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,

I am always amazed by the range of activities conducted by our students, faculty, and staff at Padnos College of Engineering and Computing(PCEC). As you will see in the March newsletter, the PCEC community is involved in everything from extensive K-12 outreach to the creation of new degree programs to better serve our students and industry partners.

We were thrilled to host the West Michigan Regional FIRST Robotics Competition this weekend of March 25th. GVSU welcomed 40 high school robotics teams as they competed in the strategic and fast-paced game of Charged Up! Our hope is that students involved in FIRST Robotics and other K-12 outreach activites will develop an interest to pursue education and careers in STEM. I'd like to express my sincere thanks to everyone reading who is involved in these remarkable programs.

To our PCEC students graduating this winter semester, we are so proud of you. Please stay engaged with the college as an alum; we count on you to support the next generation of STEM students and professionals!

Wishing you all wonderful end to your semester.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you. If you have questions or comments, follow this link to Connect with the Dean.


GVSU Hosts First Robotics
 GVSU Hosts First Robotics

Grand Valley State University Hosted the First Robotics Competition

Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus held First Robotics on the weekend of March 25 and 26 where 40 high school robotics teams, coming from as far away as the community of Wilson in the Upper Peninsula, were eager to compete in the strategic and fast-paced game of Charged Up!  

This year’s game was designed to address global challenges related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #7, focused on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.  For the casual observer, the matches appeared to pit two three-team alliances against each other to move game pieces and come to rest on a small, tippy platform by the end.  But to the FIRST team members, coaches, and mentors, the game was about offense, defense, strategy, and concerted efforts to create balance.  

The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing at GVSU has a long history of supporting FIRST robotics. Hosting a regional competition is just one piece of PCEC’s commitment to FIRST robotics. Behind the scenes, the college hosts kick-off events, workshops, and Robot-in-3-Days (Ri3D) events for college alumni teams, supports Graduate Assistantships for students to mentor within local high schools, awards $40,000 in scholarships each year to first-year GVSU students, and supports local off-season events with volunteers.  

The acquisition of the Shape Corp. Innovation Design Center allowed for a whole new level of community engagement, as it had enough room for a full-size FIRST practice field to be customized each year for teams to use on weeknights and weekends.  From February through mid-April, there are usually four to six teams collaborating, scrimmaging, and tweaking bots at the field.  It is a high-energy space that draws in families, GVSU students, mentors, FIRST alumni, and industry partners. 
GVSU Biomedical Engineer Student Wins Two Prestigious Awards
  Madison Hinman, a biomdeical engineering student wins two prestigious awards

GVSU Biomedical Engineering Student Wins Two Prestigious Awards

Madison Hinman, a Grand Valley State University student studying product design and manufacturing and biomedical engineering, was awarded the second-place prize in the ESD TechCentury Magazine writing contest for her article: “The Heart of Engineering”. Madison’s winning article focused on her sister’s degenerative retinal disease and how it helped her develop a big-picture mindset and passion behind her cooperative experience at Autocam Medical.

In the ESD article, Madison shared that her sister had cataract surgery in both eyes due to her degenerative retinal disease. While working at Autocam Medical, Madison learned that the handpiece used in her sister’s procedure was the same brand as the handpieces she assisted in manufacturing. Through this experience, Madison learned how her work as an engineer affected not only subsequent operations but how it directly impacted the health of her own sister.

Madison shared that “As an engineer, it is certainly beneficial to solve problems analytically and with indisputable calculations. However, we cannot forget why we are solving these problems, we cannot lose the heart of engineering.”

Madison was also awarded the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) Undergraduate Fellowship for her proposal, “Investigation into Pressure Transmission Through Vitreous Humor to the Retina.” The MSGC fellowship recognizes exceptional students who are dedicated to pursuing research in STEM fields. Madison’s achievements are a testament to her hard work, dedication, and passion for engineering. 

Madison would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Choudhuri and Dr. Manoharan for their guidance, support, and for providing her with these incredible opportunities. 

When asked what advice she’d give to current students studying engineering, Madison encouraged students to “Accept any opportunities that you can! While you do not want to overwhelm yourself, saying yes to an opportunity can open more doors for you in the future. Do not let fear or a lack of confidence stop you from saying yes to an opportunity.”
A mobile app created
GVSU Computing Faculty and student created a mobile app that detects the signs of depression

A mobile app created by GVSU Computing Faculty and student could identify signs of depression

Rahat Rafiq, assistant professor of computing, is an expert on cyberbullying. He said his inspiration to research and develop an app comes from personal experience.

"When I moved from Bangladesh to Boulder, Colorado, for my Ph.D., I had never seen snow before, I was new to this country," Rafiq said. "All these things led to anxiety and a lot of stress. At one point, I wanted to stop my doctoral work and go home."

While at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Rafiq researched the prevalence of social media cyberbullying. He continues similar work at Grand Valley, including researching a mobile app for parents that would monitor their children's social media activity and notify them of potential cyberbullying occurrences.

For the app that could detect signs of depression, Rafiq said a person's voice indicates their level of engagement and excitement during conversations with other people."What I imagine this app could do is detect decibel levels and if this same tone goes on for a long period of time, it signals that this particular person may need mental health resources," he said.

At the start of the fall semester, Rafiq introduced himself and his projects to students and asked if anyone was interested in helping with research. Aliah Lloyd said yes. Lloyd is a senior majoring in computer science, with minors in business and Chinese studies. During high school, Lloyd was a member of PALS, a program that trains students in suicide prevention.

"Mental health has always been an important part of my life," Lloyd said. "After that class, I pitched my passion, background and ideas. Professor Rafiq immediately told me that he wanted me on his team."

Cyber Threat Range opened by School of Computing
Cyber Threat Range opened by School of Computing preparing students for cybersecurity jobs

Cyber Threat Range opened by School of Computing is a game changer for the students and the community

It looks like a normal computer lab, but the new Cyber Threat Range is a high-tech training ground to prepare students for cybersecurity jobs and set Grand Valley on a path to become a National Security Agency designated academic program.

Tellier is the founder of Michigan Cyber Threat Response Alliance (MiCTRA), the organization that supplied the software for the range to be operational. An underutilized computer lab in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences was converted to be isolated from the university's network, allowing students and industry to safely engage in cyber threat exercises. Funding for the range came from Grand Valley's Presidential Innovation Fund.

Paul Doyle, mentor-in-residence at ACI, said the cyber threat range is similar to a shooting range. "The computers are physically and logistically isolated from Grand Valley's network, so participants can conduct these exercises without risk," Doyle said. "The advantage of having live computers allows participants to do offense and defense in the same environment without threat to the network."

Members of the West Michigan Cybersecurity Consortium held the inaugural event at the range March 10. A virtual corporate network, with a company website and network servers, was created and participants were instructed to attempt to hack into the site using techniques and procedures learned during training courses. Andrew Kalafut, associate professor of computing, said only a handful of universities around the country have such a range. Grand Valley students in the cybersecurity programs will have more access to the range beginning in the fall semester.

View the full story.
New GVSU Degree
The Bachelor of Applied Science(BAS) degree program at Grand Valley State University has been created

A new GVSU degree program enables students to rapidly transition into their desired careers

A unique degree program at Grand Valley was designed to get people who have technical training into the jobs they want – and quickly. PCEC programs in Technology Project Management and Web Design and Development will commence during the Fall 2023 semester. 

As the Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree program will begin in the Fall 2023 semester, Enrollment is now underway. It was created for students who earned an associate of applied science degree (AAS) and want to advance their careers.

Melanie Shell-Weiss, associate dean for Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, called it a program designed for people who may have met "the glass ceiling" in their current roles. "There is a population of people who were very tempted to join vocational programs right out of high school, maybe because they had to be the breadwinners in their families," Shell-Weiss said. "Then they work for a number of years and find that it becomes harder and harder to transfer into a traditional bachelor's degree program."

Technology Project Management: This program, presented in a semester-long format, builds on a technology-based degree like robotics or welding. Students will learn skills in CAD, programming, drafting, safety and management.
GVSU Power Mobility Project
 GVSU Power Mobility project gives children in wheelchair more autonomy

GVSU Power Mobility Project tests a new device that could give children in wheelchairs greater autonomy.

The National Institute of Health and Human Development grant will help provide power mobility training to children and young people, ages 6 months to 26 years old, who aren’t typically considered candidates for that type of training. Lisa Kenyon, professor of physical therapy, said it gives wheelchair users more independence.

“I found throughout my career as a pediatric physical therapist that children who have severe disabilities are not given the opportunities to try power wheelchairs and, therefore, are denied access to their only way to move independently,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon works on the project with John Farris, professor of engineering, and Naomi Aldrich, associate professor of psychology. Their research found that children with severe disabilities who are unable to self-propel manual wheelchairs do not get an equal chance to learn, develop skills, or explore their world because of their dependence on others. In order to gain some independence through skill-building, Kenyon said, customized wheelchairs need to be converted into power wheelchairs. 

Along with researchers at Flint Rehabilitation in California and the Center of Discovery in New York, the Grand Valley team is testing the IndieTrainer system. The system has two parts: the mobility device that temporarily converts a manual wheelchair into a power wheelchair, and simple video-style games developed for children to learn specific power wheelchair skills. These two parts work together to optimize how a child learns to use a wheelchair, Kenyon said. 

“When children can’t move independently, they often become somewhat passive and dependent on others and they have to wait, so to speak, for the world to come to them rather than them being able to act on the world,” she said. “One of the ways that we can try to prevent that is through power wheelchair use.”

View the full story.

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