Friday, January 7th, 2011 - 2:08 pm

Experience Technology

Keeping up while blazing new technological trails is part of the educational experience at Purdue Calumet

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance writer

Within the huge realm of 21st century technology there is unprecedented learning opportunities for Purdue Calumet students.

Across academic boundaries, the university is doing its part to prepare students for careers that demand proficiency in use of these new technologies. In fact, each of Purdue Calumet’s six undergraduate academic schools and its graduate program are enabling students to learn and become job ready through technological applications.

Each school and, hence, its students, utilizes new technology in a myriad of ways. Although the many types of technology in place at Purdue Calumet cannot all be addressed in one feature story, here’s a sampling, School by School:

Technology impacting teaching process—School of Education

Technology, when used appropriately, influences learning by providing all learners with direct and equal access to infinite information, according to Associate Professor and Chair of the School of Education’s Instructional Technology Program Janet Buckenmeyer.

“Technology positively impacts the teaching process by facilitating 21st century skills acquisition: engaged and authentic learning, digital literacy, and higher order thinking skills,” she said. “Educational organizations and businesses are moving toward using technology and online learning as viable ways to make information and content available to learners, so learning can occur anytime and anywhere.”

The only constant in today’s society is change, added Buckenmeyer, who also chairs the university’s Master’s Degree Instructional Technology Program. “Purdue University Calumet graduates of the Instructional Technology program are prepared to be leaders of, and advocates for, effective technology integration in any learning environment,” she said.

Purdue Calumet’s graduate program in Instructional Design and Technology tries to stay on the “bleeding edge” of technology innovation in order, not only to show PUC students what’s out there, but also to give them a chance to work directly with the technology,” according to  Anastasia M. Trekles, clinical assistant professor of Instructional Technology.

“Our students create instructional materials, lessons and training modules in almost every medium imaginable—video, websites, podcasts, printed publications, learning and content management systems, including WordPress, BlackBoard, and Moodle, and even 3D virtual worlds,” she said.

While the Instructional Design and Technology program is offered online, Purdue Calumet also offers classroom courses in a hybrid format that makes extensive use of computer-based resources, including the BlackBoard course management system; wikis; blogs; streaming video; and the classroom recording technology, Echo 360.

During the past year, the School of Education received a grant from SMART Technologies that included several classroom sets of SMART interactive whiteboard and classroom response equipment and a SMART Table, which is a horizontal, multi-touch surface that can allow many students to work together on a digital project.

One set of SMART equipment is housed in the School’s Education Media Lab, where most Instructional Design and Technology hybrid courses are held. The Media Lab also houses a second SMARTBoard system, as well as 20 Macintosh computers.

”Our program also has been instrumental bringing virtual world technology to Purdue Calumet,” Trekles said. “Our university has its own “island” in Second Life, an online, 3D virtual world that excites many educators, as the implications for new kinds of collaborative learning experiences online are huge.” Second Life, Trekles noted, hosts everything from simulations of how computers and spaceships work, to ‘walk-in tours’ of the human heart.

To ensure that pre-service teachers are prepared to integrate technology effectively into their teaching, the School of Education is developing a new technology course, “Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning,” for undergraduates, according to Assistant Professor of Education Emily Hixon, who is in charge of technology integration at the undergraduate level within the School.

“Offering the course in conjunction with a methods-based course that includes a significant field component will provide students with a venue in which to engage in true technology integration with K-12 students,” Hixon said. “This authentic experience will prevent students from looking at the use of technology as separate from their ‘regular’ teaching, thereby, promoting a perspective of true technology integration.”

Learning to run a simulated business—School of Management

Management students Holeman (from right), Proper and McGehee present their internationally-regarded simulated business plan.

While, arguably, running a business is an eye-opening experience, running a simulated business can be just as challenging on many levels for business-management students in Purdue Calumet’s MGMT 45000 (Strategic Management Capstone) class.

On the brink of graduating, seniors in the class draw on the knowledge they have gained in other business-management classes to participate and compete online in The Business Strategy Game, published and marketed by McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Last fall, eight Purdue Calumet teams of three to four students each engaged in the game by developing and operating a simulated athletic footwear company. The students applied best business practices to develop competitive strategies for global market leadership in competition against each other.

The teams report the record the performance of their “companies.” Each week, The Business Strategy Game ranks the best performers in terms of Overall Score, Return on Equity, Stock Price and Earnings Per Share of all teams around the world using the software, according to Assistant Professor of Management Arifin Angriawan.

Of the 2,646 teams competing last fall from more than 200 higher educational institutions across the world, one of the Purdue Calumet teams from Angriawan’s class recorded the Number 1 ranking in Return on Equity for the week of Nov. 22-28. The same team—Christopher Holeman and Michelle McGehee of Hammond and Valparaiso’s Katie Proper—also was 38th in stock price performance and 45th in Earnings Per Share.

“Students learn how to run a simulated firm—thinking, planning, etcetera,” Angriawan said. “The teams of students attempt to make good business decisions that allow them to out-perform other teams. Two weeks before they begin running their firm, they have to compile strategic plans.”

The student teams work on each section of the plan, utilizing simulation software. Even if some students never go on to own a business, they learn how a business operates, according to Angriawan.

If a student desires to work someday for a company, the on-line game increases understanding of how his or her position relates to the firm, he added. “There’s a lot of learning here; the students are not just playing on the screen. And the contest is great, because it gives so much data to the management majors.”

In addition to the career-related skills and knowledge students gain, there are personal benefits.

“They utilize what they have learned from other classes and apply it here,” Angriawan said. “It’s difficult to know everything, so they share knowledge as members of a team. The students are very motivated, focused and spend quite a bit of time on this project.”

Student Katie Proper of Valparaiso said the vast amount of information her team processed last fall was overwhelming. “At the beginning, we definitely suffered from information overload.”

Teammate Holeman added, “We spent a lot of time studying the market and anticipating our competitors—like a chess match. As it turned out, our forecast was dead accurate based on our projections of competitors.”

During the past three years, nine Purdue Calumet teams have appearing in the Business Strategy Game Global Top 50 (summer session); and Business Strategy Game Global Top 100 (traditional semester). All told, Purdue Calumet teams have totaled 30 appearances in the top performers listing of the on-line game.

One management major made the most of his MGMT 45000 experience in a unique way. And it was one that made Angriawan especially proud.

“He took his completed plan to a job interview,” the professor said. “He was very confident with what he accomplished and wanted the interviewer to take note.”

Electronic medical records-keeping—School of Nursing

Traditionally, advances in the medical field have been constant. Adding new technology also has increased the responsibilities of those preparing to work in this field.

Purdue Calumet’s School of Nursing is meeting the challenge of turning out fully-trained, quality students who are familiar with cutting edge technologies. One such technology currently on the front burner at many hospitals and other medical facilities is electronic documentation. As hospitals prepare to meet the federal initiative for the adoption of Electronic Medical Records by 2014, competence in electronic documentation is a critical and highly sought-after skill among nurses.

“Our students will definitely be working in a world of electronic medical records when they graduate, and they need to be prepared,” Associate Professor of Nursing Kathleen Nix said.

In response, Purdue Calumet’s School of Nursing is introducing to its curriculum a simulated Electronic Health Record system developed as a teaching tool for nursing students. The program, called Nurse Squared, gives students practical, real-world experience in electronic documentation. “We are starting with a pilot group of two clinical courses to be initiated this spring and will have all students utilizing the program by the fall 2011 semester,” Nix said.

The electronic records program will be tied into clinical studies, as well as the School’s Simulation Lab, a new, hands-on training facility for students. In this lab, students work on high fidelity mannequins that can be programmed to simulate various patient conditions.

In addition to being monitored by faculty, Simulation Lab students can evaluate themselves by watching a videotape of their class activities and exercises and critique their performance. (See accompanying sidebar story.)

Multi-modal communication—School of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Technology utilized in this School can be defined in many ways, according to faculty member Rebecca Medley of the Dept. of English & Philosophy.

“It’s not ‘new technology’ (we are using) in the physical sense, as much as it is technology-supported interactive affordances that are being used in the classroom,” she said. “For example, I teach an ENGL 105 course (English Composition II) that invites students to compose multimodal, research-based texts using a variety of modes, such as pod casts, slideshows, hypertext, and images.

“Additionally, students are also asked to maintain a writing journal using the Web 2.0 tool, Blogger, which functions as a private conversation with me about the student’s writing process.”

As a result of engaging in, and composing, with these dynamic affordances, students leave the course with the ability to understand and interpret messages on a visual, aural and textual level, she added. “Moreover, the students are able to effectively communicate using these modes, which is a must in the 21st Century global community.”

Another Web 2.0 tool used in the ENGL 105 course is the social networking site Facebook. Each of Medley’s courses has a Facebook discussion, in which students communicate the outcomes of their in-class group work.

According to Medley, there is much research that supports the ability of Web 2.0 affordances (such as Facebook) to abolish cultural and linguistic barriers.

To illustrate, Medley’s master’s thesis was a discourse analysis of the interaction between a cohort of ENGL 105 students who spoke primarily American English and a cohort of international students whose native languages were either Mandarin or Arabic.  The communication between the two sets took place in a Facebook discussion group.

“The outcome of my study indicated that the Facebook environment broke down the international students’ wall of language apprehension, and the level of international student discourse increased, not only in number, but also in the type of discourse,” she said. “After a short period of time, the international students were producing more utterances aimed at the American English speakers than the American English speakers were producing themselves.”

Medley added that when the majority of messages are disseminated via multimodal means, students must acquire the ability to decode messages beyond the traditional linear model. “To be sure, in order to survive in the global 21st century world, students must have the ability to decode the rhetorical meaning of messages, not only in a textual sense, but also in a visual and aural sense and be able to do so cross-culturally.”

New, robotic telescope— School of Engineering, Math and Science

Technology helps define academia within the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science.

In biological sciences, technologies combined with engineering provide new ways to teach genetics and genetic studies.

In engineering, general advances in robotics and improved application are on the front burner.

“Our two engineering departments (Mechanical and Electrical & Computer) make large use of new technology, and we continue that each year,” said Daniel Suson, school dean. “We don’t prepare our students just for their next job, but for the one that comes after that, and the one after that.”

For example, students who learn experientially under the direction of faculty and staff in the university’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) not only master valuable lessons, but also help troubleshoot real challenges and problems local industries are experiencing.

With the multidisciplinary CIVS fostering innovation by combining advanced simulation techniques, 3-dimensional visualization and modeling, virtual reality technologies and high performance computing, learning that takes place today figures to go a long way in preparing students for jobs yet to be developed.

In the Department of Chemistry and Physics, Associate Professors Shawn Slavin and Adam Rengstorf were instrumental in enabling Purdue Calumet to obtain the Northwest Indiana Robotic (NIRo) Telescope.

Efforts of Professors Slavin (middle) and Rengstorf (right) in acquiring the Northwest Indiana Robotic Telescope are helping PUC students such as William (Brent) Segally (left) see the universe more clearly.

”The observatory is in early use,” Slavin said. “We are rolling out all new labs for our introductory astronomy courses that feature the telescope. There is a robust outreach plan that will involve teacher training with modules developed by Prof. Rengstorf and me with help from Dr. Robert Rivers in the School of Education and director of Purdue Calumet’s Center for Science & Technology Education.”

The acquisition of the NIRo Telescope has prompted an overhaul of the laboratories used in Purdue Calumet introductory astronomy courses, as well as a vital resource for new research projects for physics majors.

“NIRo was dedicated last August, so it is only just beginning,” Rengstorf said. “We have been having incredible initial successes. The telescope has performed amazingly well during our initial engineering and calibration runs. Prof. Slavin and I are piloting laboratory exercises that utilize the NIRo Telescope in our introductory astronomy courses (ASTR 263 & ASTR 264).”

Students in Rengstorf’s ASTR 263 class this past fall, for example, studied the mass of Jupiter by monitoring the motion of Jupiter’s moons in one of five, NIRo-based pilot labs he introduced.

Current status of the telescope project includes development of the rest of the hardware and software infrastructure needed for unattended observation of requested objects.

“Eventually, almost all observing will be done by the telescope and computers only, while we sleep,” Slavin said. “This is necessary to optimize for the variable Indiana weather.”
The telescope’s educational value goes beyond Purdue Calumet. As a partner in the Calumet Astronomy Center, Purdue Calumet has joined with the Calumet Astronomical Society and the Lake County Parks & Recreation Department to advance community learning and outreach.

“The main outreach component (for the telescope) is to develop learning modules appropriate for middle school science classrooms,” Rengstorf said. “We have identified school districts interested in piloting these programs…We will be working closely with the Purdue Calumet School of Education and local school teachers over the coming year to begin to roll these out.”

Funding for the telescope came in part from a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Developing Baja Car, wind turbine–School of Technology

Purdue Calumet mechanical engineering technology students are learning about 3-D computer modeling. The students’ inventiveness, imagination and technological mastery are the only limits to what they can design.

School of Technology Administrator David McLees says the speed of the design process has changed dramatically during the past five years, and Purdue Calumet students continue to stay on top of those changes.

“It used to take weeks or months from initial idea to actually holding a product in your hand,” he said. “Now, with new technology, a design can advance from concept to a real part in a few hours.”

Moving the product into the market in an expedient manner is necessary to be, and stay, competitive, McLees added.

Students seem to like the fast pace required for this task, according to Purdue Calumet mechanical engineering technology faculty.

Seeing an idea take form and applying it to a product can be extremely satisfying for student technologists.

Purdue Calumet student teams are busy in an Anderson Building workshop developing two projects: a ‘Baja Car’ and a wind turbine.

Designing a Baja Car requires students to contribute knowledge and expertise from various technological disciplines.

The car is similar to a dune buggy and will be entered in an annual international student competition this spring. In addition to being designed to size and other specifications, it must be able to handle an intense obstacle course.

Teamwork among the student designers, representing various technological fields of study, has been evident.

With regard to the wind turbine project, students are developing a power source for continuously charging the battery of a hybrid or electric car. Developing hybrid and electric cars is in response to the GO-GREEN initiative taking place globally, according to Professor Sham Tickoo.

School of Technology faculty and graduate students have designed a wind turbine that can be mounted on top of an automobile. It also contains a solar panel that will supplement power produced by the turbine. The energy produced by this device will charge the batteries of a car while in motion or parked.

“This is a great learning experience for our students in terms of understanding the design and development of a new product,” Tickoo said. “If we are successful in achieving the desired results, this device has the potential of revolutionizing the automobile industry.”

Tickoo and his team of faculty, staff and students are searching for research grants and other funding sources to continue their wind turbine research and development.

The wind turbine project provides students an opportunity to develop a power source for continuously charging the battery of a hybrid or electric car.

In 2009, Purdue’s West Lafayette campus filed a Provisional Patent Application for the product.

Tickoo, Lab Specialist Rick Rickerson and the graduate students are in the process of fabricating a working model of the turbine in a campus lab.

“This (wind turbine) is a fascinating subject,” graduate student team member Sugandhi Thusoo said. “It’s such a simple idea; I can’t believe no one’s thought of it before. “Although there are bugs to work out, this can become a great innovation in the automobile industry.”

‘Cutting edge, real world’ research–Graduate School

With more than 1,100 students enrolled in graduate study programs at Purdue Calumet, there are substantial opportunities for ‘real world’ learning experiences.

Students enrolled in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines are engaged in cutting-edge applied research through Purdue Calumet’s three federally-funded, economic development-related centers/institutes: the Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center, Purdue Calumet Water Institute and the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation.

“These Centers have direct impact on local and regional industries and organizations,” Interim Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Studies Niaz Latif said.

Within the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation is The VisBox, an immersive, virtual reality system that allows users to see and interact with data and objects in 3-dimensional space.

“The ability to allow people to ‘go inside’ these virtual environments provides a unique and effective tool for understanding complex phenomena and structures; and thus to innovate and to make significant improvements in a time- and cost-efficient way,” Latif said.

In one recent project, graduate students applied numerical simulation and visualization in a NIPSCO-funded project. The success of the project—Coal Fired Power Generation Components for Performance Optimization—resulted in an estimated $1.9 million savings for the company.

Within the Purdue Calumet Water Institute is a Class 100 Clean Room. This ‘Room’ is ideal for carrying out advanced scientific researches that require controlled levels of contaminants (including dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles and chemical vapors.)

It is utilized to perform highly-sensitive, laboratory experiments in nanofluidics and to fabricate precision equipment.

The ‘Clean Room’ has been used for advanced sensor researches involved with development and characterization of modified, optical fiber sensors for detection and monitoring gaseous and liquid phase environmental pollutants, such as ammonia

The Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center has been engaged in research related to biological production of hydrogen. The project involves the process of producing electricity from a fuel cell or reciprocating engine fueled with hydrogen that is produced biologically from food or waste.

“These Centers receive external funding (industry, state and federal) due to our faculty expertise in their respective fields and our track record on research activities,” Latif said. “Furthermore, existence of these research facilities attracts the best and brightest graduate students and faculty member to our campus.”

Expanding new technology that will impact education within Purdue Calumet Centers and Institutes continues to be a mission of the university’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

Interacting with these three Centers and Institute, not only enriches learning experiences and skill set development of graduate students, according to Latif, but it also teaches students to look beyond solutions at hand.

That expressed, Purdue Calumet students, faculty and staff continue to focus on ways to implement new technology in learning and research.

The commitment to offer Purdue Calumet students a well-rounded, quality education that prepares them for work life in the 21st century goes beyond classrooms and laboratories. It encompasses the ever-changing ways in which the world evolves and how students-soon-to-be-professionals can and will fit in.

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