Tag Archives: Engineering

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 oakland.edu/secs/ise.


OU mechanical engineering alum takes skills overseas

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS
Charon Morgan never thought about moving away from Michigan — the place where

Photo/Charon Morgan

Photo/Charon Morgan

she grew  up, started her family and started her career.

Now, the 1996 Oakland University mechanical engineering graduate lives and works in Shanghai, China, where she took an executive job with General Motors over a year ago — and  she said it was one of the best life choices she ever made.
“It’s important for people to really stretch themselves and get out of their comfort zone to experience something they never thought they’d do, because that’s been the best experience  for me,” Morgan said. “I never thought two years ago that I’d even be here.”
Growing up in Romeo, and going to school in the area, Morgan lived in Michigan her whole life.
Immediately following her graduation from OU, she began her career at General Motors in technology and validation.
“Oakland was such a great experience,” Morgan said. “I recall working very, very hard, spending many hours every day in the library with teams — I remember working in a lot of teams. The one thing that sets OU apart from discussions I’ve had with my colleagues and experiences with other schools, is spending a lot of time in the labs. The fortunate part of that was you had the theoretical message in the lecture, but then you really got the hands-on experience when applying it in the lab, and that also taught you to work very effectively with teams, which is really what you do in the real world.”
What started as a primarily technical and chassis career led to more design and management work.
Morgan’s current position focuses on “optimizing the way engineering functions are run” at General Motors, working to boost efficiency with the company there.
Being with the company for almost 20 years, she had rich experience that made her a good fit for the job. In this position, she is working to better the market’s needs, which vary in other
countries based on fuel economy regulations among other criteria.
“As a global company, GM has engineering centers located around the world, and China is where the industry has high growth projected,” Morgan said. “There’s growth now, but there will be an even more rapid pace of growth in the future. With that in mind, understanding how we can operate the business on the other side of the world to be as efficient as in the U.S where we have such a mature automotive industry, is great for us as a global company. Being able to collaboratively spread regional knowledge and apply it to our emerging countries is key.”
The move to China wasn’t easy, however. Morgan has three sons, and nobody in the family spoke Chinese. Professionally, verbal communication wasn’t an issue, since most of her Chinese peers speak English, but interacting in society was a bit more of a challenge.
However, Morgan said communication goes beyond speaking, both in the professional world and through personal interactions.
“You can learn a lot about people and how they feel based on their emotional and physical mannerisms, so you learn how to communicate with them without speaking as much,” Morgan said. “Chinese culture is very different. But China ultimately wants the same thing as the U.S.,  Germany, Brazil and other countries. Globally at GM we all want to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. We’re really focused on utilizing the global capabilities that we have to build our company to be the best it can be.”
From college to the present, Morgan has been involved with the Society of Engineers (SAE), and currently serves on the Board of Directors.
“My transition from student to professional life was seamless because I had great experiences with the OU staff and professors. Plus, with all of the labs that were required, I learned how effective teams can work together,” Morgan said. “I was able to bridge some of the student-to-professional gaps through my involvement with SAE, which was how I met up again with Brian, one of my first professors at OU.”
When Charon first became an SAE board member, she ran into a former professor and fellow OU alum, Don Hillebrand, a 1984 mechanical engineering grad and current Director of Energy Systems Research at Argonne National Laboratory.
Hillebrand said he remembers Morgan’s ambition and dedication from when he taught her as an undergrad.
“I remembered Charon because she was a very good student,” Hillebrand said. “She stood out as the one who got all her work done and left, as opposed to everyone else who just goofed off, which is why I remembered her. When I saw her on the board, it was clear she had done very well for herself.”
Through SAE, Morgan has done various projects, including leading a group in the reinvention of SAE’s mission, and consistent involvement in the board-sponsored education outreach programs.
While on the board, Morgan has continued to be very involved even after her relocation to China, continuing to attend meetings and participating in calls.
“While she (Morgan) was on the board, she was called to go to China on assignment, first temporary and now permanently,” Hillebrand said. “But she’s continued to attend all board meetings and all calls. It’s amazing how much she’s doing and she’s a tremendous asset. There’s that saying if you want to get something done, find a busy person and ask them to do it. That’s the definition of Charon — she has so many things going on but if she volunteered to take something on, it was done quickly, it was done very well and it was done very efficiently, with a really good attitude.”
Though she sometimes misses home, Morgan is enjoying her career in China, and said it was one of the best decisions she’s made. She recommends taking the time to experience something new at least once in life.
“Hard work pays off and it’s so important to step outside of what you’re used to and do something a little different — take a risk, put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, or stretch yourself, because those are the times in your life, and in your career, that you’ll cherish those experiences….. you will cherish them the most and learn the most,” Morgan said.

OU SECS teams up with Fulcrum Edge for new project management course

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Professor Bill Edwards and Mark Lundquist of Fulcrum Edge talk about the new project management course. Photo/Stephanie Sokol

Professor Bill Edwards and Mark Lundquist of Fulcrum Edge talk about the new project management course. Photo/Stephanie Sokol

The Oakland University School of Engineering and Computer Science is teaming up with business-management firm Fulcrum Edge for a new project management course. Being offered this fall, the class will provide a focus on communication and collaboration in engineering.

“Because of our location in SE Michigan, a large number of our Masters students— both in our ISE and our Engineering Management programs — work full-time,” said Robert Van Til, Professor and Chair of the ISE Department.

“A lot of what students will learn in this class, they can use immediately in their job, in addition to enhancing their career. This is one of several new application-focused courses the ISE Department is developing in cooperation with a various companies, they really complement our more theoretical courses that are the foundation of an engineering education.”

ISE 595 Special Topics: Engineering Project Management will be taught by ISE Instructor William Edwards, who worked closely with Dean Baker and Mark Lundquist of Fulcrum Edge to design it. The course will apply an “active learning” approach. 

Rather than being lecture and textbook-based, group projects will be the focus, with written material as a supplement.

“Students are much more engaged through this process, and it facilitates learning by actually doing it,” Edwards said.

Lundquist, who is on the OU INC business incubator’s advisory board, is working with Baker to pitch this class to universities nationwide, and has other colleges interested in addition to OU. While classes in this subject are common at other universities, the collaboration between education and a business makes OU’s course unique.

“What I’m hoping students see is the transference of education but in a real-world manner,” Lundquist said. 

“I’ve lectured at different places, not at the university level but guest speaking, and I know that from my own experience at the University of Illinois, we had a higher, more elevated view of the professors we knew had done work in the non-academic world. So I know most students are hungry for both; they also want the theory and practical background, so they can understand what it will be like when they get out in the workforce. To be able to have a program that can  pull all of it together— that’s personally satisfying for me.”

Having worked at Ford and Chrysler, Edwards said communication is an important, sometimes overlooked element of engineering.

Each semester, he takes students on a field trip for real-world experience. This new engineering project management course brings the field trip to the classroom, he said, through the projects as well as Baker and Lundquist’s perspectives.

“I like that (this class) pulls some real-world situations into the classroom,” Edwards said. 

“Textbooks give this nice pat-answer, but you want to get the fundamentals so students can be resourceful and react on their own to have a deliverable result. Different groups will bring different perspectives and solutions for the same problem, and I like seeing that— the creativity that you give students.”

Baker authored the course’s textbook, “Multi-Company Project Management,” which he said is divided into three sections. 

The first section covers project initiation and planning. The second section covers project execution, control and closure. These represent the five phases of a project. The third section is an application case study that was applied in a real environment.

The application-focused book describes the basic principles of project management, while the two workbooks provide active learning exercises that allow students to experience application of the principles. 

The course includes a Lecture Notebook with all class slides to aid students in preparing for class and taking notes. The workbook activities have been proven in the classroom; Baker taught at DeVry University and found that students greatly benefitted from the projects.

“I hope the students are going to come away very excited about the course and what they learned in it— they’ll feel that they actually know how to apply things in the real world,” Baker said. 

“Students will have confidence that they can walk in and start performing on a project. I also  hope this course makes them very successful as they move on in their careers.”

Edwards, Baker and Lundquist agreed that communication is key between companies. 

Their shared goal for this course is to help students be a success by offering them practice and guidance, so they can interact in a variety of company situations. Whether it be within the same company, 

or even on a national level, the new program management course will supply training to help in a variety of situations.

“When I was an undergrad, engineering schools had a very rigorous curriculum,” Edwards said. 

“In the real world, those softer sides really played a much greater role than even the technical role. The softer side of working with people from different areas, cultures; the proprietary info that some

companies don’t want to give up. We are becoming even more multicultural, dealing with Brazilians, Germans, French, Japanese— some societies are not as open as ours, and are very closed to

conversation: ask and only answer the question, not elaborating. But in the end, having a resolution and recovery plan, you can reach a common goal together.”

To learn more about Oakland University’s Industrial and Systems Engineering M.S. or its Engineering Management M.S. programs, as well as other programs offered by the ISE Department, visit oakland.edu/ise.

University bids Dean Smith farewell and good luck

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Associate Dean Lorenzo Smith has accepted a position as Dean at California State University-Sacramento.July 18 will be his last day at Oakland University, and Dr. Qian “Beth” Zou, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been appointed interim associate dean.

“OU has definitely become home to me,” Smith said. “I love this campus and its people.”

Photo courtesy of Oakland University

Photo courtesy of Oakland University

Dr. Smith earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1991 from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. In 1993 he finished his Master’s at Wayne State University, and he completed his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics in 1999 from Michigan State University.

Following work with Ford and General Motors, Smith started working as a professor at OU in 2000.

Smith’s research focused on sheet metal experimental mechanics. In his endeavors, he worked on laboratory tooling for evaluating forming limits, surface distortion and draw bead behavior for sheet metal.

During his research, Smith produced 57 publications and secured $3.5 million in external funding as sole-PI from multiple sources, including Pacific Northwest National Labs, Ford and Chrysler. He has also graduated seven Ph.D. students, and served as co-chair for the 2005 international NUMISHEET Conference, where he is currently a scientific research committee member.

After finding success as an OU faculty member from 2000 to 2011, Dean Louay Chamra asked him to take on the position of Associate Dean. From 2011 to present, Smith held the role.

“I am forever thankful to Dean Louay Chamra for taking a chance on me,” Smith said. “He trusted me with decision making and with leadership roles for key initiatives and programs. He is responsible for transforming the SECS associate dean position from a mundane job to an exciting career.”

Smith’s responsibilities as dean included management of four Ph.D. programs, undergraduate and graduate catalogs, admission applications, lab space, and program accreditation support.

“Lorenzo worked closely with the faculty to advance SECS academic and research programs,” Dean Chamra said. “He was very committed to working with our graduate and undergraduate students, together with colleagues across Oakland University, to ensure that the school remains on its ford trajectory. Dr. Smith will be greatly missed in the school next year. He has aggressively advocated for increased research support for our students and committed his efforts to attracting top students into engineering, and taking graduate education to a new level of excellence.”

As Co-founder and Director of the Chrysler Learning and Innovation Center For Sheet Metal Forming (CLIC-form), Smith acted as a leader to the students. His efforts helped evolve the way students are trained for the workplace, according Bruce Williams Jr. Head of Quality Resident Engineering at Chrysler, who partnered with Smith.

“I want to take the time to thank Associate Dean Smith on the behalf of the CLIC students, instructors and I for all of his leadership in building a model that has changed the way the sheet metal industry is training students for the workplace.

Lorenzo’s gentle and humble approach resonate in the students and the team involved with CLIC,” Williams said. “I consider Lorenzo not only a partner but a friend.  We will truly miss him.  We can only hope that Lorenzo expands his scope and reach with his new university.  They are very lucky to have such a passionate and caring individual on their team as Lorenzo Smith.”

While working for OU, Smith was also a mentor to students. His service included serving as faculty advisor for the National Society of Black Engineers, in addition to hosting Grad Connection’s first public forum and an engineering student bonfire, to name a few.

“Dr. Lorenzo Smith has been an excellent club adviser,” said Jared Oluouch,  President of the OU chapter of NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers). “He is always there for us for advice and consultations. He has made sure our activities are funded. He is such an inspiring role model.”

Students and faculty alike wish Smith well, but said they will miss him as both a colleague and friend. He served not only as an instructor and Dean, but an inspiration and mentor to many.

“I will always remember the kindness of the OU people, the pride showing in the eyes of our senior design students, the unsolicited thanks from graduate students, the incredible working relationship I had with Dean Louay Chamra, and the amazing professional support from the Dean’s office staff,” Smith said.

First week of STEM camps a success


The first week of STEM camps at OU was a success. The program continues throughout the summer. Photo/Stephanie Sokol

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Last week, students from 3rd to 12th grade gathered in Dodge Hall and the OU INCubator, to build and experiment in engineering. The annual summer-long STEM camps give kids the chance to explore the field.

“The kids have a lot of ideas and keep experimenting, so it’s nice,” said Ruth John, Industrial Engineering Teaching Assistant.

Pontiac Schools have teamed up with SECS, which will grant class credit to some high-school age learners. Courses are split into categories of Alternative Energy, Structures, Industrial and Systems, Electrical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

The first week spotlighted alternative energy. Under the instruction of Caymen Novak and Trey Whitehouse, children made their own batteries out of various household items, as well as miniature solar panels and wind turbines, testing the energy of each creation.

Older students spent time studying ergonomics, probability and statistics, using software to record and compare one another’s height, in a course led by Graduate Instructor John Katona.

STEM camps give students the chance to learn in a fun environment.

Throughout the summer, they will explore other areas of engineering, taking on projects to build robots, in addition to coordinating a light show to be played at Katona’s concert later this summer, which he said both himself and the students are excited for.

“I like working with kids because everything is new and exciting,” Katona said. “They haven’t experienced what engineering is like and it is exciting when they see their first program run or finish their first multifaceted engineering project. For many kids, it is their first time not being told how to do things, but they are allowed resources to build whatever they can envision.”

Registration is still available on Oakland’s website at http://www.oakland.edu/?id=28966&sid=527.

OU and University of Michigan team up for ISE class trip

Stephanie Sokol for OUSECS

Students in Industrial and Systems Engineering Department instructor William

Photo courtesy of ISE

Photo courtesy of ISE

Edwards’ Flexible and Lean ManufacturingSystems class had some hands-on experience during a trip to the University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for Global Operations in Ann Arbor.

The opportunity allowed the students to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world situations. Students built Borg-Warner TurboChargers on an “assembly line,” and worked on a Hot Wheels assembly simulation to enforce the importance of standardizing production.

“There’s only so much you can do with academics in the classroom,” Edwards said. “Trips like this really reinforce students’ knowledge.”

While the class takes a trip each semester to a local company, this collaboration was the first of its kind, bringing together the two universities.

In the TurboChargers activity, students went through Yamazumi Charts which are “a breakdown of operations into elementary work units and standardized timing (Takt) at which the flow of the overall process should be conducted,” according to Edwards. 

Work loads could be leveled to create a more even flow of work pieces through the process by taking workable averages of each station element.

Next, Hot Wheel cars were used in a mock production line to discover how buffers and variations impacts the end product. 

At the end of the event, Dr. Matt Potoff, University of Michigan Operations Leadership Factory Director, spoke with the classes, covering concepts that were used in the interactive learning session.

“The students are coming in more educated with more real world experience than in the past,” Edwards said. “I think it was a great collaboration between the University of Michigan and Oakland University, sharing resources for the education of the next generation of engineers.”

If you are interested in learning more about Oakland University’s undergraduate and graduate programs in Industrial and Systems Engineering, please contact Professor Robert Van Til (vantil@oakland.edu, 248-370-2211) or visit the ISE Dept. website at: oakland.edu/ise

Oakland University Robotics Club’s hard work pays off

Stephanie Sokol for OU SECS

The Oakland University Robotics Association knows the value of hard work.

Taking home First Place for the Main Autonomous Navigation Challenge, Third Place in the Basic Autonomous Challenge, Third Place in the Interoperability Profile Challenge and the Grand Award for Overall Performance at the 22nd annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition didn’t come easy.

“(Winning) was an exciting moment — a stress relieving, load off the shoulders moment,” member Sami Oweis said. “It meant even more for us when we were told that we had just broke a record that was held unbeaten since the Auto-Nav challenge was developed to finish the complete advanced course.”

OU Engineering students Mike Truitt, Brian Neumeyer, Hudhaifa Jasim, Kevin Hallenbeck, Link Lorenz, Lucas Fuchs, Michael Norman, Micho Radovnikovich, Oscar Sanchez Vazquez, Parker Bidigare, Steve Grzebyk and Oweis make up the association.

IGVC was the club’s biggest event, and hundreds of hours were spent building their robot, “Mantis,” to perfect it for the international competition,

allowing them to take home the Lescoe cup for the second year in a row.

Mantis had a wheelchair-based suspension with a lightweight aluminum superstructure, the programming power of two Lenovo ThinkPad computers, a removable electronic box and green lights for effect— a combination the team knew would be effective at IGVC.

And it was— at the Mantis it became the first and only robot to ever fully complete the Advance Autonomous Challenge course which was introduced in the IGVC three years ago.

“This year we were more ready than ever before,” Hallenbeck said. “This meant more time for testing and tweaking parameters at the competition, and reasonable amounts of sleep.”

Students involved say the club is a great opportunity to apply skills honed in the classroom into the real world. In addition, it gave them experience working as a team.

Being involved since IGVC’s start, Oakland Robotics moved up from 20th, 13th and 3rd place, earning 1st for two years in a row, Grzebyk said.

“This was the eighth IGVC I’ve participated in since I was a junior in undergrad in 2007,” said Radovnikovich. “Every single year since then we’ve improved, and it was really nice to see the team reach the peak this year, my first year as an advisor.”

At this year’s competition, Oakland broke the four year record of no team completing the advanced course, making a mark on the industry and the university.

“It will be an honor if the first place trophy graces the hall of the new state of the art engineering building when it opens,” Grzebyk said. “It will serve as a reminder that we must continue with the proud tradition that this team has established, excellence in engineering and hard work.  Now it falls to the senior members to step aside and help train and mentor a new generation of eager engineers.”

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