Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Kyle Rainey

Value of Internships

By Kyle Rainey
Hometown: Columbia, MO
Major: Information Technology
Year: Senior
Favorite class: IT 222 – Multimedia Design
Favorite place to study: My apartment or the UMKC Library
Why you chose UMKC: Smaller class sizes

During the fall break of my sophomore year, I applied for an internship at Cerner, a healthcare information technology solutions company located in Kansas City.  I was hired for the Kansas City Information Technology (KCIT) Apprenticeship Program before the start of the summer of 2015.  This program is designed differently when compared to a normal internship.  The KCIT program allowed me to work twenty hours a week during the school year and  forty hours a week during the summer.  My internship has allowed me the opportunity to put the knowledge I gained as a UMKC student in information technology to work – literally!  Although, Cerner has also given me the opportunity to learn on the job.  They allowed me to work on real projects and sit in on many meetings, further developing my skills as a professional in the field. Being a UMKC student has allowed me to have this experience and since many big companies come to UMKC looking for students to become interns, the connection was made easy.

After I graduate this fall, I plan to continue working for Cerner on my current team! Being in the KCIT program gives you the ability to continue with what you are doing after you graduate, if you were successful and choose to do so.  Working at Cerner has taught me a lot in the last year and I continue to learn more every day. UMKC has prepared me to work full time right after graduation and I look forward to starting my career with Cerner as soon as that degree is in hand.

Seniors Design App for Microsoft’s New HaloLens

By Alex Maurer

Every semester at UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering (SCE), students apply their skills and knowledge to their hands-on Capstone Senior Design Project.  For computer science seniors Eric Lytle, Zach Wolf, Jarren Back, Cameron Knight, Eric Wilson, and Alex Mammele, this capstone project afforded them the opportunity to work with the innovative technology of the HoloLens.  Teaming up with the School of Computing and Engineering’s Recruitment staff, these seniors designed an app that can be used in high school and middle school classrooms throughout the Kansas City area to showcase the exciting and cutting-edge work of SCE students.

Through the use of the programming language Unity, a language that will be introduced into computer science classes in SCE this spring, they developed an app that provides a mixed reality for users that combines augmented and virtual realities.  With this app, users can spatially map the environment they are standing in and incorporate holograms that interact with their actual environment.  In this case, UMKC’s mascot, Kasey the Kangaroo, will chase after objects that the user can “throw” into their environment.  This gives the user a fun interactive experience with the environment they live in (augmented reality) and the objects created within the app (virtual reality).

Due to the recent release of the HoloLens, these students were presented with the unique challenge of not only programming the app, but researching and discovering how to create successful programming and code through a trial-and-error process.  While this process proved tedious, Eric Lytle noted that the “exploratory programming” of this app was one of their favorite experiences with this project as it allowed them to develop new skills and knowledge, and be at the forefront of technology.  Not only did this exploratory programming provide a unique experience for this group of students, it also stands to create new opportunities for future SCE students who seek to further develop the app and create new uses for the HoloLens.

Learn more about the HaloLens at: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

View the HaloLens in action at SCE: https://www.facebook.com/pg/UMKCSCE/videos/?ref=page_internal

Q+A With Alum: Cody Hill

Cody Hill
Manager, Energy Storage Systems, LS Power
BSECE, Class of 2010
Current City: Mountain View, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)
Hometown: San Francisco, CA and Kansas City, MO
Follow me on twitter: @Cody_A_Hill

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was a recording engineer for Bob Beck at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for five years which was an awesome gig! I also did audio work for the Marr Sound Archives with Chuck Haddix and KCUR’s New Letters on the Air radio program with Angela Elam.  The Communications Studies department let me teach a few workshops on audio editing, too.

I was active in IEEE, worked alongside Dr. Deep Medhi on a National Science Foundation funded research grant, and volunteered with Debbie Dilks (CSEE’s second mother to all) teaching science to children.

What drew you to Electrical Engineering (EE)?

I got into EE from being a musician (note: a poor one). My interest lead me to recording studios and concerts, where I began working as an audio engineer after high school.  When I first enrolled at UMKC, I was focused on media production in the Communications Studies department, but the more work I did with microphones and audio editing equipment, the more I wanted to master the technical side – pure EE and signal processing. You have to follow your passion if you are lucky enough to find it!

Did you take any technical classes in High School?

Quite the opposite, I was more of an art student.  Looking back, I wish I had done both.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?

As I got further into my EE studies I became really passionate about renewable energy and decided to make a shift from media to power.  Professor Mike Kelley was an extremely influential person at this time in my life.  He was so excited about power and energy and it really rubbed off on me.  After my undergraduate degree was complete, I went to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a PhD with Professor Mack Grady. While there, I started working for an energy storage startup and that experience was transformative.  Energy Storage is a key in enabling technology for the future of our energy systems in a high-tech/low-carbon world.  And everybody everywhere needs cheap clean energy. I got my Masters Degree and put the PhD program on hold to work in the field full time. Today, I’m part of a private equity group that builds power plants and energy infrastructure in the U.S. with really outstanding management and coworkers.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?

I read obsessively, often for multiple hours a day. My RSS feed for general and industry news is something that I have been tweaking for years and I probably scan 100-200 article titles every day. With unlimited information at our fingertips, it seems like the key is setting up the right system of filters so that you find the good stuff fast, but are still challenged by people with different perspectives from your own.

Q+A With Alum: David E. Hawes

David E. Hawes
Senior Project Manager, Blot Engineering, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, Class of 1986
Current City: Kansas City, MO Hometown: Leavenworth, KS

What inspired you to choose UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering? I was looking for a program that allowed me to continue my career while getting a degree. The evening classes available at the SCE made this possible.

What project have you worked on since graduation of which you are most proud? While supporting an industrial client, there were challenges to complete a process and storm water treatment tank foundation and associated pipe rack during the winter months. The foundation required 185 concrete trucks and took over 20 hours to complete! The pipe rack involved structural steel design and auger cast pile foundations with pile caps. It was one of my most challenging projects but gave me the opportunity to use a lot of the skills I developed while at the SCE.

What drew you to engineering? I already had a background in construction, so engineering seemed like a natural next step. I had worked as a carpenter’s apprentice and then later became a journeyman bricklayer. Engineering was an opportunity to move forward in my career while still respecting my construction roots.

What do you love most about the engineering community Kansas City? I really love how many friends I have made. The engineers working for my own company, companies we partner with, and others I have meet through professional organizations have become a second family. These friendships have provided connections that have advanced my career in many ways.

Q + A with Civil Engineering Student Terry Bondy

Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Calgary, AB, Canada

Why did you choose UMKC:
I chose UMKC because I went to High School in South Kansas City, and UMKC was close to home. I also wanted to go to university in a city that was large enough to feel metropolitan, without being too large. UMKC also offered lots of scholarships.

What are you studying and why did you choose this:
I am studying civil engineering, with an emphasis in structures. I chose this field because I like to work with large projects, and I wanted a career that would allow me to work in different regions of the country. Since people will always need safe structures to live in, I figured it was a pretty safe career to get into. I also want to work with different industries. I like that structural engineers can build schools, hospitals, conference centers, office buildings, and lots of other things.

What do you love the most about UMKC:
My favorite thing about UMKC is how many opportunities there are to be involved. There are so many campus jobs, volunteer opportunities, and research projects available to work on.

What is your favorite class:
That’s a difficult question. It’s probably either CE 321: Structural Analysis, or CE 323: Steel Design. Until I took these classes, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be a civil engineer. After taking these two classes, I learned how interesting designing structures can be.

Are you involved in any organizations or honor societies? Why did you decide to join:
Yes, I’m the Secretary for the Missouri Delta Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. I am also a member of the Student Activity Fee Committee, as well as the Steel Bridge Design Team. I also work as a student ambassador for SCE, a teaching assistant, and a math/physics tutor. At first, I joined some of these organizations so I would have something to talk about during job interviews! But looking back, the extra-curricular things I’ve been involved in at UMKC have been just as rewarding as the classes I’ve enjoyed

A New Center For Nanotechnology

Recent NSF Grant awarded to Masud Chowdhury, Ahmed Hassan and Mostafizur Rahman will be used to establish a new center for nanotechnology.

Remember when cell phones looks like bricks and had about enough computing power to make a call and send a text… and that was it?! Sure – by the time most of you reading this were born, Nokia offered snake and…for a very hefty price tag…you might get a very slow internet connection, but mostly phones were clunky and did very little.

So how did cell phones get smaller AND more powerful? Nanotechnology. Researchers across the globe are rushing to discover new and innovative ways to cram more computing power into smaller and more efficient devices, and it’s not just the phones you use. Nanoelectronics research supports wearable technology, circuitry and systems for your laptops and desktops, materials that are stronger and lighter than materials we use today, and applications in energy efficiency and biomedical advances that are shaping our futures.

All of this is why at UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering (SCE) we are proud to have top researchers in nanoelectronics committed to engaging our graduate and undergraduate students in this growing field. Dr. Masud Chowdhury, Dr. Ahmed Hassan and Dr. Mostafizur Rahman have recently received a grant for $771,000 from National Science Foundation to develop a nanotechnology research facility.

This new center is named Center for Interdisciplinary Nano Technology Research (CINTR). This new center will be comprised of an equipment laboratory that will allow researchers and students for experimentation and fabrication of nanoscale devices and circuits, and a high-powered computer simulation to perform in-depth analysis and validation of nanoscale designs and applications. Additional goals for the team include ramping up K-12 STEM outreach around nanotechnology themes and welcoming high school students to utilize the facility for learning

“The types of research we are doing now are focused on the theoretical. With this new facility and centralized focus on nanotechnology, we can bring our research to next level,” shared Dr. Chowdhury. The research laboratory is already under development and we look forward to bringing you updates from the lab this Spring 2017.

About the NSF CISE Research Infrastructure Program Grant:

Grant Title: Experimental Characterization and CAD Development Testbed for Nanoscale Integrated Circuits

Agency: National Science Foundation

Approved Budget: $771,000

Project Summary: The aim of this NSF CRI-II-NEW project is to develop a testbed for computer aided design (CAD) simulations, experimental metrology, and software and hardware calibrations to support cross-layer evaluation of novel nanoscale 3D heterogeneous integration of CMOS and post-CMOS technologies. Proposed tools and equipment acquisitions and sustainment will allow bottom-up evaluations from materials, fundamental physics, and experimental metrology to device and circuits to large-scale systems. The proposed infrastructure is unique and will enable thorough evaluation of new 3D heterogeneous integration concepts with accuracy only parallel to full-scale experimental prototyping. It will directly impact the nano-electromagnetics, nano-device, circuits, 3D IC and manufacturing research directions, and will also have significant impact on the big data analytics, renewable energy, smart-city, RF and electromagnetics research initiatives in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (CSEE) department at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). The testbed will not only facilitate transformative research, but will also allow broad ranging educational and outreach activities such as new undergraduate and graduate curriculum development with lab modules, training and mentoring of research students, research dissemination thorough forums and seminars, development of online repositories and online labs, and nanotechnology awareness for K-12 students through summer workshops. The boarder impact of this project is that the proposed infrastructure will provide unique opportunities for research, education and community outreach in the fields of nanomaterials, nanodevice, nanocircuit, biosensing, heterogonous integration, and nanomanufacturing.

Q+A With Alum: DeJ’on Slaughter

Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering , Class of 2013
Community and Citizenship Director, Turner Construction Company
Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Kansas City, MO

What initially attracted you to UMKC?

What set UMKC apart from other colleges I visited was the campus, the staff, and the endless opportunities. Kansas City is home to many of the world’s most prestigious construction firms, and UMKC has the relationships and networks to connect their students with these firms. The close proximity to such impressive companies allows for valuable internships throughout the school year resulting in, at least in my case, excellent job offers.

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was involved in the UMKC Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and served as Vice President in 2012, and President in 2013. While assuming leadership positions in NSBE, I gained tremendous professional experience through community engagement and involvement, as well as industry relations. Alongside a solid team of dedicated NSBE students, we were able to have an impact in the lives of the collegiate students in our chapter, as well as many local high school students who were involved in the NSBE Jr programing and yearly events. It was also imperative that we had the support of Dean Truman and Chancellor Morton for NSBE initiatives.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?

UMKC challenged me to become a problem solver. By tasking me with real world examples and hands-on education, I was also equipped with the essential skills necessary to navigate through the corporate world.

What do you love about the Engineering Community in Kansas City?

I love the competitiveness of the Kansas City market. Even as one of the world’s largest builders, we’re challenged to stay prepared, focused and bring our “A-game” in order to compete with the other construction firms in town. In result, the landscape of our city continues to be populated with many outstanding buildings and structures.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?

Make sure you have a passion for this field and never give up.

Q+A With Alum: James Lammers

Bachelors in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Class of 1987
CEO, President for Trinity Animation
Current City: Lee’s Summit, MO  Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Tell me about an average day at your job:
The animation studio is like many other consulting services businesses: there are busy and slow times, there are deadlines and there are a variety of client styles and needs. As CEO, when things are busy I make sure employees have what they need to do their job while focusing on marketing efforts and longer term planning. When things are slow I get very busy finding productive tasks for all the staff to work on, and try to close the deal on any pending projects. And of course every day includes technical and HR problem solving, accounting and other details of running a small business.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
UMKC provided serious intellectual challenges and demanding courses that helped me learn to persevere and get better at general problem solving.

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?
The internet. A massive compendium of information, instantly searchable and viewable.

Did you take any computer science or programming classes in High School?
No, but I did build a Sinclair ZX-81 microcomputer in Junior High, with my father’s sponsorship and encouragement. On this, I learned Z80 assembly language and BASIC programming. During my junior year I attended the Rose Hulman Polytechnic Institute and learned the obscure language APL; as well as getting a good taste of what attending a private college in another state might be like.

What societies and groups are you a part of and how do you feel that they have helped you professionally?
I helped start a 3D user group for Kansas City in 1993 that has been a wonderful source of new friends and information over the years. I stepped back from it a few years ago but the KC Autodesk Users Group carries on in the same vein and I enjoy going to this group’s meetings.

What excites you about the future for your field?
It is an overwhelmingly exciting and expanding field, with application in almost every sector of the economy. Right now I see augmented reality as something that will eventually upend and radically change many areas of communication, learning and entertainment. We intend to be part of this.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
Plan to keep learning, changing and adapting for your whole career.
Always live below your means and avoid debt.
Try to adopt a “consultant” mindset at your jobs and simply contribute generously and positively to whatever project they are working on.

Learning to Fly with Dr. Fields

Click here to play video via YouTube.

We’re all a little fascinated with drones now, right? A quick visit to amazon and you can find over 10,000 commercial unmanned aircrafts available for purchase. If you’ve visited a local park, headed out to a sporting event, or popped by UMKC’s campus, you’ve probably seen them in the skies taking video or photographs – but for SCE faculty member, Dr. Travis Fields, they are doing something a bit more complicated, learning to fly.

Dr. Fields is conducting a research project that is focused on the building of a quadcopter that is much cooler than the traditional ones. How so? This drone can learn. Funded by a University of Missouri Research Board grant, his project entitled “In-Flight Learning with Indirect Adaptive Control: A New Paradigm in Flight Testing and Control” explores how to build an aircraft that can adapt as it is dropped and figure out how to adjust its behavior to stay in the air and avoid crashing.

As Dr. Fields explains, “the learning-based control system invokes small oscillations to the four quadcopter motors in order to learn how each motor effects the quadcopter motion. The oscillations provide sufficient data to create a model that can be used to efficiently control the aircraft.” Graduate student, Mohammed Alabsi, has been developing and testing this control system alongside Dr. Fields in the UMKC Drone Research and Teaching Lad (The DRAT). Check out our video to see what’s happening now. When the full research is completed, the ideal quadcopter would have a “fresh-brain” of its own. It will then be tossed from a building and will teach it’s self how to fly prior to reaching the ground!

10 Tips for Transferring

There are so many reasons that drive a student to transfer schools at some point in their academic career. Perhaps you started as at a local community college or your first choice turned out to not be the right fit – but either way, at SCE you are in good company! With almost 50% of our undergraduate population coming to us as transfers, transferring-guru and SCE Assistant Director of Recruitment, Micah Hildreth, compiled a list of the top ten ways to make the process easier.

  1. Pick a Major: Knowing what degree you want to graduate with will make course selection easier now—saving you time and money! Take a look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to find out what careers are growing and how much money you can make with different degrees.
  1. Select a School: Requirements vary greatly between schools, so the sooner you select the school you will be transfering to, the sooner you can begin working on their requirements. Pick a school that’s a good fit academically, geographically, financially, and socially.
  1. Develop a Plan: Once you settle on a major and a school, you’re ready to develop an academic plan. Course selection matters.  For example, engineering degrees have a prescribed sequence that students must follow in order to stay on track. Working with advisors at both schools is a good idea.
  1. Make Sure Your Classes Transfer: At UMKC we have a few different resources to help you understand how your credits will transfer. Transfer guides show course equivalencies with our area community colleges.  We also participate in transferology.com, which is a free resource that allows students to see how all of their credits will transfer.
  1. Know the Deadlines: Universities love deadlines, the really do. So whether it’s an application deadline or a scholarship deadline, you’ll want to know those dates. Mark them down. Stay on top of them. It may make the difference between getting a scholarship or not, being admitted or not.
  1. Visit the School: Sometimes transfer students decide on a school without ever setting foot on campus only to discover it’s not the right fit. It’s too hot, too far from home, there are no good dining options on campus, and the list goes on. Do yourself a favor and schedule a campus tour.  Schools like UMKC offer a variety of visits to accommodate the needs of transfer students.
  1. Research Scholarships: Who wants free money? Spend some time researching what scholarships your school provides and what’s available in the community.  UMKC offers specific transfer scholarships that are awarded on the basis of GPA and number of credits completed. Beyond that, there are a number of external scholarships for which students can apply.
  1. Get Involved: Participation in clubs and organizations can help you network, serve your community, and become a better leader. They may also qualify you for more scholarships. For example, UMKC provides an additional scholarship for students who are in Phi Theta Kappa, which is a national honor society available at many community colleges.
  1. Attend an Orientation: Transfer students know how to do college, but at orientation, transfers learn how to be a student at that university. Registering for classes and paying your bill are school-specific functions. You’ll want to know the school’s policy for dropping a class or how late the library is open.  These topics and many more are covered at orientation. Plus, if you’ve never visited campus, it’s great opportunity to do so.
  1. Own the Process: Every transfer student situation is unique, so ask a lot questions and petition for exceptions when needed. Transfer friendly schools, like UMKC, are equipped to provide answers and address concerns. You are your best advocate, and with good planning and proper resources, you can ensure your success.