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,

Each April I have the honor and privilege of celebrating our recent graduates of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. To our Winter 2023 graduates, we are so proud of all that you have accomplished and wish you all the best on your new adventure. It’s a joy for all of us at the Padnos College to see our alumni move on to new and exciting opportunities.

We would love to stay connected with you as a recent alum. We count on our alumni network to support the next generation of STEM professionals. PCEC alumni frequently provide projects, job opportunities, mentoring, financial support, expertise, and more to our current students. Please reach out directly to our new Assistant Dean, Rachel Salinas, at, if you’d like to learn more about alumni engagement opportunities with PCEC. Rachel is a Grand Valley State University alum and would love to hear from you!

GVSU and the Padnos College provide a variety of resources to alumni, including lifetime career center access and networking opportunities. We encourage you to stay connected to GVSU alumni, take advantage of a $1000 scholarship to come back to GVSU for future classes, and utilize the resources available to you to further your career!

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


Project Day
 Project Day 2023

Project Day: Celebrating Innovation and Collaboration

More than 90 engineering, computer science, and occupational safety and health management students presented their senior and team projects on April 20 at the Shape Corp. Innovation and Design Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. 

Project Day is sponsored by the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC) and showcases the culmination of what students have learned in the classroom and in collaboration with industry partners. 

Sara Maas, Outreach Coordinator for PCEC, shared, "It’s always fun to see the diverse projects that our GVSU students are working on - from swords, to apps, to training videos using AR, and it’s great to see the visiting students engaging with the presenters.  Sara enjoys being closely involved with Project Day because “It’s so important for younger students to get on a college campus and see real-life output from college students.” 

There were 39 projects presented by Grand Valley students with topics that ranged from the creation of a financial literacy app to the unveiling of a Formula One-style open wheel-race car. Many of the projects demonstrated how students worked with a client to solve a real-world industry problem.

Two of the projects, “Security of SCADA Systems”, presented by Alexander Sobiesczyk and Clayton Wenzel, and Steelcase DCIM Capstone Project, presented by Kassidy Ricketson and Casey Sytsema, were selected for the inaugural Reach Higher 2025 Showcase. 

The Reach Higher showcase was created to share the institution’s mission and vision with the entire Grand Valley State University community.

High school students from Black River Prep, Colon High School, Covenant House Academy, Grand Rapids Public Museum School, Grand River Prep, Muskegon Covenant Academy, West Catholic High School, West Michigan Aviation Academy,  and Whitehall High School attended the event.

New Tech Center
  GVSU Master Plan includes creating a new tech center

GVSU Masters Plan includes creating a new tech center, the Blue Dot Lab

Grand Valley State University plans to repurpose the Eberhard Center at its downtown Grand Rapids Pew campus. The tech center, named Blue Dot Lab, is included in GVSU’s 2022 master plan update, which the school’s board of trustees approved in February. The facility would house computer science, data science, and transdisciplinary degrees in business, computing, and the humanities.

The university plans to demolish a portion of the academic building, which opened in 1988, and construct a new addition in its place, increasing the building’s square footage to 175,000 square feet. Construction could take three years, according to GVSU’s most recent capital outlay plan. The university is requesting $35 million in state funding to support the project and would fund the remaining $105 million of the project, according to the capital outlay plan. 

Creating the Blue Dot Lab aims to achieve three goals: Enhance students’ digital skills across all majors; increase the number of graduates with technical, computing, data, and A.I.-related expertise; and facilitate increased collaboration between GVSU, startups, entrepreneurs, and corporate partners.

GVSU added digital literacy as a required outcome for all of its undergraduate students starting in 2022, regardless of their area of study. School officials expect faculty from every department to integrate resources from the Blue Dot Lab into their coursework to carry out this goal. The lab would be managed by an internal team from a range of degrees, departments, and colleges at GVSU to ensure the lab is accessible to every student.

Agreement sign
GVSU officials sign an articulation agreement with North Carolina

GVSU officials sign an articulation agreement with North Carolina HBCU

Leaders at Grand Valley State University and Johnson C. Smith University signed an agreement April 12 that provides pathways for North Carolina students to earn master's degrees at Grand Valley in engineering or athletic training.

JCSU is the fifth Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to join the HBCU/Hispanic Serving Institution Consortium. The consortium advances Grand Valley's goals of increasing educational access and empowering learners. JCSU is a professional liberal arts college in Charlotte, North Carolina.

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said students from JCSU will enrich Grand Valley's campus and add strong and diverse talent to the West Michigan workforce.

"Partnerships like this are how higher education works best. We are collaborating, not competing, with one another and share a common goal: to help students succeed," Mantella said. "I'm very grateful to the teams who worked on this agreement and am excited to partner with Johnson C. Smith University."

JCSU offers bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering, mathematics and public health, in addition to a minor in sports medicine. The agreement provides opportunities for qualified students to earn GVSU master's degrees in engineering or athletic training, beginning in the Fall 2023 semester.

JCSU President Clarence Armbrister said: “For 156 years, Johnson C. Smith University has been a leader in providing education to underserved communities. We are grateful that we aren’t doing it alone. We want to make sure our students have a seamless pathway when they leave JCSU, and our announcement today is that this agreement will provide a guided pathway for JCSU and GVSU."

Cast Steel
Cast in Steel 2023

Cast in Steel 2023: A Collaborative Project between engineering students and anthropology faculty at GVSU

Jarrett Folkert, David Pevic, Rock Phelps, Eric Spindler, and Nathan Vugteveen, engineering students at Grand Valley State University, will be heading to Cleveland, Ohio on Monday, April 24, 2023, to participate in the “Cast in Steel” competition hosted by the Steel Founders’ Society of America (SFSA). SFSA created the Cast in Steel competition to encourage students to learn about making steel products, using the casting process, and applying the latest technology available.

The Cast in Steel 2023 competition challenges university students to use modern casting tools to creatively design and produce a functioning version of an African Spear Point. During the competition, each team’s spear will be put through a series of tests. The students’ final competition submission must include the creation of an African spear point, a project video, and a technical report documenting the design and manufacturing process. The students’ technical report requires the historical background of the African Spear Point and an explanation as to why the spear point is authentic. This is the 2nd time that Padnos College of Engineering and Computing will be represented at the Cast in Steel competition. GVSU took home the award for “Authenticity” for their version of a Celtic Leaf Sword in 2022.

During this project, the team of engineering students worked closely with Dr. Hedges, an anthropology professor at GVSU. Dr. Hedges connected the students with a Maasai elder, Joseph Ole Kipila, who advised the team on the spear’s design. Through conversations with Joseph Ole Kipila, the students learned that the Maasai spear point is not simply for utility or war, but a status symbol in Maasai culture. After speaking with Joseph Ole Kipila, mechanical engineering student, David Pevic, immediately contacted Dr. Hedges to let her know that his conversation with the Maasai elder was the “coolest” thing he’d done all year. When asked about the benefits of the collaboration between the engineering and anthropology departments, mechanical engineering student, Jarrett Folkert, said that the Cast in Steel project “Required the team to look outside of their engineering bubble” and that the “partnership between engineering and anthropology was amazing.” David added that working with Dr. Hedges made the Cast in Steel project meaningful and enriching.

View the full story.
Civic Engagement Showcase
Civic Engagement Showcase

Civic Engagement Showcase is back to highlight campus-community collaborations

AThe Civic Engagement Showcase is back! The event is Thursday, April 6, 4-7:30 p.m. in the DeVos Center, Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall, on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. 

Travus Burton, director for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, said more than 35 exhibits will be displayed, representing the work of many academic disciplines, campus/community initiatives, and university centers that support civic engagement work.

Michael Huner, associate professor of history, plans to exhibit and discuss the Civic Change Agent Badge program. Huner said the program draws from the social science, liberal arts, and humanities curriculums in Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"The badge program counters the notion that this curricular wheel has to be reinvented," Huner said. "This program comes out of the liberal arts tradition that is foundational to the university’s educational mission." 

Jordyn Horton, library specialist, is the first student to receive the badge certification. Horton graduated from Grand Valley in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in communications studies and enrolled in the undergraduate badge program last year. 

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