Tag: Teaching Showcase

Dean’s Teaching Showcase blog articles.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: David Labyak

David Labyak
David Labyak

Dean Janet Callahan has selected David M. Labyak, assistant professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET), for this spring’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Labyak will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other spring showcase members, and is a candidate for this summer’s CTL Instructional Award Series.

Labyak brings his 23 years of professional industry experience to life in the classroom. He relates engineering project examples from General Motors in manufacturing and process engineering; Copper Range Company and Raytheon Missile Systems in project engineering; and Great Lakes Sound and Vibration in simulation analysis. All offer students an endless supply of practical applications to help understand engineering theory.

Labyak first developed new assignments and restructured machine design courses MET 3242 and MET 3451. Then, he developed new graduate courses: MET 5800 and MET 5801 for the mechatronics M.S. and online course MFGE 5200 for the manufacturing engineering graduate certificate.

In these courses, Labyak relates course theory to industrial applications of sheet metal design and fabrication, mining facility maintenance, and missile assembly processes. In addition, he uses examples from his family-owned farm in Ontonagon, where he maintains tractors and farm equipment. Vibrations, reliability and fatigue in mechanical components such as bearings, gears, drive systems, clutches and brakes provide examples students can easily grasp.

Labyak’s ability to explain where and how students will utilize the course content in their careers also makes him a great recruiter and advisor. “David often volunteers to meet with prospective students and their families,” says John Irwin, chair of MMET. “His industry knowledge in terms of engineering needs provides insight to guide MET students throughout their career paths.”

MET alum Mickala Kohtz ’21 explains how Labyak was effective in teaching MET 4660 CAE and FEA Methods. “He took the time to understand the way that I learned best and would walk me through difficult concepts. Dave was always willing to help his students, whether it was after class, the weekends, and even to lend a listening ear about job offers or Senior Design help.”

Likewise, former student Joshua Olusola says Labyak is very friendly and open to students anytime you find him available, even on Saturdays. “He gave sufficient in-class practice questions to ensure that the concept was understood before he assigned homework.” MET 5801 was Olusola’s first encounter with the Simulink software, but he transitioned smoothly using instructional labs prior to lab assignments. “I would say almost every student who had a course with Dave always jumped at an opportunity to take another with him due to his exceptional teaching technique and friendly personality. These traits indeed made students more open to learning.”

Dean Callahan recognizes Labyak’s ability to connect with students. “The personal relationships that Dave is able to develop with his students demonstrates the best parts of the high-tech, high-touch education that is Michigan Tech’s trademark. He is an inspiration to us all.”

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Christopher Middlebrook

Christopher Middlebrook
Christopher Middlebrook

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Christopher Middlebrook, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), as our ninth Dean’s Teaching Showcase member of spring 2022.

Middlebrook will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Middlebrook was selected for growing his work with printed circuit board (PCB) design into something extraordinary. He recognized a training need for electronic design engineers and put all the pieces in place to address a national security problem and offer employment opportunities for Michigan Tech students.

Like most great things, it started small. Middlebrook had an idea that if students like building electronic circuits, they might enjoy designing the printed circuit boards as well. His involvement with the Institute for Printed Circuits (IPC), a trade association founded to standardize assembly and production of electronic equipment, led to an IPC student chapter being formed in ECE. He gathered free materials and used equipment from local and national suppliers and launched an undergraduate course in PCB design. It was a huge hit. Local PCB manufacturer Calumet Electronics Corporation worked closely with him to offer the students an in-depth view of the design process from schematic capture to tested and accepted final product. Calumet Electronics Director of Engineering Services Rob Cooke describes Middlebrook as a “key strategic partner.” Cooke says: “Chris continually pushes to get feedback from our company about what students need to learn to be successful. He believes, as do we, that being able to see, touch and work with materials and processes is a key to being able to design and build.”

The industry connection did not stop there. Plexus Corporation, a dominant force in the electronics manufacturing industry, has a strong interest in the strength of the electronic system design education. Christina Jufliak, Michigan Tech alumna and a manager at Plexus, learned of Middlebrook’s efforts through the department’s External Advisory Committee. She saw a benefit to both her employer and the University. In her words: “As a Michigan Tech student, I saw firsthand the school’s efforts to provide relevant and hands-on experiences for students to prepare them for their careers.”

Middlebrook worked with Jufliak, the Michigan Tech Office of Advancement and the Plexus Corporation Charitable Foundation to secure $150,000 to create the Plexus Innovation Center on the sixth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC). Jufliak summarizes: “I am very excited that the Plexus Innovation Lab will continue supporting these efforts, preparing students to take on internships and full-time positions within their respective fields.”

This professional-grade makerspace has become a lighthouse for the design, fabrication and testing of electronic systems for researchers, Senior Design and Enterprise projects across the campus. Dean Callahan comments: “Middlebrook’s educational leadership has made a difference to what students are able to design and build, right here in the EERC.”

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Timothy Eisele

Tim Eisele
Tim Eisele

Dean Janet Callahan has selected Timothy Eisele, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, as our seventh 2022 Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Eisele will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Eisele was selected for his record of engaging students in the classroom through hands-on experiential learning and relating material to real-world examples and his own research.

Among the variety of classes taught by Eisele are courses focused on the extraction of metal ions from fluids. While these align with his research expertise, available textbooks often don’t include the latest research in the field. Eisele fills that gap by working continuously to improve his class notes and handouts each year. He also develops unique in-class demonstrations and laboratories that elucidate these current topics. His priority is to make these accessible and connected to his students’ world. For example, in Hydrometallurgy/Pyrometallurgy, there is a copper electrowinning experiment students are able to conduct entirely at home. Eisele’s philosophy focuses on helping students develop a deep understanding of the subject material, so they can internalize what they are learning and remain engaged.

Callahan especially appreciates this ability to find and do science outside of the lab. “Dr. Eisele finds experiments to do — even in his own backyard,” she notes. “I recently had him as a guest for Michigan Tech’s Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites, where he relayed how he has developed a way to extract manganese and iron by using naturally occurring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.”

Chemical Engineering chair Pradeep Agrawal highlighted two other distinguishing features of Eisele’s teaching: his passion and genuine concern for engaging students. “The students readily sense his enthusiasm for the subject matter and his desire to engage them with the material,” writes Agrawal, who emphasizes that Eisele’s willingness to take time to relate class topics to the real world — while also respecting the parameters of being a student in today’s pandemic context — helps students as they master difficult topics.

“Active learning, enthusiasm for the subject, clear explanations and a strongly organized course are descriptors that align with Eisele’s approach to teaching,” summarized Callahan. “It is a pleasure to nominate Dr. Eisele for the Dean’s Teaching Showcase.”

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Melanie Watkins

Melanie Watkins
Melanie Watkins

Melanie Watkins, research assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE), has been selected for this spring’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Watkins will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other spring showcase members, and is a candidate for this summer’s CTL Instructional Award Series.

“This nomination highlights a faculty member who is incorporating Fourth Industrial Revolution concepts into the curriculum so that our graduates will be leaders in their future jobs,” states College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. “Dr. Watkins is integrating new concepts and skills into course learning outcomes and also developing new courses as industry aligns with digital and computing competencies.”

Watkins models the importance of lifelong learning. Her industrial experiences taught her to master new approaches and modeling tools to maintain a competitive advantage against other engineering consulting firms. Now in academia, she has completed multiple computing and data science courses, and remains thirsty to learn more.

Watkins used the skills she gained to design a new course first offered in spring 2021: CEE 4610/5610 Water Resources System Modeling and Design.

The course incorporates 2D hydraulic modeling with lidar data, Linux scripting, and OpenFOAM computational fluid dynamics. Additionally, Watkins included 2D modeling using lidar and computer programming in CEE 4620 River and Floodplain Hydraulics to extend student preparedness.

Watkins’ teaching approach ties the knowledge and skills students need to be successful into project-based instruction. In fall 2021’s CEE 4620, Watkins had students model and design a culvert for U.S. Highway 41 at Peepsock Creek, west of Pilgrim River, after the Michigan Department of Transportation gave a guest presentation overviewing the damage from the Father’s Day Flood. 

Former student Jenna Koenig says the Hydraulic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System and Aquaveo materials she encountered in Watkins’ class are giving her an edge.

“I have been in a unique position at my current job because I have quite a bit of experience in these areas where many of my colleagues don’t,” Koenig says. “Dr. Watkins did an amazing job with these courses and with Senior Design. I’m very prepared to tackle almost anything on any project I’ve been put on; it is a great feeling! The first couple of months have been a pretty steep learning curve, but it’s been a great experience so far. I’m thankful for her help in preparing me in a great way!”

Watkins’ efforts to keep pace with the changes in industry also make her a strong graduate student recruiter. “Melanie provides a positive impression on our junior and senior students, and she is a convincing salesperson,” says Audra Morse, chair of CEGE. “Our students want to keep their Michigan Tech connection after they complete their undergraduate degree.”

“The Water Resources Modeling Certificate, which Melanie led, is one of our most popular online certificates,” Morse adds.

“Dr. Watkins’ passion for learning permeates everything she does, and I commend her for her work in support of integrating the Fourth Industrial Revolution into the undergraduate curriculum,” concludes Callahan.

By the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders
Paul Sanders

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Professor Paul Sanders of the Materials Science and Engineering Department for this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase. Sanders coordinates MSE’s curriculum-critical capstone design course sequence, as well as the pre-capstone preparation course. Callahan notes, “Dr. Sanders has built MSE’s capstone program into a highly effective sequence that not only teaches critical design skills, but prepares his students to become highly sought-after employees.”

A six-sigma black belt engineer during his prior association with Ford Motor Co, Sanders has developed this sequence into a professionally-relevant, and sustaining experience for the department and its students. Subjects and approaches included in the MSE student preparatory course and later in capstone projects include hypothesis development, simulation and prediction, designed experiments, laboratory experiences, measurement system analysis, analysis of results, and communication skills. The amount of personal contact time and dedication that he provides the students far exceeds that which is normally expected or expended on coursework. He remains active and dedicated to its continuous improvement. In addition to and in support of these classroom duties, Sanders has been successful in securing 100% sponsorship of all capstone projects since he began leading these courses in 2010.

Sanders’ reputation as an effective and innovative educator is well known across the discipline and external to Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech’s MSE senior design teams have placed in the ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition in eight of the last nine years, taking first place in the last three; this level of success is unmatched by any other university nationwide in this international competition that began in 2008. Not surprisingly, yearly assessment and feedback from project sponsors and MSE’s external advisory board (EAB) underscore the relevance of his classroom activities to the duties of a practicing engineers, and the edge that these courses give our students. Tied to this success, Sanders delivered an invited presentation in the Materials Design Symposium at a TMS conference to summarize the successful implementation of the implementation of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME; aka the “digitalization” of MSE via the federally-advocated Materials Genome Initiative) into an undergraduate curriculum, for which Michigan Tech has been recognized as a leading example and model program.

To make his accomplishments in the classroom all the more significant and impressive, Dr. Sanders is one of Michigan Tech’s most prolific and creative researchers. He holds the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professorship of Materials Science and Engineering, and leads and supports a large, externally funded research team; typically comprised of about 8 graduate students, several undergraduate interns and co-op engineers, and four technical staff members. His research focuses on alloy development, and in particular on alloy design using computational simulation which is followed up with subsequent processing, calibration, and optimization in MSE’s materials processing facilities.

MSE Department Chair Steve Kampe said, “Paul is an amazingly dedicated teacher and an effective mentor to our students at this formative and defining time in their educational experience at Michigan Tech. He is really able to capture and nurture the essence of what makes Michigan Tech students unique and valued as engineers and scientists.”

Sanders will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

By Michael R. Meyer, Director William G. Jackson CTL.

Written by Stephen Kampe, Department Chair, Materials, Sciences and Engineering

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Jeremy Shannon

Jeremy Shannon
Jeremy Shannon

The College of Engineering has selected Jeremy Shannon, principal lecturer in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES), for this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Dean Janet Callahan selected him for teaching excellence in a field course.

Shannon joined GMES as a lecturer in 2007. He teaches a variety of courses throughout the year including Understanding the Earth (GE2000), a large course that is taken by many non-major students. Department Chair Aleksey Smirnov (GMES) says “Dr. Shannon provides a vital contribution to GMES undergraduate instruction and advising. He is an outstanding instructor and an impactful and trusted mentor.”

One of Shannon’s favorite courses is Field Geophysics (GE3900), a summer, a five-credit course required for Geological Engineering, Geology, and Applied Geophysics majors. Most geoscience programs only require a field geology course, so this class provides an extremely unique, hands-on experience for GMES students. The five-week-long class is set up like a consulting job with weekly projects. Each project uses a different geophysical technique, or a combination thereof, with specified goals. As one student put it, “Jeremy had an innate ability to connect with us all, especially on field trips. He utilized more field visits than any other professor I had at Tech. This gave me real-life scenarios and examples to help cement concepts I had learned in the classroom.”

A typical week involves fieldwork, the reduction, interpretation and modeling of data, and a final written report or oral presentation. Shannon worked for a few years in environmental consulting and likes that he can share with students his own experiences that mimic the format of this class, especially the report writing. This class offers one of the best opportunities in the GMES curriculum for practice in scientific writing, an invaluable skill that will translate directly for students that either choose employment or decide on graduate school. A recent alumnus observed that Shannon made sure the students also “focused on the hard work that occurred back in the classroom completing the reports to improve students’ report writing skills. Jeremy had very high standards for the reports. His resolve in consistent writing and proper formatting for all reports significantly influenced my use of proper documentation, even today.”

Shannon is an MTU alumnus and took the Field Geophysics class as an undergraduate in the summer of 1992. He was honored to take over the class in 2007 from his former professor and mentor Dr. Jimmy Diehl, who taught it for 25 years. He has continued and built upon this legacy to deliver a unique field experience to GMES students. In particular, Shannon has proactively worked to upgrade the geophysical equipment which is typically expensive. Over the last several years, with the help of departmental, alumni, and C2E2 funding, new seismic refraction and ground-penetrating radar systems were purchased. Other equipment includes magnetometers, electrical resistivity meters, electromagnetic instruments, and one precious gravity meter. And he makes using the equipment fun. Another student said, “Jeremy helps students to see the joy in fieldwork. He makes it exciting to see seismic waves be recorded by a geophone, or he encourages us to be patient in aligning the gravimeter.”

The class projects typically target objects or structures within tens of meters below the surface. The projects include determining depth to bedrock and water table, mapping contacts between different rock types, or locating buried metallic and non-metallic objects on the site of a Calumet & Hecla stamp mill in Lake Linden. About five years ago, Shannon collaborated with the Michigan DNR and had the class perform geophysical surveys to delineate a buried bedrock valley near McLain State Park. There is no definite surface expression of the valley as it is filled with glacial till, but a gravity survey showed that the ~3 km wide and 200 meters deep valley trends to the north through a portion of the park. The absence of bedrock near the surface where the valley is located is precisely the location where significant beach erosion is taking place. These results became part of the decision-making process, which resulted in the recent restructuring of the park layout.

Dean Callahan summarizes: “Shannon’s dedication to continually improve the field course provides a unique learning environment for our students in which they develop skills that they will use throughout their careers. He is very deserving of this recognition.”

Shannon will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer), recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Written by Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase: Jennifer Becker

Jennifer Becker
Jennifer Becker

In the midst of all of the challenges we’re facing, it’s important to continue to recognize the dedication of so many excellent instructors on Tech’s campus. That’s why Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, has selected our ninth Deans’ Teaching Showcase member: Jennifer Becker, an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department.

Becker is known by her students for her passion for hands-on learning. As an example, she seeks to create interactive learning environments for her students. CEE1001 is taught only once a year and serves all civil engineering students as well as students in other majors interested in sustainability topics. Rather than teaching a giant section of the course, which may easily exceed enrollments of 90 students, she offers two sections of the course to increase instructor-student interactions. Throughout her class, Becker employs active learning techniques to better enable her students to learn the material. This work extends beyond her own students; last spring, she received the Behind the Scenes Award for helping enterprise groups with their project.

Becker also shines at the graduate level. Many programs assume graduate students will gain the knowledge they need to be successful in their research through real-time mentoring by their advisor, making lab courses rare. She does a service for all of the environmental engineering faculty by including a wet lab component in her wastewater course to provide hands-on experience on which students can build on when they begin their research. Becker also incorporates common industry and computer tools in her classes such as Biowin, a software used to model biological, physical and chemical processes in a plant.

CEE chair Audra Morse emphasizes this connection to industry, saying “In her CEE 4502 Wastewater Treatment Principles & Design course, Jennifer offers multiple field trip sessions to the local wastewater treatment facility to make sure all class members have the opportunity to participate in this real-world learning opportunity. The field trip supports the hands-on learning and software tools Jennifer incorporates in her class. The field trip hits home how the chemical, physical, and biological processes work together in a treatment plant to achieve our design objectives. More importantly, the field trip underscores the size and complexity of the things we build.”

In these and many other ways, it’s clear that Becker’s efforts to be accessible to students are extraordinary. She makes time in the evening to offer review sessions before exams to ensure students have possible opportunities to work out misconceptions and clear up confusion before the exam. Additionally, Becker holds her office hours in the CEE Student Success Center (SSC). Surveys of students have indicated they value the group sessions that occur naturally in this space.

One of Becker’s students echoes this, saying “Becker’s dedication to her students’ learning is just one quality that raises the bar for professors everywhere. Her willingness to help students succeed extends beyond the classroom, where she responds to emails promptly and accommodates students’ needs by taking time out of her busy schedule to help them, even at odd hours, until they feel confident with the material. Becker also aids students by letting them know exactly what is expected from them and holds them to a high standard, which demonstrates true concern for her students’ education.”

Dean Callahan summarizes Becker’s contributions well, saying “It is inspiring to see faculty such as Becker who are so highly engaged with their students. Her hard work is a great help of her students’ learning, both undergraduate and graduate students alike.”

Becker will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase: Rebecca Ong

Rebecca Ong
Rebecca Ong

Janet Callahan , Dean of the College of Engineering, has selected our eighth Deans’ Teaching Showcase member: Rebecca Ong, assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering department.

Ong was selected upon recommendation by Chemical Engineering Department Chair Pradeep Agrawal for her broad innovation and use of creative teaching tools. Agrawal emphasized Ong’s efforts to “adapt to students’ contemporary learning preferences by using short videos, instant feedback, on-line quizzes, and a design expo with active learning tools like think-pair-share, iclickers, and role playing.” Agrawal also pointed out Ong’s use of a “spiral” technique where specific concepts are revisited through spaced practice, and her efforts to “connect the dots” with topics from previous classes, including statistics and data handling, computational tools, technical communications and global issues.

Ong confirms that she makes repetition —and variation—a priority. In her words, “Repetition of material is key for retention. Even with the clearest instruction, few people will completely understand a new problem the first time that they encounter it. Students need to be exposed to important points multiple times, and in different ways.” She starts each class with retrieval practice, and she attempts to bring content back with “increasingly large gaps between the reinforcement” as her quizzes often cover a mix of new and old content.

Her work to embed skills in the discipline comes from her sense that things are “most engaging and best learned when linked to a context students care about.” One excellent example of this is a recent project where students had to conduct an environmental impact assessment regarding the overseas construction of a chemical plant. She elaborates, “Students had to interview someone from another country or with many years experience living in another country to give a local community member’s perspective on the proposed construction of the facility in their hometown.” Student feedback about this project indicates that students change their analysis from whether a plant was technically feasible to consider whether it should be built, considering the environmental and social aspects.

But perhaps the biggest reason for Ong’s selection was her affinity for trying new things in her teaching. Again, her own words say it best: “I like to try new things all the time, whether teaching styles, new activities, new assignment styles, new technology or tools in the classroom. Sometimes these work well and sometimes they don’t. I always tell the students when I’m experimenting and try to get feedback about specific things I’m trying for the first time.” One recent example was creating video interviews of other on-campus faculty to use as “guest-lecturers” in a course because scheduling them live was impractical.

Callahan summarizes her nomination by saying “Rebecca’s philosophy of meeting students where they are at intellectually keeps students engaged with the material and really improves their learning. It is impressive that Dr. Ong keeps trying new things in her classes, trying to keep them fun for the students while figuring out the best way for students to learn the material.”

Ong will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase: Aneet Narendranath

Aneet Narendranath
Aneet Narendranath

Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, has selected our fifth Deans’ Teaching Showcase member—Aneet Narendranath, senior lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics department.

Narendranath received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech in 2013. Prior to starting as a lecturer at Michigan Tech in 2015, he worked on a research problem as part of a one-year professional development opportunity through a collaboration with the French Nuclear Commission as an Engineer-II.

Since his return to Tech, Narendranath has built a reputation as a creative and inspiring teacher. He is passionate about exposing his students to the latest advances in research in the courses he teaches. His efforts have resonated with the students, as evidenced by his selection as a finalist for the ME Teacher of the Year award for the past two years.

This selection is especially notable considering that he’s been asked to teach a wide variety of courses from sophomore to graduate-level. Narendranath has taught statics, thermodynamics, mechanics of materials, heat transfer, ME Practice 2 and 3, finite element methods, computational fluids engineering, advanced fluid mechanics, and has served as a senior design project advisor.

Callahan selected Narendranath, however, for his “work on integrating big data into the mechanical engineering curriculum and his eagerness to share his teaching innovations by regularly publishing at conferences.” In the fall of 2018, the ME-EM department started a curriculum innovation to determine the knowledge and critical skills for the ME undergraduate and graduate curriculum of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for our students to use in the solution of engineering design problems. This 3-year effort includes choosing topics and determining courses, and Narendranath immediately took the challenge.

As he implements these curricular innovations, Aneet has begun publishing and presenting them in premier engineering education journals and conferences. He made presentations at the national ASEE conferences in 2016 and 2017 with another pending review in 2020, and has publications pending in 2020 with IEEE and the International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education.

Narendranath has also innovated and published in his long standing role as the coordinator of the ME-EM Engineering Learning Center (ELC). Here, he designed, wrote the source code, and implemented a Raspberry Pi-based Learning Center usage tracking system for optimal resource allocation. The system uses data gathered from the operation of the ELC to show trends in usage, which can be used to indicate which courses are using the centermost frequently, enabling the ELC to arrange for cost effective staffing. This work was published in IEEE Frontiers in Education in 2018.

William Predebon, Narendranath’s chair, summarizes by saying “Narendranath has a passion for learning, and that passion comes through in his teaching. He is a thoughtful and dynamic instructor with groundbreaking and inspirational ideas that serve to enhance the educational experience of the students in his classes.”

Narendranath will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase: Tim Schulz

Tim Schulz
Tim Schulz

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Tim Schulz (ECE) as the final member of the 2019 Deans’ Teaching Showcase. As a teacher he is widely acknowledged as one of the ECE departments best, with his friendly, humorous style and his devotion to his students’ learning. But Schulz’s selection here is, according to Associate Dean Leonard Bohmann for his “leadership in using technology to deliver technical material in electrical and computer engineering.”

Starting in 2012, Schulz created a series of 10 to 15 minute videos collectively titled “Electric Circuits” and posted them on YouTube. Though he created them with his EE2111 (Electric Circuits 1) class in mind, they are reaching a much wider audience. In fact, one titled “Introduction to Thevenin Equivalent Circuits” has gotten more than 152,000 views.

Since that time, Schulz has also developed a phone app of randomized electric circuit problems to use in this course. He develops these aids so students can develop a mastery of the course material. As one student noted, “The videos and the infinite practice problems were the most helpful. As much as I hate to say this, the quizzes were also helpful.”

In his courses, Schulz develops from scratch his own interactive web-based approach to homework sets and quizzes, taking full advantage of the capabilities of Canvas and writing his own scripts for generating homework problems with randomized parameters. His colleagues recognize this, and some have adopted Schulz’s materials when they teach the same classes.

Most recently, Schulz has taken the lead in developing new courses for the online MSEE program with a focus on communications and signal processing, in partnership with Keypath Education, Inc. He developed and is teaching for the second time, EE5300, Mathematical and Computational Methods in Engineering, which is the entry point into the program.

His course engages students through a series of interactive MATLAB computational exercises which meet modern standards for online course delivery and are breaking new ground for the ECE Department.

Students find this approach to be very helpful. One said, “The canvas structure paired with the lecture truly was a great combination. The prep work must have been substantial but was well worth it.”

Another provides even broader praise of both Schulz and the course by saying, “The course is excellent and engaging. Overall, I think this class is a must for any student wishing to have a solid starting foundation in graduate studies in engineering. Dr. Schulz is an outstanding professor with extensive research and professional experience and I would totally recommend students to take this class.”

Schulz is currently developing the third course for the online MSEE program, EE5500 Probability and Stochastic Processes, which will be taught for the first time this summer. He agrees that developing an online course is much more rigorous then teaching face-to-face, saying “You need to do more planning of how to approach a topic. You don’t have the ease of correcting an approach (or even an equation) in real time, so it is a much more deliberate process.”

However, this higher level of rigor is a challenge he enjoys; he’s already signed on to develop his next course, EE5521 Detection and Estimation Theory, which will be offered online for the first time sometime in 2020-2021 academic year.

Callahan emphasizes that it’s really about the technology enabling better learning. In her words, “Tim Schulz’s effective use of technology shows that student learning and satisfaction can both increase with the use of modern tools.”

Schulz will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members and is now elgible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

By Michael R. Meyer, Director William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.