02/26/18

UM-Flint Math class partners with DDA for survey on downtown Flint

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics, is taking an interactive approach to her Introduction to Statistics course (MTH 272) by incorporating a special class project: her students  are working with Flint’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to create and circulate a survey that will help them better understand users’ interactions in downtown Flint.

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics (front right) with some of her MTH 272 students

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics (front right) with some of her MTH 272 students

The statistics course is a requirement for McLeman’s secondary teacher’s certificate program (TCP) students who will go on to teach math to high schoolers. As part of UM-Flint’s education program, the course reflects the TCP’s place-based approach that regularly connects coursework and teaching practices with partners and projects in the community. The approach allows UM-Flint students opportunities to experience teaching, working with diverse groups, and finding community partners they can impact and that can be impacted by their classrooms.

Students work through a problem in MTH 272 with Laura McLeman of UM-Flint Mathematics.

McLeman considers the survey to be a unifying project for this semester’s class, nothing that the students were enthusiastic about it from day one. They’ve been the driving force behind the nature of the project, she added. The survey will help the DDA and downtown businesses learn about community member experiences; its results should be helpful in future grant writing and business planning.

Students in UM-Flint's MTH 272 class

Students in UM-Flint’s MTH 272 class

Once the survey is closed, the class will use their statistics methods to analyze the data; the results will be included in a written report and executive summary that they present to the DDA in April. The class will also participate in a reflective exercise in which they consider how well their survey worked, whether it served the needs of their community partner, and whether it provided the data they were after.

For McLeman, the project is a perfect example of place-based learning: it utilizes the content her students need to learn, while providing a meaningful service and getting her students interacting with the community. “As future secondary math teachers, and community stewards, it is important to me that my students experience how community needs and classroom curricular needs can come together in partnership,” noted McLeman. “Essentially, I want my students to see how all of the seemingly disparate topics they are learning in this statistics course come together in meaningful and impactful ways.”


For more information on UM-Flint Math, visit umflint.edu/math; to learn about the education programs at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/teach.

02/13/18

Soloist selected for UM-Flint Music’s winter wind symphony concert

Kimberly Stewart, a freshman majoring in Music Performance, will be the featured soloist at UM-Flint Music‘s winter Wind Symphony concert. Dr. Christopher Heidenreich, department chair, noted the difficulty of selection, her musicianship, and high level of preparation as reasons she was selected for the soloist position. “Kimberly was selected from among eight other outstanding performances,” he said. “I am very excited about [her] musical selection, and it will be a wonderful addition to our program.”

Kimberly Stewart of UM-Flint Music will be the featured soloist at the winter Wind Symphony concert

Kimberly Stewart of UM-Flint Music will be the featured soloist at the winter Wind Symphony concert

Currently, Stewart plays flute and piccolo with the UM-Flint Music Department’s Flute Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and Orchestra. As the soloist, she will be performing Poem by Charles Griffes. “I enjoy the use of colors and the abrupt changes in this piece,” she reflected. Stewart also noted that those attending can expect a fantastic concert experience from the Wind Symphony and Chamber Singers.

In general, Stewart appreciates the music selections of the department. “The pieces that are picked vary in style and are from different time periods. [Another] thing that I enjoy about being a part of the Music Department is the people. Everyone in the Music Department is very friendly and are willing to you help you if you need help.”

“Coming to UM-Flint has been a good experience for me because I have been given opportunities to perform and I have been able to connect with other talented musicians,” concluded Stewart.

To learn more about UM-Flint Music and their performances throughout the year, visit umflint.edu/music.

02/7/18

UM-Flint Computer Science students win SpartaHack IV at MSU

Team SonicPlayers, including UM-Flint Computer Science students Cole Rauh and Alex Latunski, at SpartaHack IV.

Team SonicPlayers, including UM-Flint Computer Science students Cole Rauh and Alex Latunski, at SpartaHack IV.

In January 2018 UM-Flint Computer Science and Mathematics student Cole Rauh led a team of coders to victory at SpartaHack: an annual student-run event hosted by Michigan State University that brings together “500 students of all skill levels and disciplines to get creative with tech, connect with peers and professionals.” His teammates included Alex Latunski, a fellow UM-Flint Computer Science major; Karl Zhu, a high schooler from Canada; and Michael Lin, an MSU Computer Science freshman.

The team won first place overall in the competition for their application that allows a user to play video games by producing notes on a musical instrument.

Read on as Rauh describes the competition in his own words.

About the Competition

Spartahack is a weekend-long coding competition. You are given 36 hours, from midnight Friday to noon Sunday, to build a piece of software. You aren’t given a topic, the only real stipulation is that your entire project must be coded that weekend, no bringing in a partially finished project to work on. At the end of the 36 hours, all projects are presented science-fair style, with each team getting a table to set up your project. Judges and other attendees walk around during this time and your team demonstrates your project to them. After the expo, judges choose a top 10, as well as winners for several side prizes, such as most creative, best android app, and so on. The top 10 then give a short 2 minute presentation in an auditorium in front of everyone in attendance. After the top 10 presents, the winners of the side prizes are announced, followed by the winners of 3rd, then 2nd, then 1st place.

Leading up to the event, we had no idea what we were going to make. While I was packing for the weekend, I saw a couple recorders that I had from elementary school. I thought maybe we could do something with them, so I tossed them in my backpack. During the drive there I thought about how we could use them. The first thing we’d have to do is read in the note being played into the microphone. Then we would have to process that to figure out which note is being played. From there I realized the number of notes you can play is pretty similar to the number of buttons on a classic video game controller, so I thought we could try using the recorders as controllers for old video games. I figured it had a pretty good shot at the most creative award, although I didn’t think it could get any more than that.

Making Music and the App

When I got to the event I met up with Alex, who was the other student from UM-Flint, and shared my idea. He was a little hesitant about it but decided to go along with it. We had room for 2 more people on our team so we took on Karl Zhu, a highschooler from Canada, and Michael Lin, an MSU freshman. We set up in one of the work rooms, which quickly cleared out after we started squeaking the controllers. After a few hours we had it working well enough to play single player games such as Kirby or Pokemon. We decided that the next step should be multiplayer. If you plug headphones into a microphone port, they will function as a microphone (although not a very good one). We found that we could play one recorder into the left headphone and another into the right microphone and process the two ears separately. We taped a headphone to each recorder, using plastic fork tines to get them positioned just right. With this set up we were able to get multiplayer games like Bomberman working.

Around this time, the constant recorder noises in the hallway were starting to attract several curious people. One of those people was Whitney, an employee of one of the event’s sponsors, Auto Owners Insurance. After speaking with her for a while, she offered to bring in her violin, so we could show that our technology can work with any instrument. Early Sunday morning she came in and worked with Alex to get the pitches set up and to teach him the basics of holding and getting a sound out of it. I came in about a half hour later and spent the entire morning just practicing the violin and just working on getting good enough at it to get enough of a sound out of it to move a character in a slow game.

Winning SpartaHack

When it came time for the expo, we were given our own room to demo in, since our project was sound based and needed a relatively quiet space. We set up two tables, one with the recorders to show off single and multiplayer games there, and one with the violin to show our project can work with any instrument. Our project turned out to be pretty popular, with a near constant stream of people stopping in to check out the source of the squeaks.

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

After the expo, top 10 was announced, which included us! We were psyched, as we never expected to do that well. We really only saw our project as a small toy, especially compared to the other brilliant projects being shown off. Each team in the top 10 is given 2 minutes to present and demo their projects. I started our presentation by saying that our project was to play video games using music. I then apologized for all the squeaking we made with the recorders throughout the event, before handing the mic to Alex. Alex briefly detailed what our project was and what it did, while Michael and Karl played the recorders to show off Kirby and single round of Bomberman. The audience got a kick out of watching them die to their own bombs in Bomberman. I then took the mic back and explained that our project works with any instrument, and thanked Whitney for providing us with a violin. We were closing in on two minutes, so I ended our presentation there.

After all of the presentations finished, The organizers started awarding the side prizes. The only prize we felt we had a chance at was Most Creative, so we got our hopes up when the organizers got to that prize. They were quickly dashed, however, when the prize was awarded to a team called Fidget Skirmish, who made a game involving fidget spinners. At that point we believed we wouldn’t win anything, but were still proud to make top 10. Imagine our surprise when it got to first place and the announcer said “And first place goes to, drum roll please… SonicPlayers!” We were all in disbelief, with Karl even asking if it was a mistake. When it finally sunk in that we had won we were on top of the world!


Congratulations to Cole Rauh, Alex Latunski, and their teammates!

For more information on UM-Flint Computer Science, and the ways in which it prepares its students to make their mark in the world, visit umflint.edu/computer-science.

 

02/5/18

Alumni Spotlight: Brandon Taylor of UM-Flint Psychology

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor graduated from UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences in April 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Research Psychology and a minor in Substance Abuse Treatment. He was co-president of the Psychology Club, a member of the psychology honors society, a work study in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice, and served as his class commencement speaker. After graduation he became a research assistant for the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint.

Brandon is fondly remembered by both his department faculty and those who were involved on his journey through UM-Flint.

Professor of Psychology, Terrence Horgan, PhD, reflected that Brandon, “was committed to excelling in school in a number of ways. He displayed a very positive attitude toward his education, and he always did his level best in class. His seriousness in class benefited his peers tremendously because it motivated them to demonstrate the same. Brandon was a role model in this regard because he elevated the quality of education that other students got in class.”

Jennifer Alvey, associate professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies (WGS) and director of the UM-Flint WGS Program added, “When I think of Brandon, I think of a very hard working and dedicated person – someone who gives his all to everything he does. He is kind, funny, and light-hearted, but he also has a serious side, is very committed, and truly patient. Brandon had to cultivate these qualities or perhaps confidence in them, but somehow he found the courage and even desire to do so, which inspires those around him to give it a try, too. He’s the kind of person who makes us and the work we do – whether in the classroom or in an office – better. I miss seeing him every day, but am so happy to know that he is pursuing his Master’s degree and enjoying his research-based work.”

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Read on as Taylor reflects on his time at UM-Flint, gives an update on life after graduation, and shares advice for current students.

What are you doing now and/or where are you heading next?
I’m a full-time research assistant for MSU at The College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint. I’m part of the SPIRIT Study, which stands for Suicide Prevention Intervention for at-Risk Individuals in Transition. Essentially, we’re investigating whether or not a suicide prevention program is clinically effective and cost effective. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, we’re tracking suicidal ideation and behavior of people reentering the community from jail in Michigan and Rhode Island.

I’m also a part-time graduate student at MSU, pursing a master’s degree in clinical social work. Conveniently, my courses are held in the evening at Mott Community College, so I have the easiest work-to-school commute that I could hope for. After graduate school, my hope is to go wherever I feel I’m needed in the realm of social welfare, though I’d prefer to find initial employment doing clinical work in Flint.

How did your UM-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing?
UM-Flint was instrumental in giving me a space to explore my interests. Though I have love and appreciation for psychology, my heart resides in social work. Funny enough, my First-Year Experience course, Intergroup Dialogue, heavily influenced the trajectory of my interests. My professors always provided constant encouragement, support, and guidance that truly boosted my once-low self-esteem. This, in conjunction with the numerous opportunities they provided, empowered me to reach beyond my perceived limits.

Who made the biggest impact on your time at UM-Flint?
I can’t pick just one. Drs. Alvey and Laube [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] always provided praise and encouragement. Drs. Heinze and Stein [of Psychology] always gave positive feedback and introduced me to working with groups via peer facilitation. Dr. Horgan provided innumerable research opportunities, both in-class and in his lab. Dr. Kassel [of the Student Success Center] constantly challenged me to leave my comfort zone. Wendy Carpenter [of the Student Success Center] helped me find courage when I doubted myself. Lynne McTiernan [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] was always so kind, generous, and considerate when I was her work-study… I am forever indebted to the faculty and staff at UM-Flint for going above and beyond to help me academically and personally.

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

What value did you find in UM-Flint’s approach of including hands-on learning and applying lessons to real world situations?
I found this priceless. Both my clinical internship and my research involvement prepared me for this current job, which I consider to be the beginning of my professional career. I wouldn’t be where I am without these keystone experiences.

Describe a firsthand example of an engaged learning experience you had at UM-Flint:
My clinical psychology internship involved observing the therapeutic process for highly depressed and highly anxious individuals. Though this was extremely challenging at first, I walked away with finally knowing what I wanted to do as a career.

For more information on UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences and its many departments and programs, visit umflint.edu/CAS.