Eecs 142 Homework For Kids

 

Learning and Building Together
in an Immersive Virtual World

Maria Roussos, Andrew Johnson, Thomas Moher
Jason Leigh, Christina Vasilakis, Craig Barnes

Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) and
Interactive Computing Environments Laboratory (ICE)
University of Illinois at Chicago, 851 S. Morgan St., Room 1120,
Chicago, IL 60607, USA
(312) 996-3002 voice, (312) 413-7585 fax
nice@ice.eecs.uic.edu, www.ice.eecs.uic.edu/~nice

Abstract

This paper describes the design, evaluation, and lessons learned from a project involving the implementation of an immersive virtual environment for children called NICE (Narrative-based, Immersive, Constructionist / Collaborative Environments). The goal of the NICE project was to construct a testbed for the exploration of virtual reality as a learning medium within the context of the primary educational reform themes of the past three decades. With a focus on informal education and domains with social content, NICE embraces the constructivist approach to learning, collaboration, and narrative development, and is designed to utilize the strengths of virtual reality: a combination of immersion, telepresence, immediate visual feedback, and interactivity. Based on our experiences with a broad range of users, the paper discusses both the successes and limitations of NICE, and concludes with recommendations for research directions in the application of immersive VR technologies to children's learning.
 

1 Introduction

There are good reasons to presume that the application of virtual reality (VR) technologies to children's conceptual learning is, in the words of Fred Brooks, "rank foolishness" (Brooks, 1998). To date, there exists no clear evidence that VR brings "added value" to learning in children; historical experience with other media offers scant hope for powerful effects (Clark, 1983; Cuban, 1986). Even if overwhelming evidence of effectiveness were available, the prohibitive costs of VR technologies and concomitant staff development, operations, and maintenance would find no place in dwindling school budgets overwhelmingly dominated by human resource costs. Price/performance issues aside, there remain strong objections among educators and developmental psychologists regarding the appropriateness of "virtual" experiences for children (Cuban, 1986).

Yet, in spite of these concerns, there remain compelling reasons for believing that VR learning environments for children warrant serious investigation. There is general agreement that VR can have strong motivational impact (Bricken, 1991); ongoing efforts at characterizing phenomena such as immersion and presence are beginning to clarify these effects (Winn, 1993; Slater and Wilbur, 1997). VR affords opportunities to experience environments which, for reasons of time, distance, scale, and safety, would not otherwise be available to many young children, especially those with disabilities (Cromby et al., 1995). Early exposure to virtual environments may both leverage the well-known efficiency and capacity of children's learning and provide advance organizers for later learning experiences (Dede, 1998). Usability issues which plague adult VR users may prove less problematic among children, who both easily adapt to graphic and conceptual abstraction (in cartoons and comics) and who often have extensive experience in navigation 3-D spaces and discovering and exercising interface affordances (Provenzo, 1991).

In this paper we describe our experience in the development and assessment of the distributed virtual reality environment NICE (Narrative, Immersive, Collaborative/Constructivist Environment), designed to support children's learning of simple relationships between plant growth, sunlight, and water. NICE implements a persistent virtual garden in which children may collaboratively plant and harvest fruits and vegetables, cull weeds, and position light and water sources to differentially affect the growth rate of plants. NICE has been operational since July, 1996, and has now been "visited" by well over 300 users from around the world.

We begin with a brief survey of the use of virtual reality technologies in support of learning. Next, we describe the NICE world, the learning and pedagogical themes which informed its design, and briefly discuss its implementation. A major portion of the paper is devoted to user experience and formal assessment of NICE as a learning environment. Finally, we close with a discussion of lessons learned from the NICE project, and how our experience with NICE is shaping our future research directions.
 

2 Children's Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments

Research in conceptual learning and virtual reality is a relatively young field, but growing rapidly. In a recent report by the Institute for Defense Analysis, Christine Youngblut comprehensively surveys work over the past few years in the area, citing approximately 50 VR-based learning applications which include desktop but exclude text-based virtual environments (Youngblut, 1998). We restrict our focus here to those projects involving immersive VR technologies applied specifically to elementary and middle school children's learning.

The Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITL) at the University of Washington has been one of the early educational seedbeds for VR, with projects such as the Virtual Reality Roving Vehicle (VRRV) (Rose, 1995; Winn, 1993) and summer camp programs in VR for students (Bricken and Byrne, 1993). The VRRV project was experienced by a large number of students, while the summer camps focused on "world-building" activities, where students conceived and created the objects of their own virtual worlds, using 3D modeling software on desktop computers. Although this gave the opportunity for students to understand the process involved in creating a virtual setting, the actual immersive experience was limited to a short visit of the pre-designed virtual worlds (10-minute VR experiences), making it difficult to come to conclusions on the value of a virtual experience itself for conceptual learning.

The NewtonWorld and MaxwellWorld ScienceSpace projects developed by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Houston (Dede et al, 1996) provide immersive learning environments in which students may explore the kinematics and dynamics of motion, electrostatic forces, and other physics concepts. Formative evaluation studies of these virtual worlds have been conducted with respect to their usability and learnability. These studies report on learners' engagement, surprise and understanding of the alternative representations of the concepts provided in the ScienceSpace worlds (Dede, et al., 1996). Limitations and discomfort caused by the current VR head-mounted displays hindered usability and learning. On the other hand, multisensory cues, multimodal interaction, and the introduction of multiple new representations is believed to have helped students develop correct mental models of the abstract material.

Researchers at The Computer Museum developed an immersive VR application designed to teach children about the structure and function of cells (Gay and Greschler, 1994). In the application, users were asked to construct cells from component parts, with successful completion indicated by an animation of internal cell function. In a comparison between immersive and non-immersive treatment groups, immersive subjects (children and adults) demonstrated better retention of symbolic information (remembering the names and functions of the organelles), and indicated more interest in taking a free biology class as a result of the experience.

Another exhibit-based research project, the Virtual Gorilla project (Allison, et al., 1997) recreates the Gorilla Exhibit at Zoo Atlanta, allowing users to adopt the role of an adolescent gorilla, navigating the environment and observing other gorillas' reactions to their approach. While no formal assessment has been reported, interviews with users elicited favorable responses in the sense of immersion, enjoyment, and successful communication of learning goals.

The above virtual worlds have been implemented to support only one (physically present or remote) student at a time. To our knowledge, the NICE project is the first immersive, multi-user learning environment designed specifically for children.
 

3 The NICE project

The Narrative Immersive Constructionist / Collaborative Environments (NICE) project is an exploratory learning environment for children between the ages of 6 and 10 (Roussos et al., 1997; Roussos et al., 1997b, Johnson et al., 1998.) The children's main activity in NICE is to collaboratively construct, cultivate, and tend a healthy virtual garden (see Figure 1.) This activity takes place in a highly graphical immersive virtual reality system called the CAVE (TM) (Cruz-Neira et al., 1993.)

The CAVE is a multi-person, room-sized virtual reality system consisting of three walls and a floor. All users entering the CAVE wear special lightweight stereoglasses, which allow them to see both the virtual and the physical world unobtrusively, and use a light-weight hand-held device, called a wand, for interaction (see Figure 2.) As the CAVE supports multiple simultaneous physical users, 5-6 children can participate in the learning activities at the same time. A similar but smaller VR system, the ImmersaDesk(tm), consists of one back-projected panel tilted at a 45-degree angle and resembles a drafting table.

The NICE garden was originally designed as an environment for young children to learn about the effects of sunlight and rainfall on plants, the "spontaneous" growth of weeds, the ability to recycle dead vegetation, and similar simple biological concepts that are a part of the life cycle of a garden. Since these concepts can be experienced by most children in a real garden, the NICE garden provides its users with tools that allow its exploration from multiple different perspectives. In addition to planting, growing, and picking vegetables and flowers, the children have the ability to shrink down and walk beneath the surface of the soil to observe the roots of their plants or to meet other underground dwellers. They can also leap high up in the air, climb over objects, factor time, and experience firsthand the effects of sunlight and rainfall by controlling the environmental variables that cause them.

Familiar methods of interaction are employed, which eliminate the use of menus and instead use simple visual metaphors.  The wand has a joystick for navigation and three buttons: one for picking and planting, one for changing size, and one for leaping. In the garden there are several crates of seeds for the children to choose from. Using the wand, a child can pick a seed from a crate and drop it onto the soil. The corresponding vegetable will then begin to grow. The children must make sure the plants are not too close together, and that they get enough water and sunlight. Using the same pick-and-place action, they can water their plants by pulling a raincloud over them, provide sunlight with the use of the sun, or clear the garden weeds by recycling them in the compost heap. The symbolic representations of the various environmental elements as well as instant feedback are used to facilitate the learner's understanding of the biological relationships which take place in the garden. Thus, when the raincloud has been over a plant for too long, the plant holds an umbrella; when it's too sunny, it wears sunglasses, and so on.

The garden is persistent in that it continues to evolve, so the participants can return and check on its progress at a later time; the current garden has been growing for 2 years. In addition to the garden, the children have a whole island to explore: they can climb down a dormant volcano to access the catacombs beneath the island, look for fish in the sea, or see their own reflection in the water.

NICE supports real-time distributed collaboration. Multiple children can interact with the garden and each other from remote sites. Each remote user's presence in the virtual space is established using an avatar - a graphical representation of the person's body in the virtual world (see Figure 2.) The avatars have a separate head, body, and hand, which correspond to the user's actual tracked head and hand motions. This allows the environment to record and transmit sufficiently detailed gestures between the participants, such as the nodding of their heads, the waving of their hand, and the exchange of objects. Additionally, voice communication is enabled by a real-time audio connection.

NICE represents an explicit attempt to blend several learning and pedagogical themes within a single application. These themes: constructionism, exploratory learning, collaboration, and the primacy of narrative, reflect several of the most important educational reform themes of the past three decades.


Figure 1. A child (represented by an avatar) planting in the NICE garden

3.1 Constructionism and Exploration

The design of NICE supports the constructivist view that learners assimilate knowledge by engaging in self-directed learning activities which are accomplished through constructive tasks (Dewey, 1966; Papert, 1980.) The approach to constructionism taken by NICE echoes Papert's ideas in two ways: first, the learners can craft the environment within the virtual world. The activities of planting and tending of the garden entail making, manipulating, and exploring objects, systems, and ideas. The plants are simple agents with common rules of behavior based on simplified ecological models. They contain a common set of characteristics that contribute to their growth, such as their age, the amount of water and sunlight they need, and their proximity to other plants. The combination of these attributes determines the health of each plant and its size. The children gradually discover these relationships aided by the direct feedback provided.


Figure 2. Eddie interacting with the NICE garden in the CAVE

Second, the learners can construct something meaningful to them, such as the narrative.
 

3.2 Narrative

Papert believes that learning takes place when engaged in the construction of a personally meaningful artifact, such as a piece of art, a story, or an interactive computerized object (Papert, 1980.) The constructive artifact in NICE is in many ways the garden itself, as well as the stories formed by the kids that participate.  Our original intentions for the narrative development in NICE stemmed from an earlier project, the Graphical Storywriter (Steiner and Moher, 1992), a shared workspace where young children can develop and create structurally complete stories.

The stories developed in NICE differ in that they do not achieve closure, rather they continue to evolve along with the garden. Every action in the environment adds to the story that is being continuously formed. The narrative revolves around tending the garden and the reactions or decisions taken while interacting with the other characters.  These interactions are captured by the system in the form of simple sentences such as: "Amy pulls a cloud over the carrot patch and waters it. The tomatoes complain that they are not getting enough water." This story sequence goes through a simple parser, which replaces some of the words with their iconic representations and publishes it on a web page (see Figure 3.) This gives the story a picturebook look that the child can print to take home.  As a tangible product of the virtual experience, this visual output is intended as a way to strengthen the interest and motivation of a student and not so much to challenge reading and writing skills. It is, however, possible that with further development, a predominantly visual medium such as immersive VR can provide a valuable environment for literary experiences.


Figure 3. a NICE story on the web

3.3 Collaboration

One of the most important purposes of an educational environment is to promote the social interaction among children located in the same physical space. Theories that emphasize the importance of social interaction in cognitive growth (Vygotskii, 1978) suggest that successful collaborative learning involves more than the final creation of a learning product. Learning that is contextualized in a social setting may involve verbal interaction, collective decision making, conflict resolutions, peer teaching, and other group learning situations characteristic of a classroom setting. With the use of VR technology that supports multiple users in the same physical space, as well as appropriate interaction techniques, a number of kids can participate in the learning activity at the same time, without having to take turns or wear heavy and intrusive hardware devices.

In NICE, the construction of the environment may foster collaboration. The power of the user to modify the environment is manifested on multiple levels, covering the spectrum of available interface options, from bodily to visual to textual representation. Through the use of avatars, geographically separated learners are simultaneously present in the virtual environment. The ability to connect with learners at distant locations, enhanced by visual, gestural, and verbal interaction can be important to the development of unique collaborative experiences for both the students and the educators. Teachers or parents can participate, either as members of the groups, or disguised as characters in the environment. This allows teachers to mentor the children in person or to guide parts of the activity from "behind the scenes", acting as simulated virtual characters. They can also determine the pace at which the world evolves; they may choose to see the plants grow very quickly, or, in the case of a school project, extend their growth over the period of a semester.

We explored this notion of a teacher-avatar in the studies we performed with students, as mentioned later.
 

3.4 Implementation

The growth of the plants is handled by a central garden server which can be run on any centrally located computer chosen to maintain the virtual world. The NICE garden is persistent, as the garden server is constantly running and will attempt to reestablish lost connections in the event of failure. This allows users to casually join in the collaboration whenever they wish. The garden continues to evolve even if no users are present: the plants continue to grow; animals may try to eat the vegetables; and weeds slowly take over the garden crowding out the other plants.

Since the CAVE library can support heterogeneous VR display devices (ImmersaDesk(TM), InfinityWall(TM), BOOM(TM), fish-tank VR systems) a large number of participants can join in the collaboration from a number of different VR hardware platforms. Multiple distributed NICE applications running on separate VR systems are connected via the central garden server which guarantees consistency within the shared virtual environment. In practice this has been tested successfully with as many as 16 simultaneous participants on three continents (Johnson, Leigh, and Costigan, 1998.)

The networking architecture for the NICE application was based on previous experience with CALVIN, a networked immersive collaborative environment for designing architectural spaces (Leigh and Johnson, 1996.) The networking protocols selected were tailored towards the characteristics of VR data, and the ability to enter and leave the environment easily from anywhere on the Internet. The networking component also allows clients other than virtual reality interfaces participate. For example, a recorder client can be connected to the network that records all of the movements and interactions in the virtual environment. This allows the session to be replayed later during evaluation studies. Monitoring clients can be connected to monitor the state of the NICE island and the state of the network. Web-based clients can also connect and cooperate with the VR clients, as explained in the next section.
 

4 Extending the Virtual Environment

Interactivity in NICE is augmented by providing possibilities to interact with the virtual world without being inside it. The children can check on the progress of the garden from a desktop computer with a web-browser and an Internet connection, seeing who is currently working in the garden and how the various plants are growing  (see Figure 4.)  They can converse with the other virtual and remote participants by typing in the provided text window - a feature that resembles text-based virtual environments. This feature is currently being enhanced with audio so the desktop users can talk to the immersive VR users.


Figure 4. A view of the NICE garden and chat window on the web

Children without access to the virtual reality system but with a personal computer and access to the web, may even create their own objects and characters to populate the virtual world. These models are downloaded by the NICE system automatically and in real-time when the users join in to the collaboration. We are currently working on a VRML interface to the garden itself allowing desktop VRML users to interact with the immersive VR users (see Figure 5.)

Using a Java applet written by Robert Stevenson, students interacting with a two-dimensional version of NICE on the Internet can simultaneously share and manipulate the same virtual space as the children in the CAVE. The users of the 2D environment use a `traditional' mouse and icon interface to interact with the garden, but have the same ability to pick and plant as the VR users do. These desktop users see the virtual reality users as 2D icons on their screen, while the VR users see the desktop users as 3D avatars in the space (see Figure 6.)

Finally, a current prototype is a two-dimensional interface where the child, by clicking and dragging icons, can manipulate the ecological model and observe immediate effect on the growth of the plants and vegetables in the three-dimensional VR environment. We envision these two-dimensional interfaces as a kind of visual language, allowing the virtual reality worlds to be easily programmed by children. Visual languages have shown to be ideal programming languages for young learners because they can map abstract concepts to pictorial elements that they are more familiar with (Soloway, 1996) and can be learned quickly.


Figure 5. An interface to the NICE
garden using a VRML browser

Allowing web-based and desktop participants access to the virtual environment provides several advantages for both the users as well as the researchers and educators. Virtual reality hardware is expensive and inaccessible to the public. Even when the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, the time that a child can spend in an immersive virtual environment will still be limited. The web-based component allows children to sustain their interaction with the virtual world beyond the limited time they can spend in the virtual environment itself. It also allows educators and researchers to participate and evaluate the experience easier. Additionally, this approach holds promise for social interaction by students that are either geographically isolated or have special needs.


5 Evaluation

It is important to investigate the educational efficacy of VR in specific learning situations and broader learning domains, and to develop new rubrics of educational efficacy that compare it to other approaches.  In practice, however, the assessment of VR technology has been focused primarily on its usefulness for training rather than its efficacy for supporting learning in domains with a high conceptual and social content (Dede et al., 1996; Whitelock et al., 1996.)

The education world would argue that using paper and pencil, in the form of standardized tests, is not an effective way to evaluate a virtual learning experience. As VR is a dynamic learning tool, evaluation should be tightly coupled with the actual learning process. Following the authentic assessment model, learning in constructivist environments is directly related to its evaluation (Reeves and Okey, 1996.)  Moreover, considering the immature nature of the field at this time, it is important to apply multiple measures of learning and performance (Rose, 1995.)


Figure 6. A two-dimensional interface to the NICE garden using a Java applet

Virtual reality itself has great potential as a tool for assessment. Networked virtual reality systems can embed methods for facilitating learner's discourse while in the environment. Mentors, disguised as virtual characters, serve as guides and evaluators: to answer questions, direct action, ask for clarification, prompt for interpretation. In addition to recording data such as video and audio while in the virtual environment, it is also straightforward to have one of the networked clients act as a recorder, allowing the entire virtual reality session to be played back in 3D for further reflection and interpretation (Johnson et al., 1998).  This form of assessment, embedded in the learning process, can provide meaningful reflections on learners' skills and knowledge.
 

5.1 Conceptual Framework

Of particular interest to us was the exploration of the effects of the NICE virtual environment as well as the overall educational efficacy of virtual reality learning experiences. As a first step, we developed an evaluation framework meant to serve as a prototype for a general evaluation framework. The exploratory nature of this study required a sound conceptual framework that would encompass, rather than restrict, the multiple dimensions of the issues that need to be examined in a virtual learning environment. Taking into account the multidimensionality of learning as well as virtual reality as a field, a number of technical, orientational, affective, cognitive, pedagogical, and other aspects were included (Lewin, 1995.)

The technical aspect examines usability issues, with respect to interface, physical problems, and system hardware and software.

The orientation aspect examines the relationship of the user to the virtual environment, including navigation, spatial orientation, presence and immersion, and feedback issues.

The affective parameter looks at the user's engagement, likes and dislikes, and confidence in the virtual environment.

The cognitive aspect identifies any improvement of the subject's internal concepts through this learning experience. We tried to evaluate the cognitive parameter in part from within the environment, with the given learning task built into the experience. In NICE, for example, the teacher-avatar can give goals to the users or ask them questions (e.g., plant and harvest a row of tomatoes). The responses to these activities may reveal what the user understands about the environment while inside it.
Finally, the pedagogical aspect includes the teaching approach: how to gain knowledge effectively about the environment and the concepts that are being taught - in this case, ecology or earth science. With respect to NICE, this aspect is examined in the context of collaboration between students or between teacher-avatars and students. The evaluation framework is summarized in Table 1.
 
Framework CategoryIssueMeasurement
TechnicalUsabilityTime to learn an interface, comprehension of instructions, physical and emotional comfort
OrientationNavigation, spatial orientation, presence and immersion, and feedbackTime to become immersed and comfortable in the environment
AffectiveEngagement, preference, and confidenceLength of engagement, time to reach fatigue, reported and perceived  enjoyment
CognitiveConceptual change, new skillPerformance within and outside the environment, think-aloud and stimulated recall techniques, oral and written surveys, video documentation
PedagogicalContent general and specific teaching techniquesCollaboration (e.g., turn-taking, conflict, interaction), avatar acceptance, comparison of techniques
Collaborative VRThe added value of collaborative VR to instruction and learningComparisons of instruction and learning within and outside of collaborative VR environments

Table 1: Summary of Evaluation Framework

5.2 Methodology

The main study sessions were conducted with a total of 52 children: 44 second-grade children from an urban elementary school with an ethnically mixed student population; another 8 children from other schools participated in case studies after the classroom studies were completed.  The gender distribution was equal: 26 boys and 26 girls. The activities at each evaluation session of NICE took approximately one to three hours to complete, depending upon whether the tests were conducted with groups or pairs of children.  This included time to introduce the activity and organize the students, give them time to plan the activity beforehand, perform the activity inside the VR environment, and have some time for post-activity questions and discussion.  The VR setting in all studies included the CAVE and one or two Immersadesks, all linked by an audio connection. The teachers were asked to evaluate the students in their class according to their reading and writing skills, leadership skills, and shyness. The children were then assigned to groups. We tried to keep the groups as equally distributed as possible by selectively matching and assigning the children with strong leadership skills or strong reading and writing skills to different groups.  Each class of 22 students was divided into three teams of 7 to 8 students each.

Before beginning the VR experience, the children were asked to complete pretest question sheets.  These initial questions attempted to identify each child's relationship to technology, familiarity with gardening, and understanding of simple ecological concepts.  We wanted to establish what knowledge and understanding of the concepts displayed in the environment the children brought with them before the study.

After completing the questionnaires, each group of students was asked to generate ideas for planning their garden. A large piece of paper containing a top-down view of the garden was given to each group. Four rows of differently colored stickers, each one representing one of the four available vegetables, were provided. The children in each group had to plan where they would plant their vegetables by placing the stickers on the soil area of the garden. A total of forty vegetables were allowed (10 stickers for each kind).   After the planning stage, the first team continued onto the CAVE and ImmersaDesk part, while the other teams remained in the room to continue their concept maps.  Each team was split into two groups, one for the CAVE and the other for the Immersadesk.  The two groups collaborated remotely, represented by the avatar of the leader of each group. The leader was assigned randomly by the researchers, to avoid conflicts during the experience in VR. The leaders were instructed in the use of the wand and were allowed a 10-minute period to practice navigation.  Each session lasted for an average of 30 minutes.  In addition to the two avatars sharing the same virtual space, an adult acting as teacher was disguised as a girl avatar and was guiding the groups from another Immersadesk.  This teacher-avatar was also responsible for keeping the time, keeping the children focused on their planting task, helping them accomplish the garden planned on paper, and encouraging the two groups to think aloud.  An audio connection between the three VR sites was established through the use of hidden ambient microphones.  Out of a total of 8 groups for each classroom, 4 groups were of single gender (2 all-girls teams, 2 all-boys teams), and the remaining 2 were of mixed gender.

Following the virtual experience, an open-ended set of interviews was conducted with the children during which they answered an additional set of questions that related to their impressions and understanding of the environmental relationships in the NICE garden.  The questions included space for open-ended responses and discussion with the researcher, regarding what the children did while in the environment, what they liked or disliked, and what they thought they learned.

After the interview, the groups returned to the room they started out from. Large pieces of white paper were placed on the tables, upon which the students could draw. They were asked to draw the gardens they just created in NICE. Similar activities also continued in their classrooms after the experiments. The teachers assigned homework to the students where they would describe the virtual reality experience and propose their own virtual worlds. Some of the children from the case studies returned a few more times to participate in NICE at a later time.
 

5.3 Observations

The observed results from the case and classroom studies have been grouped based on the theoretical framework defined previously. These observations have been collected by converging the multiple pieces of data gathered through observation, interviews and questionnaires, and are presented below.
Technical issues. The children exhibited diversity in their use of the interaction device, the wand. The instructions given depended on the situation and the environmental or personal distractions, so they were not exactly the same for everyone. Generally, these instructions started with showing the representation of the virtual hand to the leader, then the use of the joystick for navigation, and finally, once the child was able to move comfortably, the function of the buttons. Learning the functions of the wand lasted from 2 minutes, for the children that learned quickly, to 7 minutes.

After learning how to use the wand, the children's effort was focused on orientation, as noted in the following section. Limitations of the physical design of the wand caused discomfort to young users, as both hands were needed to reach the buttons and press the joystick at the same time. It was expected that the boys would generally be better at using the wand, partly because of their familiarity with similar input devices from playing video and computer games. According to both parents' and kids' reports, 92% of the boys play electronic games weekly, as opposed to 42% of the girls. The majority of these games have joystick-based interface devices. We did not notice, however, any gender differences in learning to use the wand.

A larger problem was the size of the stereo glasses. Despite the glass-ties used to tighten the glasses on the children's heads, the glasses would still fall off. Most children had to hold the glasses with their free hand and, when tired of holding them, would just take them off. Not only did this contribute to the subjects' fatigue, but also to their level of motivation and excitement. Since the stereo glasses and the wand are an integral part of the virtual experience, these limitations are a current hindrance not only to usability but also to learning.

The children's susceptibility to simulator sickness was not as large as expected. Less than 5% of the subjects complained about getting a headache or being dizzy during or after the experience, and for most it was so slight that they had not noticed until asked.

Evaluation of the system with respect to its robustness and cost effectiveness for broader use must be put off until the system is in a public locale. The NICE software is flexible enough to eventually expand into a user-authoring system. To be effective, however, it needs to be used by a small number of learners for an extended period of time.
 

Orientation. After learning how to use the wand, the children focused on trying to navigate and orient themselves in the virtual environment. With respect to the classroom groups, this proved to be the effort of the leader and not of the other children in the group, although their mission was to help the leader. The drivers were the only ones focused on the orientation task at hand, as they were the ones navigating, while the other children were distracted by the movement and the three-dimensional graphics. The girls seemed slightly better at orienting themselves in the environment, possibly because they were generally more focused and reserved compared to the boys. Even with the case studies, although not nearly to the same extent, there were times when the other child (the one not using the wand) would wander around, instead of observing or directing the driver's actions. While it was not expected that all children's full attention would be given at orientation, the result in these studies was that each child came up with their own version of the right direction, voiced them at the same time as the other children and confused the leader, who then individually decided which was the right path to take. As a result, apart from the difficulty in using the joystick for navigation, the leaders exhibited noticeable individual differences in their abilities to interact with the 3-D environment. These differences seemed to relate to their level of "independence": the ones pursuing their own goals did well, while the ones that attempted to listen to the others in their group ended up confused and disoriented.

A test for spatial orientation was the ability to find areas in the space, such as a hole that leads to the area under the garden. This was a relatively difficult task, although there were spatial clues: the passage was located near the only set of trees behind one of the garden fences. These were some of the instances where verbal interaction between the children and teacher seemed to work well, largely because the goal was very specific and required the kids' complete attention.

Another test for orientation was the concept map - the plan of the garden on paper. In the planning stage, students developed different strategies for planting. We wanted to see how they were able to implement this plan in VR. The case studies were more focused and, therefore, the children attempted to stick to their plan. With the exception of one boy in the initial study, the children were not successful at completing the task. Most children began planting as planned, but then changed their plans when running into difficulty. A younger girl who tried following the plan, commented that it was very hard to be precise in separating the vegetables. The teacher-avatar helped her with directions, but that "wasn't enough". The classrooms, on the other hand, hardly even tried to implement the plan, although constantly reminded by the teacher-avatar. Their entire experience was consumed by dealing with the group's behavior. None of the children admitted that they did not try; rather they stated that implementing the plan was a difficult task. One boy, after seeing the look of the group's final version of the garden asked his group: "how come we didn't get it right?" to receive the overwhelming response "because it was very hard!".

As perceived through observation, most kids felt immersed. This was indicated by their motion and excitement. Almost all children attempted to "touch" the virtual objects by moving and clasping their hands in the air. This was particularly noticeable in the case of the virtual beam that extended from the user's hand to help point to and select objects. As the beam was always attached to the hand and close to the user, it felt very "three-dimensional" to the children. Many leaders waved at the other avatars with the hand that was holding the wand, indicating that they understood the relationship between the wand, their real hand, and the virtual hand.
 

Affective. Measuring motivation is difficult, as it is indirect. Moreover, in the case of virtual reality, motivation is highly driven by other factors, such as the novelty effect, media hyperboly, and social issues. It is significant to look through these factors and try to identify whether the content taught within this medium is motivating for children, what it is that motivates them, and most importantly, for how long. This was difficult, as all of the children were excited before starting, just by the fact that they would experience virtual reality. Therefore, we had to look at their level of extended engagement during the actual experience.

The amount of time the children spent in VR ranged from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Each classroom group, due to time constraints, remained in the experience for about 30 minutes. The case-study subjects, on the other hand, were allowed to stay until they displayed noticeable fatigue, at which point they were asked if they wished to continue. Most cases wished to remain in NICE for at least 45 minutes and started getting tired after one to one and a half hours.

Interactive activities ranked high amongst the preferences of the children, as shown by their responses in the post study questions. Planting was a favorite. An equal number of responses were in favor of the area under the garden. The fantasy was another fundamental driving force for many of the children. Many liked the water (or "swimming"), the rain, sun, umbrellas and sunglasses, and the vegetables. The three things that were most disliked by the children included "the stuff that we had to move with", the "glasses falling off", and the fact that some did not get to drive. Most (73%) of the children answered "nothing" to the question "what did you dislike the most?"

The most important issue related to motivation is control. As mentioned in the discussion of orientation, the children that were leading were more on-task and engaged, while all others were distracted and unfocused. This was also perceived, to a lesser degree, with the pairs of children in the case studies: the driver was focused on the task even if that meant only navigation, and was consequently more engaged, while the second child seemed less engaged. The post-experience questions verify these observations: Children that were leaders listed that what they enjoyed the most was being the leader, while most others that did not get that chance were very disappointed. Many of these observations are consistent with findings by other researchers in computer-based literature (Malone and Lepper, 1987).
 

Cognitive. Examining the cognitive value of a virtual learning environment is very difficult, as there are many other factors that correlate to learning, such as the ones described above. Particularly, distraction, fatigue, and cognitive overhead in mastering the interface influence the outcome. The classroom studies provide good examples of a situation in which all the above took place, and where one cannot derive any conclusions about conceptual learning. The results from the case studies are more promising, as the studies were more focused, prolonged, and with less noise and disorder.

However, even in the case studies, little can be concluded as far as learning is concerned. Confidence in using the interface does not necessarily signify understanding of the subject matter. One of the boys, for example, who reported playing many hours of video games per week, learned the interface very quickly and easily and had very good navigation and picking skills. After interacting with VR for about 40 minutes he was interviewed. During the interview and his post-study questions it was revealed that he had not perceived the effects of the sun and the rain on the plants, nor the function of the umbrellas and sunglasses. This was consistent with his pre-study test, which showed little knowledge of gardening concepts.

To simplify the understanding of the children's knowledge before and after the virtual experience, their responses were grouped into categories. For the pre-study test, three categories were devised according to the children's understanding of simple ecological relationships. The first category included the responses that displayed a very good understanding of gardening concepts: the plants need water and sunlight (i.e. good temperature), and good soil to grow, they wilt or look brown when they are sick, they wilt if they get too much water and dry out when they get too much sun, and the weeds need to be pulled out. About 12% of the subjects answered in this way. They were also the ones ranked high in reading/writing skills by the teachers. The second category included most of the above answers except for a few misconceptions (e.g. water is good but sunlight is bad for plants). 42% of the children's answers fit into this category. The third category included 44% of the responses, where more than one question included a "don't know" response or a wrong answer (such as "the plants grow down" when they get sunlight, or that weeds need to be planted and watered). Finally, one child could not answer most of the questions.

The answers to the post-study questions were grouped into categories based on the children's understanding of the NICE model: the plants display umbrellas when they receive too much water and sunglasses when there's too much sun, while the weeds are recycled in the compost heap. The responses here were more difficult to categorize, as many children had trouble synthesizing their learning during post-testing, due to fatigue or excitement, while others misunderstood the questions and answered in the same way as in the pre-test, not understanding that the post-questions pertained to the NICE garden in particular.

Approximately 17 children (35%) understood, for the most part, the NICE model. Of these 17, 13 were drivers, and all had done well in their pre-study questions. This shows that most of the leaders, children that were actively engaged in the task, understood the model of the NICE garden, whereas only a few of the other children perceived it. Approximately 45% of the children simply answered "they grew" to the questions "what happenned when you put the rain over the plants" and "what happened when you put the sun over the plants". Five kids answered that they did not know or see what happened while six kids were tired and did not answer at all.
 

Pedagogical. The children acted naturally while in NICE, just as they would have at a playground. They played, argued, listened, spoke loudly, and even rested. Very few were curious about the technology, excepting a girl asking if the screens were made of paper. The presence of "the computer" was not generally perceived by the children throughout the sessions. As one child put it, "I thought we were going to play with a computer, but this was different". This indicates that perhaps virtual reality may come closer to a "natural" medium for teaching, once technical and technology-specific problems are resolved.

Although children in these studies participated in the VR session longer than in any other educational VR study, it appears that this was not an important factor in the facilitation of learning. We do agree, however, with Dede (Dede et al., 1996) who reports that spreading lessons over multiple VR sessions appears to be more effective than covering many topics in a single session, as we attempted to do in our studies. Reviews and post-tests from their studies demonstrated that students were better able to retain and integrate information over multiple lessons. This is usually the case in school-based learning as well as being the main concept of life-long learning.

With respect to their pedagogical function in the NICE studies, collaboration and the narrative are explored further in the following sections.
 

Collaboration. The classroom studies were set up to encourage intra-group collaboration and inter-group competition, to ensure that each group had an incentive to focus on the task of creating a tended garden. However, none of these forms of cooperation occurred. After each group was split, one subgroup to go to one VR system and the other to the other, the children had to be continuously reminded by the teacher-avatar that they were still one group working on a common goal in the same garden. Most children, however, continued not to perceive this and regarded the other (remote) half of their group as their competitors. There were multiple instances of the two drivers fighting over who would grab the raincloud, and children from one location yelling at the ones in the other location to step out of "their" garden. As far as the classrooms were concerned, competition contributed to the excitement of the children in the group, but kept them
off-task and distracted them for nearly the entirety of the experience. Some of the groups even displayed a form of intra-group competition between the leader and other members. This related mainly to the control of the wand. Notable is the case of one girl who caused constant conflict because she was not the one chosen to be in control. The intent during these studies was to have only one child in each group control the wand. Our rationale for this was efficiency: it is easier and quicker to teach one subject than all, it is more efficient for one to control while others direct the activity, and it avoids fighting over who will do it.

On the other hand, this efficiency gain might not be helpful in terms of advancing all the students' learning. In the case of the other students, it was evident that the control over their learning and their experience was in the hands of the leader of the group. It was hoped that, in this way, the students would be able to pay more attention to the subject matter by leaving the control of the learning situation to the leader. For the child controlling, we supposed that this would not be an advantage, as it could lead to less attention to the subject matter and more to the task of controlling. As noted previously, the opposite was observed in these studies: the leader paid more attention to the subject than the other, less active members of the group.

Contrary to the classroom's behavior, the pairs of children in the case studies displayed excellent collaboration and no competition. In most cases, on-task communication was observed and there was general agreement on actions. Based on these observations, issues regarding the selection and number of members in a group of 2nd graders must be taken into account for a successful collaborative combination.

For both the classroom as well as the case studies, the teacher-avatar seemed to serve a helpful purpose, especially for giving the kids tips and keeping them on task. In terms of the classroom children, of course, the teacher-avatar consumed most of her time attempting to keep order - not unlike a real classroom.

The system's visual output (a printout of the narrative WWW page) was shown to each group during the interview to help the children reflect on their virtual experience. Each group was represented in the story by the avatar of the leader. Some children did not understand this until it was explained to them while showing them the narrative. Most were fascinated by the pictorial representations of the characters and vegetables and remembered what they were doing by looking at the story. It is believed that the iconic representation was helpful in giving the groups a general overview of their actions and is worthy of further exploration. An unanticipated function of the story was its use as a spelling aid by two children from different groups. When completing their questions, they consulted the story to find the spelling of certain object names.
 

6 Conclusions

In our view, the NICE project had a number of highly positive outcomes. There was ample evidence that the environment provided a strong sense of presence and immersion; one adult visitor to NICE commented that it was "the closest I've ever come to the feeling of being inside one of the cartoons I used to watch on televisions when I was a kid." NICE appeared to be a highly successful distributed virtual social space, particularly for those "drivers" who had full access to the input affordances. On the technical front, the NICE project provided a driving application for the development of the CAVERNSoft distributed virtual environment architecture (Leigh, Johnson, and DeFanti, 1998).

In retrospect, the most serious shortcoming of NICE is the inadequacy of its science model. In an attempt to engage children, we introduced elements (umbrellas, sunglasses, facial expressions) without natural analogs, and misrepresented naturally occurring features (e.g., root systems). These artifacts, deployed in a setting decontextualized from supporting discussion and instruction, may themselves have become the source of misconceptions regarding the underlying growth model we were attempting to teach. The balance among reality, abstraction, and engagement is particularly difficult to achieve; in this case, we likely veered sufficiently from reality to endanger the raison d'etre behind the project.

A second source of difficulty, in our opinion, drew from the open-ended exploratory nature of the environment itself. Instead of directing activity toward (and providing affordances for) the discovery of the underlying scientific knowledge, we assumed that the desired learning would take place naturally through exploration and discovery. This lack of directedness, both within the environment and in our task charges to users, combined with the novelty of the environment and usability issues associated with the learning of novel control affordances, appeared to obscure the intended learning goals in the eyes of the users.

Finally, collaboration itself proved a double-edged sword. The presence of avatars representing remote users was a strong spur to social interaction, again at the expense of the intended science learning. NICE supported collaboration through the provision of a shared virtual space, but did little to structure cooperative learning (Slavin, 1980; Johnson and Johnson, 1984) in a way that fostered positive interdependence among learners, or supported reflection and planning. Social interaction became an end unto itself, rather than a mechanism to support learning.

Researchers interested in learning in immersive virtual environments face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, there is a strong need for demonstrable "added value" to learning associated with the use of virtual reality technologies. In spite of our optimism regarding the ultimate broad availability of these technologies, there is little reason to bring VR technology to bear on learning goals that are already well met by conventional pedagogy. At the same time, however, it is difficult to conceive, much less conduct, an experiment whose results would be sufficiently generalizable to sway skeptics. Certainly there can be no experiment which ascribes specific learning value to the technology itself; the failure of an experiment to demonstrate added learning value would be due at least as much to the application as to the underlying technology.

There is a place for controlled experimental studies of learning in immersive virtual environments; we need more objective success stories. But the primary focus of this research domain, particularly in the case of younger children, should be directed toward the development and informal empirical evaluation of novel learning applications. In both cases, we believe that researchers should focus their attention on learning problems that meet four criteria: Acknowledgements

We wish to thank all the teachers, students and their parents for participating in the user studies, the members of the original 'yet another world' group for their valuable discussions, and the all of the members of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory and Interactive Computing Environments Laboratory for their patience and support. We would especially like to thank Jim Costigan for his help.

The virtual reality research, collaborations, and outreach programs at EVL are made possible through major funding from the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the US Department of Energy; specifically NSF awards CDA-9303433, CDA-9512272, NCR-9712283, CDA-9720351, and the NSF ASC Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure program. The CAVE and ImmersaDesk are trademarks of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

The continuation of this research is funded by an NSF Learning & Intelligent Systems grant, investigating how VR can be used to help teach concepts that are counter-intuitive given the learner's current mental models.
 

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NEWS

Ms. Watkins’ 4th grade class from Irving Elementary toured campus, learned about electricity in a “college” lecture, heard from college students and wired their own electric photo frame. They were hosted by the students of IEEE-HKN and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Learn more... https://www.facebook.com/IrvingAllStars, https://www.facebook.com/HKN.EpsilonXi/ and https://www.facebook.com/wichita.shpe/

Congratulation to Dr. Yanwu Ding on her selection as an AFRL Summer Faculty

Fellow!Congratulation to Dr. Hyuck Kwon on his selection as an AFRL Summer Faculty Fellow!

Srikanth Gampa, PhD EECS student, will present "Safeguarding Patients Data for Reasonable Health Care Cost" at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka on Tuesday, February 20. Dr. Rajiv Bagai is the research advisor. Click HERE to read more. 

Santiago Vera Torres, 2014  MSCN graduate, is now pursuing an MBA through Wichita State University and participating in an internship at Ulterius Technologies. Click HERE to read the full story.

Butler Community College and WSU have developed an engineering transfer program, to read the full story click HERE.

Please congratulate the following faculty for obtaining the WSU RTT grants shown below:
Hongsheng He: URCA Award
Real-Time Traffic Condition Perception by Using a Dual-Sensor Thermal Imager for Assistive and Autonomous Driving
Ali Eslami and Davood Askari: MURPA Award
Design and Fabrication of a Micro Communication Device for Biosensing
Mythili Menon and Murtuza Jadliwala: MURPA Award
Investigating Spread of Misinformation on the Web by Analyzing Online Sharing Behavior

Congratulations to our lab manager Nathan Smith as he will be recognized at the WSU Innovation Awards Ceremony for his work with WSU GoBabyGo! Click HERE or HERE to read more!

Computer Science professor uses personal experience to shape first year. Click HERE to read the full story! 

GoBabyGo revs up for a semester of building as a registered student organization. Click HERE to read the full story! 

Congratulations to Amin Mohsenzadeh, an EECS PhD student, for receiving the Maha "Maggie" Sawan Fellowship 2018.

Md Rakib Ur Rahman, EECS student and President of the WSU Bangladesh Student Association (BSA), discusses role of BSA on campus. Learn more... 

Kori DaCosta, computer engineering, and his wife Aileen are spending the first months of their marriage studying in Spain.  Learn more... 

Congratulations to Dr. Eslami and his collaborators in team “Shocker Controls”, including Dr. Asaduzzaman, Mohammad H. Erjaei, and Chase Weber. They received a Shocker I-Corps grant from Wichita State University for further developing and marketing their patent-pending product. This product is a a control unit with a mobile app that together enable remote control and real-time camera monitoring of industrial doors (e.g., big hydraulic and lift doors) on a mobile device from anywhere in the world.

According to the PayScale 2017-2018 College Salary Report, EECS Majors continue to have some of the highest salary potential. 

Congratulate to Dr. Vinod Namboodiri on his recent NSF award, "SCC-Planning:  CityGuide: Beacon-Based Community-Driven Inclusive Wayfinding" with Alex Chaparro, Nils Hakansson, Laura L. Walker, and Barbara S. Chaparro.

Congratulations to Dr. Kwon for the two recently issued US patens: “System and Method for Generating Exact Symbol Error Rates of Frequency-Hopped Signals,” US Patent No. 9,742,460 and “Hexaferrite Slant & Slot MIMO Antenna Element,” US patent No. 9,711,869.

Please congratulate the following EECS Graduate Students on receiving awards from the WSU Graduate School!
Alicia Keow was awarded the Ollie A. & J.O. Heskett Graduate Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Satya Maddukuri was awarded the Ollie A. & J.O. Heskett Graduate Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Minhao Deng was awarded the Dora Wallace Hodgson Outstanding Graduate Student Award for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Omid Keivani was awarded the Dora Wallace Hodgson Outstanding Graduate Student Award for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Amin Mohsenzadeh was awarded the Stettheimer Award for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Please congratulate Dr. Aravinthan, Dr. Chakravarthy and Dr. Kagdi!  They will receive tenure and be promoted to Associate Professor this fall.

New 2+2 agreements between Wichita State University and Cowley Community College were signed yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 3) at Cowley's Mulvane location. For more information, please follow this link...

Congratulations to Alex Mages! Alex is a finalist of the L.A. Alumni Chapter of IEEE/HKN 2016-2017 Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Electrical or Computer Engineering Student Award.

Congratulate to Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala! He received the College of Engineering Wallace Excellence in Teaching Award at the Open House Banquet on Saturday evening.

Joshua Garrelts, who plans to study Computer Science at WSU in the fall, was named Word 2016 National Champion at the 2017 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship. Related articles in www.kansas.com and www.prweb.com.

Dr. Zheng Chen’s Career award for his project, "Artificial Muscle Based on Dielectric Elastomers for Dexterous and Compliant Prostheses," was recognized as WSU’s Grant of the Month for May 2017. Grant of the Month: Zheng Chen's CAREER grant. Zheng Chen, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has been named a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant Award winner. He received a $500,000, five-year NSF CAREER Award for his project "Artificial Muscle Based on Dielectric Elastomers for Dexterous and Compliant Prostheses," which will begin this May. Click HERE to read the full story.

Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman is aiding university retention efforts by serving as a Retention Faculty Fellow. President's Message: Collaborative retention efforts. As we complete the academic year, I'm encouraged and grateful for the collaborative work being done across campus to boost our retention efforts. Retention is important for overall enrollment. It's not just about students choosing Wichita State -- it's about keeping them here to complete their programs well prepared for life and work. Click HERE to read the full story.

Zheng Chen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Wichita State University, won a prestigious $500,000, five-year National Science Foundation grant to use a new technology to power artificial limbs. Courtesy photo Read more HERE!

The IEEE-HKN Board of Governors has conferred on the Wichita State Chapter the 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award.

Congratulations to Camille Buranday! WSU names nine new Koch Scholars. Camille is one of them. Learn more...

Wichita State to begin new undergraduate research experience courtesy of National Science Foundation. The NSF awarded a grant of $324,000 to WSU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for a three-year program. ... “The idea is to provide these students research experience working on these projects. Eventually NSF’s goal is to provide them an idea what graduate school’s all about” Vinod Namboodiri, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Principal Investigator of the program, said. ... Learn more... 

Immigration ban affected students at Wichita State University - an interview with 3KSN channel... Another interview with KSNW channel can be found here...

300,000 job openings prompts WSU to add cybersecurity programs. “The need is huge,” said Wichita State Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science John Watkins. “It’s a case where the demand has grown faster than the supply.” Learn more...

Wichita State’s College of Engineering is adding new undergraduate and graduate programs in Cybersecurity. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department Chair and Professor John Watkins says students will learn about computer networks and infrastructure so they know how those systems can be exploited. Learn more...

A recent video from The Chung Report gives an insightful perspective of the campus. Learn more about WSU's Innovation Campus from The Chung Report. Watch it here...

Wichita State’s new engineering building opens on Innovation Campus. Read more...

GoBabyGo made the news! Engineering students, including Na (Lena) Hoang (Electrical Engineering), Brandon Nece (Computer Engineering), and Dishank Patel (Computer Science), helped three children get their perfect gift weeks ahead of Christmas. For more information about the project, please follow this link...

Congratulations to Dr. Zheng Chen on his MURPA award for the project “Investigating the Dielectric Elastomer Artificial Muscle for Exoskeleton Applications.” In this multidisciplinary project, Dr. Chen from EECS Department and Dr. Yihun from ME Department will investigate the bio-inspired actuation capability of a novel artificial muscle/tendon structure that consists of DE as artificial muscle and carbon fibers as artificial tendon. A prosthetic arm will be built with the proposed artificial muscle/tendon structure to demonstrate it capability in robotic assistive devices for humanitarian purposes.

Congratulations to Dr. Asaduzzaman (Zaman) for being selected a Retention Faculty Fellow 2016-2017!

Prof. Ward Jewell was an invited panelist at the Sloan Workshop on Electricity Distribution at the University of Chicago, October 6-7. The workshop was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and organized by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and University of California Berkeley. It brought together leading economists and engineers to discuss the future of electric energy distribution as increasing levels of distributed resources, particularly rooftop solar and energy storage, are connected to the system. Prof. Jewell's panel focused on recent developments in technologies and regulations that will both disrupt the system and mitigate those disruptions. The workshop will result in long-term collaborations among the participants to address the challenges faced by the distribution system.

Congratulations to Drs. Visvakumar Aravinthan, Chengzong Pang, and Ward Jewell. They will lead the organization of North American Power System (NAPS) 2019 on behalf of Wichita State University.  NAPS is the premier student centered power system conference that brings students from North America together once a year. During NAPS 2016 hosted by the University of Denver, Wichita State University won the bid to host 51st NAPS in 2019. The typical program will include technical paper presentations, tutorials, technical tours, and panels.

Jordan Phimmasone, a computer engineering student, joins other engineering and Physical Therapy Students to modify ride-on toy cars for children with disabilities. You can find the story here...

New Collaborative Research Project Between NetApp and EECS@WSU
Congratulations to Chris ONeil (NetApp) and Huzefa Kagdi (WSU) for the new research partnership on developing automated goal oriented user interfaces for the next generation of storage management software. Learn more...

Ahmad Drou, BSEE student, recently became Vice President of the WSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).  For information about a recent EWB trip to Uganda, please click here.

Congratulations to Mittaphlly, Dr. Pang, and Nathan on the selection of their project (Fire-Fighting Squad Robot) for a Shocker Innovation Corps Award.

WSU's Innovation Campus is featured in NY Times. Very interesting read. Here is the link...

WSU engineers develop improved tracking tool for animal clinic. WSU is collaborating with Spay Neuter Kansas City (SNKC) to research, evaluate and improve a technology used by the clinic to track animals. Read more ...

A New NSF Grant
Congratulations to Dr. Murtuza S. Jadliwala (PI) and Dr. Jibo He (co-PI) for their project, "EAGER:  A Cloud-assisted Framework for Improving Pedestrian Safety in Urban Communities using Crowd-sourced Mobile and Wearable Device Data," being awarded a grant of $179,843 by the National Science Foundation. To learn more, please visit this link.

Welcome A New Assistant Professor
Please welcome Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya to the EECS department. Dr. Bhattacharya's research interests include (i) Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, (ii)  Data Science, Big Data Analytics, and (iii) Machine Learning, Data Mining.

WSU Academy for Effective Teaching (AET) Award
For the first time ever, 4 finalists for the WSU Academy for Effective Teaching (AET) Award were selected from one department. Please join us in congratulating EECS faculty Dr. Visvakumar Aravinthan, Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala, Dr. Huzefa Kagdi and Dr. Hyuck Kwon. Their accomplishments were recently recognized as AET members visited their classrooms.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Ali Eslami
Dr. Eslami has been awarded the Flossie West Award with a grant of $25,000, for his project, “Error Correction for the Code of Life in A New Era of Genome Editing.” Please follow this link for more information.

Wichita State Mercury Robot Challenge team and their robot, Shockanator 2 produced a top video.
While the Wichita State Mercury Robot Challenge team and their robot, Shockanator 2, did not win the 2016 Mercury Robot Challenge, they did produce the top video. Please enjoy!
Follow this link for the video.

Cybersecurity Association (CsA) would like to welcome you to the following Cybersecurity seminar
Talk Title: An Introduction to Drones, their CyberSecurity Risks, and Possible Mitigation Mechanisms

Date: April 22nd (Friday)
Time: 05:30 PM to 06:30 PM
Venue: Jabara Hall (JB-127), WSU

Please follow this link for more information.

Wichita State group recruits young computer users to Linux system
Working out of a laboratory at Wichita State University, a small but determined group of computer wizards want to help you break your Windows habit. They’re called WuLUG, shorthand for Wichita State University Linux Users Group. WuLUG will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the WSU Linux Lab, Jabara Hall, rooms 205 and 206.Weber said meetings are open to everyone and although the discussions among experienced users can get technical, they’re also happy to help Linux beginners get started. Please follow 'The Wichita Eagle' and 'Facebook' links for more information.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Pu Wang
Dr. Pu Wang (EECS dept.) Shuang Gu (ME), Anil Mahapatro (BME).has been awarded the John A. See Innovation Award, totaling $60,000.
Dr. Wang, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, won for his project, “SKYNET: A Smart Swarming Drone System for Rapid and Reliable Communications Services.” Please follow this link for more information.

The latest Engineering Innovator magazine
The latest Engineering Innovator magazine from the College of Engineering is full of exciting news for EECS. Learn about the new Experiential Engineering and Makerspace building that is coming to the Innovation Campus this fall. Read about EECS students and alumni making an impact and faculty receiving numerous research and teaching awards. Please follow this link for the digital copy of the magazine. 

Please join us in congratulating IEEE-HKN Epsilon Xi Chapter of Wichita State University
The Epsilon Xi Chapter of Wichita State University receives the 2014-2015 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award at the 2016 ECEDHA Annual Conference & ECExpo. Please follow this link for more images.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala
Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala received additional funds to support undergraduate research students on his grant "CSR: Small: Surviving Cybersecurity and Privacy Threats in Wearable Mobile Cyber-Physical Systems."

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman
Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman will be granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in the Fall semester.

Please join us in congratulating Motahareh Bahrami
Motahareh Bahrami (Sara) won Dwane and Velma Wallace 2016 Graduate Student Research Award. She is completing her PhD under Dr. Kagdi.

College of Engineering to train high school teachers in computer science
The College of Engineering this summer is offering grants to 20 Kansas high schools to cover the cost of training teachers in Project Lead The Way’s (PLTW) Computer Science curriculum.High schools interested in the PLTW computer science teacher training grants can apply at PLTW. Applications are due Friday, April 15. Grants for two weeks of training are valued at $2,400 each.Please follow this link for more information. 

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Pu Wang
Dr. Wang's project titled “SKYNET: A Smart Swarming Drone System for Rapid and Reliable Communication Services” has been accepted for a John A See Innovation Award.

EECS student, Andrew Trefethen, has co-created a prototyping business called ProtoBench.
A group of enterprising Wichita State University students have started a new business helping small engineering firms save time and money on research and development. Computer science major Andrew Trefethen, aerospace engineering major Zane Woltz and business management major Austin Slater opened ProtoBench in January at 2065 S. Edwards
Please follow WSU News, The Sunflower and Facebook links for more information.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Visvakumar Aravinthan.
Dr. Aravinthan has been selected for the WSU Leadership in Teaching Award for this year.

Please join us in congratulating Dr.Huzefa Kagdi.
Dr. Kagdi has been selected for the WSU Excellence in Teaching Award for this year.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Animesh Chakravarthy.
Dr.Chakravarthy has been selected for the WSU Young Faculty Scholar Award for this year.

WSU's Ennovar Institute gains new partner focused on big data storage solution
The Ennovar Institute at Wichita State University has a new partner that will allow students to gain unparalleled experience working with big data storage solutions.
Ennovar’s Solutions Reference Architecture Lab will provide performance bench-marking that will produce best practice guides and white papers for big data vertical markets.
Please follow this link for more information.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Hyuck Kwon.
Dr. Kwon has been selected for the 3rd time as a faculty fellow in 2016 Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program at AFRL-Space Vehicles.

A Shocker You Should Know: Ahmed Aziz
Ahmad has earned his MS in Computer Networking and now is working towards his PhD, while simultaneously using what he learns in school to help advance his company. Please follow this link to know more about Ahmed Aziz.

WSU MSCS graduate student Venkatesh Mabbu talks about iknow
His search engine that understands the searcher's intent. He presented his prototype at 1 Million Cups on Wednesday.
Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman's student Venkatesh, said he and number of other students are working on building the program's knowledge base.He expects to eventually incorporate and seek funding.
Please follow this link for more information.

Computer-maker Cybertron pledges gift valued at $2.5 million for Wichita State University
Cybertron’s pledge to the WSU Foundation, valued at $2.5 million, will place the company’s computers and monitors in every lab and learning space in the Experiential Engineering Building, set to open next January on the Innovation Campus. The gift commitment, unveiled last month at Cybertron’s Wichita headquarters, also includes five years of desktop support. Founded in 1997 by three Wichita State alumni — Aziz (WSU EECS Department graduate), Shadi Marcos and Emad Mekhail — Cybertron is Kansas’ largest personal computer manufacturer. You may follow this link for more information.

College of Engineering awards $300,000 in Wallace Scholarships
Wichita State University's College of Engineering has awarded 10 high school seniors nearly $300,000 in Wallace Scholarships. Wallace Scholars are involved on the WSU campus and within the Wichita community to promote engineering, math, science and community service. 
You may follow the KSN the  WSU for more information.

Coding outreach program brings professionals and children together
Wichita State University's College of Engineering is partnering with STEMpact2020 to launch a free new outreach program designed to identify and engage gifted, young coders in a program that allows them to build their skills by working side-by-side with professional software developers, web developers and computer scientists. The first event held in January drew 18 students from a dozen area middle and high schools. The program hopes to grow to 50 participants. Please follow the links for more information and registration.

HyperShock Hyperloop Team Video
The WSU Space-X Hyperloop student design team created an awesome 90 sec video as part of their presentation during design weekend at Texas A&M on Jan 29. Please follow the Youtube link for the video.

Join us in congratulating Seyed Ali Cheraghi on his approved grant proposal
Mr. Seyed and his adviser Dr. Namboodiri received a $2000 grant for the proposal on 'Indoor Wayfinding for the Blind and Visually Impaired'.

The EECS department would like to congratulate the second class of Koch Scholars.
These nine students, which were selected from approximately 100 applicants, will be awarded between $30,000 and $50,000 over four years. Six of the nine students will be majoring in electrical engineering, computer engineering, or computer science. Please follow the WSU and Wichita Eagle links for more information.

Please Join us in congratulating MS Project student, Venkatesh Mabbu
Venkatesh has been selected to present his MS Project idea at “1 Million Cups Wichita” on February 24th. He will be giving a speak on “A Novel Semantic Knowledge Engine Using Automated Knowledge Extraction from World Wide Web”.
Please follow the below links for more information regarding '1 Million Cups Wichita' and 'The Wichita Eagle news article'.

Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman is to give seminar talk
Dr. Asaduzzaman is to give seminar talk on 'Fast Effective Analysis of 'Digital' Mammogram Images for Breast Cancer Treatment' in the Graduate Seminar Series at the Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia on April 1, 2016.
Please follow this link for more information.

Engineering, Software, Programming and IT Students - The All-University Career Fair is Coming Soon!
WSU engineering students have the exciting opportunity to connect with employers who are looking to hire interns, co-op positions and full-time employees at the All-University Career Fair on Tuesday, February 9. The fair will be from 2 to 6 p.m. in Koch Arena. All WSU students receive a free gift for attending (while supplies last)!
For the full list of employers attending, download the Wichita State Career Fair Plus app or visit CAREER DEVELOPMENT CENTER . Bring your WSU ID and copies of your resume. Business professional dress is required.
For questions or more information, contact the Career Development Center at (316) 978-3688, careerdevelopment@wichita.edu, or stop by and see us in Brennan III or our satellite office in RSC 205.

Please Join us in congratulating Dr. Huzefa Kagdi for his JSME journal papers,
Number 2 in 2014 impact factor window: Assigning change requests to software developers. Journal of Software Maintenance 24(1): 3-33 (2012)
Number 7 in most downloaded papers, reviewed in 2014: A Survey and taxonomy of approaches for mining software repositories in the context of software evolution. Journal of Software Maintenance 19(2): 77-131 (2007)

Please Join us in congratulating Dr. Huzefa Kagdi and Sara Bahrami Zanjani (PhD student in WSU) for their Journal First Presentation at ICSE 2016.
Please follow TSE and ICSE  links for more information.

Computer-maker Cybertron pledges gift valued at $2.5 million for Wichita State University
Wichita-based Cybertron International, Kansas' largest personal computer manufacturer, has pledged a gift valued at $2.5 million to provide computers, monitors and five years of desktop support for the new Experiential Engineering Building at Wichita State University.
Computer-maker Cybertron pledges gift valued at $2.5 million for Wichita State University (WSU). Ahmed Aziz, cofounder of Cybertron and the current CEO, received his BS in Computer Science (2012) and his MS in Computer Networking (2015) from WSU. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at WSU.
Please follow WSU News and The Sunflower links for more information.

Second IEEE HKN Awards Ceremony
Epsilon Xi Chapter, (WSU) of IEEE – HKN is the Honor Society of our EECS Dept., which recognizes the Scholarship, Character and Attitude of EECS students. In this spirit the chapter recognizes achievements of EECS undergraduates and graduates. The second IEEE – HKN Awards ceremony was held on December 13th 2015 at 211 Hubbard Hall. The Dept. Chair Dr. John Watkins and the recipient of 2015 “C. Holmes MacDonald Outstanding Teaching Award”, Dr. Preethika Kumar addressed the audience. Mr. Saeed Alsaleeb (MSEE graduate) won the Outstanding Graduating Graduate Award. Mr. Luis Maria Iglesias (BSEE undergraduate) won the Outstanding Graduating Senior Award. Faculty, Parents and students attended this event. ". For more information you may follow HKN Epsilon Xi Facebook and 2nd IEEE - HKN Awards Ceremony.

Please join us in congratulating Dr.Kwon
Dr. Kwon received his new grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory on "Optimum Boundaries of Signal-to-Noise Ratio for Adaptive Code Modulations."

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman and Mr. A Mummidi for the 'IEEE ICAEE-2015 Dr. Fatema Rashid Best Paper Award'.
2015 International Conference on Advances in Electrical Engineering (ICAEE) awarded Dr. Abu Asaduzzaman and Mr. A Mummidi for the paper “Improving Facial Recognition Accuracy by Applying Liveness Monitoring Technique”.

WSU honored fallen student with posthumous degree
Abduljalee Alarbash received a posthumous degree in Electrical Engineering during commencement ceremonies on Sunday afternoon, December 13. Please follow this link for more information.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Zheng Chen for his NSF EPSCoR First Award
Dr. Zheng Chen’s received an NSF EPSCoR First Award for his project “Solar Energy Storage Using Ionic Polymer-Metal Composite Enhanced Water Electrolysis for Hydrogen Production.” This project aims to develop a high efficient solar energy storage system that converts solar energy into hydrogen fuel through polymer-based water electrolysis. The enabling technologies developed in this project will lead to a clean, renewable, and storable energy system with zero carbon-dioxide emission, which will essentially resolve our climate change issues.

See live feed of Experiential Engineering Building construction
The steel is going up quickly on the Experiential Engineering Building. Take a look at the building construction in real time, courtesy of the live camera feed at this link.

Kansas Working To Increase Engineering Graduates
The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal (11/22, Llopis) reports Kansas is working to increase the number of engineering graduates to 1,365 per year by 2021, up from 875 in 2008. The state legislature has approved more than $100 million in funding for Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and Wichita State to improve engineering programs, attract faculty, and draw in more students. The Kansas Board of Regents says the state is on track to reach their goal. For more information you may follow The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal

Spirit AeroSystems announces $576,000 scholarship program
Spirit AeroSystems joined the Kansas Board of Regents today to announce the company's plans to provide more than $570,000 of scholarship support for students enrolling in engineering and business programs at Wichita State University, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. In addition, one scholarship will be earmarked for a student coming out of the Upward Bound Math Science program at Wichita State University. For more information you may follow this link,

Scholarships for engineering and business students
Spirit AeroSystems will award 12 scholarships to Wichita State students in the Colleges of Engineering and Business. For more information you may follow this link,

Wichita eSports Expo brings competitive gaming world to Wichita State over the weekend.
Morgan Willis, BSCS major, was captain of Wichita eSport’s CS: Go team. Wichita State eSports president, BSCS major, said that they are planning a $10,000 prize pool tournament in February. For more information you may follow this link,

Please join us in congratulating Austin Crane
Austin Crane, a Computer Science student, was named an Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. Austin is developing Startup HQ, a low-cost marketplace for startups. For more information you may follow the news article on 'The Sunflower'.

Wichita State lab earns top research designation
A high performance computing (HPC) laboratory at Wichita State University directed by Abu Asaduzzaman has been named a GPU (graphics processing unit) Research Center by NVIDIA, the world leader in visual computing. GPU Research Centers are institutions that embrace and utilize GPU technologies across multiple research fields and are at the forefront of some of the world's most innovative scientific research. Please follow this link for more information.

Be sure to congratulate
Dr. Ali Eslami on receiving a University Research/Creative Projects Award (URCA) for his project, “Developing a Network Science to Study Cascading Failures in Cyber-Physical Systems.”

Innovation Campus at WSU gets a kick-start
Richard St. Aubin, EECS student, describes “Deployable Droneswarm” concept at Innovation Campus kick-start.

New documentary CODEGIRL takes on tech's gender gap.
The film opened in select theaters on Sunday but thanks to a partnership with Google's Made With Code initiative, you can view it for free on YouTube through Thursday. Please follow 'KWCH12' and YouTube links for more information.

Be sure to congratulate
Professor Steven Skinner who won the Catalyst Award and Dominic Canare (President and founder of a makerspace in downtown Wichita, MakeICT) who received a Bright Future Award.
WSU Ventures hosted the first Innovation Celebration to acknowledge the achievements of Wichita State innovators. Please follow the link  for more information.

GoCreate launched at WSU
Koch and WSU team up on GoCreate. Details about new Experiential Engineering Building were unveiled Friday, Oct. 30. The project will be completed at the end of 2016 and will be available for full academic use of its numerous learning laboratories beginning in spring 2017. Please follow links from 'The Wichita Eagle' and 'Wichita State News' for more information.

Be sure to congratulate EECS PhD students, Haneen Aburub and Kishore Konda Chidella.
They are the latest recipients of the Maha Maggie Sawan Fellowship. Please follow the following link to find more information about 'Maha Maggie Sawan Fellowship for International Students '. Please follow this link for more information about "Maha Maggie Sawan Fellowship for International Students".

IEEE-HKN - Induction Ceremony, Fall 2015
On Saturday, October 24, 29 students were inducted into IEEE-HKN. Student members are selected on the basis of scholastic standing, character, and leadership. For more images from the event please follow this link.

WSU Career Fair for SNT Media
WSU is hosting a career fair for SNT Media on Tuesday, November 3 at 12:15 pm in the Rhatigan Student Center, Rm 262. Please come and grab a slice of pizza while listening to information about the company and the opportunities available. SNT Media will be taking resumes for all positions and holding on-the-spot screening interviews.  The info and interview sessions will be repeated starting at 4:30 pm in RSC room 257. To see current job opportunities and apply through this link

EECS engineering students on team developing high speed ground transportation pods for national competition
Wichita State engineering students meet Saturday to discuss design plans to build a Hyperloop, a human-scale pod that can be used to travel at high rates of speed. The pod will be tested in June at a national conference in California.
Please follow the link for more information.

Westar Energy CEO talks about internships, employment opportunities
CEO of Westar Energy Mark Ruelle was featured in the Executive Connect lunch series Wednesday, hosted by the Wichita State Career and Development Center. Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Admissions Office co-sponsored the event.
Please follow the link for more information.

NetApp awards scholarship to WSU freshman
NetApp awarded a full one-year scholarship to Gunnar Gassman, a freshman computer science major at Wichita State University's College of Engineering.
Please follow the link for more information.

Be sure to congratulate Dr. Vinod Namboodiri, who was selected as a 2015-2016 Wichita State Online Faculty Fellow (OLFF)
Please follow the link for more information.

NSF awards $300,000 to Dr. Pu Wang to study “Wi Fi in the Cloud.”
This research will exploit powerful Cloud computing in order to efficiently search, utilize and share limited wireless spectrum.   The ultimate goal of this research is to provide universal super-high-speed wireless connections to users.
Please follow the link for more information

Preethika Kumar will accept the 2015 C. Holmes MacDonald Outstanding Teacher Award in November
Please follow KWCH12 for more information.

Fox Kansas is also “tracking” this story on the security of wearable devices
Please follow Fox Kansas for more information.

KWCH highlights Dr.Jadiwala's research on wearable devices.
Please follow KWCH for more information.

For more information on cyber-security of wearable smart devices.
Please follow KSN , Newswise and The Wichita Eagle for more information.

NSF Awards $380,000 Grant To Two Wichita State University Professors To Study Cybersecurity For Wearables.
Wichita, KS (8/31, Sandefur) reports the National Science Foundation awarded two Wichita State University professors a $380,000 grant to study the security of data stored in wearable technology like Apple Watches or FitBits. Professor Murtuza Jadliwala of the university’s electrical engineering and computer science department said, “We should know more about the technology that we’re using every day. I think the threat from these devices is real.” For more information you may follow this link.

Wichita State University expands engineering faculty by 21%. 
Three of these outstanding faculty members are in EECS, Dr. Ali Eslami, Dr. Sergio Salinas Monroy, and Ms. Manira Rani. They join an award-winning faculty who create environments where engineering students learn and conduct research side-by-side with students from other disciplines, faculty, and industry. For more information you may follow this link.

Wichita State promotes local economic development with new job creation program
Wichita State is pursuing its goals of fostering local economic development and enhancing student experiential learning through a new self-funded organization called Ennovar, which recently announced a $600,000 partnership with California-based tech firm PassFail LLC, a subsidiary of Social Networking Technology Inc. The unique partnership not only creates new jobs for university grads, it also generates revenue for the school in the form of company stock for every new hire culled from the campus. For more information you may follow this link.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala on receiving an Extension Grant to his work at AFRL on “Surviving Cybersecurity Threats in the Era of Modern Wearable Cyber-Physical Systems.”For more information you may follow this link.

Please join us in congratulating Anindya Maiti. Anindya was awarded the 2015 Dora Wallace Hodgson Outstanding Thesis Award.

Wichita State ranked third nationally in the amount of business-funded R&D relative to metro GDP — placing Wichita ahead of traditionally touted innovation centers Austin, Texas; Boston; New Haven, Conn., and Raleigh, N.C. Click HERE to read the full story.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Visvakumar Aravinthan and Dr. Vinod Namboodiri who were recently elevated to Senior Member status in IEEE.

Congratulations to Monelle Brink!
Five National Scholars to attend Wichita State this fall. WSU offers a scholarship of $80,000-$112,000 to students in National Merit, National Achievement and National Hispanic Recognition programs. To recruit high-achieving students in these groups, this year our office hosted a National Merit Luncheon and invited students to two exclusive events: the men’s basketball game against the University of Northern Iowa in February and the Opera Department’s presentation of “Cold Sassy Tree.” For more information on our recruitment efforts for National Merit Scholars, contact Jamie Hull at Jamie.Hull@wichita.edu or visit wichita.edu/nationalmerit.
These students have declared Wichita State as their intended school:
• Monelle Brink – Olathe North – Electrical Engineering

Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala researches ethics, trust, privacy, security and computer technology at WSU’s College of Engineering. He just completed a semester of testing involving a dozen students at WSU wearing smartwatches. He found that the sensors in smartwatches could be used by hackers to steal information about bank accounts and passcodes. Read more HERE. 

Long Wang received his BSEE in 2013 and is currently in our MSEE program.  Apparently he has been very busy working with Dr. Jibo He in psychology.  Besides the device in THIS article , you can find numerous links to a google glass device, HERE.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Preethika Kumar!  She has won the 2015 IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) C. Holmes McDonald - Outstanding Teacher Award.

Please congratulate Dr. Zaman (Abu Asaduzzaman)! He has recently been awarded NetApp-WSU Connector Project. This project is aimed to extending NetApp’s NFS Connector for Hadoop to other analytics frameworks such as Apache Spark.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Animesh Chakravarthy on two new NASA grants!  You can find more information about the grants, including abstracts, HERE.

Congratulations to Mohammad Heidari on receiving the Ollie A. and J. O. Heskett Fellowship for Fall 2015!

This past weekend WSU held its Spring Commencement Ceremony, following the ceremony the WSU chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN - IEEE) held their first ever Award Ceremony. The purpose of this ceremony is to bring students and faculty together one last time to share their experiences and also have an opportunity to socialize. A few awards were also given, as well as some special recognition. Bob Bailey, the Commencement Speaker, and an Electrical Engineering graduate also spoke at the award ceremony. You can see photos, and more about the awards that were given by clicking HERE.

Congratulations to Isaac Roehm who will graduate this Spring with his Electrical Engineering degree. He has been named one of the Class of 2015's Senior Honor Men and Women. Click HERE to read more. 

EECS faculty and students received some of the top awards given by the College of Engineering at the annual Awards Banquet on Saturday, May 9.   Please join me in congratulating the following Wallace Award winners:
• Faculty Research Award – Dr. Animesh Chakravarthy
• Graduate Teaching Award – Huabo Lu
• Graduate Research Award – Lun Li
Also, please join me in congratulating Dr. Preethika Kumar who received the Polished Professor award for EECS faculty.

WSU's Ennovar contracts with high-tech firm. See the full article HERE or HERE.

Engineering student powers car with solar panels.You can see this car today, April 22nd, at the University United Methodist Church on 21st and Yale, across the street from the Wichita State campus.Click HERE to see more information. 

Join us in congratulating Dr. Kwon, as he was recognized today as a finalist for the Wichita State University Academy of Effective Teaching (AET) Teaching Award! You can see a photo by clicking HERE.

Click here for older news.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Lunch & Learn: ARISTA
Feb. 28th: ARISTA
Wallace Hall, 215
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Informational table will be in JABARA Hall Lobby from 2PM-4PM

Services for Tom Wallis on Saturday, Feb. 24
Tom Wallis, 54, Systems Manager for the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics, died on Feb. 14. He was married to Connie Adamek, Senior Administrative Assistant for the Physics Department. Our thoughts are with Tom's family, friends, and colleagues. Services for Wallis will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 24) at East Heights United Methodist Church, 4407 E. Douglas Ave. Click HERE for more information.

IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Tutoring. Click HERE to see more information. 

CS 898AW: Artificial Intelligence for Robotics
The course will cover most advanced topics and state-of-the-art research for robotics, including scene understanding, natural-language processing, machine learning, reasoning, and action planning.  Students will get hands-on experience in using a Nao humanoid robots and a Sawyer collaborative robot.

EE 877C: Large-Scale Systems: This course introduces various techniques of modeling, analysis and design of large-scale control systems. Aggregation and singular perturbation methods will be studied. Developing reduced-order models provides numerous advantages in the analysis and design of complex dynamic systems such as power systems and flight control systems. The course will cover systems with two-time-scale properties as well as decentralized and hierarchical control systems. Model reduction techniques will be studied with quantitative analysis of the resulting error. Stability, controllability and observability of large-scale systems will be studied. Feedback control design algorithms will also be studied, including pole assignment, optimal control and robust control. Examples and case studies of power systems will be discussed.

CS 898B: Information Retrieval: This course deals with information retrieval on the Web.
Roughly, it deals with how search engines select the desired documents, based on the query.
Topics include boolean retrieval,
inverted indexes, and their construction; ranked retrieval, term weighting, and relevance ranking.
Prerequisite: CS 560

EE877AA - Information Theoretic Security
Course description:
Presents a framework for secure communication, which makes no assumptions on the computational power of a potential adversary. Course begins with fundamental tools from information theory and cryptography, which provide the basis for modern research on security at the physical layer and secret-key generation. Various models and applications will be discussed.

"New Rules: How Cybersecurity Touches Everything, and How You Can Be Part of the Solution" - a presentation by Joel Mehler on September 21, 2017, 4:00-5:00pm, Rm101 Geology Building. Learn more...

Cyber Security Scholarship. You may follow this link to learn/apply.

Tech Talk "Never Stop Exploring" by Paycom. On Wednesday (Sept. 13) at 7:00 PM in JB-261. Free food + Raffle. Please contact Dr. Zaman for more information.

1st year graduate students and undergraduate seniors in engineering are encouraged to attend a workshop put on by the graduate school. September 7, 5-6:30, RSC 266. The topic is the National Science Foundation Graduate School Fellowships. Students should see the call for proposals before attending:

Cyber Security Forum 2017 at WSU: Students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend a one day cyber security forum on Oct. 4, 2017 (7:30 AM - 6:00 PM) at WSU Eugene M. Hughes Metroplex. Registration and more information is available at this link.

EE 477YL: Introduction to Programing with MATLAB for Electrical Engineers
Objective of this course is to develop deeper understanding of electrical engineering related programing and analysis. MATLAB is a strong high-level programming language which is popular in science and engineering fields. Once a student learns to develop solutions to electrical engineering problems using MATLAB, the programming skills can be easily extended to other programming languages.  These skills are critical for both industry and graduate studies. This course will cover vitalization, developing and solving equations for electrical engineering, symbolic toolboxes and advanced programing methods for electrical engineering applications.
Pre requests: EE 282 and CS 211
Instructor: TBD

CS 898D: Data Mining
Techniques for mining of very large amounts of data; the data typically does not fit in main memory. Topics include: MapReduce/Hadoop, finding similar items, data streams, page rank and frequent itemsets.
Prerequisites: CS 665
Instructor: Prakash Ramanan

CS 697AG - Introduction to Intelligent Robotics
The study of intelligent robotics allows robots to gather information from surrounding environments and take actions autonomously. This course will introduce the fundamental principles and methods of manipulation, navigation and perception for intelligent robotics. Topics covered include geometry transformations, kinematics, dynamics, localization, navigation, mapping, motion planning, intelligent processing, smart sensing, decision making, and robotic intelligence. The students will explore the robot concepts and algorithms, such as dexterous manipulation, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and autonomy, while working with Nao humanoid robots and Sawyer collaborative robots. Prerequisites: CS 300, MATH 511, IME 254
Instructor: Hongsheng He

Dr. Christian Bird from Microsoft Research will be giving a seminar talk on April 17 (Monday), 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM in JB 128.   Please click HERE to see the attached flyer for details.  Everyone is welcome to attend!

Dr. Zheng Chen is the second faculty member in the Department to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award.  He follows Dr. Animesh Chakravarthy, who received it in 2014.  The Control Systems Group is very proud of Dr. Chen and Dr.  Chakravarthy for continuously striving for excellence in research.

Dr. Douglas Melton, Program Director for the Kern Family Foundation and BSEE graduate, will speak on “The Habit of Making Value” at the TEDxWichitaStateUniversity event to be held Thursday, April 27 at 4:30pm in the CAC Theater. Click HERE to see the full article. 

IEEE-HKN recently received a $10,000 grant from EPICS in IEEE for the project “Ride-On Cars for Children with Disabilities.”  The team, along with its partners WSU GoBabyGo, Rainbows United, Trinity Academy, and Kansas PLTW, will focus on providing independent mobility to children under the age of 5. Click HERE for more information. You can also find a list of the partners HERE.

Novisync Inc. out of Franklin, NY will be interviewing for 4 different positions on-campus March 15th, next week.  Novisync is unique in that they will consider sponsorship, so our these are excellent opportunities for our international students.  Students can apply for the positions through handshake by clicking on the hyperlinks below:
Network Engineer - $60,000 per year – Fishkill, NY
Storage Administrator - $60,000 per year – Fishkill, NY
Systems Administrator - $60,000 per year – Fishkill, NY
Hadoop Developer - $60,000 per year – Fishkill, NY

EECS professor Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya will be speaking at Math Department lecture at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 3) in 372 Jabara Hall. Bhattacharya will present "Computational modeling and simulation of protein folding using data science." Join them for refreshments before. Math Department lecture tomorrow (Friday, March 3) The Lecture Series in the Mathematical Sciences presents Wichita State's Debswapna Bhattacharya at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 3) in 372 Jabara Hall. Bhattacharya will present "Computational modeling and simulation of protein folding using data science." Join us for refreshments before.

Please congratulate Levi Lowe, freshman computer science student, on being selected as a spring 2017 Wichita State University Innovation Fellow! Click HERE to read the full story.

Professional Development events and GTA tips:
“Speak for Success: Talking About Your Research to a Wide Audience” on Feb 17th at 3:00, RSC 142.

Ramsey Jamoul, BSCS 2015 and CEO of Wichita eSports, discusses gaming convention that will be held at the Experiential Engineering Building this weekend, 2/3 – 2/5. Read more... Wichita eSports to host convention in Experiential Engineering Building

WSU seeks computer science students for summer research program: Dr. Vinod Namboodiri, associate professor in computer networking, has received a $340,000 National Science Foundation grant to fund the three-year program for research in computer networks, mobile computing, wireless communications and information security and privacy. Applications can be found here and are due March 20.

Research Experience for Undergraduates in Networked Cyber-Physical Systems: Application due date is March 20, 2017. For more details and to applt, visit this link...

CS 898AR: Machine Learning in Computational Biology
This course introduces statistical machine learning algorithms and their applications in computational biology. The course intends to achieve two major goals. The first goal is to help students understand the theories of advanced machine learning algorithms. The second goal is to teach students how to apply these cutting-edge machine learning methods to solve problems in life sciences and biomedical research. Students will be asked to read and present some selected research papers. They are also required to apply machine learning algorithms to solve real, biological problems in the context of course projects, present the results and document the findings in the form of a final report.
Prerequisites: Machine Learning (CS 697AB or equivalent) or Introduction to Bioinformatics (CS 797I or equivalent) with grade C or better
Instructor: Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya

EE 577L.   Renewable Energy Engineering  
Tuesday/Thursday 8-9:15 am, Wallace 315
Here's what we'll cover:  
1.  Determine  where  our electric  energy  comes from now
2.  Understand how the  electric  energy  grid works
3.  Evaluate  economics and environmental issues of electricity  
4.  Analyze  and design systems for  the common renewable energy  resources available for generating  electricity: a.  Solar  (photovoltaic  and thermal) b.  Wind c.  Hydro d.  Geothermal e.  Marine f. Biomass
5.  Understand the  role  and economics of energy  storage  in the  electric  energy  grid.  
6.  Determine  the role and economics of energy  conservation and energy  efficiency  in the electric  energy  grid.

Experimental Course:
EE877Y (Nonlinear Systems)

This course will focus on methods to analyze nonlinear systems. A (tentative) course outline is: 1) Introduction to Nonlinear Systems, 2) One-dimensional nonlinear system: Bifurcations (Saddle-node, Transcritical, and Pitchfork bifurcations), 3) Two-dimensional nonlinear systems: Phase Portraits, Limit Cycles, Bifurcations (Saddle-node, Transcritical, Pitchfork, and Hopf bifurcations), 4) Weakly Nonlinear Oscillators (Van der Pol equation, and Duffing equation), Method of averaging, 5) Lyapunov analysis, 6) Describing function methods
Prerequisite: EE792 (Linear Systems) or equivalent
Textbook: Nonlinear dynamics and Chaos by Steven Strogatz

IEEE - HKN Epsilon Xi Fall Awards 2016: This past Sunday, following Fall 2016 Commencement, Eta Kappa Nu held their annual awards ceremony. You can see photos of the ceremony by clicking HERE. The awards winners were IEEE-HKN James Maxwell Award Winner: Alex Mages IEEE-HKN James Maxwell Award First Runner-up: Allen Bui IEEE-HKN Charles Wheatstone Award Winner: Taher Alharbi! Congratulations to all! 

New summer engineering program for study abroad. Classes were evaluated and will transfer to WSU as IME 255 and ME 398 so it would be a great opportunity for engineering students to complete one of their required courses abroad. They do not need to speak Italian as the classes will be taught in English. ATHENA is an organization that we are affiliated with and they worked with us to design this program especially for our engineering students since we currently do not have any summer engineering programs available. And of course, this would also count to the 2020 requirement for the study abroad option.

Boeing Global Engineering International Travel Grant for Engineering Students (September 2016-August 2017). See more information.Find application form.

WSU Graduate School is making a real effort to help us develop our graduate students. Please see the schedule to take advantage of these offerings.

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. Reception in Ulrich Museum at 5 PM on Tuesday, September 13. Film Screening in CAC Theater at 6 PM. More...

Free Tutoring: Organized by the IEEE-HKN Chapter, on Tuesdays at 5:30 PM in 260 JB. Contact: e-mail.

Invited Talk: Oscillation Analysis of a DFIG-Based Wind Farm Interfaced with LCC-HVDC by Dr. Lin Yang, Ph.D. on Thursday, 9/15/2016, at 4:05pm in WH 310. More...

Graduate Student Welcome Back Party
You are all welcome. Sunday (Aug. 21) 6:30-8:30 PM. RSC Sports Grill & Lanes. More ...

You're invited to the GRAD Student Orientation (on Thursday, Aug. 18), Fall Party (on Sunday, Aug. 21), and other events (on Saturday, Aug. 20). More information here ...

Come on Thursday (Sept. 8) at 5:00 PM in RSC-142 to learn about the the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GFRP), which provides outstanding students a stipend of $34,000/yr for three years to attend the graduate school of their choice, plus an additional $12,000/yr for tuition and supplies. Learn more...

EE877W: Differential Games
Game theory is defined as the mathematical model of conflict and cooperation between intelligent and rational decision makers. ... Game theory is a study about the science of actions taken by each individual, with the objective of winning the game.  In this course, we will start with matrix games (wherein the action of each player is a discrete event and the set of payoffs from each action can be represented by a matrix), and then move on to differential games (which are games played over a system of differential equations).  Matrix games have applications in mathematical finance, economics, and biology, while differential games have applications in pursuit-evasion problems and robust control.
Prerequisite: Linear Systems (EE792) or equivalent.

Alicia Li Jen Keow, BSEE graduate Spring 2016 is selected as one of the three finalists for the 2015-2016 Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Electrical or Computer Engineering Student Award. Alicia was very active in terms campus engagement. Based on her scholarship, attitude and character she was inducted to IEEE HKN Epsilon Xi Chapter. On behalf of EECS DEPARTMENT we extend our best wishes and congratulations to Ms. Keow. Ms. Keow will be continuing her education with our department pursuing MSEE.

An information session on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program on Thursday, September 8 at 5 PM - 7 PM,  RSC 142 (Harvest Room). More information link 1 and link 2. 

Research assistant positions are immediately available at Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya’s
group. The position covers full tuition waiver in addition to a competitive academic year stipend. The student researcher will work in data science, big data analytics and their applications in bioinformatics and computational biology with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge areas in machine learning and data mining research such as deep learning, probabilistic modeling, combinatorial optimization, etc. Current WSU graduate students are encouraged to apply and are highly recommended to enroll in the “Introduction to Bioinformatics” course (CS 797I), which is being offered in the Fall 2016. A strong performance in the course will enhance the chances of securing the position. If interested, please send your CV and a brief description of your research interests and plans to Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya.

Experimental courses for Fall 2016
CS 797I - Introduction to Bioinformatics

Description: This course provides an introduction to Bioinformatics. It introduces fundamental problems, concepts, methods, and applications in Bioinformatics. The underlying algorithms behind some widely used
Bioinformatics tools and databases will be discussed.
Prerequisite: CS 300
Location: 226 Jabara Hall
Course time and days: 5:30 pm - 6:45 pm TR
Credits: 3 hours
Grading: Class Participation (5%), Homework (40%), Midterm (25%), and Final Project (30%)
Instructor: Dr. Debswapna Bhattacharya

Interested in Summer Courses? Please follow this link...

Maha “Maggie” Sawan Fellowship: Two Ph.D. students from EECS department, Uddipan Das and Mojtaba Sepehry, were awarded 11th and 12th Maha “Maggie” Sawan Fellowship respectively. Learn more...

EECS Department (IEEE-HKN) Awards: Ms. Alicia Keow, Ms. Nimanthi Nandasiri, Mr. Anton Hettiarachchige-Don, and Dr. Visvakumar Aravinthan were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments by the EECS Department (organized by IEEE-HKN Epsilon Xi Chapter). Learn more...

Graduate School Awards: Ms. Nimanthi Nandasiri, Mr. Meysam Ghanavati, Mr. Thanatheepan Balachandran, and Mr. Mohammad Heidari-Kapourchali from EECS department were recognized by the Graduate School with the most prestigious awards. Learn more...

A senior student of Dr. Zheng Chen, Connor Relph, has been selected for the Shocker Innovation Fund Award. Also, a Ph.D. student of Dr. Chengzong Pang, Uday Renduchintala, got the Shocker Innovation Corps Award.

Richard Rierson, (BSCS, 1991) a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, is CEO and Founder of Verum Communications. Verum Communications provides a platform for companies to deliver audio messages to employees through audio messages. Also, you may be interested in following his podcast, Dose of Leadership.

Jordan Phimmasone, Computer Engineering student, Jihan Weerasekera Panditharatna Mudiyansele Gedara, Electrical Engineering Student, and Nathan Smith, EECS Laboratory Manager, were part of the team that made mobility a reality for two special girls. Link to see the KWCH story...

Dr. Watkins, Dr. Chen, and Dr. Ding had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from the Consulate General of China. A few photos are available here...

Please congratulate Payton Morgan.  Payton, who will be a computer engineering major at WSU, has been selected as a Spirit Scholar.  The scholarship will provide $8,000 annually to cover tuition, fees, books and supplies, and is renewable for up to four years.

In the past two months, Wichita State University's Ennovar, the Institute of Emerging Technologies and Market Solutions, has engaged in partnerships that have led to 40 jobs for WSU students.

While the Wichita State Mercury Robot Challenge team and their robot, Shockanator 2, did not win the 2016 Mercury Robot Challenge, they did produce the 2nd best video.  Please enjoy! Follow this link to see the picture and this link for the video clip.

Statewide Linux conference comes to Wichita State May 21-22. Wichita State will host the 2nd Annual Kansas Linux Fest -- a statewide conference for enthusiasts of the open-source software platform -- Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22.  The event is hosted by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and organized by WuLUG, MakeICT and devICT.  "We are pleased to be able to bring this event to Wichita," said organizer Ben Roose, advisor to Wichita State's Linux User Group (WuLUG) student organization.

Congratulations to Dr. Salinas Monroy (Topic: A Cybersecurity Testbed for Advanced Manufacturing) and Dr. Aravinthan (Topic: Seamless Large-Scale Distributed Resource Operation via Uncertainty Management Assisted by Cyber-Power Framework) for winning the URCA awards.

IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu is conducting an award ceremony on Saturday, May 14, 2016. All students, friends, and family are invited to join us in celebrating the outstanding students and faculty of the EECS department.

One PhD student researcher position in SPriTE lab. Dr. Murtuza Jadliwala has one open PhD student researcher position in the SPriTE lab, starting Fall 2016. For position description and application instructions, please visit this link.

Experimental courses for Fall 2016
EE 877X - EECS Graduate Seminar

Description

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