Dean Julia Ross receives “Outstanding Chemical Engineer” honor

Ross windowPurdue University has honored Dean Julia Ross of UMBC’s College of Engineering and IT as one of six Outstanding Chemical Engineers for 2015.

Dean Ross is an alumna of Purdue and received her PhD in chemical engineering from Rice University in 1995. She has served as dean of COEIT since August 2014, and is also UMBC’s Constellation Professor of Information Technology and Engineering.

Prior to her appointment as dean, Ross served as special assistant to the provost for inter-institutional research initiatives, 2012-14, and was instrumental in enhancing research collaborations between UMBC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Among her current projects, Dean Ross has collaborated with colleagues Jon Singer and Chris Rakes from UMBC’s department of education, and Richard Weisenhoff from Baltimore County Public Schools, on developing curriculum and training resources to integrate engineering into high school biology and technology classrooms. Most recently, NSF supported UMBC-BCPS Inspires through a $3 million grant in 2014.

As dean, Ross has contributed to several important national initiatives, including signing on to a letter of commitment to improve the inclusiveness of engineering education at the first White House Demo Day, hosted by President Barack Obama in August 2015.

Joining Dean Ross are fellow award recipients Norm Kidder, CEO of Lomar Corporation; John Klier, a global R&D director at Dow; Seung Bin Park (PhD ’88) a vice president at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Charles E. Smith, president and CEO of Countrymark; and Vijay Swarup, vice president of R&D for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.

Renetta Tull shortlisted for GEDC Airbus Diversity Award

Renetta TullRenetta Tull, associate vice provost for graduate student development and postdoctoral affairs, is one of ten impressive candidates shortlisted for this year’s GEDC Airbus Diversity Award.

The GEDC Airbus Diversity Award honors people and projects worldwide that “have encouraged students of all profiles and backgrounds to study and succeed in engineering.” This year’s shortlist includes scholars from Germany, South Africa, Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Tull’s profile in the GEDC/Airbus announcement reads:

Renetta Tull leads the PROMISE Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a program that has grown to include a global STEM diversity and inclusion initiative. This aims to build a global engineering workforce capacity through focused attention on increasing the numbers of future engineering faculty from underrepresented groups.

Partnering with programs like ADVANCE for women faculty, and programs that broaden participation in engineering, PROMISE trains undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty. The initiative has resulted in a significantly increased pipeline of underrepresented alumni and engineering program participants.

Learn more about Renetta Tull’s work and #ThinkBigDiversity through her blog, and watch Tull’s nomination video to learn more about her inspiration:

The Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) is an international network of engineering deans working to advance engineering education, research and service. The organization notes, “The importance of diversity and inclusion in the engineering education community is a consistent theme in the GEDC’s conversations on improving the quality of engineering and engineering education.” Airbus Group is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services, and is a corporate member of the GEDC.

Three finalists will be selected from the shortlist and announced at the IE Reinventing Higher Education conference in Madrid, Spain, October 19-20, 2015. They will also be invited to present their project before a distinguished jury at the annual GEDC conference, on December 1, 2015, in Adelaide, Australia.

UMBC joins National STEM Collaborative supporting opportunities for underrepresented girls and women

Philip RousResponding to the underrepresentation of minority women in STEM fields, UMBC has joined a new national collaborative committed to supporting educational opportunities for girls and women of color in STEM.

The White House Council for Women and Girls announced the formation of the National STEM Collaborative at a special event at the White House on September 15, 2015 (watch video).

In addition to UMBC, the consortium, led by Arizona State University, consists of 19 institutions of higher education and nonprofit partners, including Amherst College, City College of New York, Diné College, Maricopa Community Colleges, Spelman College, University of Alabama, University of California-Riverside, and Harvard University.

In response to the announcement Provost Rous said, “Our participation in the consortium reflects UMBC’s established national reputation for supporting students from all backgrounds. At the national level, it provides an opportunity to share the best practices and innovative ideas we have developed to promote greater educational opportunities for women of color who are underrepresented in many fields, including the STEM disciplines.”

Over the next 3-5 years the collaborative will focus on providing analysis and information on best practices to support women and girls in STEM in educational settings; develop networking resources to help talented students enter and persist in STEM programs; and determine best practices to support women of color transitioning from community college to four-year university STEM programs.

The National STEM Collaborative emphasizes, “Our mission is not to simply populate the STEM pipeline with more women of color. Rather we seek to provide institutions, students, leaders, corporations, and organizations the skills and resources to change the pipeline to be more equitable for more underrepresented women.”

Sarah Jewett, STEM Transfer Student Success Initiative, Discusses Workforce Prep on WalletHub

In a ranking of the nation’s community colleges, WalletHub asked experts about changes in the higher education landscape. Sarah Jewett, executive director of the STEM Transfer Student Success Initiative, spoke about whether community colleges shoud focus on preparing students for the workforce or a four-year institution.

Sarah Jewett headshot“Both community colleges and universities can benefit from collaborative inter-institutional partnerships in which everyone shares the responsibility for helping students to develop a robust and realistic set of academic and career options,” Jewett said. “Early exploration of majors and fields, active participation in experiential learning opportunities, sustained development of  goals and plans, and transitional support can enhance the success of all students.”

Read Jewett’s response on WalletHub.

First Video Game From UMBC’s Game Developer’s Club Up on Steam

win_huebots_storyA game developed by a four-student UMBC team was recently added on Steam, the giant PC game platform. The success prompted stories in the Baltimore Daily Record and in featuring interviews with team lead Michael Leung ’16; programmer Tad Cordle ’16; and Marc Olano, who heads the game-development track in the computer science department.

HueBots made it to the national “final four” of college game video development this spring. The competition for the Microsoft Imagine Cup entailed not only creating the game but a business plan that included getting the game onto Steam.

Acceptance is a significant boost because the website is the go-place place for PC games. Olano pointed out that Steam’s vetting process invites public feedback, indicating that the game drew wider interest than from just the campus.

HueBots features friendly, colorful robots that players build and use to solve maze puzzles that revolve around the bots’ affinity for color-matched objects. It’s the first game to come to market from the Game Developer’s Club. But, Leung said, not the last. “We want to get as many different games out there as we can.”

Read “Full Steam Ahead: UMBC Students Take Video Game to Market” in The Daily Record and “HueBots, a Videogame Created by UMBC Students, Is Now on Steam” in Baltimore.

Amy Hurst, Information Systems, Describes “Making for All” in Huffington Post

The intersection of technology and do-it-yourself (DIY) culture, known as the Maker Movement, has been praised for encouraging Americans to be creative and resourceful. However, the costly technology associated with the movement has raised concerns about accessibility. Amy Hurst, information systems, spoke to the Huffington Post this week about how she is encouraging diverse populations to engage in making.

Amy HurstThrough working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and visual impairments, Hurst found that many DIY tools were difficult to use. Supported by a National Science Foundation grant, she started developing new tools and platforms to help people repair or customize objects, calling it “Making for All.” The tools developed range from VizTouch, which lets teachers quickly 3-D print math equations for visually impaired students, to GripFab, which allows individuals with disabilities print custom hand grips.

“We’re empowering people to incorporate making into their daily lives to solve their own accessibility challenges,” Hurst said. “These are individuals who many people would discount and overlook and not think of as makers and we were getting them to do 3-D printing just like engineering students.”

Read “Democratizing the Maker Movement” in Huffington Post.

Anupam Joshi, Cybersecurity, Analyzes Wearable Tech Data Safety in Nature

Wearable electronics, which includes devices like fitness trackers and smart watches, is a rapidly growing industry that promises to connect the real and digital lives of consumers. As the technology evolves, researchers have been challenged to improve the safety and quality of data transfer to and from wearable electronics. Anupam Joshi, cybersecurity, spoke to Nature about the security concerns raised by this emerging technology.

joshi“With wearables… we truly are entering into a new era, and we have to start thinking of these issues,” Joshi declared. He shared how UMBC’s Center for Cybersecurity is working on privacy issues related to wearable technology by creating an app to block out the faces of people who have requested privacy from Google Glass photographs. However, the technology could only reliably provide privacy if manufacturers implement it with dedicated hard ware, Joshi said. “Let’s say that Google was to build in a feature like this into every Google Glass so that it would automatically obey these kinds of commands — then it would work.”

Read “What could derail the wearables revolution?” in Nature.