Category: HCC

Human Factors Grad Student Wins Hackathon, Cites Pandemic for Opportunity

One Michigan Tech graduate student found a silver lining of the pandemic-driven shift to remote study: the ability to gain experiences previously prevented by distance. And “gained experience” is an understatement, as Brooke Poyhonen recently was on the winning team in the Texas Health Care Challenge, an online hackathon that sought solutions to problems in health care.

The winning project, from Team WatsonCares, focused on women’s postpartum health and proposed a suite of services for new mothers:

  • A natural-language chatbot, powered by IBM Watson’s AI, to answer patient questions about both mental and physical health
  • A community feature allowing postpartum women to support one another
  • Deep informational and support resources

Poyhonen said the team came together because after hearing initial “problem pitches,” in which existing teams outline the projects they want to tackle, some were uninterested in the originally pitched ideas. So they created their own team. “Ideally, we want the chatbot to be personalized to the patient’s history,” she said. “And we wanted to create a safe space for women to talk to each other.”

Poyhonen will complete her accelerated M.S. in applied cognitive science and human factors this spring. She earned a B.S. in psychology from Michigan Tech in 2020. Both degrees are offered by the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department in the University’s College of Sciences and Arts.

The Texas challenge is normally on-site only, and she appreciated the chance to participate and urges other students to seek out similar opportunities. “It was great to meet people from around the country and work with a team on a real-world goal,” Poyhonen said. “It’s a great networking opportunity and gives me a concrete project to discuss in interviews. It was just so rewarding.”

The team’s prize included $120,000 in credits toward IBM products and services, a smaller cash award, and temporary office space with a Dallas venture capital firm. Poyhonen is working with team members on the project as a start-up while also pursuing other opportunities.

She got her first taste of hackathons over the winter in the Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Grand Challenge, run by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. The challenge was to help the up to 90% of sonographers who develop disorders such as occupational overuse syndrome. Her team, which included a sonography mentor, an engineering student and two sonography students, created the Air Buddy, a device to help sonographers apply pressure to a probe with reduced physical stress. Poyhonen’s team won first place after judges deliberated for an entire week after the month-long window for teams to work on the problem.

Kelly Steelman, interim chair of the Cognitive and Learning Sciences Department, said hackathons are great supplements to classroom experiences. “I commend Brooke for taking the initiative to seek out design challenges as a way to build her portfolio of experiences and hone the skills she’s learned in our program,” Steelman said. “Brooke took advantage of opportunities through outside organizations, but we also offer hack-a-thons right here on campus.”

She said Husky Innovate is currently planning their inaugural hack-a-thon as part of an initiative to grow the human-centered design community at Michigan Tech. For more information on this, contact Lisa Casper.

Dr. Steelman is a member of the Human-Centered Computing research group of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC).

Michigan Tech’s graduate program in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors teaches students how to apply principles of psychology to the design and evaluation of human-technological systems. Steelman said Beth Veinott, director of the Center for Human-Centered Computing, frequently reinforces for students that, “If you get the psychology right first, you design the right system, it is easier to train, and people are more likely to adopt it.”

CS Lecture: Kelly Steelman, CLS, March 19, 3 pm

The Department of Computer Science will present a lecture by Dr. Kelly Steelman, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, on Friday, March 19, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.

The title of the lecture is, “Keeping Up with Tech.”

Join the virtual lecture here.

Steelman is interim department chair and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences. Her research interests include basic and applied attention, models of attention, human performance in aviation, display design, tech adoption, and technology training.

Lecture Title

“Keeping Up with Tech”

Lecture Abstract

COVID has revealed much in the past year, including our dependence on technology and the challenges that many of us experience trying to keep up with it. Dr. Kelly Steelman has spent the past 15 years studying human attention and applying it to support the introduction of new technologies in contexts ranging from aviation to education.

In her presentation, Steelman will provide an overview of her research, using examples from Next Gen Aviation and the BASIC Digital Literacy Training Program to illustrate how understanding human attention can help us predict the consequences of introducing new technology, improve the design of technology, and support training to help people keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.


Beth Veinott to Present Lecture February 12, 3 pm

The Department of Computer Science will present a lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Veinott on Friday, February 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.

Veinott is an associate professor in the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department. She will present, “Beyond the system interface: Using human-centered design to support better collaborative forecasting.”


Speaker Biography

Elizabeth Veinott is a cognitive psychologist working in technology-mediated environments to improve decision making, problem solving and collaboration. She directs Michigan Tech’s Games, Learning and Decision Lab and is the lead for the Human-Centered Computing group of Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC).

She has been active in the ACM’s SIGCHI and on the conference organizing committees for CHI Play and CSCW. Prior to joining Michigan Tech in 2016, she worked as a principal scientist in an industry research and development lab and as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center. Her research has been funded by NIH, Army Research Institute, Army Research Lab, Air Force Research Laboratory, and IARPA.

Lecture Abstract

Teams use technology to help them make judgments in a variety of operational environments. Collaborative forecasting is one type of judgment performed by analyst teams in weather, business, epidemiology, and intelligence analysis. Research related to collaborative forecasting has produced mixed results.

In her talk, Veinott will describe a case of using cognitive task analysis to develop and evaluate a new forecast process and tool. The method captured analysts’ mental models of game-based forecasting problems, and allowed the process to co-evolve with the system design. The tool was tested in a simulation environment with expert teams conducting analyses over the course of hours and compared to a control group. Challenges and lessons learned will be discussed, including implications for human-centered design of collaborative tools.

Shane Mueller to Present Lecture Jan. 22, 3 pm

The Department of Computer Science will present a lecture, by Dr. Shane Mueller on Friday, January 22, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.

Mueller is an associate professor in the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors program of the Cognitive and Learning Science department. His lecture is titled, “Explainable AI, and principles for building human-centered XAI systems.”

Mueller’s research focuses on human memory and the representational, perceptual, strategic, and decisional factors that support it. He employs applied and basic research methodologies, typically with a goal of implementing formal quantitative mathematical or computational models of cognition and behavior.

He is also the primary developer of the Psychology Experiment Building Language (PEBL), a software platform for creating psychology experiments.

Mueller has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and psychology from Drew University, and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Michigan. He was a senior scientist at Klein Associates Division of Applied Research Associates from 2006 to 2011. His research has been supported by NIH, DARPA, IARPA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Army Research Institute, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and others.

Lecture Title:

Explainable AI, and principles for building human-centered XAI systems

Lecture Abstract

In recent years, Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) has re-emerged in response to the development of modern AI and ML systems. These systems are complex and sometimes biased, but they nevertheless make decisions that impact our lives. XAI systems are frequently algorithm-focused; starting and ending with an algorithm that implements a basic untested idea about explainability. These systems are often not tested to determine whether the algorithm helps users accomplish any goals, and so their explainability remains unproven. I will discuss some recent advances and approaches to developing XAI, and describe how many of these systems are likely to incorporate many of the lessons from past successes and failures to build explainable systems. I will then review some of the basic concepts that have been used for user-centered XAI systems over the past 40 years of research. Based on this, I will describe a set of empirically-grounded, human user-centered design principles that may guide developers to create successful explainable systems.

Robert West of DePauw University to Present Lecture Feb. 8

Dr. Robert West, the Elizabeth P. Allen Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, DePauw University, will present a lecture on Monday, February 8, 2021, at 2:00 p.m., via online meeting.

The title of Dr. West’s lecture is, “Why Josh Stole the Password: A Decision Neuorscience Approach to Insider Threat in Information Security.”

The lecture is hosted by the Human-Centered Computing (HCC) research group of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) and the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS).

Robert West Bio

Dr. Robert West received his Ph.D from the University of South Carolina in Cognitive Development, and completed postdoctoral work at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, studying cognitive aging and cognitive neuroscience.

He has been on faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Iowa State University, and is currently the Elizabeth P. Allen Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at DePauw University. He is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the Psychonomic Society, and the Midwestern Psychological Association; and a founding member of the NeuroIS Society.

West’s research interests and publications span the areas of decision neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience of aging, and cognitive control. He has served as the associate editor for the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science, and is currently associate editor for Psychology and Aging.

Lecture Abstract

Cybercrime has a significant impact on nations, corporations, and individuals. Violations of information security can reduce consumer confidence and valuation at the corporate level, and jeopardize social and financial well-being at the personal level. In this talk, I will explore the findings of some of my recent research in order to demonstrate the utility of a decision neuroscience approach to providing insight into the neural correlates of ethical decision making in the context of information security.

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.

Accessible Computing Expert Dr. Richard Ladner to Present Keynote November 13

The ICC’s Center for Human-Centered Computing invites Michigan Tech faculty, staff, students, and alumni to a keynote lecture by leading accessible design expert and research scientist Dr. Richard E. Ladner on Friday, November 13, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., via online meeting.

His talk, “Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education,” is the final event of HCC’s Husky Research Celebration, a showcase of interdisciplinary HCC research through a series of virtual lab tours, virtual mini talks, and lectures presented in a 360-degree virtual space. More details here.

Ladner is a Professor Emeritus in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, where he has been on the faculty since 1971.

His current research is in the area of accessible computing, a subarea of human-computer interaction (HCI). Much of his current research focuses on accessible educational technology.

Ladner is principal investigator of the NSF-funded AccessComputing Alliance, which works to increase participation of students with disabilities in computing fields. He is also a PI of the NSF-funded AccessCSforAll, which is focused on preparing teachers of blind, deaf, and learning disabled children to teach their students computer science.

Lecture Title: Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education

Lecture Abstract: For the past twelve years there has been rapid growth in the teaching of computer science in K-12 with a particular focus on broadening the participation of students from underrepresented groups in computing including students with disabilities. Popular tools such as Scratch, ScratchJr, and many other block-based programming environments have brought programming concepts to millions of children around the world. Code.org’s Hour of Code has hundreds of activities with almost half using block-based environments. New computer science curricula such as Exploring Computer Science and Computer Science Principles have been implemented using inaccessible tools. In the meantime the United States has about 8 million school children with recognized disabilities which is about 16% of the K-12 student population. It is generally not the case that these students are adequately served by the current K-12 computer science education or any of the block-based programming environments.

In particular, the approximately 30,000 blind and visually impaired children are left out because only a few educational tools are screen reader accessible. In this talk we address this problem by describing two programming environments that are accessible: the Quorum Language and Blocks4All. The Quorum Language, created by Andreas Stefik, is a text-based programming language whose syntax and semantics have been created to be as usable as possible using randomized controlled trials. The language is not at all intimidating to children. For younger children, Lauren Milne created Blocks4All a block-based programming environment that can be used by anyone including children who are blind or visually impaired. Blocks4All uses a touchscreen platform similar to ScratchJr and takes advantage of the fact the blind children already know how to use touchscreen devices using their built-in screen readers. The challenge for the future of K-12 computer science is to be more inclusive to all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and disability status.

Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems, for the benefit of Michigan Technological University and society at large.

The ICC creates and supports an arena in which faculty and students work collaboratively across organizational boundaries in an environment that mirrors contemporary technological innovation. The ICC’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech.

The Center for Human-Centered Computing (HCC) focuses on the research and development of novel interfaces for human-agent interaction, assistive technologies, intelligent health, computational modeling, and examining trust and decision making in distributed systems.

The Center is directed by Associate Professor Elizabeth Veinott, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a cognitive psychologist who focuses on two main areas of research: decision making and learning using serious video games.

HCC Research Expo 2020

An Immersive Exploration of Research Across Campus

The ICC’s Human-Centered Computing group (HCC) will host its 3rd annual HCC Research Expo, November 12-13, 2020, in conjunction with World Usability Day 2020.

VR-Huskies, an exciting virtual social platform that leverages 360-degree panorama technology, is the venue for the 48-hour event. Projects, brief research talks, and lab tours will be available on demand for attendees to browse at leisure. The immersive experience will be available from Thurs., Nov. 12, at 9:00 a.m. too Fri., Nov. 13, at midnight.


The HCC Expo concludes with a keynote lecture from leading accessible computing and design researcher Dr. Richard E. Ladner on Friday, November 13, at 1:00 p.m., via online meeting. Read more about Dr. Ladner here.

The aim of the annual HCC Expo is to showcase the interdisciplinary HCC research happening across campus, and to provide a a forum for Michigan Tech students to explore HCC research opportunities, tour labs, and engage in virtual discussions.

The Human-Centered Computing research group investigates a wide range of 21st century human-centered computing challenges, engaging faculty from computer science, psychology, engineering, and other Michigan Tech departments.

About VR-Huskies

VR-Huskies Virtual Social Space

VR-Huskies is an active research project led by new faculty member, Assistant Professor Ricardo Eiris, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and sponsored by the College of Engineering. It is a custom implementation of Mozilla Hubs®, an open-source platform which creates custom dynamic representations of information.

Participants can enter the VR-Huskies site with minimal effort, interacting with up to 25 others as they explore the latest research developments in human centered computing at Michigan Tech. Registration is not required. VR Huskies is accessible on any device, including head-mounted displays, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.

Eiris says that the goal of VR-Huskies is to deliver in-depth learning in a multitude of contexts, such as field trips, outreach events, and entrepreneurial activities, while engaging students in opportunities to apply critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Expected outcomes of the project include the implementation of a virtual learning environment in which Michigan Tech students can socially interact with STEM experiences and visit remote locations that are typically impossible to reach.

Ricardo Eiris received his Ph.D. in Design, Construction, and Planning from the University of Florida in August 2020. He is an educator and a researcher exploring the dynamics and implications of human-technology interactions within construction and engineering.


Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems.

The Center for Human-Centered Computing (HCC) focuses on the research and development of novel interfaces for human-agent interaction, assistive technologies, intelligent health, computational modeling, and examining trust and decision making in distributed systems.

The Center is directed by Associate Professor Elizabeth Veinott, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a cognitive psychologist who focuses on research in decision making and learning using serious video games.

Hongyu An: Curious About the World and Exploring the Unknown

by Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, ICC

“A scientist should be a person who is always curious about nature and the world, and who tries to explore the unknown.” –Hongyu An, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Hongyu An, Assistant Professor, ECE

Exploring science and technology is always exciting for new Assistant Professor Hongyu An, Electrical and Computer Engineering. He says he is “very pleased to have the chance to mentor the next generation and share my knowledge and experience with undergraduate and graduate students.”

Several things drew Hongyu An to Michigan Tech, including his observation that as an institution Michigan Tech cares about its employees. “The excellent professors, smart students, and the supportive environment are the main reasons I joined Michigan Tech,” he says. “As a new faculty member, I am facing a lot of new challenges. There is great support in my department (ECE) and through the ICC.”

Hongyu is a member of two Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) research centers: Human-Centered Computing and Scalable Architectures and Systems. He also sees synergies with the Center for Cyber-Physical Systems.

“It is my great pleasure and honor to be a member of the ICC,” Hongyu says. “ I can collaborate with the experts in HCC for exploring the brain and artificial intelligence, and the professors in SAS for hardware and architecture designs. Moreover, the neuromorphic chips I am working on can potentially be applied to Cyber-Physical Systems.”

Hongyu’s primary research area is hardware design for AI and neuromorphic systems. He believes that Artificial Intelligence is probably one of the most challenging research topics in science, noting that recent work in deep learning and artificial neural networks is demonstrating great progress in approaching artificial intelligence. 

“But the traditional computers under von Neumann architecture cannot keep up with the development of neural networks and deep learning,” he cautions. “My research is addressing this challenge by using a new hardware design, from device to architecture levels.”

Hongyu’s teaching interests include VLSI, Circuits, and Electromagnetics. Desribing his teaching philosophy, he notes that making complicated things simple is more challenging than making simple things complicated, and that he strives for the former. This academic year, An is teaching EE 4271 VLSI Design and mentoring ECE master’s student, Sarvani Marthi Sarvani, whose project aims to design a silicon retina through CMOS and Memristors.

Hongyu and his research team are also investigating associative memory learning, a new learning method that aims to create a neuromorphic system that can learn from its surroundings directly. 

“Associative memory is a widespread self-learning method in biological livings, which enables the nervoussystem to remember the relationship between two concurrent events,” Hongyu explains. “Through this learning method, dogs can learn the sound of bells as a sign of food; people can remember a word representing an object.”

“The significance of rebuilding associative memory at a behavioral level not only reveals a way of designing a brain-like, self-learning neuromorphic system, it is also to explore a method of comprehending the learning mechanism of a nervous system,” he adds.

And finally, beyond his work as a professor and scientist Hongyu hopes that he is “a good husband to my wife, a good father to my sons, and a good son to my parents.”

Hongyu completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech, his M.S. in electrical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his B.S. in electrical engineering at Shenyang University of Technology.

Recent Publications

An, Hongyu, Mohammad Shah Al-Mamun, Marius K. Orlowski, Lingjia Liu, and Yang Yi. “Robust Deep Reservoir Computing through Reliable Memristor with Improved Heat Dissipation Capability. IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems (2020).

An, Hongyu, Qiyuan An, and Yang Yi. “Realizing Behavior Level Associative Memory Learning Through Three-Dimensional Memristor-Based Neuromorphic Circuits. IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence (2019).

Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems, for the benefit of Michigan Technological University and society at large.

The ICC creates and supports an arena in which faculty and students work collaboratively across organizational boundaries in an environment that mirrors contemporary technological innovation. The ICC’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech.

NSF Research to Study Household Dynamics in Pandemic

David Watkins (CEE/SFI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $190,764 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The project is titled “RAPID: COVID-19, Consumption, and Multi-dimensional Analysis of Risk (C-CAR)“. Chelsea Schelly (SS/SFI), Robert Handler (ChE/SFI) and Charles Wallace (CS/SFI) are co-PIs on this one-year project.

Extract

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed household dynamics and dramatically changed food, energy, and water consumption within the home. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing has caused U.S. households to shift to working and schooling from home, curtail outside activities, and stop eating in restaurants. Furthermore, as many households face job loss and increasing home utility and grocery bills, U.S. residents are experiencing the economic impacts of the crisis, while at the same time assessing and responding to health risks. The project team has a unique opportunity to study these shifting household consumption and behavioral responses and quantify the associated economic and environmental impacts. The team will collect household food, energy, and water consumption data as well as survey response data from 180 participating households in one Midwestern county and compare it to data collected before the stay-at-home orders were put in place.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.