Category: CompEd

1010 Minutes with … Chuck Wallace

Chuck Wallace, center, at a BASIC computer tutoring session at Portage Lake District Library, Houghton.

You are invited to spend one-zero-one-zero—that is, 10 minutes—with Dr. Charles Wallace on Wednesday, December 9, from 5:30 to 5:40 p.m.

Wallace is associate dean for curriculum and instruction and associate professor of computer science in the College of Computing at Michigan Tech. Wallace is a researcher with the ICC’s Human-Centered Computing and Computing Education research groups.

In his informal discussion, Dr. Wallace will talk about computing at Michigan Tech, his research on how humans can better understand, build, and use software, and answer your questions.

We look forward to spending 1010 minutes with you!

Join 1010 with Chuck Wallace here.

Next week, on Wednesday, December 15, at 5:30 p.m., Assistant Professor Dr. Nathir Rawashdeh, Applied Computing, will present his current research work, including his use of artificial intelligence for autonomous driving on snow covered roads, and a mobile robot using ultraviolet light to disinfect indoor spaces.

Did you miss 1010 with Chuck Wallace on December 9? Watch the video below.

1010 with … Chuck Wallace, Assoc. Prof, Computer Science, December 9, 2020.


Master’s Defense: Ann Ciesla, Computer Science

Computer Science graduate student Ann Ciesla will present her master’s defense on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. The presentation is titled, “Digital Skills Assessment: A Tool for Assessing the Digital Literacy of Older Adults.”

Ciesla is advised by Associate Professor Charles Wallace, Computer Science.


Briana Bettin, Part II: Research, Mentors, Creative Energy

Briana Bettin, front, far right, with fall 2019 Computer Science dept. teaching assistants

Michigan Tech 2020 Ph.D. graduate Briana Bettin, Computer Science, is among six new faculty members the College of Computing welcomed this fall. Bettin is an assistant professor for the Department of Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

This semester, she is teaching courses including CS1121 Introduction to Programming in C/C++, and pursuing research and other projects with faculty and students.

In this, Part II of this profile of Briana Bettin, Bettin and her faculty mentors talk research, education, and novel ideas.

Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, published Oct. 28, 2020, here.

Mental models, constructing knowledge, programming analogies.

Briana Bettin’s research interests are many. They include user experience, human factors, human-computer interactions, mental models, information representation, rural digital literacy, education, engagement, retention, and digital anthropology. Her Ph.D. dissertation aims to better understand how novice programmers approach learning programming, and how their construction of programming ideas might be better facilitated.

“I delve into mental models research and explore theories for how students might construct knowledge,” she explains. “Specifically, the major studies in my dissertation explore how prior applicable knowledge might allow for transfer to programming concepts, which can feel very novel to students who have never programmed before.”

Bettin is also exploring methods for designing programming analogies, testing their application in the classroom, and observing how their use may impact student understanding of specific topics. “I take a very user experience-oriented approach, and work to apply methods and ideas from user-experience research in the CS classroom space,” she says.

Creative energy, insight, and humanity.

With Computer Science department faculty members Associate Professor Charles Wallace and Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Bettin has worked on projects studying how novice programmers communicate. She and Ureel also worked on several ideas in the introductory CS classrooms, including exploring pair programming obstacles in the classroom and in research.

“I got to know Dr. Wallace during my Ph.D., and I love getting his perspective on research ideas,” Bettin says. “He has so many interesting ideas, and he’s so fun to talk to!”

“Briana brings loads of creative energy, insight, and humanity to everything she does,” says Wallace. “We are very fortunate to have her with us.”

Passionate about Computing Education.

Other research collaborators include Lecturer Nathan Manser, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, and Senior Lecturer Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Engineering Fundamentals, College of Engineering, with whom Bettin has explored topics in technology acceptance across engineering and computer science.

“Briana has been an enthusiastic addition to our research group,” Jarvie-Eggart says, who is working with Steelman and Wallace on improving engineering students’ acceptance of programming. “She really is amazing!”

Jarvie-Eggart sat in on Bettin’s Intro to Programming class in fall 2019, and noted that Bettin’s. approach of teaching algorithmic thinking and logic—before students begin programming—helps make programming more accessible to all.

“It builds foundational knowledge from the ground up,” she says. “Our research team is very excited about using her progressive CS education approaches to teach engineers programming.”

Stefka Hristova, in Michigan Tech Humanities, has always been supportive, helping me cultivate an interdisciplinary research vision and voice,” Bettin says. “Dr. Robert Pastel has also been so valuable in helping me approach my research with strong design. He has given me a lot of insight and I am so appreciative!”

“Briana is passionate about Computing Education, and she is invested in infusing equity and diversity into the STEM field,” Hristova says.


In Part III of this article, to be published soon, Briana Bettin talks about peer mentors and friends … and they say a few words, too.


Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, here.


Leo Ureel Receives 2020 CTL Instructional Award

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

Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, is among the Deans’ Teaching Showcase members who have been selected to receive 2020 CTL instructional Awards.

The awardees will make presentations next spring semester to share the work that led to their nomination.

When their presentation concludes, each will be formally recognized with a certificate and $750 in additional compensation .

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 — Curriculum Development: Katrina Black, Senior Lecturer in Physics

Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 — Innovative or Out of Class Teaching: Libby Meyer, Lecturer in Visual and Performing Arts and Leo Ureel, Assistant Professor in Computer Science

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 — Large Class Teaching: Kette Thomas, Associate Professor of Diverse Literature in Humanities

These events will take place from 3:30-4:30 on the dates listed. Detailed titles, topics, and registration links for each presentation will be circulated in anticipation of each event.

Many thanks to the previous CTL instructional award recipients and the Provost’s office staff who were instrumental in the selection process.

Please consider suggesting instructors whom you’ve seen make exceptional contributions in Curriculum Development, Assessment, Innovative or Out-of-Class teaching or Large Class Teaching to the appropriate chair or dean so that they can be considered for the upcoming (2021) Deans’ Teaching Showcase during spring semester.


Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success

Briana Bettin, Ph.D., Computer Science: New Degree, New Position

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing

Michigan Tech Ph.D. graduate Briana Bettin, Computer Science, is among six new faculty members the College of Computing welcomed this fall. Bettin is an assistant professor for the Department of Computer Science, and an affiliated assistant professor for the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

She is teaching courses including CS1121 Introduction to Programming in C/C++, and pursuing research and other projects with faculty and students.

In August 2020, Bettin successfully defended her dissertation, “The Stained Glass of Knowledge: On Understanding Novice Mental Models of Computing,” and was awarded her Ph.D. in Computer Science.

“I’m excited to begin my faculty journey at Michigan Tech and I look forward to helping our students continue to learn skills that will allow them to create the future,” Bettin says. “Michigan Tech has always been an amazing place for me—the opportunity to continue to give back to this place that has given me so much is something I’m very grateful for.”

Bettin says that she is excited about several interesting research projects already being planned, and she looks forward to helping the College advance its educational and research visibility and standing.

Bettin is a member researcher of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems’ new Center for Computing Education, which promotes research and learning activities related to computing education.


Neopets, HTML, CSS. Here’s how Briana Bettin got everything started.

Video games caught Bettin’s interest at a young age and as she grew older, she became interested in online games like Neopets, which allows the user to develop a profile using HTML.

“So, I became excited to learn about HTML and CSS in order to express myself in those online spaces,” she says. “This also got me interested in graphic design, and both of these things combined got me hooked on the idea of creating expressive virtual spaces.”

Bettin earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, with an Application Area in User Experience and Marketing, from Michigan Tech in spring 2014. Following, while working full time as a front-end web developer at a consulting firm, in summer 2016 she completed her master’s degree online. In fall 2016, Bettin began her Ph.D. studies.

The right fit.

“I wasn’t always sure if Computer Science was ‘right’ for someone like me,” Bettin reflects. “But my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Linda Ott, would encourage me by reminding me of the vast opportunities in technology. And since I became aware of the interdisciplinary area of User Experience, my interest in programming has only grown!”

“Dr. Ott is absolutely amazing,” Bettin says of Professor Linda Ott, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “I am thankful for her, and I knew that having her as my adviser would be one of the best things I could hope for. Our working styles are very complementary, and she is a great motivator and supporter. Laura Brown and Nilufer Onder have also been great mentors, offering me wonderful advice and support whenever I talk to them.”

Bettin adds that Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, was “wonderful in helping me develop my research vision. We often bounce ideas, and he has supported my ideas and given me many opportunities to implement research ideas in the classroom. Our talks give me so much perspective and energy.”

Early teaching success, fellowships, and awards.

Bettin was a CS 1121 lab instructor from fall 2016 until fall 2019, when she became the instructor of record, teaching her first semesters as a lecturer in fall 2019 and spring 2020. That fall, she received outstanding “Average of 7 Dimensions” student evaluation scores, one of only 74 such accolades earned by faculty that semester.

But Bettin’s excellence was recognized long before, in fall 2017, when she received the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award from Michigan Tech’s Graduate Student Government.

Bettin was awarded the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship from the State of Michigan in fall 2018. She received several doctoral consortium stipends from organizations including Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), the Frontiers in Education Doctoral Symposium (FIE), and the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W).

A Google Scholar award made it possible for her to attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, which supports women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. In fall 2019, Bettin was nominated for the prestigious MAGS Teaching Award.

Part II of this article will be published soon. In the second installment we’ll learn about Briana’s teaching and research, and the faculty and peer mentors who supported her as she completed her Ph.D.


Hatti and Team Win Startup Competition

by Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Nagesh Hatti (ECE) was the lead of a startup team that took first place in a virtual entrepreneurial startup event focusing on Education, held earlier this month. The Techstars StartUp weekend was hosted virtually from São Judas University in São Paulo, Brazil. 

Hatti and team pitched “Inter-Self” a mobile-based app that focuses on the emotional health of students, combined with their interaction with fellow students, during projects and assignments. 

Hatti said the objective of their idea is to provide a feedback mechanism so instructors are aware of the overall emotional health of students, and then use that as an input to their instruction. 

Techstars Startup Weekend, in partnership with Google for Startups, is a 54-hour event created for entrepreneurs of all kinds. “It was an intense but rewarding experience,” Hatti said. “There was a lot of support and encouragement to come up with new ideas and execute on them.” 

Hatti said that many of the mentors participating in Techstars startup weekend were successful entrepreneurs who started companies at similar events.


ICC Announces Computing Education Center

The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) has announced the addition of the Computing Education Center, which promotes research and learning related to computing education. Professor Yu Cai, Applied Computing, is director of the new center.

“A special thanks to Yu Cai for stepping forward to lead this effort,” said Tim Havens, director of the ICC and associate dean for research, College of Computing.

“This has been discussed for a few years, and I’m excited about the group of people that has come together in this center,” Havens added. “I look forward to hearing about their successes.”


The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems provides faculty and students the opportunity to work across organizational boundaries to create an environment that is a reflection of contemporary technological innovation.

The research center is funded in large part through returns on grant overhead and expenditures (F&A). Commonly called IRAD funds, these quarterly distributions are allocated among the six ICC centers according to their respective research expenditures that quarter.