a great field this is, and talk about all the career opportunities in EE (and I believe that with all my heart) but still that message doesn’t seem to be getting across, or at least isn’t making an impact. I will be the first to admit that I say all those things as a 58-year-old male who has had a reasonably successful and rewarding career, and that it is hard for me to see things from the perspective of a young woman about to graduate from high school.
You hear a lot of things about where the disconnect might be. It could be our culture, especially our youth culture, in which girls form opinions about themselves in middle school and high school about ability in math and science, which have little basis in truth but which they carry for the rest of their lives. It could be the professional environmental in high-tech areas like Silicon Valley, notorious for its “brogramming” culture in certain parts of the start-up world. It could be the lack of role models, in colleges and universities where electrical engineering and computer science is taught, and in industrial settings that come after. It could be that women look into the working world and just don’t see a path forward in an environment that is so dominated by men. All of these arguments have merit, and we need to be vigilant and aggressive in removing the barriers that are implied in each of them.
One often hears the argument that women are not attracted to electrical engineering because it is not a field that is “helping” or “nurturing”. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this is complete hogwash and I reject it completely. First of all, saying that all women want to be caregivers is just buying into the stereotypes that have kept them out of the field in the first place. Second, and more importantly, the idea that electrical engineering is not a “helping” field is flat-out ridiculous. I would argue that electrical engineers have done more to help humankind in the 20th century than any other professional group you can name. What is more “helping” than bringing electrical power to every home and office in the United States? What is more “helping” than creating a communication network that allows people to connect via voice, text, or video, halfway around the world, at the touch of a button? What is more “helping” than designing the technology and the systems that provide for our common defense, protecting the nation and keeping us all safe in our homes? What is more “helping” than creating the technology that brings us the aesthetic joy and pleasure of music, video, and cinema? If someone wants to make an argument in support of the medical profession, I suppose we could sit down and have a good debate, but the first thing I would point out, as I did in this column three weeks ago, is that EEs were major players in that arena too!
Now that I got that off my chest, I’ll conclude by mentioning some of the things we are doing in the ECE Department at Michigan Tech to attract more women into our ranks. The ECE Department participates in Michigan Tech’s ADVANCE initiative, an NSF-supported program designed to the hiring and retention of women faculty, thereby creating a professional environment that our students can view as a model for the industrial world. We have wonderful and creative outreach programs for middle and high school age girls, in our summer camps and during the academic year; this is led enthusiastically by our Associate Chair Glen Archer, with help from a great group of students in the Blue Marble Security Enterprise. Dr. Archer was also the ECE point of contact for the successful NCWIT proposal. We have created an ECE Women’s Center in the EERC, a space on the 7th floor where our female students can meet for academic and social interactions. We have instituted two new concentrations within the BSEE degree, in Biomedical Applications and in Environmental Applications, that have a secondary but explicit aim of attracting more women to the field. I can’t say that we have found the magic bullet yet that is going to boost our female enrollment to 20% or 30% or more, but we are giving it our best shot.
This is an issue for which there are probably as many opinions as people who think about it. On this, and any other issue for that matter, I am always open to hearing from others and having a discussion. If you have read this far and want to take it further, please feel free to get in touch.
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University
Zhaohui Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech University, received the Outstanding Service Award for her work as Information Systems Chair in the 10th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems (WUWNet), held in Washington DC, October 22-24, 2015. The scope of the WUWNet conference covers a broad range of research directions relevant to underwater networks and network-related signal processing, communications, systems, and applications. The goal of WUWNet is to bring together researchers and practitioners in areas relevant to underwater networks, and serve as a forum for presenting state of the art research, exchanging ideas and experiences, and facilitating interaction and collaboration.
An Upper Peninsula company with ties to Michigan Tech has announced a major expansion. Systems Control has begun a 70,000 sqare foot addition that will bring the total footprint of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facility in Iron Mt. to more than 315,000 square feet. This expansion comes on the heels of a 127,000 square foot expansion that was completed in 2012.
Systems Control is owned by Michigan Tech alumnus Dave Brule, Sr., ’72, who also served for several years as a member of the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees, culminating in a term as chairman in 2004.
In announcing his most recent investment in the Upper Peninsula economy, Brule stated, “Given our markets, we could have expanded our manufacturing capabilities anywhere in the country. I prefer to leverage the strong work ethic and technical expertise of residents in the Upper Peninsula. Quality and innovation are hallmarks of our success. Engineers and workers in the U.P. embody these traits.”
The additional space will be devoted primarily to the manufacture of equipment enclosures used in the electrical transmission, energy storage and oil and gas distribution industries.
Accompanying the investment in plant and equipment, Systems Control has embarked on a substantial program to develop and grow the human resource side of the business. In order to achieve its strategic goals, the company plans to add 70 to 150 people per year for the foreseeable future, possibly doubling its workforce by 2020. Immediate needs include electrical engineers, manufacturing engineers, project managers, CAD designers and many tradesmen.
In May, Systems Control established an engineering office in Houghton located in Michigan Tech’s Lakeshore Center, home of the MTEC SmartZone, on the Houghton waterfront. To learn more, visit the Systems Control website.
The Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominee for this week comes from the College of Engineering. Dean Wayne Pennington has chosen to recognize Kit Cischke, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and faculty advisor for the Wireless Communication Enterprise.
Associate Dean Leonard Bohmann indicates that the “students love Kit because he brings his practical experience into the class, showing the practical applications of the theory.” As evidence, Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering student honor society, selected Kit as their Professor of the Year in both 2013 and 2014. Bohmann continues: “Kit has the ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He works hard to get students to understand and have fun doing it.”
Kit indicates that he does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life. He also tries to “embrace technology”, using an iPad to deliver his lectures and an audio recorder so students can review them.
Kit has a long history of excellent teaching contributions at Michigan Tech. Brian Broeders, an alumnus who has been working as a product engineer for Plexus Engineering Solutions since 2009, praised Kit in a 2010 Linked In post for similar reasons. “He teaches class material in a clear and easy to understand format and his lab exercises help students make use of topics learned in class…I wish I had more instructors like him when I was in school.” Current students also praise his involvement as an organizational advisor and the fact that he really cares whether students are learning the material.
Cischke will be formally recognized with the 11 other Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominees at a luncheon near the end of spring term. Please join Dean Pennington and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in thanking Kit for his outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the College of Engineering.
Story as posted in Tech Today, March 25, 2015
The ECE Department is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Larry Kennedy, Chair of the ECE External Advisory Committee. His positive energy and generous spirit were a blessing to all who worked with him. He will be missed terribly by the ECE Department and the EAC. For a full obituary, see www.randallroberts.com