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    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.


    Online Intercultural Exchange for Chinese and English Speakers

    by Elizabeth A. Flynn, Co-director, The Elaine Bacon Literacy Program

    New participants are welcome to join a newly-formed Chinese-English language and cultural exchange via Zoom at 4 p.m. every Friday.

    To receive a Zoom invitation or for more details, contact organizer Denise Heikinen, or call (906) 482-4944. Along with Dr. Pichai Sripaipan, retired orthopedic surgeon from Houghton, Heikinen organized the exchange forum this fall as part of continuing free offerings, tutorials and classes with the Elaine Bacon Literacy Program, a 50-year-old non-profit community organization based in Houghton.

    In the early days, the group catered to local resident adults who wished to improve their reading and writing skills. For the past several decades, however, volunteer tutors, teachers and conversation partners have offered free English As a Second Language lessons and practice opportunities for Copper Country international adults, including Tech students, exchange scholars, professors and spouses or family members of campus-affiliated residents.

    For additional information, including an online schedule of classes, see the group’s website.


    Michigan Tech Ranked Among Best Colleges in the State and the Country

    Michigan Tech is one of the top two universities in Michigan and among the best in the country, according to rankings by the website WalletHub, released Monday.

    When compared to colleges and universities in Michigan, Tech was ranked No. 2. Among the 273 midwest colleges and universities listed, Michigan Tech was rated 30th, up one from a year ago.

    WalletHub named 500 institutions on its “2021’s College and University Rankings.” Michigan Tech was ranked No. 138 on the overall list, up eight spots from last year’s ranking.

    WalletHub looks to find the top-performing schools at the lowest possible costs to undergrads. The website compared more than a thousand U.S. institutions using 33 key measures. That data is grouped into seven categories such as Student Selectivity, Cost and Financing, and Career Outcomes.


    “It’s Working!” — CCISD, Michigan Tech Launch New CTE Program in Mechatronics

    Michigan Tech recently launched a year-long Career and Technical Education (CTE) program for high school juniors or seniors in the area of Mechatronics. The new CTE Mechatronics program is offered through a partnership between Michigan Tech and the Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD). 

    Teaming up to deliver the instruction are faculty in the Mechatronics, Electrical and Robotics Engineering Technology (MERET) program in the College of Computing, and faculty in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET) Department in the College of Engineering

    Michigan Tech faculty administering the CTE program include Prof. John Irwin, Chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, or Prof. Alex Sergeyev in the College of Computing. 

    “Students in the program will find careers in smart manufacturing fields, or they can find a pathway at Michigan Tech into undergraduate or graduate degrees in Engineering Technology, Engineering, or Mechatronics.” says Irwin.

    There are 10 students enrolled this fall 2020 from the local area school districts of Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, and L’Anse. CTE Director Shawn Kolbus expects the program to only increase in popularity. “Local business owners approached us last year wanting to get more students from the area interested in Mechatronics, CADD and Engineering,” he says. “The result was the Mechatronics program which encompasses standards from each area.” 

    The course is taught by two mechatronics professionals who possess both industry and teaching experience. One of those instructors is George Ochieze, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Mechatronics and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Even in difficult times during the pandemic, these young scholars show overwhelming potential to conquer the mechatronics field—a glimpse into a welcoming future in engineering,” says Ochieze.

    The second instructor, Chinmay Kondekar, will earn an MS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2021. “Teaching for local schools is an opportunity for me to give back to people in the community who welcomed me as an international student,” says Kondekar. “I hope to create a strong interest in robotics and automation in my students. People with these skills will be the future of manufacturing and will have plenty of opportunities.”

    Program enrollment is closed for 2020, but will be available again starting in fall 2021. This spring there will be the opportunity for area sophomore and junior students to visit Michigan Tech to tour the labs and meet the instructors. Both the Applied Computing and MMET department labs used at Michigan Tech are equipped with state-of-the-art electronics and mechanical systems partially provided through generous startup funding from the CCISD.

    Mechatronics uses electromechanical systems, typically automated for the design of products and processes. Industry 4.0—sometimes called the “fourth industrial revolution”—applies various aspects of mechatronics to manufacturing enterprises. Topics in the CTE Mechatronics program include; automation, computer integrated manufacturing, high speed manufacturing, embedded systems design and controls, industrial robotics, pneumatics, hydraulics, and computer-aided design. 

    For more information please contact Shawn Kolbus, Director, Career and Technical Education, Copper Country Intermediate School District (906) 250-5353. 


    What Lies Ahead: Cooperative, Data-Driven Automated Driving

    Kuilin Zhang

    Associate Professor Kuilin Zhang, Civil and Environmental Engineering and affiliated associate professor, Computer Science, was featured in a recent article on Michigan Tech News. The article appears below. Link to the original article here.


    By Kelley Christensen, September 28, 2020.

    Networked data-driven vehicles can adapt to road hazards at longer range, increasing safety and preventing slowdowns.

    Vehicle manufacturers offer smart features such as lane and braking assist to aid drivers in hazardous situations when human reflexes may not be fast enough. But most options only provide immediate benefits to a single vehicle. What if entire groups of vehicles could respond? What if instead of responding solely to the vehicle immediately in front of us, our cars reacted proactively to events happening hundreds of meters ahead?

    What if, like a murmuration of starlings, our cars and trucks moved cooperatively on the road in response to each vehicle’s environmental sensors, reacting as a group to lessen traffic jams and protect the humans inside?

    This question forms the basis of Kuilin Zhang’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award research. Zhang, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University, has published “A distributionally robust stochastic optimization-based model predictive control with distributionally robust chance constraints for cooperative adaptive cruise control under uncertain traffic conditions” in the journal Transportation Research Part B: Methodological.

    The paper is coauthored with Shuaidong Zhao ’19, now a senior quantitative analyst at National Grid, where he continues to conduct research on the interdependency between smart grid and electric vehicle transportation systems.

    Vehicle Platoons Operate in Sync

    Creating vehicle systems adept at avoiding traffic accidents is an exercise in proving Newton’s First Law: An object in motion remains so unless acted on by an external force. Without much warning of what’s ahead, car accidents are more likely because drivers don’t have enough time to react. So what stops the car? A collision with another car or obstacle — causing injuries, damage and in the worst case, fatalities.

    But cars communicating vehicle-to-vehicle can calculate possible obstacles in the road at increasing distances — and their synchronous reactions can prevent traffic jams and car accidents.

    “On the freeway, one bad decision propagates other bad decisions. If we can consider what’s happening 300 meters in front of us, it can really improve road safety. It reduces congestion and accidents.”Kuilin Zhang

    Zhang’s research asks how vehicles connect to other vehicles, how those vehicles make decisions together based on data from the driving environment and how to integrate disparate observations into a network.

    Zhang and Zhao created a data-driven, optimization-based control model for a “platoon” of automated vehicles driving cooperatively under uncertain traffic conditions. Their model, based on the concept of forecasting the forecasts of others, uses streaming data from the modeled vehicles to predict the driving states (accelerating, decelerating or stopped) of preceding platoon vehicles. The predictions are integrated into real-time, machine-learning controllers that provide onboard sensed data. For these automated vehicles, data from controllers across the platoon become resources for cooperative decision-making. 

    CAREER Award 

    Kuilin Zhang won an NSF CAREER Award in 2019 for research on connected, autonomous vehicles and predictive modeling

    Proving-Grounds Ready

    The next phase of Zhang’s CAREER Award-supported research is to test the model’s simulations using actual connected, autonomous vehicles. Among the locations well-suited to this kind of testing is Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center, a proving ground for autonomous vehicles, with expertise in unpredictable environments.

    Ground truthing the model will enable data-driven, predictive controllers to consider all kinds of hazards vehicles might encounter while driving and create a safer, more certain future for everyone sharing the road.

    Tomorrow Needs Mobility

    Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

    Kuilin Zhang

    About the Researcher: Kuilin Zhang

    • Data-driven optimization and control models for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs)
    • Big traffic data analytics using machine learning
    • Mobile and crowd sensing of dynamic traffic systems
    • Dynamic network equilibrium and optimization
    • Modeling and simulation of large-scale complex systems
    • Freight logistics and supply chain systems
    • Impact of plug-in electric vehicles to smart grid and transportation network systems
    • Interdependency and resiliency of large-scale networked infrastructure systems
    • Vehicular Ad-hoc Networks (VANETs)
    • Smart Cities
    • Cyber-Physical Systems


    College of Computing, CNSA Program Focus of HostingAdvice Article

    The College of Computing and the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) are the subjects of an article published today (Sept. 2, 2020) on HostingAdvice.com, a website and blog that educates visitors to the site about the world of web hosting.

    The article, for which College of Computing Dean Adrienne Minerick was interviewed, provides a close look at the new College, its well-established Computer Science and Software Engineering degree programs (B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.), new Cybersecurity and Mechatronics undergraduate programs, as well as faculty research and the ICC.

    Special emphasis is placed on the Computer Network and Systems Administration undergraduate degree program, in which students prepare for careers as network and computer systems administrators, commonly referred to as a “sysadmins.”

    Read the full article here.

    “Our readers know that a lot goes into finding the best providers of shared, dedicated, and virtual private servers,” said Sean Garrity, managing editor at HostingAdvice.com. “The article provides information about how to prepare if you want to to break into the industry as a professional, not just a consumer.”


    Bo Chen’s Research on COVID-19 Prevention Method to be Published in IEEE IoT Magazine

    A paper authored by Michigan Tech Assistant Professor Bo Chen, Computer Science, and Data Science master’s student Shashank Reddy Danda, has been accepted for publication in the IEEE Internet of Things Magazine special issue on Smart IoT Solutions for Combating COVID-19 Pandemic. The special issue will be published in September 2020.

    The paper focuses on Chen’s research of COVID-19 prevention through the leveraging of computing technology. The project is currently supported by a Michigan Tech College of Computing seed grant, and external funding for further development is being pursued.

    Chen is a member of the ICC’s Center for Cybersecurity.

    Download a preprint of the paper here.

    Abstract:
    Recently, the impact of coronavirus has been witnessed by almost every country around the world. To mitigate spreading of coronavirus, a fundamental strategy would be reducing the chance of healthy people from being exposed to it. Having observed the fact that most viruses come from coughing/sneezing/runny nose of infected people, in this work we propose to detect such symptom events via mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, smart watches, and other IoT devices) possessed by most people in modern world and, to instantly broadcast locations where the symptoms have been observed to other people. This would be able to significantly reduce risk that healthy people get exposed to the viruses. The mobile devices today are usually equipped with various sensors including microphone, accelerometer, and GPS, as well as network connection (4G, LTE, Wi-Fi), which makes our proposal feasible. Further experimental evaluation shows that coronavirus-like symptoms (coughing/sneezing/runny nose) can be detected with an accuracy around 90%; in addition, the dry cough (more likely happening to COVID-19 patients) and wet cough can also be differentiated with a high accuracy.

    Bo Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. His areas of expertise include mobile device security, cloud computing security, named data networking security, big data security, and blockchain.

    Shashank Reddy Danda is an MS student in Data Science. He is currently working as a research assistant in MTU Security and Privacy (SnP) Lab under the supervision of Dr. Bo Chen.

    IEEE Internet of Things Magazine (IEEE IoTM) is a publication of the IEEE Internet of Things Initiative, a Multi-Society Technical Group.


    $243K DURIP Award will Multiply Michigan Tech Research Capabilities

    Dr. Timothy Havens (ICC), Dr. Andrew Barnard (GLRC), Dr. Guy Meadows (GLRC), and Dr. Gowtham (IT/ECE) have been awarded an Office of Naval Research DURIP grant titled, “Acoustic Sensing System and High-Throughput Computing Environment and Threat Monitoring in Naval Environments Using Machine Learning.”

    The $243,169 award will fund procurement of new high throughput computing and underwater acoustic sensing systems for use by researchers at Michigan Tech.

    The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) supports universities through awards meant to build the infrastructures necessary for relevant, high-quality Navy research.

    We believe that these resources will considerably multiply our capability and productivity in assisting the U.S. Navy, and DoD at large, to move forward on numerous fronts. We have excellent resources, but lack some infrastructure capabilities to make a leap in theory and applications.

    Timothy Havens, Director, Institute of Computing and Cybersystems

    Havens says that the award supports two active U.S. Navy projects in particular, “ONR Graduate Traineeship Award: Multi-Modal, Near-Shore, Ice-Covered Arctic Acoustic Propagation Measurements and Analysis (ONR #N00014-18-1-2592)” and “Localization, Tracking, and Classification of On-Ice and Underwater Noise Sources Using Machine Learning (US NSWC #N00174-19-1-0004).”

    “With this new equipment we can begin to conduct more detailed, realistic, and repeatable sensor/target experiments, and facilitate expansion of current research into related areas of interest to the DoD, such as deep learning with digital phased arrays and persistent, distributed sensing with sensor arrays,” Havens notes.

    “The equipment will significantly enhance Michigan Tech capabilities for six other Department of Defense (DoD)-funded projects as well, including NGA, SPAWAR, and DARPA awards,” he adds.

    Finally, through graduate student participation in the research, and collaboration with the undergraduate SENSE Enterprise at Michigan Tech (Strategic Education through Naval Systems Experiences), the equipment will augment Navy STEM education and future workforce development.

    Tim Havens is associate dean for research, College of Computing, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems, and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems.

    Andrew Barnard is director of the Great Lakes Research Center,
    associate professor, Mechanical Engineering—Engineering Mechanic, and Faculty advisor to the undergraduate SENSE Enterprise.

    Guy Meadows is director of the Marine Engineering Laboratory, the Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering, and a research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

    Gowtham is director of research computing for Michigan Tech’s Information Technology department; an adjunct assistant professor, Physics; a research associate professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and an NSF XSEDE Campus Champion.

    The Institute of Computing and Cyberersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences through six research centers 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’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech. Member scientists are collaborating to conduct impactful research, make valuable contributions in the field of computing, and solve problems of critical national importance.

    The Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) provides state-of-the-art laboratories to support research on a broad array of topics. Faculty members from many departments across Michigan Technological University’s campus collaborate on interdisciplinary research, ranging from air–water interactions to biogeochemistry to food web relationships.

    One of the GLRC’s most important functions is to educate the scientists, engineers, technologists, policymakers, and stakeholders of tomorrow about the Great Lakes basin. The Center for Science and Environmental Outreach provides K–12 student, teacher, and community education/outreach programs, taking advantage of the Center’s many teaching labs.

    The GLRC also contains a lake-level marine facility and convenient deep-water docking, providing a year-round home for Michigan Tech’s surface and sub-surface fleet of marine vehicles.



    Yu Cai is PI of 2-year NSA GenCyber Project

    Professor Yu Cai, Applied Computing, a member of the ICC’s Center for Cybersecurity, is the principal investigator on a two-year project that has received a $99,942 grant from the National Security Agency (GenCyber). The project is titled, “GenCyber Teacher Camp at Michigan Tech. “

    Lecturer Tim Van Wagner (AC) and Assistant Professor Bo Chen (CS, DataS) are Co-PIs. Cai will serve as the camp director, Tim Van Wagner as lead instructor.

    This GenCyber project aims to host a week-long, residential summer camp for twenty K-12 STEM teachers in 2021 at Michigan Tech. Target educators are primarily from Michigan and surrounding states.

    The objectives of the camp are to teach cybersecurity knowledge and safe online behavior, develop innovative teaching methods for delivering cybersecurity content, and provide professional development opportunities so participants will return to their home schools with contagious enthusiasm about teaching cybersecurity.

    The GenCyber camp will be offered at no cost to camp participants. Room and board will be provided. Teacher participants will receive a stipend of $500 for attending and completing camp activities.

    Read about the 2019 Michigan Tech GenCyber camps for teachers and students here.