Volume 6, No. 1, Fall 2013/Spring 2014
Notes from the Chair
by Dr. Dave Yearwood
Researchers have been working on an atomic clock that will be more accurate and will only lose “about one second by the time the world ends a few billion years from now” (BBC News Online). Frankly, I do not care much about that level of accuracy, just the feeling that I seem to have less time to accomplish what is on my to do list.
Essentially, it appears that I have the same amount of time each day, not counting the reduced amount of daylight minutes each day since July thru December, but why the struggle to get stuff done? Well, according to Dr. Elbert, Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration, it may have everything to do with time management—easier said than done. But, manage our time we must; so get to work! One word of caution; do not place too many things on your “to do” list and remember to save some time just to relax.
There are several exciting highlights to share about our work in the department,
so here they are:
Rick Lowenberg took over as chair of the Department of Technology’s Advisory Council and the annual meeting for 2013 was held in the new Gorecki Alumni Center on campus. This was a fitting place for graduates who continue to give back to the department, graduates who support the work of faculty and staff, and for all who provide some level of service to the department. It was also great to see more recent grads of our program and an opportunity to network with those alums who continue to tirelessly serve the department.
The status report submitted to the ATMAE Accreditation board was approved and the BSIT program continues in Accreditation status thru November 2016.
The total enrollment for all programs—minors, BSIT, BSGDT, and the masters program—is now at 116 students. The BSGDT and BSIT programs have enrollment numbers of 46 and 45 respectively—the BSIT is up by 4 students over the past year and the goal is to grow both programs to a total of about 120 students.
A recruitment plan is in place and efforts are being made to conduct more outreach and collaboration with high schools and community colleges.
Several BSIT students attempted and were successful at completing the national ATMAE Certified Technology Manager examination and the Certified Manufacturing Specialist examination. The success rate of the department’s students attests to the hard work by students, work of faculty, and is a validation of the curricular content. The average national pass rate for those taking the examination is 52.17% but our students’ averages are much higher at 85.17%.
Four undergraduate and one graduate student awards were presented at the 2013 student appreciation ceremony to well deserved students: Jesse Grad received the Dr. Myron Bender scholarship; Griffin Dahlberg was awarded the Dr. Marvin Poyzer Scholarship; Katelyn Devine received the department’s Student Excellence Award; Madison Anderson received the Dr. Dave and Jo-Anne Yearwood Outstanding Graphic Designer Award; and, James Williamson received the Department of Technology Outstanding Graduate Award.
Three courses—TECH 300 Technology & Society, TECH 322 Fundamentals of Photography, and TECH 450 Senior Capstone were revalidated as meeting the Essential Studies criteria for the UND campus. Two of these courses—TECH 300 and 322—are taken by students from all disciplines across campus, while TECH 450 is a discipline specific course taken by BSIT and BSGDT majors.
The promotion of critical and creative thinking is continually being infused into student work at all course levels. In addition, faculty convert some of their applied research into more authentic, working world experiences to share with students.
Work is continuing on a joint relationship with the Technical Institute in Denmark with about 18 students are expected to arrive on the UND campus in October 2014.
Well, that’s it from my desk to yours. Feel free to e-mail, drop by for a visit, or give faculty or staff a call to let us know how you are doing and how we can continue to serve our students and graduates. Thanks for reading!
Flipped Learning: Turning the traditional classroom on its head
by Dr. Lynda Kenney
As Coordinator for Graphics Programs in the Department of Technology, one of my responsibilities is to oversee the curriculum to ensure it is relevant to current industry practices. After a complete review of the Graphic Design Technology (GDT) major and the recent design industry changes, two important considerations emerged. The first was that the graphics industry has shifted to one where collaboration is as significant to the design process as communication. And the second was that the field of Graphic Design is highly competitive and it is the creative, innovative designer who successfully serves industry and society.
Given these significant changes, I began exploring teaching and curriculum methods that would benefit student learning. I quickly learned about the “flipped learning” environment where the lecture becomes homework and the class time is for practice. And I would see that applying this model could provide more time and opportunities for students to collaborate and practice being creative.
I selected TECH212 Principles of Graphic Design and Print Production as my “test” course, eliminated most of the traditional lectures and replaced them with projects and activities that not only provided the additional time for students to practice the principles and foundation of graphic design, but also created the environment to practice collaboration and creativity.
The students in this course first completed background reading and research to become familiar with the course material. A series of online quizzes were developed and placed on Blackboard, which students were required to complete successfully before the class session began—this activity encouraged and ensured that they were completing the readings, research, and online lectures and tutorials. I also created video and audio recordings where I explained and demonstrated aspects of the course content that students could access online via Blackboard any time and as often as needed. Of course during class students were provided clarification on the readings, but the bulk of time spent in class students were working on projects—they were practicing to develop their skills rather than listening to a lecture.
The course projects typically took between 1-3 weeks to complete, and incorporated collaboration and creativity while students followed a design process that included:
- Strategy—planning to solve visual communication problems by thinking critically (synthesize, analyze, evaluation, reflect);
- Concept—generating ideas by researching, considering graphic elements, sketching, applying creative thinking (using imagination);
- Design—translating the strategy and concept into visual communication; and
- Craft—handling the physical materials (papers, inks, binding, software) and presenting the final product.
The various projects also addressed 3 of the 6 departmental Student Learning Goals, which are to think critically and creatively, understand the theoretical principles of the profession, and to develop and refine oral, written, and visual communication skills. In addition, the projects and activities addressed the seven planning considerations when executing a design, which are cognitive, cultural, physical, economic, political, psychological and social factors.
By flipping the classroom environment, students became better situated to master the principles of graphic design. With more hands-on practice they attained a higher level of learning and retained knowledge that is critical to have in future, advanced graphic design courses.
Let me end with this note. I am committed to a view of teaching that centers on the learner. I truly believe that learning is active construction of meaning from personal experience and that it requires reflection and dialogue with others whose meanings may differ. After analyzing the assessment data for the TECH212 Principles of Graphic Design course, where “flipped” learning occurred, it was clear that the creative and critical capacities brought by the teacher and students to the learning process influenced its development. The students in this Fall 2013 course successfully experienced more opportunities and time to practice graphic design skills, especially collaboration and creativity, in order to master them.
College 101: Problem solving and critical thinking
by Dr. Isaac Chang
Note from the author: This article is the continuation of the original article, "College 101: Problem Solving and Critical Thinking (Part I)," documenting my presentation in the TECH110 course in the Fall 2012 semester. The Part I article highlighted a generic problem solving strategy, while this article presented an example of critical thinking, based on a real experience of my daughter and me.
The competition between genders to put the puzzle together really stirred up the atmosphere of the classroom and students were excited to see what was coming up next. To illustrate what "critical thinking" was about, I used one of my daughter's favorite games, LEGO racing, to walk the students through.As shown in Figures 1 and 2, the LEGO car would be released from the top of the "hill" and "race" all the way to the wall. Of course those books from the library came with different thickness, so Anna's task was to find books with similar thickness for replacements. Through repetitive "practices", Anna, my daughter who is four years old, was already an expert for finding the right book and paving her way forward.
The racing game did not stop there, as my daughter was not "satisfied" at all by the cars just running through the boring prairie. The wish list got longer and longer: Can I have a tunnel or a gate (Figure 3)? Can you make it wider, so my dump truck can pass by (Figure 4)? Oh, by the way, I still want a tunnel (the ultra-wide gate in Figure 5) …
Apparently the LEGO structure was not strong enough to uphold its own weight; it crashed as the car in Figure 6 ran by. At that point my engineering brain started rotating in a super high speed, trying to figure out a structure that could hold against this mission. Anna of course did not have the patience to wait for the "ultimate" solution from an Engineer. "Dad, can we just tape it?" The simple suggestion from a four-year-old was like a loud thunder in my ears: That is right! Just tape it, a quick-and-dirty yet straightforward solution to keep the fun going.
What did I learn from this you ask me? I have fallen into the orthodox thinking pattern that came from my professional training and life experience. I totally forgot the basis of critical thinking. When people ask us what critical thinking is about, eight out of the ten times we may utter with this phrase, "Think outside of the box." But what is the "box"? Is it the box Jackresides in, or just our comfort zone? As college instructors, are we teaching students how to think outside of the box? Do we allow such solutions to exist, even if they made us really uncomfortable?To properly conclude this cognitive walk-through exercise, the following statements might be used as the reference point:
- To think outside of the box, we need to know our limitations, e.g. the boundary of our comfort zone. Until we hit the walls, there is no sucha thing as a "breakthrough". We might be able to make a good living within our comfort zone, but most of the innovative or creative works came from something or someone foreign, which or who did not follow or believe the so called best practices.
To think outside of the box, we should not follow the same thinking pattern all the time. I presented a generic problem solving strategy in the Part I article. However we hardly do things from scratch. Our previous success, whether it was a great one or just a so-so one, often becomes the "template" that we would just use again and again. The end result was at most mediocre as we were trapped.
To think outside of the box, we could use knowledge or tools that we learned from somewhere else. The risk of failure might be pretty high if we do not stick to the pragmatic approach. However, the opportunity to have a breakthrough would also be higher, once we figure out how to apply or incorporate it.
So how do we know the fruit of our critical thinking exercise actually works? Instead of coming up with a perfect answer, a quick-and-dirty solution could suffice for the proof of concept. Once we know the idea works, to incrementally improve it would be fairly straightforward.
Enjoy the process and have fun!
Toys for Tots class project helps area children
by Dr. Alex Johnson
During the Fall 2013 semester, students in the TECH 110 Fundamentals of Technology class participated in a service-learning project that included learning about and applying elements of design and manufacturing that helped to bring Christmas to area children. Working with the United Way in Grand Forks and the Toys for Tots program, 38 students, working in groups, designed and mass-produced more than 70 individual toys for distribution to families in need over the Christmas season.
The TECH 110 class is an introduction to the field of technology and is required for all Industrial Technology majors, but it also is a course taken by many other students across campus. The Toys for Tots project proved to be an excellent introduction to our program and illustrated concepts of design, manufacturing processes, lab safety, and packaging.
Finding projects that keep students interested is not always easy, but with this project, motivation from the students was readily apparent. Ross Carlson, a student in the class, said “It was a really great learning experience that helped to reinforce a lot of the concepts we were learning about in the classroom and it really felt good knowing we were helping so many area kids.”
Student groups went all out designing and building toys that ranged from 3D dinosaur kits, to Leonardo Da Vinci inspired mechanical toys. Each toy was designed for a specific age of children from 0-12 years and professionally packaged in a labeled box with a set of instructions. The student groups generously purchased all of the supplies for this project.
Service learning activities, such as this, are great ways to not only give back to local communities, but also instill in students a sense of civic responsibility. At the same time they provide a rich and meaningful learning experience that allows students to put into practice important concepts learned in the classroom.
Exciting, challenging, frustrating, and yes, downright thought provoking!
by Dr. Dave Yearwood
Working with electronic technologies can be exciting, challenging, frustrating, and yes, downright thought provoking. Just when you think you have mastered one piece of software, one piece of technology, or some new gadget, along comes the new stuff! This is not all bad. Indeed, that is the nature of technological development and it is a good thing because students in the Technology Department get to experience learning by playing with new technologies and applying what they know and understand.
Students' minds are stretched as they gain knowledge and experience using the various technologies found in our department laboratories. What I enjoy the most is seeing students' growth from the first electronics course they take in the department to more advanced courses. Students' creativity is evident in the designs they create that revolve around computer controlled systems whether they involve Radio Frequency Identification systems, Parallax and Arduino micro controllers, or Programmable Logic Controllers.
Last year, Steve Voeller, working with Seth Dallman, designed a bicycle speedometer using the Arduino micro controller, a work which the department showcased at the 2013 annual Valley Career Expo. Other students completed some rather interesting designs using either the Parallax micro controller or the Allen Bradley's micro logic 1100 device. Needless to say, I was impressed by all of the designs because they are representative of students' ingenuity. Students do great work and I feel honored to be a part of their work in the department.
Home automation is becoming more of a reality and students who take the Control Systems class not only have to understand how to create the programs that control a wide variety of devices, they also need to learn how to incorporate these into working prototypes that drive mechanical or electro-mechanical systems. This semester, students will be working to automate various household systems as they gain first hand experiences using 21st century tools.
One other update involved the new or repurposed computers which the department acquired for Tech 311—the Computer Hardware and Emerging Technologies class. Students also gained some valuable experience experimenting and playing with some newer Mac computers. Yes, some operating systems had to be reinstalled as a result of experimentations conducted. Is this a problem? Absolutely not! I would not have it any other way. Learning by doing is what we do best and there is no better place to do this than in the Technology Department!
Alum Highlight: Jeremy Billings
Interview by Logan Tong, GTA
Edited by Dr. Lynda Kenney
Jeremy Billings graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology and an emphasis in Electronics. He works as a Regional Engineer for Midcontinent Communications and serves on the Department of Technology's Advisory Council.
Logan: Why did you choose the Department of Technology?
Jeremy: Well, I started in the Engineering School, like many IT students have done, and realized it was just sitting at a desk designing stuff, not actually working with my hands. Then I came over here, talked to Dr. Yearwood, saw some of what they did in the Technology Department, and transferred the next semester. I don't regret any of it. I enjoy hands-on work.
Logan: Of the classes you took, which ones meant the most?
Jeremy: Probably just about all of my classes with Dr. Yearwood. I mean they were probably the most fun. He challenged students the most. He made you think; that was the good thing about him. And the electronics classes were kind of my forte, so it was nice to be challenged in that area.
Logan: How would you say the Department prepared you for your career in Industrial Technology?
Jeremy: I believe they did a really good job. The big thing I have to deal with all the time in my job is troubleshooting. I can't stress enough how important it is to be able to problem-solve... now that's the big kicker. In addition, it is important to be able to work in the team environment.
Logan: Was it a smooth transition from the academic world to your career?
Jeremy: Yes, I didn't really have too many issues with that. I started at Midcontinent Communications as an installer. I worked my way up, because you always start at the bottom there. But it was nice; I went into peoples' homes and communicated with them in order to solve the problem. Now, as a Regional Engineer with Midcontinent, my days are filled with troubleshooting. It was a pretty smooth transition to go from college to the job.
Logan: Tell me about some of your favorite experiences while you were a student in the Department of Technology?
Jeremy: One of the big ones was when several students started the ATMAE student organization to compete in the national robotics competition. The first two years of its existence I was on the teams that participated. So, I was the vice president the first year, and the president the second year. The rules were pretty vague for the first robot we built because it was ATMAE's first ever competition. But we showed up in Nashville, Tennessee with a 75-pound tractor robot, sponsored by John Deere, which could carry a pop can around. It was a beast. I got on it and rode it around at the convention. It was pretty fun. When we were building the robot we stayed over night in the manufacturing lab at least five or six times. We never slept. Dr. Diez, who was chair of the Department then, would come in and find us sleeping on the couches in the student lounge in the morning. That was probably the most fun. The second year we built the Bobcat robot, and took it to the competition in Panama City Beach, Florida. Bobcat sponsored our robot and gave us funding—and we won that year! Other favorite experiences were working on some of Dr. Yearwood's projects. I recall always taking them to the next level. I built car stereos for Tonka-trucks. I built a security alarm system for a Snickers Bar, and duct-taped it to a table so that if someone tried to steal it the alarm would sound. That was fun!
Logan: Of the classes, the projects, student organizations, faculty and staff, what did you enjoy the most about the Technology Department?
Jeremy: A lot of it was just the camaraderie around the Department. You could sit and hang out in the lounge and everybody knew everybody. You knew the teachers. They would pop in and sit and hang out with you. They would help you with anything you needed help with. It didn't matter what. The class sizes were small, and that helped having only 10-12 people in a class. You knew everybody and you could work on projects together. There were days that I only had one class but we would be there all day, just hanging out, working on other stuff, or doing whatever. We spent a lot of time in Starcher Hall.
Logan: Tell me about what you do now, and why you chose to go into that area?
Jeremy: As a Regional Engineer at Midcontinent, I handle their fiber-optic networks, and RF-transmission stuff. My area of responsibility is from Highway 200 North in North Dakota from Williston all the way to Crookston. I do all of the fiber optic links, long-haul networks, and related stuff in Grand Forks for our RF networks, too. It is fiber optics, but it is basically circuits, which means instead of it being electrical, it is light. It's the same concept; you have loss. I like circuits and electronics. Fiber is just a continuation of that. Instead of power, you are using optical light. It is basically what I went to college to learn, just a little different medium. I troubleshoot networks, design networks, install, and splice... a little bit of everything for the northern half of North Dakota. When I started with Midcontinent we were providing 10 MB Internet service and it was a big deal. Now we're at 100 MB and talking 300 MB pretty soon, probably in the next year. It's definitely a jump. All the digital TV stuff, Tivos, and everything we have now, its just crazy. That's the good thing about working at Midcontinent, we are not behind when it comes to technology; we are right with it. Keeping up with technology and the changes is part of my job; it's nice to get to work with brand new technology all the time, like every six months. It is challenging and a lot of fun.
Logan: You said that new technology is something you enjoy. Is there anything else you really enjoy about this job?
Jeremy: Along with new technology, I get to meet great people in my coverage area. That was one of the reasons I didn't like engineering—I didn't want a desk job. Don't get me wrong, I have a desk, and I'm there every once in a while, but I cannot sit behind a desk all day long; it would drive me crazy. Covering northern North Dakota, I know every small town, back road, you name it, and I've been on it. I enjoy being outside, even though the weather is not always the best.
Logan: If you could offer advice to anyone thinking about going into the Industrial Technology field, what would it be?
Jeremy: If you want something that is more hands on, you get to do that in the IT field work. You can try out your ideas and designs to see if they work. We do not live in a world where everything is perfect; Industrial Technology is a great program to learn how to problem-solve. There are also great teachers who will help you out with anything you need. The people in the Department of Technology are awesome. There are a lot of jobs out there—not all of them called Industrial Technology—but once people realize you came from the IT program, you will get a job and start work. And they are going to love all the stuff you can do, the extra skill sets that you have. IT graduates can think outside the box, which is hard for a lot of other people to do.
Logan: What advice would you give to those who are close to graduating from the Industrial Technology program?
Jeremy: Find a place where you want to work, give them your resume, and show them all that you can do. A lot of people don't understand that, but you need to show them what you can do and all the different things you know, like troubleshooting, management, design, electronics, and manufacturing. In addition, get to know a lot of people. You'd be amazed at what can happen if you just talk to people. Get a good network of people.
Logan: How would you say the IT field has evolved since going to school and working?
Jeremy: The field is moving away, a little bit, from the hands-on part to improving processes and metrics, and it is all computerized. Companies want to quantify. It is amazing what you can do with CNC machines, lighting, and electronics. I remember when we could actually look at processor speeds on a scope. Now with the new processors there is no way you're ever going to do that. You can't see the processor speeds on an iPhone today compared to the old 600s, 800s where you could actually see the clock. In addition, everything is electronic and networked. You're never going to get away from it. We went from having cell phones, then to smart phones where we can get email everywhere.
Logan: Tell me about the Technology Department's Advisory Council.
Jeremy: Dr. Yearwood asked me if I would be interested in coming back to the Department to serve in that way. And I always like to help the department so I said "yes". Last year was my first year on the Advisory Council, and I was kind of green. There was kind of a learning curve. But this year is kind of nice; I got in there and got to be a part of talking about how to improve the department. One big thing is the name of the Industrial Technology major, but we had a lot of other discussions and it was good to hear what faculty are working on and what their direction is. Advisory Council members provide input as to some good ideas going forward, and things like that. Plus, you get to meet other alumni, some of whom I'm getting to be pretty good friends with. You talk to them about different things and see what industries they are in. It's kind of nice to have another group of people to hang out with who have similar interests as you do. Like I said, I enjoy helping the department so I'll probably keep doing it. One thing is for sure, if you can't help out financially, you can always give your time.
by Brian Johnson, University & Public Affairs writer
Behind the scenes of University of North Dakota Athletics' acclaimed video series Through These Doors, the mostly student crew that makes it happen still takes a grassroots approach to production. Headquarters for the second season was a storage room with some open plumbing.
"At its finest, I think it was a shower room." said Peter Bottini, a communications major from Sartell, Minn. and one of the student founders of the series.
Producing such a quality show with limited resources requires a proactive mindset. As the show's success continues to grow in its third season, episodes have now expanded to 30 minutes. That length requires more of a professional approach to detail and cohesiveness with little margin for error.
"Planning became a huge part of it because of how intricate we decided to make the episodes," said David Folske, series producer and 2013 UND Communication alumnus from Bowman N.D. "If we planned, things tended to go easier."
While interning at UND Athletics during the fall 2011 semester, Folske and fellow Studio Onealumnus Bottini were tapped to produce a show that connected the UND hockey program with fans. UND Hockey Head Coach Dave Hakstol wanted to create an online series based onHBO's 24/7 series.
"We in the hockey community love that show, and we were looking to do a miniature version of that," said Bottini.
Bottini, a former still photographer for the Dakota Student newspaper, is a documentary fanatic with an excellent background in video. Self-taught, he refined his skills and learned essential basics of video at Studio One. Using his own equipment, he and Folske began production on Through These Doors.
"We didn't really know what kind of product we were starting out with," said Bottini. "We were just looking to put something together that we were proud of and just put it out there."
The series began airing on UNDsports.com in the fall of 2011, providing in-depth interviews with players and coaches while showcasing game highlights throughout the season. Shortly after the debut, the show started to generate a buzz.
NYTimes.com spotlighted Through These Doors at the end of the first season. Midco Sports Network has been airing the third season during its Friday night UND lineup, and the show was nominated for a 2013 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy in the Best Sports Program Seriescategory.
UND students Eric Classen, an Air Traffic Control major from Medina, Minn. and Andy Parr, a Grand Forks native majoring in Industrial Technology, were added to the original crew to take leading roles as producers of the show. Both picked up some video editing experience in high school, and Parr picked up an AAS degree in Audio Production and Engineering from the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR) in Minneapolis before he enrolled at UND.
"Andy is really good at audio, and I'm not," said Classen. "If I need to come up with audio, I know I can count on Andy to do that. We knew we could count on David to do certain graphics and editing."Parr and Classen have also learned from Bottini and Folske, and production has gone smoother with better planning and by integrating their talents.
The diverse skill sets that the crew has picked up working on the show should come in handy after graduation. Their experience also has also made them critical of other shows they view when they aren't working.
"I can't sit down and watch any broadcast or production without thinking about what's going on behind the scenes, especially first season shows." said Parr. "You go back and watch your favorite show in first season, you can tell it's very low budget and it's come a long way."
The Through These Doors crew relish that they were able to do real work in their field of study before graduation.
"I started interning for Studio One during the second half of my sophomore year, and I did not go through a semester of college without an internship after that point," Folske said. "I think it's important for students to try to get experience in their chosen field before they leave."
"Find what your passionate about and take advantage of it," said Bottini. "Get involved somewhere on campus as earlier as you can and take advantage of what you can learn. Getting your foot in, especially on a college campus where everything is connected already, really opens doors."
The Through These Doors team isn't sure if the show will be returning for a fourth season, but the fan base it has developed make another run a possibility.