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,

To our Fall 2021 graduates, we are so proud of you. The past few years have been challenging both academically and personally, but you rose to the occasion. You have much to celebrate! Please stay engaged with the college as an alum; we count on your to support the next generation of STEM professionals!

I am thankful to wrap up this semester with many positive news stories to share. From the School of Computing's renewed ABET accreditation, to alumni success stories, to wheelchairs for dogs, the PCEC community continues to amaze and impress with their hard work and contributions to society.

Wishing you all a healthy, warm, and joyous winter break.

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


Thank you, PCEC Supporters!

A heartfelt "Thank you!" to all of the generous supporters that gave to the GVSU Padnos College of Engineering & Computing on Giving Tuesday this year!
Your contributions make a tremendous positive impact for GVSU students by helping cover the cost of tuition through scholarships and providing experiential education opportunities.
To see the various funds that support PCEC our students, please visit the PCEC Giving website.
Students watch a robot navigate obstacles during PCEC Project Day
Students watch a robot navigate an obstacle course

PCEC Project Day Demonstrates Teamwork, Collaboration to Area High School Students

Area high school students learned about setbacks, teamwork and collaboration during Project Day, sponsored by the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

More than 110 Grand Valley students demonstrated and discussed 70 projects during the fall semester event, held December 9 at the Innovation and Design Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. 

Warner Jackson and other students from the West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA) played the Recycling Pinball Machine, which shot a soda can around the game's surface area with 3D-printed flippers keeping the can in play.

Warner said WMAA, a charter high school located by Gerald R. Ford International Airport, is planning its own project day next semester. "Our biomedical sciences and autonomous vehicle classes are here to get more information about what went into these projects, how long they took and to look at everything," he said.
Students from Innovation Central and Catholic Central high schools also toured Project Day.

A cohort of students from the combined BSE/MSE program created a game called Pop Drop, which used infrared sensors to detect the movement of a soda can to then activate a question about recycling and sustainability. 

Cayla Stout, who is majoring in biomedical engineering, said the group began working on Pop Drop in early August. "It was nice to work with people from your cohort because we know each other well," she said.

Cameron Shearer and other computing science students designed software for Grand Valley's Athletic Training department to streamline injury evaluation intakes. In the winter semester, another group of students in a capstone class will finish working on "What's Wrong with Louie?" 
The Recycling Pinball Machine and the Pop Drop tied for the Fall 2021 People's Choice Award. Congratulations to the winning teams on their excellent work! (See photos below.)
A student stands by the Pop Drop project Students stand by the Recycling Pinball Machine
Dr. Mark Staves, Richelle Kracht, Anirudh Chowdhary, Dr. Guenter Tusch
Left to Right: Dr. Mark Staves, Richelle Kracht, Anirudh Chowdhary, Dr. Guenter Tusch

Professional Science Masters (PSM) Program Hosts Showcase

The GVSU Professional Science Masters (PSM) Programs Showcase is an annual event that gives graduate students the opportunity to share the results of their internship work with fellow PSM students, GVSU employees, alumni, and potential employers. The 2021 PSM Showcase was hosted in the Innovation Design Center on the GVSU Pew Campus in Grand Rapids at the end of November. Approximately 60 guests participated in the event, speaking with PSM students about their projects and potential career opportunities.  

Professor Anirudh Chowdhary, Director of the PSM Programs, presented the PSM Employer of the Year Award to Richelle Kracht of Streamline Healthcare Solutions. “We are incredibly grateful for the support of all of our employer partners,” said Chowdhary. “I’m excited to recognize Streamline Healthcare Solutions, in particular, this year due to their ongoing support of our students and graduates as well as the outstanding quality of the educational experiences they provide.” 

Industry partnerships are a hallmark of the Professional Science Master’s Program at GVSU. In the past year, the PSM Programs are proud to have entered into 13 new employer relationships, which each represent new and exciting opportunities for GVSU graduate students. Internships often lead to full-time jobs for students. 

The PSM Programs offered at GVSU include Applied Statistics, Biostatistics, Health Informatics & Bioinformatics, Data Science & Analytics, and Cell & Molecular Biology. Interested industry collaborators or prospective graduate students should contact Professor Chowdhary at
Charles Billingsley
Charles Billingsley

From Film Classes to DreamWorks; Advice from a GVSU Computing Alum on Following Your Dreams

Charles Billingsley graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2019 with two degrees; one in Computer Science and one in Film & Video Production. He now works for DreamWorks Animation as a Technical Director on multiple movies including the recently-released 'The Boss Baby: Family Business' and the soon-to-be-released 'Puss and Boots: The Last Wish.'

Charles began his academic career in the Computer Science major exclusively. After finding that he was able to manage his course workload well, he decided to pursue a second degree in Film and Video Production. While looking for ways to combine the two programs, Charles found the perfect balance in animation. He was part of the first wave of students to take the newly revamped animation courses at GVSU and went on to help develop them further as a volunteer Teaching Assistant.

At DreamWorks, Charles works with a team dedicated to “crowds.” This means he works on scenes with large groups of people, heavy traffic, flocks of dragons and other wild things, etc. He creates, fixes, and maintains tools and pipelines that allow the animators and artists to complete their work. His most prominent software development so far was his work on a system that allows characters to have multiple limbs. This animation technique is used heavily in 2D animation and can be seen in shows such as 'Looney Tunes' but is a newer development in 3D animation. Charles’ work on the tool has been published in the ACM Digital Library under the title “A.C.M.E Multilimb System” and can be found here.

Charles notes that his job allows him to fully use his programming knowledge, while still getting to express his creativity. He said that there are many places for him to grow within the company and many opportunities to learn and practice new skills. He recommends that Computer Science students explore how they too can combine their computing degrees with their passions, as the opportunities are endless.

Biomedical Engineering Society Students with Tino, the Three-Legged Dog
Biomedical Engineering Society Students with Tino, the three-legged dog

Students Create Wheelchair to Help Three-Legged Dog

Selia Pethers, a GVSU junior who is majoring in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in product design and manufacturing, was one of the students who worked with Tino. She explained the process of putting together a working prototype.

“Our team held several meetings to work out the dimensional aspects of the project, as well as what materials would withstand Tino’s weight without being too heavy for him to bear on walks. Tino’s comfort and ease of use were the main priorities,” Pethers said.

Tino's owner connected with the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) last summer to see if the student organization would be interested in building a device. Jenna Russell, a junior and vice president of BMES, said she couldn’t help but fall in love with Tino, and decided to help create his wheelchair. “I love animals and Tino was just the cutest, especially with his three little legs. How could you not want to help him?” Russel said. “I also wanted to gain experience in creating something from the start to the end, and seeing that process develop and unfold was really cool.”

Pethers enjoyed helping the dog's owner. “Taking on community projects is very rewarding,” Pethers said. “It's great knowing that we are all here to support each other in any way we need. The School of Engineering does a great job finding community projects for students to work on; it’s definitely my favorite part of the program here.”

Moving Applied Computing Institute to Health Campus Opens Opportunities

Moving the GVSU Applied Computing Institute (ACI) to the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health creates additional opportunities for collaboration with providers on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, said Jonathan Englesma, professor of computing and director of ACI.

“The new space will provide students and faculty working on industry-sponsored computing projects a collaborative, state-of-the-art work environment in the heart of Grand Rapids,” Engelsma said. “We’re very excited for this chance to expand our footprint to support more experiential learning opportunities for our students.”

Englesma said ACI team members have been instrumental in solving many health care-related computing problems. Recently, a team of computer science students created an Apple Watch app, DecontaminAide, designed to assist the wearer in monitoring daily actions that could increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Dr. Brent Nowak and Renzo Garza Motta
Dr. Brent Nowak and Renzo Garza Motta

Prototype of Medical Device Used for Screening Tests Developed by aMDI Students, Staff

The prototype of the FemScope, which is similar to an endoscope and a device that would replace the speculum during exams, was completed in September. 

Brent Nowak, executive director of aMDI, said the idea behind the device came from Marilyn Filter, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Michigan-Flint and longtime midwife. 

The FemScope team brought the technology to the team at UM Innovation Partnerships to assist with licensing and commercialization, then connected with aMDI after securing funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's ADVANCE grant program.

"Over the years, aMDI has built a reputation of being able to take these early ideas and move them from invention to prototype to demonstrate technical feasibility and business viability," Nowak said. "The result is that it sets the stage for the entrepreneurs to attract investors." 

Renzo Garza Motta, an undergraduate student who is majoring in electrical engineering, worked on the FemScope last summer. Garza Motta, also a resident assistant, worked on prototyping, 3D modeling and 3D printing of the device. "As a team we went over multiple review iterations of the system to allow for improvements on earlier designs to become closer to designing and printing a minimal viable prototype," he said.

Garza Motta said he enjoyed his co-op experience at aMDI, adding that completing a project different from his emphasis in electrical engineering will help diversify his resume. "I believe this project will showcase the versatility of my skills to future employers. I am proud of the work done for this project, and the level of satisfaction achieved with our client," Garza Motta said.

Visit the applied Medical Device Institute website.

Information Technology Computing Program Granted ABET Accreditation

The School of Computing's Information Technology program recently received accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. Both the Computer Science and the Information Systems programs have been re-accredited by ABET for six years.
ABET is an independent, nonprofit, non-governmental organization dedicated to accrediting college and university STEM programs such as computing and engineering at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. ABET has been around for more than 80 years, and was initially developed by professionals working within the fields that are now being accredited.

An ABET accreditation gives both students and future employers confidence that the college or university in question is providing programs that are preparing students for the real-world workforce. ABET is recognized worldwide, so GVSU students can be certain that their education has prepared them for jobs not only in West Michigan, but in various countries around the world as well.

In order to obtain ABET accreditation, the institutions must initiate programs that meet specific criteria. The programs being accredited must provide educational objectives that they actively meet, establish and reach student outcomes related to practical knowledge and skillset, and pass assessments and evaluations set by the ABET accrediting process. Additionally, the university must display that they continuously improve their programs with documented assessment and change. The curriculum of programs must cover specific topics, and provide a blend of technical, professional, and general education requirements in order to ensure that it is rigorous and effective.

Grand Valley is extremely proud of its faculty, staff, and students who have worked hard at maintaining an exemplary status. Our information technology, information systems, and computer science programs have proved that they provide everything our students need to succeed once they graduate.
Dr. Mokhtar greets guests at the Engineering Graduate Thanksgiving
Dr. Wael Mokhtar greets guests at the Engineering Graduate Thanksgiving

School of Engineering Thanksgiving Celebrates Students and Supporters

Each year, the GVSU School of Engineering hosts a Graduate Engineering Thanksgiving luncheon as a way to thank industry partners for their mentorship of graduate engineering students, celebrate students’ many accomplishments during the semester, and recognize the hard work of faculty and staff who support the program and deliver an exceptional experiential education to our students. The gathering provides a celebratory introduction for engineering international students to the uniquely American Thanksgiving holiday, and gives everyone involved a chance to reflect on the past year with gratitude and appreciation.

With lunches served in to-go containers, the 2021 Graduate Engineering Thanksgiving looked a little different due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, but that did not stop the celebration! Over 70 industry partners, Masters of Science in Engineering students and alumni, and GVSU employees enjoyed the opportunity to connect and celebrate with one another.

School of Engineering Director, Dr. Wael Mokhtar; Interim Provost, Dr. Chris Plouff; School of Engineering faculty and former Engineering Graduate Program Director, Dr. Shabbir Choudhuri; and current Engineering Graduate Program Director, Dr. Samhita Rhodes, provided welcoming remarks. GVSU President, Dr. Philomena Mantella, also sent warm wishes and virtual remarks thanking the attendees.

View the Engineering Graduate Thanksgiving photo album.

Visit the School of Engineering website.

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