|In the News
The Benefits of Membership
Looking back on his years as a student, CECS graduate Joshua Morrison wishes he would have done a few things differently.
"I wasn't interested in joining an engineering student organization during my freshman and sophomore years," says Morrison, who received his degree in computer and information science in May. "Then I joined the Association for Computing Machinery as a junior and realized what I had been missing. They had recruiters from companies like Google, Compuware, and Ford come to campus to talk with their members. Many of my friends got internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs through those meetings. I wish I had joined a student org sooner."
The college's eighteen student engineering organizations offer abundant learning and networking opportunities. Yet, many freshmen and sophomores are unaware of them. To help rectify this problem, Morrison and some of his peers created the Engineering Organization Council (EOC).
The council, formed during the winter 2013 semester, brings together representatives from each UM-Dearborn student engineering organization. The goal is to increase freshman and sophomore student organization recruitment, create an alliance among the individual student organizations, and help those organizations forge a stronger connection with CECS.
"Because UM-Dearborn is a commuter campus, many incoming students don't know how to become more involved," Morrison says. "The EOC will help show freshmen and sophomores the benefits of joining a student organization."
The EOC officially launched in March when it met with CECS Dean Tony England. The meeting organizers formalized the council and discussed ways to increase awareness of individual organizations on campus.
"We'd like to have an EOC representative to talk about engineering student organizations during freshman orientation," Morrison says. "We'd also like to distribute flyers to professors, the advising department and anyone else who could direct students to us. Dean England has been very supportive and has helped connect us with the CECS alumni affiliate board, which will help the student orgs maintain relationships with industry."
Other EOC organizers include Molly Pohutski, president of Dearborn Campus Engineers, and Derelle Redmond, a 2013 computer engineering graduate.
"Once we got the student org representatives together for the meeting and began sharing our experiences, it became evident that the EOC will benefit everyone," says Redmond, who belonged to several student organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery. "Dean England was especially excited about helping the student organizations connect with alumni affiliate members. This will be much easier to do using the EOC as a central body."
EOC organizers created a succession plan so the council can continue moving forward, now that its organizers have graduated. Morrison is working as an associate developer at Urban Science, a software solutions company in Detroit. Redmond is a mobile application developer at TT Media Services in Novi.
"It's very important for students to join an engineering organization," Redmond says. "In our competitive job market, a 4.0 grade-point average alone isn't enough to land a good job. Participating in student organizations shows a potential employer that you're passionate about engineering beyond the classroom."
More Than Meets the Eye
The human eye may not be as fast, accurate or consistent as researchers need it to be when tracking data. But new software created by students from University of Michigan-Dearborn's College of Engineering and Computer Science leverages computer vision technology to support the data collection process.
BioVision is a cross-platform application that automates the process for researchers, scanning raw video files for movement. Users set the motion detection parameters depending on their needs and then can output information to an Excel workbook to quantify and compare data across videos.
Anne Danielson-Francois, assistant professor of biology, commissioned the project for use in UM-Dearborn's arachnid lab. For her and her research students, collecting data on spider movement meant hours of manually recording behavior by hand as it occurred.
"Collecting accurate data in an efficient manner is imperative to conducting experiments," said BioVision team member Joshua Morrison. "Having a program to expedite the data collection process could allow a research team to work through more trials and conduct more experiments."
Researchers in the Danielson-Francois laboratory often spent more time playing back videos to score the spider's movements than doing the actual experiment. Time spent reviewing footage would take time away from further research and this is a common issue for researchers that videotape animal behavior.
"We wanted to help researchers save time and energy," Morrison said. "No more recording behaviors by hand. No more scrubbing through an entire video file to get the information you need."
The genesis for the project began from a random encounter over coffee in the faculty lounge in Mardigian Library between a biologist and an engineer. Danielson-Francois was reviewing spider behavior video playback on her computer when another coffee drinker, Narasimhamurthi Natarajan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, pointed out that electronic vision could do a better job of extracting data from video files than simply reviewing the videos and scoring behaviors by hand.
From this original insight, they collaborated on a short initial code 100 lines long with graduate student Raymond Llonillo. But using the code required a knowledge of computer science that most users do not have and the program was restricted in what it could do.
So with the idea to create a BioVision that everyone could use with more features and functionality, Danielson-Francois began working with the CECS senior design team of Morrison, Nathaniel Dessert, Daniel Painter, Jacob Boncher, Dustin Morabito, and Molly Pohutski.
Danielson-Francois met with the students throughout the development process and was pleased with the end result.
The developers "produced professional grade video analysis software that can be used by any researcher to analyze patterns of movement in digitally captured video," she said in a letter to the team's supervising faculty. "It not only performs the functions outlined at the start of the project, but it completely exceeded my expectations."
Although originally designed for behavioral science research, the technology also could support mechanical and security applications. Security officials can set sensitivity parameters to quickly scan video for unusual movement. In the auto industry, BioVision could help detect amounts of movements in springs (suspension) and measure how they react to differing weights.
"The application could be used with any video where you're looking for a certain kind of movement," said team member Daniel Painter.
The BioVision team, led by Dessert, originally looked for already-produced software that could assist in collecting data as a starting point off of which they could build. But when they couldn't find a flexible user-friendly solution, they designed their own from scratch. The software took about 4,000 hours to complete and includes more than 10,000 lines of code.
The team presented the software at the college's Senior Design Competition on April 19. They won the Department of Computer and Information Science division and shared top honors with the Department of Mechanical Engineering's autonomous snowplow design project.
The program has been released as an open source project to encourage development and use in the scientific community.
Engineering Wisdom Day
You can't do it all yourself.
It was fitting advice Chelsea Thomas ('09 B.S.E.E.) shared with a group of current University of Michigan-Dearborn students.
She was talking about delegating assignments at work. But the message of seeking help from others fit with the theme of the day during Engineering Wisdom Day, held on campus March 28.
The university's chapters of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE) brought three UM-Dearborn alumnae back to their alma mater for the event. SWE Chapter President Ashley Klepadlo hoped to create a platform where alumni could share their knowledge and experiences in the workplace.
"We wanted to strengthen the connection between alumni and current students," Klepadlo said. "It is important that we use every source and every person available to us to continue our individual and organizations' growth."
Thomas, who works on lighting design at SHW Group, was joined by Judy Curran ('87 M.S.E.E.), vehicle line director at Ford Motor Company, and Janet E. Hall ('68 M.S.E.E., '90 M.B.A.), CECS' first female graduate, who retired from Ford in 2002.
The panel dished out advice on choosing a program, navigating office politics and how to best prepare for the workplace.
"You don't need to know everything," Hall said. "You learn how to learn in school. The ability to think and solve a problemthose skills are always needed."
They stressed the importance of learning to work in a team and taking advantage of the university's co-op program.
The women also commiserated with the group about the rigors of the program, before leaving them with a message of hope.
"More than once I wanted to quit school. Brute force kept me going," Curran said. "But the fun stuff is the work you do. It gets better."
Best in Class
Calculating how many hours Theta Tau members spend volunteering in the community is difficult for chapter president Christopher Guirlanda. "It's hard to tell," he said, "because our members are always doing great things."
That commitment to community is just one reason the Theta Tau chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, a national honor society for electrical and computer engineers, has earned the Outstanding Chapter Award for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Only 20 of nearly 200 national chapters received the distinction this year. Judges based their decision on chapter activities, with service programs carrying the most weight.
Guirlanda said the service projects are a way for him and other Theta Tau members to make a difference while reaching their own full potential. Last year, members volunteered at Gleaners Community Food Bank and tutored high school students in math and physics.
"There's a lot more to school than just the grades you earn, and that is why service is so important," he said. "Through my time in this chapter I have seen some incredible growth of the people who have participated in service projects."
Guirlanda's goal for the chapter is to connect with the community as well as with local industry. Recruiting events, technical seminars and networking opportunities all work to strengthen the student experience.
"We want not only to honor our members for their great academic accomplishments and character, but to bring them opportunities through the network we've established through our members."
Yi Lu Murphy, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will receive the award on behalf of the chapter next Monday during the annual meeting of Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association.
University of Michigan-Dearborn previously won Outstanding Chapter for the 2009-2010 academic year.