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,

Welcome to the latest edition of the Padnos College Newsletter. As I reviewed the content of this issue, I was struck by how connected and engaged the Padnos College faculty, staff, and students are. Those connections range from K-12, to university, professional organizations, community, industry, athletics, and more. All of these connections play an important role in the personal and professional development of our students and in our support for the broader community.
On a personal note, I would like to direct you to the article regarding the passing of Dr. Eric Van Fleet. Eric retired from the Occupational Safety and Health faculty several years ago, but that did not deter him from continuing to be connected with OSH and GVSU. Most recently, he stepped up and helped us in dealing with the COVID emergency. He will certainly be missed, but his impact will live on through all our alumni and community members who benefitted from connecting with him. 
As always, I enjoy hearing from you. If you have questions or comments, follow this link to Connect with the Dean.


PCEC Mourns Death of Former Occupational Safety & Health Program Director

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of the former director of the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Occupational Safety and Health Management (OSHM) Department, Dr. Eric Van Fleet. Eric built the OSHM program at Grand Valley into one of the top occupational safety and health programs in the country. Dr. Van Fleet’s dedication to the OSHM program not only spanned his many years on the faculty, but also into retirement. He most recently stepped up to assist the OSH faculty in response to the COVID crisis.
Dr. Van Fleet was a friend and mentor to those of us carrying on his legacy at GVSU. His loss will be felt by all who knew him, including many faculty, staff, students, and generations of OSH alumni. Eric loved to teach and had a unique style. He enjoyed seeing how students excelled in the OSHM profession after graduation.
Our thoughts are with his wife, Marie, at this time. There will not be a service, but if you would like to honor Dr. Van Fleet, you can donate to the Dr. Eric L. Van Fleet Occupational Safety and Health Endowed Scholarship.
Virtual PCEC Project Day on April 22, 2021

PCEC Project Day Pivots for Winter

We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a Virtual PCEC Project Day on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
In previous years, PCEC Project Day events highlighted project-based work and research completed by Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Computing, Engineering, Occupational Safety & Health, and Professional Science Masters students and provided an opportunity for high school students, prospective students, and families to view the projects, interact with GVSU students, tour PCEC facilities, and meet faculty and advisors.
This year, GVSU students will be creating short videos about their projects which will be available online so that K-12 students can participate remotely. The videos will focus on project development and troubleshooting, while also introducing team members and their fields of study. This is a great opportunity for K-12 students to learn more about educational and career opportunities in STEM.
Participating K-12 schools will engage in a Trivia Scavenger Hunt during the Virtual PCEC Project Day in which students will watch the project videos and answer multiple-choice questions written by the project teams.  After the Trivia Scavenger Hunt is complete, students can submit their forms to PCEC to win free GVSU swag. 
PCEC Virtual Project Day web page is under development for the April 22nd event. The GVSU students’ project videos and short descriptions will be posted on the web page starting on April 19th
Questions about the Virtual PCEC Project Day and how your school can participate should be directed to Sara Maas, PCEC Outreach Coordinator, at

Engineering Alum Reflects on Career and Time as a GVSU Student

Breanna Andrews graduated from the Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering program at Grand Valley State University and is now a Product Development Engineer at Medisurge.
During her time at Grand Valley, Andrews gained experience with 3D additive manufacturing through her co-op placement with Medisurge. The collaborative industry partnership between GVSU’s applied Medical Device Institute (aMDI) and Medisurge helped to foster a $500K grant from the City of Grand Rapids that supported research on 3D Additive Manufacturing and Accelerating Medical Devices to Market. Through her role with Medisurge, Andrews began working on polymer 3D additive manufacturing and she played a critical part in completion of the certification process to become a Carbon 3D Production Partner.
John Hall, Principal Engineer and Project Manager at aMDI, explained that Andrews’s experience conducting verification runs using the Carbon 3D printer makes her a top subject matter expert in liquid polymer 3D printing. Medisurge was thrilled to hire her upon graduation from the GVSU engineering program due to her multi-faceted skillsets. “It takes a special kind of person to be customer-facing,” said Rick Shorey, Vice President of Research & Development at Medisurge. “You have to have the technical knowledge to get the job done correctly and the communication skills to convey technical information in a way that is both accurate and understandable.”
Andrews spoke highly of the Product Design & Manufacturing Engineering program at GVSU. “PDM is a really great program. You get direct project and design experience,” she said. “The biggest opportunity that the GVSU engineering school has to offer is the co-op program,” which requires students to complete three full semesters of industry employment prior to graduation. “Going into engineering can be scary. You get out of it what you put into it. I’ve become a different, better person due to the engineering program.”
Professor Anirudh Chowdhary
Professor Anirudh Chowdhary

GVSU Professor Featured as Guest Speaker at MichBio BioTalent Summit

Anirudh Chowdhary, Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Programs Coordinator, was an invited guest speaker at MichBio’s BioTalent Summit last month. The BioTalent Summit brought together industry professionals and faculty from higher education, in addition to state and regional level workforce stakeholders, aimed at collaborating to address existing and future talent demands, design curriculum that is more aligned with industry needs, and discuss best practices and solutions to challenges faced by the bio-industry in Michigan.
Professor Chowdhary provided a presentation titled, “Innovative Bioscience Talent Education and Initiatives: Michigan Recipes for Success,” which covered the ways that the PSM programs at Grand Valley are effectively training science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students to meet industry needs for a skilled and proficient workforce. 
The PSM degree is a two-year graduate program which combines scientific expertise with high-value, transferable professional skills to prepare students for successful employment upon graduation. The program is designed to fill a management need for technology-based companies, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations, and stresses workplace experience in addition to research experience. As part of their education, PSM students gain valuable work experience through a paid industry internship and get started solving real-world problems right away. 
PSM students have 24/7 access to state-of-the-art facilities including a wide variety of project spaces, laboratories, and equipment. Alumni of the Grand Valley PSM program have nearly a 100% employment rate upon graduation; many receive job offers as a result of their internship experiences. The demand for professionals working in the PSM fields is high, with job outlook projections continuing to be positive in the coming years. All five PSM degree programs are tailored toward working professionals, offering flexible class schedules with evening meetings. 
FIRST Robotics Team in the IDC
A FIRST Robotics team poses with their robot in the Innovation Design Center

FIRST Robotics Finds a Way

In January, FIRST Robotics announced changes to the high school First Robotics Competition (FRC) and middle school First Tech Challenge (FTC) programs as large scale, in-person events would not be able to be held this year due to COVID restrictions. 
FRC introduced INFINITE RECHARGE at Home, in which teams used the Infinite Recharge bot to navigate an obstacle course or shoot Power Cells into a target. Rather than competing against one another, teams competed individually on a field and submitted a video to FRC for judging. FTC announced a brand-new game this year called Ultimate Goal. Instead of competing against other teams, FTC teams also recorded videos and submitted them for judging. 
Changes to the competition formats were not the only challenge for FIRST teams, however. The COVID pandemic resulted in the shutdown of many corporate-donated build spaces the teams had been able to use in the past at the same time K-12 schools lost build spaces because they were being used to support regular school functions in a socially-distant environment. As a result, the FIRST community needed to find new partners to host practice fields for FRC and “hubs” for FTC. 
Thanks to the hard work of many individuals from the West Michigan FIRST team and the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC), Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was able to create practice space for both FRC and FTC at the Innovation Design Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
“It was so rewarding to see the teams able to test their robots and create the videos for the competitions despite all of the challenges stacked against them due to COVID,” said Sara Maas, PCEC Outreach Coordinator. “FIRST is a wonderful program for developing technical and teamwork skills. I'm glad that we were able to provide a safe venue for the kids to come and demonstrate all of their hard work.”
As this season starts winding down, we look forward to hosting many FIRST teams at GVSU in the future. 
Dennis Mbuta
Dennis Mbuta

Information Systems Major Captures NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championship

Running cleats on his feet, laptop in his hand, and dressed in a suit and tie is a normal look for Dennis Mbuta. He is a senior studying Information Systems and recently became the 800m Men’s Indoor Track & Field National Champion.
Dennis and his family are from Nairobi, Kenya, which is located on the east side of Africa. He moved to Kentwood, Michigan at the start of 6th grade. He said his dad is the most influential person in his life, as he came from Kenya - leaving a culture and country he was comfortable with for a new culture that was uncomfortable - but he still became successful. "It just shows when you put your mind to something, you can be successful at it,” said Mbuta. That mindset pushed him early on in high school at East Kentwood and continues to drive him to succeed now.
Dennis has another passion besides running, and that is computing. "Coming into GVSU, I only knew about computer science. When I spoke to my academic advisor, I told her my passion was business, people, and computers,” Mbuta explained. That conversation led him to become an Information Systems major, a field in which he can combine all of his passions.
“I have enjoyed being in every class with all of my professors," Mbuta shared. "The way they put in the effort to make sure students are successful shows how much they care." His favorite computing classes were CIS 163 with Dr. Roger Ferguson and CIS 290 with Dr. Scott Grissom and Dr. Paul Leidig. "CIS 290 opened my eyes and introduced me to the real world. It taught me many ways to make myself more professional and prepared for interviews and communication with companies," Mbuta said.
"Dennis always brought the same energy and professionalism to class that he exhibited in athletics," said Dr. Paul Leidig, Director of the School of Computing & Information Systems. "I expect he will experience the same success in his computing career as he did running."

PCEC Hosts Informational Webinars for Prospective Students

Are you ready to experience what's next for your career? Do you know a student who could benefit from an education at Grand Valley State University? Sign up for an informational webinar to learn more about the academic programs in the Padnos College of Engineering & Computing!
This is an opportunity to speak with faculty from the PCEC programs as well as a representative from GVSU Admissions to have all of your questions answered. 
Visit the PCEC Informational Webinars website to find a time that works for you.

MiSTEM Network Video Highlights the Power of STEM Education

Dr. Paul Plotkowski; GVSU Mechanical Engineering student, Genevieve Wisby; and others discussed the importance of place-based, project-based, and problem-based learning in STEM in this video from the MiSTEM Network. The MiSTEM Network builds and mobilizes committed networks of collaborators across Michigan to broaden the STEM ecosystem and embrace learning experiences beyond the physical classroom. Check it out!
MiSTEM Network Video on the Power of STEM Education

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