Category Archives: Computer Science & Information Systems

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


UM-Flint Computer Science students demonstrate apps at Ann Arbor celebration

The University of Michigan celebrated the finale of its bicentennial celebration with the Third Century Expo—a public fair with a focus technology, innovation, and what’s to come in the university’s next 100 years.

UM-Flint’s Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) student group, and their faculty advisor Mark Allison, PhD, assistant professor of computer science, attended and demonstrated some of their student-created digital and web applications to the crowd.

UM-Flint students at the University of Michigan's Third Century Expo in Ann Arbor

UM-Flint students at the Third Century Expo in Ann Arbor

The UM-Flint students were especially proud to feature the MyWater-Flint app, which allows users to access reported lead levels in Flint neighborhoods, connect with resources, and track updates on service-line replacement. Their work accounted for a good portion of the offerings at the event’s tech/app bar inside the “Creating and Inventing” tent.

Their second app, noted Allison, was also a big hit. Still unnamed, the app helps pinpoint a user’s location indoors. “You may have noticed your phone’s GPS is useless inside buildings,” explained Allison. “This graduate research project addresses this problem. When completed, we envision students being able to navigate indoors as floormaps automatically pop up onscreen as they enter buildings and move from floor to floor.

“Users also will be able to access  the schedule of their classrooms and professors by  swiping their phone by the respective doors. This concept was a big hit in Ann Arbor as students thought it would be helpful on their large campus.

“I am still amazed that our students rise so quickly when challenged to solve the unsolved problems,” Allison concluded.

For more information on the Department of Computer Science, Engineering, and Physics at UM-Flint, and the engaged learning opportunities it offers students, visit

UM-Flint Theatre Brings ‘Big Love’ to the Stage


What does “love” mean? Student actors, and their director Janet Haley, will explore this question in BIG LOVE, the second production of the UM-Flint theatre seasonThe play opens on January 27 and runs through February 4, 2017. It is a contemporary revision of one of the western world’s oldest plays, The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus.

“This piece is so unlike what people may think what a ‘play’ is,” said Haley. “[It] features song, dance, poetic language, gorgeous costumes, and a stunning scenic landscape. BIG LOVE examines and celebrates love, in all its manifestations.”

More Than Just Love

BIG LOVE is the story of fifty brides on the run from arranged marriages—and what happens when they take refuge in an island villa with their fifty grooms in pursuit.

“It’s called BIG LOVE for a reason. These characters have real epiphanies about themselves and the world. It’s not a romantic comedy, a little romp in Italy, it’s not Under the Tuscan Sun,” noted Haley. “This play is giving our students a wide and diverse set of opportunities to be involved in—it’s a very diverse composite of character perspectives, gender and sexual identities, age and experience range.”

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Layla Meillier, a Geneseee Early College student, English major, and Women’s & Gender Studies minor, agrees. “Since I often study gender and communication,” she said, “I have been thinking a lot about traditions and binary stereotyping and how this show enforces and challenges gender roles.”

Meillier has found herself exploring themes of the play in her own life: “love in a large sense and how it manifests and conquers. Romantic love, sister love, humanity love. I have a sister and I think about how I would do anything for her when justifying the plot and text.”

Computer Science major and actor Matthew Statson added, “Every character in this show searches for a ‘comfortable’ state that they might find in another person. It’s important to remember that no matter what our intentions or goals are in life, how we accomplish it and treat others in the process may be the most important thing than actually achieving the overall goal.”

A Collaborative Work

The staging and movement sequences of BIG LOVE were devised in collaboration with the student company and students hold leadership positions on the production team as Dance Captain, Fight Captain, Stage Manager, and Costume Designer, among others.

“It’s a highly collaborative endeavor,” said Haley. “[The students] were inventing, creating, and devising something together as a group. That’s different than there being a script that tells you all of the words to say and where you are in space. This collaborative way of working ultimately helps our students learn how to have confidence in their ideas, to risk, to experiment, to research, to test. To know that not everything is going to be the right answer; it’s kind of scientific. They are going in to try stuff—as you would in a lab—and some of it’s not going to work, and we’re okay with that, and we’re going to keep trying things. Because whatever doesn’t work puts us one step closer to discovering what will work.”

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre's BIG LOVE.

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre’s BIG LOVE.

The production style also reinforces lessons of effective communication and listening, respect for others’ points of view and values, and a willingness to try new things. “I think this helps their citizenship skills,” noted Haley, “their personal responsibility. We talk about teamwork a lot, it’s a pretty complex thing.”

Meillier appreciates the intense experience. “I have gained so much from this production,” she said. “I have made so many friends and deepened my understanding of theatre. This piece has opened my mind to so much newness. I have been challenged in frequently incredible ways.”

Something for Everyone

Both cast and crew members believe BIG LOVE will appeal to a wide audience.

“Love is such a universal entertainer,” said Meillier. “Many in this community will be able to relate to what we have created no matter their sexuality or gender identity/expression. So much is considered and presented to the audience, every character is working from a different place and it is difficult to see clearly who may be in the wrong.  [Playwright] Charles Mee really gets you to think about your values and reaccess your ideas of good and bad.”

Added Statson, “In the extremes that this show goes to explain how love affects people, we hope it shines a light in your own life on where love hits you, and what you choose to do with that.”

BIG LOVE is recommended for ages 18 and up. Mature content and strong language. Strobe lights. Stage violence. Running time is approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets are available by calling (810) 237-6520 or at the UM-Flint Theatre Box office (buy ahead or at the door). Show times start promptly as stated below, please arrive early to purchase tickets.

UM-Flint Theatre Performances of Big Love:
  • Friday, January 27, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 29, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 5, 2017, 2:00 p.m.

The UM-Flint Theatre is located at 303 E. Kearsley Street, Flint, MI 48502. Free parking is available. For full details, visit the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department at

Faculty Spotlight: Fadi Mohsen of UM-Flint Computer Science

Fadi Mohsen, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of computer science.

Fadi Mohsen, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UM-Flint

Fadi Mohsen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of computer science, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • CIS 363 – Commercial Applications of Web Programming
    (MW, 2:30pm-3:45pm)
  • CSC 370 – Intro to Information Security
    (MW, 11am-12:15pm)
  • CSC 570 – Cyber Security (M, 6pm-8:45pm)

Students can register now at or find more information at

Why are you passionate about your field?
Every day a massive amount of data is being generated, the data can be utilized to enhance our lives, but it can also be misused. In my field, we investigate the malicious ways of collecting personal data and propose solutions to defend against them.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I prefer to teach upper level courses in information security and privacy, particularly in the network and mobile computing domains. Moreover, I have a particular interest in teaching application development courses in which students are inquired to develop complete desktop, web, and/or mobile applications.

What is your your latest or favorite research project?
My latest and favorite research project is called “The Danger of Android Broadcast Receivers.” There are two typical assumptions made regarding permissions and mobile applications security and privacy. The first one is that malicious applications need to retain dangerous permissions. Secondly, smartphone users assume that installed applications access data if they are only in the foreground. In this project, we show how malicious Android applications are able to orchestrate their attacks and collect users’ data with minimum permissions and while running in the background.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Well, when i started my graduate studies i wanted to specialize in data mining. So, in my first semester,  I took a security course with a professor who then became my thesis advisor. He showed a lot of enthusiasm about the topic, the course also was very interesting and exciting. In my second semester, i took another course with the same professor, by the end of that semester i decided to specialize in security.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I am interested in creating socially relevant computing courses that helps students develop skills in communication, leadership, and planning community outreach. I am also looking forward to integrate my research ideas into the curriculum of the courses that I teach. Finally, I am hoping to develop multiple online courses.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope for them to engage in real open source software and research projects, which would get them ready and well-equipped  for the job market

What are three things you think people should know about you?
Soccer is my favorite sport, I love road trips, and I have lived in three different states: Colorado, North Carolina, and Michigan.

To learn more about engineering at UM-Flint, visit To register for courses, visit or

Alumni Spotlight: Shane Emmons, Computer Science & Information Systems

Shane Emmons graduated from UM-Flint in 2004 with a BS and 2006 with an MS in Computer Science. After several years of success in his field, he wrote to his home department asking if there was a way to give back to the community that helped him accomplish so much. Dr. Michael Farmer, Department Chair of CSEP, gladly accepted the offer and enlisted Emmons as an instructor for a graduate-level networking course. Read on to learn more about this UM-Flint alum and his place in the world of computer science.

Shane Emmons, alumnus and faculty member of UM-Flint's Computer Science program

Shane Emmons, alumnus and faculty member of UM-Flint’s Computer Science program

Name: Shane Emmons
Degree(s): Bachelors, Computer Science – 2004; Masters, Computer Science and Information Systems – 2006

What are you doing now? 
CTO, TeamSnap. I work as part of the executive team to define, plan, and execute the vision of the company. As the CTO, I also distill the overall company vision into a vision for the engineering organization which we then act upon. I spend time daily mentoring developers, defining our platform architecture and working to create consensus amongst the various groups on how we approach technical hurdles.

According to their website, TeamSnap is an “online sports team management application for coaches, managers and organizers to save time organizing their teams and groups.” Available services from the application include “0nline registration, player and schedule management, [and a] public website.”

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now?
[UM-Flint] gave me the background I needed to hit the ground running. I was able to take what I learned in class and apply it directly to complicated problems that would have eluded me otherwise. It also taught me how to work as a team and how to clearly express myself. Communication is extremely important, especially in the highly remote and connected world of technology.

Who made the biggest impact on your UM-Flint career?
Dr. Turner in the CSEP department was my biggest influence. He always pushed me to do my best. He gave my opportunities to do independent research and to also assist him in research. Without his guidance and natural leadership to do something better I may not have strived as hard to reach my goals today.

What is the value of UM-Flint curricula?
You cannot begin to put value on how important the real-world curriculum was to my education. There are things we discussed in class that come up on a nearly daily basis. This approach allowed me to immediately put into action things I learned in class, even before I graduated.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university?
UM-Flint does two great things you’ll not find at every University. First, they give students great individual focus. If you’re hungry to learn and willing to put in the work, you’ll find the professors there right alongside you giving back as much (or more) than you put in. Secondly, they offer great flexibility for those who are working but still want that university experience. Whether it’s classes at night or a mixed-mode online course, you can bet you’ll get the same University caliber experience.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?
Study hard, do the homework. What you put into the classes is what you’ll get out. The harder you work, the more you’ll learn and the further you’ll go.

Describe “the UM-Flint of the future.” What could it be? What should it be? 
An interconnected university that bridges remote and in-class students together in one cohesive experience.

For more information on the computer science program at UM-Flint, visit their website

Meet Dr. Matthew Spradling, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

spradlingName: Matthew Spradling
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: CSEP – Computer Science & Information Systems

Classes I teach:
CSC 381 – Introduction to Theory of Computation
CSC 575 – Algorithm and Complexity Analysis
At the University of Kentucky: Introduction to Computer Science
Other interests include: Game theory, social networks, and computer science ethics.

Professional Interests, Activities, or Publications:
Spradling, M., Goldsmith, J., Stability in Role Based Hedonic Games, 28th International Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society Conference, 2015.
Spradling, M., Roles and Teams Hedonic Games, 19th AAAI Doctoral Consortium, 2014.
Spradling, M., Goldsmith, J., Liu, X., Dadi, C., & Li, Z. Roles and Teams Hedonic Game, 3rd International Conference on Algorithmic Decision Theory, 2013.
Also presented without proceedings at 7th Multidisciplinary Workshop on Advances in Preference Handling at IJCAI’13, 2013.

Research or Specific Areas of Interest:
Coalition formation
Cooperative game theory
Theoretical computer science
Preference representation, elicitation and reasoning

Verizon fellowship, University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science, 2015
Nominated, University of Kentucky ACM Teaching Assistant Award, 2014
Duncan E. Clarke Memorial Innovation Award, University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science, 2013

Ph.D. Computer Science, University of Kentucky, 2015
Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Learning, University of Kentucky, 2014
B.S. Computer Science, University of Kentucky, 2010
B.S. Business Administration: Marketing, Philosophy Minor, University of Louisville, 2005

Member, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

How I fell in love with my field:
It is my experience that any sort of “love” tends to be there all the while, only announcing itself in an unexpected moment. My first computer was a Commodore 64 when I was 4; as a result computers have, in my memory, always been accessible. I like being able to make something useful with only time and effort. Things started getting serious when I was introduced to theory of computation; this made me pursue a graduate career. Finding a problem out in the wild, modeling it formally, and publishing the results let me know I was probably “in love.” But all of that pales in comparison to the moment when a student in a class I am teaching “gets it.” That moment is what drives me.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:
I hope to give direction and support to students who need it, to discover new research interests though students and colleagues, and to have a lot of fun. I hope to introduce some new courses to the list of “courses I love to teach.” I hope to meet at least a few students who are interested in theory of computation. If at least a few of my students end up pursuing teaching careers, I would be extremely pleased.

What I hope for students in my field:
I hope for our students to maintain and grow their curiosity and thoughtfulness. I hope for them to be actors in their environment; to have confidence and endeavor toward a better world. For each student, I hope that “the world” will only grow more accessible as it grows larger.

Three things you should know about me:
I have been an exchange student to Japan, but I need to study the language.

I am interested in games of all shapes and sizes, be they serious, non-serious, or unintentionally serious.

I enjoy singing, poetry, and a good coffee shop.


For more information on Dr. Spradling’s department, visit

CAS Recognizes December 2015 Graduates with Honors

On December 16, 2015, the College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint held a ceremony to recognize their students graduating with honors, including the CAS Maize & Blue Award winners.


Dean Gano-Phillips welcomes students and their families to the December 2015 Honors Recognition Ceremony at UM-Flint

Dean Gano-Phillips opened the evening with a quote from Vince Lombardi, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal.” She went on to praise the students for their perseverance and dedication to excellence. She also acknowledged their families for the important support they provide to students.

The honors recognition ceremony allows each student to be individually recognized by a faculty member from their department. The faculty talked about our students’ work ethic, research, and community service; they often noted the great strength of character, humor, and thoughtfulness shown by students.

One graduate noted that the event left her feeling humbled and and extremely impressed by the accomplishments of her peers.

Photos are available from the evening. Visit our album at

Congratulations to all of our graduates!


Majd Abufarha
Joshua Ahlborn
Mohamed Allam
Ranim Baroudi
Linda Batrow
Sade Blanks
Amanda Bodine
Jessica Bostian
Jake Brejnak
Caleb Bullen
Genelle Bundle
Melissa Butzow
Gino Cabadas
Dana Cardinal
Ryan Clark
Katie Cobb
Jason Dameron
Jennifer Dieck
Mohammad Dlewati
Robert Downer
Elizabeth Elston
Connor Everhart
Chandler Fish
Paul Fulkerson
Alexander Giddings
Anthony-Jacob Girard
Holly Goetterman
Melody Groomes
Noelle Herzog
Nathan Holbeck
Taylor Hollis
James Johnston
Michael Joslin
Richard Kagle
Kyle Knight
Andre Linden
Amy Majorana
Bradley Maki
Taylor Mata
Candice Mayer
Kayla McIntire
Michael Meddaugh
Krystal Miller
Alireza Mirahmadi
Nicole Moffitt
Jessica Morgan
Krystal Murphy
Shelby Myers
Emily Palmer
Chelsea Parkinson
Brekke Pichette
Jacob Reuther
Ashley Rich
Patrick Ross
Nakshidil Sadien
Hayley Schroeder
Haley Smith
Nina Smith
Elizabeth Speicher
Jared Sterba
Tyler Szczepanski
Thomas Thompson
Monica Towns
Roger Turkowski
Ryan Turvey
Cara Walker
Samantha Walling
Dawn Watters
Marcina Wheelihan
Tarah York

CSIS Research Includes Drones, Software


One of the drones used in research by Dr. Mark Allison and his student assistants.


Dr. Mark Allison, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems, is working with students on research that focuses on drones and software design. He brings nearly a decade of experience with software engineering and artificial intelligence to the project.

When asked to describe the research and its goals, Allison said, “This project investigates how multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) may function as a team towards a common goal. We will apply software models to accomplish communication and collaboration in the context of search and rescue.”

He continued, “As drones become smaller, more capable and cheaper, we need to look to new ways of applying them to benefit humans. Current approaches to UAVs typically involve manual operation. As our machines become more complex, we need to minimize human interaction, we need software capable of making decisions on our behalf. I know visions of robot overlords may spring to mind- but… We crave more and more complex machines yet we want our interaction to be easy and intuitive. Our only solution is that invisible entity known as SOFTWARE. Our ultimate aim is to give a team of drones high level objectives (for example – Find the Cat). They should be capable of self-organization and collaboration to achieve the task if possible.”



Sopheak Pouv, a current Graduate Student Research Assistant, holds one of the drones.

Allison began the research when he joined UM-Flint in Fall 2014, building off of a previous project. “We had successfully applied software models in energy management and cloud computing. The application towards artificial intelligence seemed the next natural hurdle. It’s research; we constantly seek bigger dragons.”

The idea of individual drones working together is complex. Allison notes, “Human communication and cooperation to accomplish tasks is so rich and complex that we ourselves have not fully understood its intricacies in all our years on this blue planet. Our approach tries not to capture all this dynamism but to selectively apply concepts (we don’t want that slacker drone to go off and peruse a leisurely jaunt in the park). We want to use technology that has only matured in the last 10 or less years to revisit the challenges that were elusive. This research path is not simple. There are many difficult challenges, however an incremental approach is our best bet.”

    This research project uses Java as the general purpose language and
    UML in modeling.
    The mini-drone application uses JADE (Java Agent DEvelopment
    Framework) scripting.
    For energy management the project team has built their own language.
    Building prototypes
    Running tests on these prototypes
    Collecting data


Anil Kumar Kuvvarapu, a Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA), has been working with Allison for over a year. He’s enjoyed his time in the lab and the complexity of the project: “I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new, authentic solutions to problems which are multidisciplinary. Such tasks are typically complex and require a lot of time, but the experience is worth it.”

Another GSRA, Sopheak Pouv, has been working with the research team since September 2015. He described why the project was a good fit for him: “the position requires students who understand programming language well, especially Java language. I have been involved in software development for almost 8 years. In addition, this research project is aligned to my interests and needs.” Already the project has offered him new experiences, “I can get many benefits from this research project. This is my first time writing Java code to work with mechanical devices like drones. I think it is a new dimensional experience.” 

The team hopes their work will lead to drones being able to help in situations into which humans cannot or should not go. For example, buildings collapsed from fire or earthquakes. Allison added, “Secondarily, the quest will give insights into complex cyber-physical control systems with possible applications towards traffic control, automotive engineering, aerospace, etc.”

Allison was asked about the engaged learning opportunity such research offers students. He responded, “Let’s face it, our millennial students are tough to get impressed with technology; they have super telephones and smart cars. This challenge is even more difficult when the tools of your trade is theories, abstractions, and other intangibles. Outside of research, the drones may be used as a teaching tool. Somehow whenever students see an immediate reaction in real time (the drone moving up and down – and crashing, a lot of crashing), it brings a sense of concreteness to the principles, and of accomplishment.” He plans to integrate the research into his classes, noting, “there should not be a line drawn between research and teaching.”


Students fly a drone during Allison’s class.

Allison works to keep the experience approachable for his students, “This is an opportunity for students to experience challenges which fall outside the textbook and classroom. Working with minimal guidance. It is refreshing to see students transition from being guided to leading the exploration of their tiny sub topic. When they ask, ‘how do I get this to work?’, and I say ‘Beats me, if anyone knew then it wouldn’t be worth perusing – research, remember.’ You can see the moment when they realize that they have the opportunity and the empowerment to solve a tiny problem on their own without assistance. We just have to make the challenge not too difficult as to frustrate.”

Kuvvarapu also spoke to the benefit of such research, “The projects I have been working on at UM-Flint are extremely engaging. I don’t think there is anywhere else that I would have gotten this experience and learning climate. UM-Flint creates a very nurturing yet exciting learning environment to me. Upon graduation, I will most probably seek a job in the software industry, and with my research skills I am confident.”

For information on the Computer Science & Information Systems program, including research projects, visit

Portions of this post were compiled by Srikanth Reddy Bogala, Graduate Student in Computer Science

Sipit Provides Meaningful Internships to UM-Flint Students


Dr. Mike Farmer (center) stands with CSIS students and members of the Sipit team.

Students from the Computer Science & Information Systems program have found meaningful internship opportunities with Sipit–a local company with the mission of bringing technology and digital tools to small businesses and non-profits in Flint, while creating 200 high tech jobs within the next 3-5 years.

A recent project involved creating donor databases that would outperform the much more expensive options on the market while offering a better user experience. The project was born from a local non-profit’s need to better organize and reach donors with their limited staff.


Anvitha Akurathi presents her group’s donor database project

Anvitha Akurathi, a graduate student in CSIS and intern at Sipit, has a lead role in the project.

Says Akurathi, “So far, I am a Team leader for 2 Web development projects and 2 Database Application Development projects for non-profit organizations. The roles I had taken were Team Leader, Project manager, and Business Analyst.”

When asked about her responsibilities within the role, Akurathi listed

  • Collecting and documenting the requirements of the project
  • Developing design documents for the project
  • Creating project plans
  • Assigning tasks to the team members
  • Deploying the project to production
  • Handling Change Requests, troubleshooting and maintenance of the project

Although helping non-profits with donor relations is the goal of the project, the goal of an internship is to prepare students for their future careers. Akurathi described her experience in that light, “From the career perspective, internship is a best way to know the real-world scenarios and projects. They give an exposure to the real problems that we face in the course of development and deployment of the project. Students can also develop the job discipline and acquire the skills of learning new technologies and applying them in solving the challenges of the project.”


Anvitha Akurathi explains components of the intern-designed donor database

Sipit provided all of that and more to Akurathi and her classmates, with the added perk of being in a convenient location near campus. “I was waiting for an opportunity to learn and work for something related to my education. Sipit is a new start-up by few passionate individuals of Flint. I could feel the passion and motives they had for the company when I met them for the first time. A start-up can help us learn so many things related to real world and the technological problems faced in projects, build ourselves in many ways possible and mold us in the best way. Very fortunately, Sipit is very near to our college which made the transportation very easy for me. I had all the good reasons for choosing the internship.”

She continued, “Start-ups like Sipit will help students to learn social and communication skills along with the career related skills. We will learn work-ethics, professional communication with higher management authorities and clients, time management, dealing with people and involving with foreign culture. I could see only benefits out of an internship in a company like Sipit.”

CSIS Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Michael Farmer, added, “The internship partnership with Sipit is an outstanding opportunity for our students to work on real-world IT applications.  The fact that Sipit is focused on projects that help organizations focused on improving the quality of life in Flint makes it an even more compelling story.  All of our students that have worked with Sipit found the experience incredibly rewarding.”

When asked about advice for students considering an internship, Akurathi said, “I wholeheartedly advise them to go for an internship. They help us in building [ourselves] both in terms of career and personality. I would suggest the students to be honest, be open for learning new things, and keep up the trust people had put on us when given the opportunity. Maybe this would be best time to quote what Steve Jobs had once said: ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.'”

The most recent database completed by the students has been deployed to Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, and they are actively using it. Sipit is reaching out to other Habitat affiliates around the country to see if they can provide them with systems as well.

Sipit co-founder Andrew Schmitt says, “The students are incredible.  We are lucky they have chosen UM-Flint for their graduate degree program, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the University and helping these students make Flint their home long term.”

For more information on the Computer Science & Information Systems program, visit or call 810.762.3131.

The student interview of this article was submitted by CSIS graduate student Anulekha Gowrishankar.


New CSIS Courses Offered in Fall 2016

CSEP’s Computer Science & Information Systems has two new offerings for students in the Fall 2016 semester:

Image Processing and Computer Vision (CSC 548)

Programming proficiency will be the prerequisite.

Dr. Michael Farmer will be the instructor for this course. Dr. Farmer has been working in this field of computer vision for 30 years and he interested in this field and continuing research.

This course will cover a range of topics related to image processing and computer vision: the image generation process, noise and image filtering, edge detection, texture description, image segmentation, image registration and tracking, motion detection, feature extraction and classification. Topics may vary based on time and student interests.

Dr. Farmer wrote a book about computer vision, Application of Chaos and Fractals to Computer Vision, and he was published fall 2014. In past a lot of students published papers on computer vision and presented them at conferences. Presently many students are actively doing research on evidence accumulation which ties with computer vision as their independent study with Dr. Farmer. In addition to this, there are many real time applications to this computer vision. For example, back-up cameras for cars, pedestrian detection for automobiles. The whole automation industry uses computer vision. Any mobile robot can use computer vision.

Dr. Farmer is excited about this course and hopes he can inspire future generations of image processing. If you are interested in the field of artificial intelligence and the sub-field of computer vision, then you should take this class.

Social Computing (CIS 517)

Dr. Charlotte Tang will be the instructor for this course. This course has no prerequisites.

Dr. Tang is the leading guest editor of a special focus issue of the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, titled Interactive Systems for Patient-Centered Care to Enhance Patient Engagement. The special focus issue accepted 17 articles that included research in engaging patients through pervasive mobile technologies.

This course will include: study of large-scale socially aware information systems; online behaviors and structural complexities on different social computing platforms; theories and principles behind technology diffusion into society; socio-technical design of technologies for online communication and computer supported collaborative work.

Everyone uses social computing. There is still a lot of research going on about social computing. There are many companies developing social computing applications, so they are hiring a lot of people both on design and actual development. They also need employees to analyze how effectively people are using social computing applications.

Dr. Tang creates very interesting assignments for the students. For example one assignment requires the students to make projections to imagine how social computing will be in another 10 or 15 years. Students will work on a group research project.

Students will enjoy this course because it includes participation and discussions. If you want to find out about how friendship forms, how you would become friends with others and if you want to find out about your role that you play in your network then you should come to this class.

For more information on courses, visit or

The information for this post was complied by CSIS graduate student Srikanth Reddy Bogala.