Monthly Archives: August 2014

Oakland University’s ISE department hosts Siemens PLC workshop

By Stephanie Sokol, Communications Assistant and Amanda Beaton, Siemens Cooperates with Education for OUSECS

Photo/ Robert Van Til

Photo/ Robert Van Til

A Siemens PLC workshop for high school, community college and university instructors was hosted at OU by the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department. 

Part of the “Summer with Siemens” series, the workshop drew 11 teachers and professors from Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to learn the basics of creating assignments and projects using Siemens Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). 

The company holds at least 12 educator workshops around the country every summer lasting 3-5 days each. In addition to exploring Siemens hardware and software, the summer workshops primarily used specially built trainer workstations from Amatrol, Inc. The company creates innovative learning solutions with custom curriculum and online teaching resources available to education on topics from advanced manufacturing to geothermal systems.  The Siemens Cooperates with Education partners with didactic companies like Amatrol to offer global leading automation technologies to schools.  Through deep product discounts, tuition-waived training to instructors and free curriculum and teaching materials, Siemens partner schools offer students practical industry skills knowledge with comprehensive support. When industry, schools and suppliers work together it can be a powerful force.

“We want to encourage students to get to know Siemens and what the products are and just encourage technical skills at the high school, university and vocational level,” said Amanda Beaton, Siemens program promoter. “We see a lot of people graduating that haven’t gotten the chance to practice applied skills with PLCs programming, some of the core tech heavily used in manufacturing. We try to make it readily accessible to students and teachers — and make it cost effective and approachable so they can come to workshops, get hands-on practice and have access to our educator resources.”

The workshops help educators learn how to program and some tips on teaching PLCs, providing them with a starter kit of hardware and software for practice, curriculum development and teaching. 

University engineering programs often do not teach students about them. However, this winter, OU will be offering a new course on PLCs, because they are a crucial part of advanced manufacturing systems.

According to Robert Van Til, chair and Pawley Professor of Lean Studies in the ISE department, having access to state of the art PLCs is beneficial to OU’s engineering students. Siemens’ devices are becoming standard across the industry.

“We teach our students what a PLC is and how to use it to control manufacturing systems— it often comes up in job interviews where students are asked if they are familiar with PLCs,” said Van Til. 

“Most engineering students are not expected to be PLC experts , but most companies want them to know what a PLC is and how it works. For some reason I don’t fully understand,  PLC courses are not common in many engineering programs. Companies often have to send their newly-hired engineers to special PLC training courses.” 

 The ISE department’s relationship with Siemens in PLCs started about six months ago, but the department has had a long, on-going relationship with Siemens in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Van Til, worked with Robert Neff, OU alum and Siemens Account Manager, to get the PLC equipment.  

“We are excited that OU has decided to include PLC programming in their engineering curriculum,” Neff said. “Our customers frequently ask us which schools are graduating students that have learned Siemens PLC software. This new course offering helps build the local Siemens community, and supports filling the demand for PLC programmers.”  

With both the large amount of engineering opportunities in Oakland County, and OU’s  reputation in engineering, Beaton said the school was a good place to host the workshop.

“The workshop went well,” said Beaton. “Bob Van Til was really involved in helping set up and helping us with logistics, and Matt Bruer was helpful with getting our equipment in there and making sure everything was accounted for. The school was very helpful and accommodating.  Sometimes schools aren’t; sometimes it’s confusing for schools, but at Oakland it was nice.”

For more information on the ISE department as well as its programs in ISE and in Engineering Management, visit


Mechanical engineering student awarded academic scholarship

By Stephanie Sokol for SECS

Photo courtesy of Stephen Powell

Photo courtesy of Stephen Powell

Stephen Powell was recently awarded a $2,000 academic scholarship from engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, for the 2014-15 school year. Powell studies mechanical engineering at Oakland University.

Contestants submitted essays, letters of recommendation, volunteer experience and class standing both in the engineering school and department, in order to be considered for the award.

“I was very excited to find out that I had been awarded the scholarship because Oakland had recently raised its tuition for upperclassmen, and I knew that I could use the extra financial aid,” Powell said. “Since I plan on attending graduate school, any kind of financial assistance in my undergraduate years is appreciated.”

Mechanical Engineering was something Powell became interested in back in high school, after discovering his passion for math and physics through advanced placement courses.

He is currently a senior, studying within the Honors College, and has industry experience from his work at General Motors and United States Steel.

“My favorite part of the mechanical engineering program is my interaction with the professors,” Powell said. “The small class sizes allow the professors to get to know you on a personal level. This makes attending office hours much more enjoyable and allows me to learn better.” 

Powell got his start with TBP in October 2013. 

Through the society, he has had the opportunity to help others, and meet more engineering students and professionals. 

“I have very much enjoyed working with TBP for many reasons,” Powell said. “One reason is because they are very involved in volunteer work and giving back to the community. Many people may recognize us as the ones who host the bake sales at the entrance to Dodge Hall a few times every semester. We usually donate all funds we raise at the bake sales to Gleaners Food Bank. 

“Overall, I enjoy doing volunteer work with my classmates and friends within the organization.” 

OU Mechanical Engineering student awarded ‘best overall’ intern at JCI

By Stephanie Sokol for OU SECS

Photo/ Vincent Seefried

Photo/ Vincent Seefried

OU Mechanical Engineering student Vincent Seefried was honored “best overall” at the Johnson Controls Inc. Intern Expo, for his achievements with the company.

Out of 31 interns working at the company this summer, Seefried was the only one from OU. 

“The engineering graphics and CAD course at Oakland prepared me to use use Catia V5 for part and assembly design,” Seefried said. “This background allowed me to develop different tools and fixturing for conducting tests at JCI.”

Seefried started working with JCI’s Plymouth location through SECS last February, and began his full-time summer internship on April 28.

His focus there was on integrating a digital image correlation system into the Technology and Advanced Development (T&AD) group. He also said he worked to reduce variability in test set ups and camera calibration by creating fixtures and work instructions for those processes. 

Through his display, Seefried showcased that research, as well as illustrating the experimental dome testing fixture that OU students designed for JCI and its value to the JCI teams.

“After the expo there were different awards handed out for best presenter, most innovative, intern’s choice, and best overall. I was honored to receive the award for best overall, for displaying what I have accomplished here at JCI,” Seefried said.

For more information about Oakland University’s Mechanical Engineering Department, visit

Paradise Fears talk about tour, new music

Photo/ Paradise Fears

Photo/ Paradise Fears

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

Paradise Fears entertained fans at The Crofoot in Pontiac last night, for the second stop on their first big headlining tour. This wasn’t their first time performing in the Metro Detroit area, and they said they had a good time.

“(The Crofoot brings) a really good group of concert-going kids,” said Sam Miller, vocalist for Paradise Fears. “Every time we go there we’re really well received. I don’t know what it is about the Detroit area but there’s just a personality to the people there, and they love having a good time, which makes for a good concert experience.”

The band is joined on the Live Forever Tour by Nick Thomas of Spill Canvas, William Beckett, Vertigo and Hollywood Ending. Miller said it’s a fun and talented group to travel with.

“William Beckett is a blast, he’s riding with us and we all really love his music, and Hollywood Ending is great too. We’ve been friends with those guys for a long time — it’s surprising we haven’t played more shows with them, but the stars aligned for this one,” Miller said. “The other bands we’re touring with are just fantastic performers. Compared to bands we’ve hung out with before, they’re the most fun.”

Miller, Cole Andre, Michael Walker, Jordan Merrigan and Marcus Sand make up Paradise Fears. The band got together in high school in a small town South Dakota, and released their first album in 2011.

Their music has been constantly evolving since, into what Miller calls “dynamic lyrical pop.” Usually he writes most of the melody, but other members also inspire the music, which gets discussed and worked on among all band members.

“The central vibe or inspiration for each song is spread out across the different instruments, and then we are just filling the rest of the parts around that, which turns into a song and gives it an identity,” Miller said.

Social media has helped the band grow and better connect with fans. Through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Paradise Fears reaches their listeners. In addition to sharing their own songs, they do a series of covers, including Maroon 5’s “Pay Phone,” which earned them 3 million views.

“I do think it (social media) is incredibly important,” Miller said. “It’s how 98 percent of our audience stays in touch, and I like it. It’s a channel opening up that allowed us to really communicate.”

While their music sometimes has a lighter sound, Paradise Fears’ lyrics are deeply meaningful. Each of the band’s songs has a lesson to it.

Like many of their tracks, “Battle Scars,” which was written with Brian Dales of The Summer Set, is about “learning to love and appreciate yourself with all of your flaws and mistakes,” like many of their other tracks. During their tours, Paradise Fears got a lot of response from fans for that track via social media, Miller said.

Their new single, “You To Believe In” is about feeling lost and frustrated, but despite all the problems in the world, finding comfort through the people in your life. Miller said he wrote the track about a girl who could always “make it all okay.”

“There was a moment where I became very disengaged in what was happening in the world at large, and kind of frustrated by a lot of the things that were happening in larger structures outside of my control,” Miller said. “I was overwhelmed by the scope of problems, and I realized that what brought me back down to earth was that I had people in my life who I could believe in even when the larger systems weren’t working.”

This single is just a preview of upcoming music from Paradise Fears. While the band doesn’t have an exact release date yet, Miller said there are many new tracks coming out, and fans can expect to see the album out in early 2015.

“I like people to be able to find their own way of connecting with the music,” Miller said. “I’d want them to listen, think about it and apply a lyric in the context of their own lives. And if they do kind of end up deriving that message of everyone is flawed and imperfect, and working through it so their experience is one that is shared, I hope they take this idea that all humans are united through experience.”