Stay informed on the latest happenings in PCEC!
Stay informed on the latest happenings in PCEC!
Grand Valley State University
Padnos College of Engineering & Computing Newsletter
Dr. Paul Plotkowski, Dean
Padnos College of Engineering
and Computing

Dean's Message:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

We have reached the mid-point of the semester and things are busier than ever in the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. Last month we commented on the excitement in the air due to the arrival of our full student population to campus. This month, the excitement comes from next week's arrival of ABET for its six-year review of our Engineering programs. 

This month's newsletter features three events attended by our K-12 outreach team. Did you know we interact with 5,000-10,000 K-12 students each year through our many outreach events? These efforts help build a pipeline of students into our undergradute programs and are one of the many ways we give back to our local community.

You will also find stories of summer research experiences by current students and faculty members in Computing, news of a collaboration that adds to our ever-increasing grant-funded research portfolio, and the story of a successful alum who happens to be near and dear to yours truly.

If you have questions or comments, follow this link to Connect with the Dean.

Computing Faculty Members and Students Contributing to Research at National Lab
Dr. Trefftz and Dettling worked in Godoy's lab, performing experiments on new computer languages.

Computing Faculty Members and Students Contribute to Research at National Labs on Climate Change Accuracy and Supercomputer Modeling

Christian Trefftz, professor of computing, and Elise Dettling, an undergraduate student spent the summer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The Sustainable Horizons Institute, which promotes diversity within STEM, supported their proposal for the 10-week internship.
At Oak Ridge, Dettling and Trefftz worked in William Godoy's lab, performing experiments on new computer languages that will eventually be used for the DOE's Exascale Computing Project, a supercomputer with implications for advancing precision medicine, regional climate, additive manufacturing, the conversion of plants to biofuels, and more.
Marc Tunnell, a double major in computer science and mathematics, spent the summer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He worked in Darren Engwirda's lab on developing mesh optimization software for the Perlmutter supercomputer that will increase the accuracy of predicting large-scale weather events. 
Michelle Dowling, assistant professor of computing, worked remotely over the summer with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory under its visiting faculty program. Dowling initiated a new research collaboration between PNNL and Grand Valley that will begin in the Winter semester and involve students.
Zachary DeBruine receives grant
Zachary DeBruine, assistant professor of computing receives grant from Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative 

Zachary DeBruine receives Grant from Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative 

The project was born from the research of Zachary DeBruine, assistant professor of computing and a former postdoctoral fellow in Tim Triche’s lab who earned his doctorate from Van Andel Institute Graduate School. DeBruine also holds an adjunct position at VAI.

“A central problem in science today is that our ability to generate data has outpaced our ability to analyze large, complex biological datasets,” said Triche, VAI assistant professor, and the grant’s lead investigator. “Our goal is to improve access to powerful tools and allow exploration of the foundations of biology — how cells determine their fate, state, and function; how cells interact with each other and their environment to produce health and disease; and how genetic variation between and within people influences the outcomes.” As part of his Ph.D. dissertation, DeBruine developed an elegant solution that repackages data files that are too big to run on a single computer into a compressed form.

“We aim to make data analysis more accessible using simple solutions that don’t require resource-intensive computational pipelines or deep expertise in computer science,” DeBruine said. “Our efforts ensure that all researchers can analyze single-cell data. What that ultimately means is more people can work with information in ways that could shed new light on the diseases that impact so many.”
Alumni Alex Plotkowski R&D 100 Award
Alumni Alex Plotkowski R&D 100 Award

GVSU Engineering Alumni Alex Plotkowski Wins R&D 100 Award

The 2022 R&D 100 Awards winners have been announced by R&D World Magazine. This renowned worldwide science and innovation competition, celebrating its 60th year, received entries from a dozen different countries and regions. Among nine Oak Ridge National Laboratory finalists, PCEC alumnus Alex Plotkowski and his team were selected as one of the winners. 

"Each day, ORNL strives to deliver scientific breakthroughs for the benefit of society," ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. "The R&D 100 Awards are a tremendous recognition of the hard work and dedication required by our researchers to develop these impactful technologies." This year’s wins bring ORNL’s total R&D 100 Awards to 239 since the award’s inception. 

According to Oak Ridge, DuAlumin-3D is a new aluminum alloy designed to take advantage of the rapid solidification characteristics of additive manufacturing to produce a dual-strengthened microstructure, resulting in a superior combination of tensile, creep, fatigue, and corrosion properties, particularly at extreme temperatures (300°C-400°C), compared with commercial alloys. The alloy takes its name from dual strengthening mechanisms: a nanoscale microstructure that forms during printing and precipitates that form upon heat treatment. Because of these microstructural features, the alloy retains more than half its strength at high temperatures of 300 to 315 degrees Celcius and is stable up to 400 degrees Celcius.

PCEC joins tech week
GVSU Applied Computing Institute, School of Engineering, and PCEC Outreach Join Tech Week

PCEC Joins Tech Week

On Friday, September 23rd The GVSU Applied Computing Institute (ACI), School of Engineering, and PCEC Outreach joined forces with The Right Place and other local technology and innovation leaders like, Start Garden and West Michigan Tech Talent for Tech Week, an event to showcase local technology developments and encourage community interest in West Michigan’s tech corridor.

“With ACI’s focus on collaborating with industry partners to solve computing problems, this was a perfect event to showcase our current research and student projects,” said Sara Maas, Director of K-12 & Community Outreach.

The event was launched to align with Art Prize and the Confluence Festival, as an opportunity to promote the research and development in PCEC, as well as involve younger students with hands-on activities. It was also a chance to publicly discuss a current ACI project with an industry sponsor that involves an oral care mobile app that uses machine learning to determine how good a brushing session is.

View the full story.
Merging Big Ideas
PCEC brings STEM to Another Successful Confluence Festival

Merging Big Ideas: PCEC Brings STEM to Another Successful Confluence Festival

Padnos College of Engineering and Computing stepped up for the second consecutive year at the Confluence Festival on Saturday, September 24. This annual event calls itself a “multi-dimensional festival” that brings together music, art, science, and technology for a hands-on experience that demonstrates the power that can occur when multiple disciplines converge.

“The creativity and imagination that Concluence Fest ignites is inspiring,” said Sara Maas, Director of K-12 & Community Outreach. “When you bring together these seemingly unrelated fields and harness the energy and enthusiasm of those who work and live in those worlds - it’s really exciting.”

Maas and a group of GVSU student volunteers attended the Maker Expo - an event that brings together “enthusiasts, crafters, hobbyists, engineers, and artists” for demos, experiments,  and DIY opportunities. The PCEC group taught attendees how to make thaumatropes, a two-sided disk with a picture on each side attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one due to the persistence of vision. Thaumatropes are identified as the precursor to early animation devices.
Robotics Competition
Teams spent Saturday, October 8, competing at Wyoming High School. 

Robotics Competition Aims to Steer Girls to STEM Careers 

A robotics competition is working to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Teams spent Saturday, October 8, competing at Wyoming High School in the Grand Rapids Girls Robotics Competition. Abby Strait was a captain of a team and said she has learned a lot through the program about designing robots and potential careers.  “This is a great opportunity, especially for later in life,” Strait said.

Sarah Shapin, another team captain, said the program combines friendly competition with learning new skills. “Instead of hating your enemy, you become friends with them and you talk to them and you have a good time. You work with them and you learn off of each other and then you get to take those skills and put it into the engineering field,” Shapin said. Four $750 scholarships are given out as an additional bonus for participants. The girl-focused competition began in 2016, according to Wendy Ljungren, who is involved with the event.

“We were looking for a way to encourage girls in S.T.E.M. and we were all involved with FIRST Robotics and we had heard there are teams throughout other places in the country that hosted competitions for girls as a way to get them thinking, ‘Hey I can do this,’” Ljungren said.

View the full story.

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