Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recent design work

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more creative with my designs. For the following covers I used cutouts to make the page stand out and pop a little more. Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 6.36.28 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 1.08.47 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.01.55 AM


Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Kelly DiPucchio wants to show the world that picture books aren’t just for


Kelly DiPucchio, 48, of Rochester, has proof that adults enjoy children’s picture books just as much as kids do. Courtesy of Kelly DiPucchio


DiPucchio, 48, knows a wide audience can enjoy and benefit from reading art-filled stories.

“Picture books are ageless — I dislike age ranges on books,” DiPucchio says. “Whether you’re 1 or 100 years old, you can enjoy a picture book.”

With the release of the Rochester native’s most recent story, “Everyone Loves Bacon,” at the end of August, she has proof that adults enjoy them just as much as kids.

“The fun part of this book is seeing both kids and adults responding to character and finding it funny,” says DiPucchio, who now lives in Macomb Township. “Even my agent, a vegetarian, loved the story. It’s quite possibly the best and worst thing I’ve ever written. It’s been interesting because bacon lovers fall into all categories of ages — a lot of adults have been buying the picture book for bacon lovers they know.”

DiPucchio’s love of picture books rejuvenated when she started reading to her own children. She was looking to switch careers so she could work from home, so she decided to write stories.

While DiPucchio has had 19 books published, with more in the works, it took time and persistence to get to where she is today.

After six years of writing, reading and submitting her works to publishers, and facing 150 to 200 rejection letters, DiPucchio got an agent. Her first book, “What’s The Magic Word,” was picked up by Harper Collins in 2001.

When DiPucchio is putting a story together, inspiration comes from all around her. Everyday life, parenting and watching her own kids were the original source, but she says she gets a lot of ideas just observing the world.

“My job is always interesting, and always changing — each book is unique,” DiPucchio says. “My body of work is very diverse. All of the books are different and the art reflects that. The illustrators are chosen to match the text.”

Among her works, two books, “Grace for President” and “The Sandwich Swap,” are New York Times best sellers. Both stories were special to DiPucchio.

“Grace for President” tells the story of a young girl questioning why no girl has run for president at her school.

In addition to telling the story of Grace’s candidacy at school, the book talks in depth about the election process. DiPucchio says she has heard from teachers who use it to teach their students about government — even high-schoolers.

Through its “Teach A Girl to Lead” project, The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University plans to send copies of the book to every woman governor, member of Congress and state legislator in America, to share at their local elementary schools in 2016.

DiPucchio’s other New York Times best seller, “The Sandwich Swap,” shares one of the Queen of Jordan’s childhood stories.

DiPucchio met with the Queen to fictionalize her memories into a book, which tells a story of tolerance and cultural differences. “The Sandwich Shop” ended up being published in more than six different languages, and shown on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.”

“It’s very surreal,” DiPucchio says.

Some of her books have also been interpreted theatrically. “Zombie in Love” premiered as a musical in Portland, Ore., in 2014, and “Grace for President” will be performed on stage in North Carolina next year.

In addition to her recent bacon book, DiPucchio has three books set to be published in 2016: “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Children,” “Dragon was Terrible” and “Everyone Loves Cupcake.”

While putting the stories together and seeing them published has been exciting for her, DiPucchio says one of her favorite parts of her work is sharing the stories with children.

“I go to schools and talk to kids about books, talk about humor, poetry, creative nonfiction and working with the queen,” DiPucchio says. “It’s been a really wonderful career, and I love it just as much today as 20 years ago, when started on this path.”

Coming-of-age film ‘Superior’ showcases beauty of Northern Michigan


Photo/Edd Benda

Birmingham-native filmmaker Edd Benda returned to his home state last year to put together the Upper Peninsula adventure film “Superior.”

The idea for the film came to Benda, 25, at a family Thanksgiving dinner table a few years ago. His uncle, Karl Benda, shared the story of a bicycle trip he took Up North more than 40 years ago with friend Dan “Dudza” Junttila, before they were deployed to Vietnam.

The tale inspired Benda to share the beauty of Lake Superior and uncertainty of young adulthood through “Superior,” his first feature-film as a writer and director.

“‘Superior’ is a snapshot of America in 1969, when futures were uncertain, and yet the most outlandish adventures remained possible,” Benda says.

“I was so fascinated by the time, place and adventure itself (of his uncle’s story) that I started writing this movie. Superior is not just based on their story — it’s more of a patchwork quilt mash-up of stories I’d listened to over the years. My dad is from family of nine kids who went on lots of adventures, and he was always sharing stories with me also.”

After graduating from The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Benda moved to Los Angeles. Studying filmmaking at the University of Southern California, he stayed on the West Coast after college, making short films through his independent film company “Beyond the Porch Productions.”

Benda shared his idea to base a film on his uncle’s story, and his team was interested in the project. Benda’s dream to create “Superior” became reality in summer 2014. He thoroughly researched the time period, considering his uncle’s story as well as life in the 1960s and early ’70s — especially for young men facing the draft — and the story line came together.

For 21 days, they filmed in the Keeweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost point in the Upper Peninsula.

The film crew, who were mainly from Los Angeles and had never been to the Midwest, also got into character, camping and living the Northern Michigan lifestyle the movie centers on.

“We not only spent time making this movie about an adventure, but were living it on our own,” Benda says. “It was a big part of the creative process.”

“Superior” stars Paul Stanko and Thatcher Robinson, as well a cast of what Benda described as “true-blue Yoopers,” noting he wanted to truly bring out the Michigan character.

“The movie takes place in Northern Michigan, and showcases one of the most beautiful parts of the state that I get to call home,” Benda says. “You couldn’t make this movie anywhere else — it had to be made in Great Lakes state.”

In addition to filming on location true to his uncle’s story, Benda wanted to make everything true to the times. Finding old vehicles and props was sometimes a challenge, but the bicycles ridden in the movie were those used by his uncle and friend back in the day.

While the film is only roughly based on his story, Uncle Karl has enjoyed being a local celebrity, Benda says. And “Superior” has been praised by people in the UP as well as nationally.

Following screenings in nine Michigan cities and locations around the country, the final showing of “Superior” is on Monday, Nov. 9, at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township. Benda says he’s excited to bring his work back home.

“To round it off in my hometown is what I’m most excited about,” Benda says. “This film is very much a labor of love of mine, and it showcases the state I love so much and the kind of world that created me. I went to school in Birmingham, and had a lot of friends and support in local community — it’s part of who I am.”

For more information about Superior and Edd Benda’s other work, visit Tickets to the screening at the Bloomfield Maple Theater can be purchased at

Latest exhibit at Lawrence Street has ‘Some Strings Attached”

Stephanie Sokol for Digital First Media

Alice Frank combined her favorite artistic elements — watercolors, fired enamel on metal and stitching — to create unique pieces in her latest exhibit “Some Strings Attached.”

“These works are my own recipe — I have never seen anything like it,”

One of Frank's works, Willy B. Threadbear.

One of Frank’s works, Willy B. Threadbear.

Frank says. “I tried to experiment and see if I could add all the ingredients I enjoy into my paintings, and I am really pleased with my results.”

With this exhibit, she wanted to make something fun and interesting for both herself and observers. Working on multiple pieces at once, she created her works by firing metal as much as 20 or 30 times to achieve certain colors, then working it together with watercolor and stitching.

In addition, this exhibit also showcases fired enamel tabletop sculptures, and fun projects like her homemade string teddy bears with clever names such as Willy B. Threadbear and Vera Threadbear.

This work is unique artistically, and her goal with it is to bring people happiness.

“When people look at my art, I want them to smile,” Frank says. “I think smiling can never be overdone. I want people to feel that the pieces they’re looking at and viewing are things they want to look at a little more.”

Frank said the works in this collection just came to her. Describing her art as “whimsical,” she says inspiration can be triggered by something simple she notices in everyday life, or from the influence of others.

While teaching in Michigan, New York and New Jersey, as well as at Seoul National University in Korea for a year, she has seen different ways of life by visiting new places, and been exposed to different ideas in the art of her students.

“Going to a new place for travel or work, I’m always looking around to see what’s there,” Frank says. “The colors and the light are different. Depending where I am, I might carry my sketch notebook. It could be the way light is shining on a building, or how some dishes in a cafeteria are lined up in a way that they become shapes in my mind. It’s kind of an abstract, difficult thing to explain. I also get a big kick out of watching kids create.”

For Frank, creating art is rewarding and relaxing. She says time flies when she’s working on a piece.

She tries to create her pieces in a way that makes people take a second look, adding details that will be found when someone is paying attention and really taking in the art.

After 25 years exhibiting at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs and other high-end art shows, fighting the elements of Michigan weather, Frank says she now prefers to take her art to smaller, indoor venues.

Recently, she’s shown at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield with the Michigan Watercolor Society, at Michigan Fine Arts Competition in Bloomfield Hills and OUR TOWN Art show in Birmingham, to name a few.

She has also put her art on display at other places in six to 10 exhibits a year around Michigan and also making home visits to help people decide on the right painting to purchase.

“Art should be a feeling you have in your mind and heart. It should make you feel good about it, whatever it is,” Frank says. “Whether it’s a funny thing or a serious thing, it has to speak to you. I don’t put anything in my shows that doesn’t speak to me, so when it speaks to other people, that gives me a really good feeling.”

“Some Strings Attached” runs Nov. 4-28 at Lawrence Street Gallery, 22620 Woodward Ave., in Ferndale. The opening reception takes place 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, and the mid-month reception is 6-9 p.m. Nov. 20.

ISE graduate begins career at the Disney World

By Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Kimmy Romstad is using her Industrial and Systems Engineering background to help things run smoothly at the “happiest place on earth.”

Photo/Kimmy Romstadt

Photo courtesy of Kimmy Romstad

After interning at Disney World for a year, the August 2014 Oakland University Industrial Systems Engineering alum recently accepted a position in forecasting and stocking costuming issue locations across the Disney property.

“Like many other Cast Members (Disney term for “Disney employees”), Disney holds a special place in my heart, as I cannot remember many childhood experiences more exciting than visiting Walt Disney World,” Romstad said. “Having had such great experiences visiting the parks, since I started college I made it a goal to either intern, work full-time, or both with The Walt Disney Company. I wanted to be part of the magic, behind the scenes, that delivers such an amazing guest experience.”

During her internship, Romstad learned the inner operations workings of different exhibits on Disney, and succeeded in contributing to them.

Later on, a former supervisor reached out to her about the opening, and she started in the Creative Costuming position this past June.

“As an ISE student, I was extremely curious and interested in working for The Walt Disney Company as an Industrial Engineer,” Romstad said. “I wanted to learn about all of the backstage operations that exist in order to produce a world-class entertainment experience for millions of guests each year. I wanted to be a part of the magic and help their business to be more efficient and productive, and thus, enhance the guest experience.”

The location had familiarity to her previous work at the resort, and so far she said the experience working there full-time has been great, though different.

The forecasting and stocking costumes position was created recently, and Romstad described it as “a liaison between the Inventory Planning team within Creative Costuming and the operational costuming issue locations.”

Unlike her internship, however, in this position she works on a different team and has more day-to-day responsibilities rather than long-term projects.

“The good part for me is that this position allows me to work on (the) leadership skills I haven’t previously had many opportunities to develop, such as being influential and persuasive, and learning how to train people and communicate information effectively,” she said.

Work done at Oakland University also helped her prepare for her career with Disney.

Her ISE courses and deep involvement in the program gave her a real-world perspective of what could be done in her field.

Robert Van Til, Professor and Chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering department within the School of Engineering and Computer Science, said Romstad represented the school and ISE well, and that this job will be a good fit for her.

“Besides being an excellent student, Kimmy has been a great ambassador for the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, assisting us with outreach activities and student engagement,” said Van Til.  “We wish her all the best in her new position at Disney.”

In addition to her academic efforts at OU, Romstad was also very involved on campus. She belonged to Tau Beta Pi, Society of Women Engineers, Institute of Industrial Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers, which additionally helped prepare her for this role.

“In my ISE courses at OU, there was a lot of real-world application, which helped me to understand an IE’s role in ‘the real world.’ Without the experiences I had in my classes at OU, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground running at an internship like this.”

To learn more about the Industrial and Systems Engineering Dept. at Oakland University, visit

SECS student and father of four beats the odds, graduates with master’s at 25

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS
On May 1, Matthew Franklin will walk across the stage to accept his Masters in Embedded Systems Engineering. Completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in five years would be a challenging feat for most people, but this hasn’t been the biggest challenge he has faced.
Photo/Stephanie Sokol 25-year-old Matthew Franklin completed his Masters Degree and two Bachelors degree, all in 5 years while raising 4 children.

Photo/Stephanie Sokol
25-year-old Matthew Franklin completed his Masters Degree and two Bachelors degree, all in 5 years while raising 4 children.

25-year-old Franklin is also a husband, and father of four.

“I always struggled, but kept working hard at it —I knew either I was going to become poor and stay poor, or graduate,”Franklin said. “The statistics of it are really small —there aren’t that many people that graduate with kids, let-alone graduate with four kids, so I was excited I could be (one of) the first.”

Engineering was always his goal, though he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do with it at first.

He started out focusing on computer science, then shifted his studies to electrical, to the point he is currently at —a focus on robotics and artificial intelligence.

After changing his major twice between various engineering concentrations, at age 20, Franklin and his wife had their first child. Shortly after, they had twins, and then a fourth daughter.

As he and his wife worked to raise the four children and make ends meet, one thing became clear to him —giving up was not an option. Instead of falling behind, his family became his motivation, transferring to Oakland University to continue his studies, earning Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

Throughout his college career, Franklin not only went to school and took care of his kids —he also found time to get involved in student organizations, including NSBE, club football and the team at his first university, FIRST robotics and business leaders, to name a few —all while working full-time to make ends meet.

Each semester —including every summer session —Franklin took 16 credits. He wanted to complete his degree and succeed.

Professor Darrin Hanna knew Franklin from his ECE 378 class, and they kept in touch after the course ended. He said he saw a lot of positivity and ambition despite the hardships that were thrown Franklin’s way.

“Matthew transferred to Oakland and had a tough start; he had a full personal life and great responsibility for such a young man while pursuing a University degree, but he was very organized, found a study routine that worked for him, and worked hard and it paid off,”Hanna said. “I saw it in my class, he would come and talk with me in my office about hardware design and concepts that we were covering in class. We also talked about ways in which he might change things up and try different study techniques —and he would.  Matthew was always engaging and is very personable.  He did well on his labs and exams, worked well with others, and designed an excellent final project.  He graduated with a high GPA and went on to work towards a Master’s degree in Embedded Systems. I am very proud of him.”

Despite hardship, the experiences he had and the friendships he gained made his OU experience even richer.

“I will always give back to OU and I will always come back to OU, because they gave me opportunities that helped me out,”Franklin said. “There was always something that made me continue wanting to help OU out in anyway possible. If I own a company I’d sign checks to donate to the school because they helped me out. OU gave me the opportunity, they gave me the chance and accepted me, and at that point thought it was struggle it was well deserved.”

His first internship, for example, presented a struggle. Living in Pontiac, Franklin knew it would be tough to commute to Ohio to work for DTE, but despite bumps in the road, he made it happen.

From there, he went on to do other jobs, including an internship at Valeo.

The road to success wasn’t easy, but it was something he said he knew would be worth it.

Currently employed at General Motors as a systems developer, Franklin said he’s not done yet. His next step is his Masters in Business Administration, which he hopes to earn from Harvard, Stanford or University of Michigan.

“If my story can help other people feel a certain way, if you believe, you can achieve,”Franklin said. “I may not have graduated as fast as others, but when I meet other people that have had four kids in the engineering field or any other program, they’re all pretty much way older; When they look at me they are shocked, but this is just the tip of the iceberg —there is so much more I want to do. My advice to others is to keep working hard and from there you’ve already made the steps toward getting better —which is the goal. Any little bit is still better than where you were yesterday.”

Going green on campus with help from academic programs

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

The Oakland University Engineering Center was completed in Fall 2014.

The Oakland University Engineering Center was completed in Fall 2014.

With eco-friendly courses and clean energy efforts across campus, it’s no surprise that Oakland University has a good reputation for “going green.” Infrastructure and courses help build morale towards energy efficiency, from the power supplied to the campus to the School of Engineering and Computer Science itself.

“Energy-efficient buildings have made a huge difference to the entire university,” said Louay Chamra, dean of Engineering and Computer Science. “These clean energy systems provide a healthy indoor environment for the students, faculty and staff. Furthermore, we are being a great neighbor to our surrounding communities by caring about the environment and implementing many energy conservation techniques to qualify for top LEED honors.”

Efficient facilities 

From the Human Health Building (HHB) to the Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) and the new Engineering Center, OU is filled with an abundance of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly establishments.

OU’s campus will utilize multiple existing and planned sources of on-site clean energy, according to James Leidel, director of Clean Energy Systems. A Central Heating Plant gas turbine, SECS microturbines, solar projects and a dual-fuel diesel-gas peaking system, among others, are the separate entities of clean energy at the school.

“It saves money, and being energy-efficient is the right thing to do,” Leidel said. “These buildings are examples of green technology and clean energy. What better place than a university to engage in this sort of technology? Universities should be at the forefront to demonstrate and to educate.”

Human Health Building
The HHB was completed in fall 2012, and is the only campus building certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation in Michigan, assisted by Leidel’s $2.75 million geothermal technologies grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The building features energy-efficient LED lighting, a geothermal heating and cooling system, recycled materials, a 50kW solar PV system on the penthouse and a large solar thermal system to assist the geothermal cooling with summer desiccant dehumidification.

Engineering Center
While it hasn’t yet been designated LEED, the Engineering Center is very energy-efficient and would rank Gold, according to Chris Kobus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Outreach and Recruitment.

Chilled beams cool the building, two 200kW Combined Heat Power (CHP) microturbines provide a large portion of electricity and waste heat is brought back into the building for space and water heating.

Clean Energy Research Center
Another innovative clean energy building on campus is the CERC, which uses LED and induction lighting and is heated by a high-tech, automated wood chip boiler.

The CERC was made possible with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Chamra said that the goal is to make the entire campus “the first sustainable campus in the US.”

The CERC is embedded in the OU INC, a Smartzone business incubator located on the OU east campus’ Shotwell Pavilion.

U.S. Department of Energy grants helped fund the CERC bio-energy demonstration modules and building wood chip boiler, the geothermal/solar-thermal system for HHB, solar PV projects and an outdoor LED lighting pilot project with DTE Energy.

“Heating the entire campus on wood chips would make an even more significant impact,” Kobus said.

The study and proposal undertaken by Leidel, formerly with Facilities Management, culminated with a public bid and a third-party financed proposal. However, as natural gas prices fell, the project was shelved in favor of a Central Plant CHP gas turbine.

In October 2013, the OU Board of Trustees approved Chevron Energy Solutions to undertake a public-private partnership for a 4.6MW natural gas CHP system.

The Chevron group recently spun out to a new company, OpTerra Energy Services, and installed and operates the CHP system to help power and heat the campus. Switching from mostly grid coal to clean-burning natural gas with waste heat recovery will lower OU’s environmental footprint by 40 to 50 percent.

From 2006 through 2008, wind speed data was collected on a 50-meter-tall meteorological tower and a wind power study was commissioned by Leidel.

Resources for learning 

In addition to being an eco-friendly energy producer on campus, the CERC provides engineering students and faculty with a place for research projects and hands-on opportunities with operated bio-fuel production systems.

“Clean or renewable energy is important because of the great environmental and economic benefits,” Chamra said. “In addition, the clean energy systems will be used as living laboratories for SECS students and faculty to study and conduct research.”

While there is a limited budget, there are still many volunteer and internship opportunities — paid and unpaid — to help students gain class credit and real-world experience.

Students can come to Kobus or Leidel to help on existing projects, or pitch proposals of their own.

“I definitely want more people here helping,” Leidel said. “Students get to see hands-on real equipment — it’s not just lab-scale. We have real equipment operating and they’d work with hardware and prototyping. I focus on real-world experiences in the university environment.”

“All the buildings built on campus, including HHB, the new residence hall and the new Engineering Center, are being designed as living laboratories.”

— Chris Kobus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Outreach and Recruitment

In addition to research, the building and structure of the campus can be a clean energy living laboratory.

Through outreach programs, younger students get a taste of engineering and computer science, during week-long summer STEM camps.

Students tour campus, where they learn how the grid works and are shown the modern architecture and green design and technology of the buildings.

“As part of the outreach program and the one-week camps we brought here in the summer, there are always tours going on there and it’s not a campus tour like admissions does, it’s more of a technology tour,” Kobus said. “We’ve gotten great feedback on the tours. The kids love seeing technology in action — they’ve seen some really neat stuff.”

According to Kobus, the buildings also provide great research experience for University students to learn outside the classroom without going too far away.

His students learn from the school’s energy system and efficient buildings; and many professors take their students to CERC for research and field trips.

“All the buildings built on campus, including HHB, the new residence hall and the new Engineering Center, are being designed as living laboratories,” Kobus said. “We can teach students theory in the classroom with little table-top experiments to get practical experience, but to go out and see it in its full form — that’s really what we want. So when we design these buildings, we design them with the perspective that we want this to be part of a learning laboratory for students to be able to tour through and see the technology in action.”

Education in energy 

With the resources available, it’s also important to understand how everything works. More energy-focused courses are being made available for students.

Recently, classes in energy efficiency have been proposed and added, and now engineering students can take their studies a step further with the new energy management master’s concentration. Kobus described it as a course teaching how “to optimize energy distribution systems, better manage environmental resources and help employers or clients significantly reduce energy costs.”

The class “Alternative Energy Systems” goes over major energy technologies. There is also a hybrid electric battery course and a fuel cell class, in addition to a series of three other conservation-focused energy management courses that will be taught executive-style next summer.

“The one technology that is truly clean is the energy you never use, so if you can learn to do more with less, not using energy is the cleanest thing you can do — conservation is number one,” Kobus said. “In the alternative energy universe, if you don’t have conservation first, simply switching to other sources makes little sense.”

Leidel is looking to launch more classes in clean energy to drive the importance back home and give students more experience learning about power systems engineering and combined heat and power systems.

“We have a lot of infrastructure projects,” Leidel said. “The existence of the Clean Energy Research Center, combined with multiple infrastructure projects provides a comprehensive educational front in clean energy systems. Students are drawn to Oakland by the visibility of these systems, classes and web sites.

Many students have stated that they come to OU because of the things we’re trying to do with solar power, and the platinum LEED building we have on campus. Clean energy is a significant area of focus for many universities, so to have that here is hopefully a draw for students.”

Right now he is developing a proposal for a clean energy and power engineering program, which could be offered as a master’s program in Clean Energy Engineering.

“The United States is a little behind in clean energy investment,” Leidel said. “However, in Michigan, we have a huge amount of engineering and innovative capacity that can be channeled into the clean energy sector. Here at Oakland, numerous clean energy projects have created a living, learning laboratory for students to experience these systems first hand, and learn. =As additional engineering courses are brought online, they can capitalize on this unique infrastructure.”