Bringing context to the classroom

After hearing engineering education pioneer Richard Felder speak about the importance of bringing context to a problem in engineering classes, Professor Aimee Ulstad had an idea. Why not involve industry partners in her production planning and facility layout course to bring key concepts to life?

Fresh from a 30-year engineering career in industry, the assistant clinical professor of integrated systems engineering (ISE) knew she learned better when concepts were introduced with real-world context and she had a hunch students would too.

“Much of the material covered in this class is used daily in most corporations. Even if they don’t use it exactly like it is taught in the textbook, they use the principles,” she said. “It seemed evident that if students understood the importance and could learn from professionals using these methods, they would understand the concepts better.”

Recruiting interested supply chain professionals wasn’t difficult, Ulstad said. Both Ohio State alumni and other industry partners alike enthusiastically volunteered to share their time and experience with small groups of four students. During spring semester, 16 mentors participated,  representing a diverse range of organizations, Abbott, AGC Automotive, All-Clad, American Woodmark, American Red Cross, Caterpillar, GE Aviation, Greif, Honda of America Mfg., L Brands, PepsiCo/Quaker, Rockwell Automation, TE Connectivity, Ventura Foods, Walmart and Worthington Industries.

Alumnus John Seeley (’05, ISE), a continuous improvement and environmental engineer for AGC Automotive, is one of several mentors who has remained involved since Ulstad first implemented the live case study format four semesters ago.

“My senior year at Ohio State, I was an undergraduate teaching assistant in the First-Year Engineering program under Dr. John Merrill. This is where I began mentoring other students and I really enjoyed it,” Seeley said. “When Aimee asked for volunteers to mentor her students in 2015, I was happy to help out and give back to Ohio State.”

In addition to being impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and excitement, he has even shared some of their questions with company management for further discussion.

“They help generate new ideas,” Seeley explained. “Sometimes the questions that the students ask can be challenging. Those kind of questions can be a benefit to me and provide a different outlook for the company.”

Ranging from recent graduates to high-level executives, each mentor dedicates a few hours over a series of five conference calls to discuss how their company applies key class concepts. Many local mentors also invite students to visit their workplace and attend class at the end of the semester to hear students’ final presentations.

“One of the best parts is really taking our concepts in class and applying it to the real world,” said Alex Vanek, a third-year ISE major. “It really spurs a lot of passion and drive to want to study and truly know this stuff. I even take what I learn in class sometimes and pursue it further. Having that mentor really allows you to go above and beyond.”

Vanek and his peers agree that learning about operations management, inventory management, production planning and scheduling, demand forecasting and other key course concepts is much easier when you understand how they’re applied at familiar companies.

ISE major Melanie Larson’s mentor at TE Connectivity brought the differences in global economies to life through his discussion of vehicle demand. In China, for example, environmentally friendly cars sell quickly thanks to government incentives. In contrast, low gas prices in the United State are contributing to growing sales of trucks and SUVs.

“The difference in demand on a global scale is really interesting to see and I don’t think I would have understood that if I hadn’t worked with a mentor,” Larson said. “I think it’s really beneficial because when you have one company, you can get more in-depth.”

Students write five papers throughout the course, including one that can be on any topic. At the end of the semester, each group gives a 10-minute presentation showcasing how course topics are applied at their mentor’s company. So in the end, students leave the course with 15 real-world examples instead of just one.

Ulstad has noticed great improvement in student learning since incorporating the live case study format.

“Students really love it. They absorb it,” she said. “When the students know the material matters in their potential future career, they are more likely to hone in on it.”

For many mentors, Ulstad’s course is one they wish they could have taken as a student.

“If I’d had this experience as a student it would have been mind-opening,” said Carrie White, business administrative coordinator for Honda Purchasing Operations, Mass Production Packaging at Honda of America Mfg., who has served as both a mentor and presenter in the course. “Some of the stuff I’m talking about you just don’t even experience it until you’re in it. And to hear it from somebody else, twice a month, it’s pretty cool.”

Ulstad’s efforts to improve the course has been noticed by her peers and college leadership. She presented initial research about the effectiveness of the format at the American Society for Engineering Education’s conference and received the 2017 David C. McCarthy Engineering Teaching Award from the College of Engineering.

But her work to create more innovative and effective teaching and learning is perhaps most appreciated by the students who benefit from it.

“She’s not only a great professor, but also a mentor and role model,” said Vanek. “I can see how much she really cares about students, and wants to make our experience the best possible and prepare us for the real world.”

Originally published by the College of Engineering

Farhang Pourboghrat named chair of ISE Department

Effective September 1, 2017, Professor Farhang Pourboghrat will become the new chair of the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering (ISE).

He is currently a professor with a joint appointment in Integrated Systems Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Since arriving at Ohio State in 2015, Pourboghrat has placed strong emphasis on experiential learning and interdisciplinary research.

“Farhang recognizes that ISE’s research portfolio—operations research, data analytics, manufacturing processes and human systems integration—is in perfect alignment with college priorities and the university’s Discovery Themes vision,” said College of Engineering Dean David B. Williams. “He will be instrumental in positioning faculty to collaborate with partners throughout the university and across the globe, taking our research and teaching to the next level.”

A highly regarded scholar, Pourboghrat’s research focuses on the computational modeling of metal forming processes using crystal plasticity and advanced phenomenological yield functions.

Pourboghrat received his BS and MS degrees from the University of Iowa, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1990. From 1998-2015 he served as faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Michigan State University. Prior to that he worked as a staff scientist at the Alcoa Technical Center.

“I have come to appreciate how much the faculty cares about our students, the quality of the education they receive inside and outside of the classroom, and their employment opportunities after graduation,” said Pourboghrat. “The same can be said with regards to the care that the faculty places on the quality of their own research, and the impact that their research has at the national and international level.”

He would like to provide even more opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct research. “I’m definitely an advocate of hands-on experiences for students,” he said, “particularly on the manufacturing side of things—more specifically modeling of the material’s behavior and its impact on the manufactured part.”

Pourboghrat is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Sigma Xi technical honor society, and has served as a member of the steering and scientific committees for the Numerical Simulation of 3D Sheet Forming Processes (NUMISHEET) conference since 2005. He has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, including Michigan State’s John D. and Dortha J. Withrow Teaching Excellence Award.


Repurposed from the College of Engineering

Outstanding Faculty & Senior of the Year: Mike Rayo & Alisa Noll

ISE student Alisa Noll and ISE Assistant Professor Mike Rayo were honored with awards at the 2017 ISE Senior Banquet.

Alisa Noll, selected as this year’s Outstanding Senior, was chosen by an interview panel consisting of Mike Rayo, Aimee Ulstad and Chris Mazzacco, a representative from Accenture. The interview panel interviewed the seven students with the highest number of votes from their classmates.

Mike Rayo was the winner for this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Students voted for the faculty member they felt deserved the award and Mike was presented with the award during the banquet.

Jack Slavinski was asked to give a keynote address where he talked about the lessons he learned in the beginning of his career and how he’s learned to have a good work life balance.

ISE Welcomes Dr. Albert Shih on 4/19/17

Cyber Design and Additive Manufacturing of Personalized Orthoses and Prostheses

Seminar by Dr. Albert Shih

Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Integrative Systems + Design

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Assistant Director of Technology, Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO)

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm

144 Baker Systems, 1971 Neil Avenue

This seminar presents a cyber-based design and additive manufacturing (AM) for custom orthoses. Orthoses, also known as braces, are assistive devices for structural support of the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems to help people with impairments to regain their mobility and independent living.  Custom orthoses have personalized fit, better comfort, and superior efficacy in treatment than pre-fabricated ones for users.  A cyber-physical service system (CPSS) has been developed for the University of Michigan Orthotic and Prosthetic Center (UMOPC).  CPSS has the digital scanning, cyber-design center, and fused deposition modeling (FDM) for AM that aim to improve the quality of patient care and service of custom orthoses.  This CPSS will be implemented at UMOPC for custom ankle-foot orthosis (AFO).  The fabrication time and material cost for 3D-printing are critical to provide advantages over the conventional plaster molding for fabrication.  This system targets to achieve the one-day visit for patients who need AFO.  Key elements of CPSS presented in this talk include the: 1) 3D scanning of the foot and leg, 2) computer aided design for clinicians, 3) cyber- and model-based design, 4) wavy structure tool path planning for AFO, 5) FDM for hard structure and soft silicone for wearable assistive devices, 6) quality control using the nano-CT technology, and 7) inertia measurement unit (IMU) for gait analysis, evaluation, and monitoring of users.  Expansion of CPSS for prosthetic socket, foot orthoses, and other assistive devices are elaborated.

Albert Shih is Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Integrative Systems + Design (ISD) at University of Michigan and Assistant Director of Technology, Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO). He was a manufacturing process development engineer from 1991 to 1998 at Cummins.  Dr. Shih’s research area is design and manufacturing. He is a pioneer in biomedical manufacturing, the application of manufacturing technologies to advance the safety, quality, efficiency and speed of healthcare service and biomedical science.  He has 9 US patents, a textbook in Machining and Machine Tools, and authored or co-authored over 180 archival journal papers, 100 conference papers in manufacturing and biomedical sciences.  Dr. Shih is the recipient of many awards including the Fulbright Scholar, ASME Milton Shaw Manufacturing Research Medal, Society of Automotive Engineers Ralph Teetor Educational Award, and Best Paper awards in ASME International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC), North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC), International Conference on Frontiers of Design and Manufacturing (ICFDM) and several other manufacturing and healthcare conferences.  Dr. Shih is Fellow of both ASME and SME and associate member of CIRP.  He received his B.S. and M.S. from National Cheng Kung University and Ph.D. from Purdue University.

ISE Professor William Marras Honored as Distinguished Scholar

Recipient of $31 million in research grants, contracts

It’s not surprising that when the recent list of Distinguished Scholar Award winners at The Ohio State University was announced, Williams Marras’ name was on the list.

Marras, who holds the Honda Chair in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering at Ohio State and serves as the Director of the Spine Research Institute as well as Executive Director for the Institute for Ergonomics, has a list of accomplishments longer than most people’s, well … spine.

Marras said he was surprised when College of Engineering Dean David Williams, Ohio State Vice President for Research Caroline Whitacre and Marras’ colleagues came by to share the news in late February. He was even more taken aback when Dr. Whitacre cited some of his accomplishments, including the $31 million his research has generated in grants and contracts to further the study and improve the well-being of people with back pain. Marras had never tallied it up before. “I thought, ‘Wow! That’s pretty impressive,’” he said.

But Marras is quick to share the credit. In fact, he says, “It’s all about the team,” when asked which of his many achievements makes him the proudest.

“I have a great staff and a great bunch of students,” he says. “I take pride in seeing them evolve and what they are able to do in the lab to break new frontiers of knowledge. That’s what gets me excited.”

Marras, who has been a professor at Ohio State for 35 years, and his team continue to break new ground in spine disorders. “One of our proudest accomplishments is building personalized models of a patient,” he says. By utilizing a patient’s diagnostics, such as MRIs and CT scans, the Spine Research Institute can build a dynamic model of an individual to determine the best approach for treatment.

He points out that the College of Engineering and the University are the reasons that these types of breakthroughs can happen. “The environment here at Ohio State has been tremendous,” Marras says. “Dean Williams has opened up doors and opportunities for us to be successful and thrive.”

He acknowledges his team – Greg Knapik, Jon Dufour, Alex Aurand, Prasath Mageswaran, Sue Ferguson and Gary Allread – as being the “core of helping this come together.”

In their letter to Marras announcing his award, Ohio State President Michael Drake and Dr. Whitacre noted that Marras joins “an elite group of faculty at Ohio State … recognized for their accomplishments in all areas of research and creative endeavor.”

According to Janet Weisenberger, Senior Associate Vice President in the Office of Research, “very few scientists have such a broad and translational impact” as Marras has had. “Dr. Marras’ work is particularly impressive because he has made extraordinary contributions to both the basic science and the applications of biomechanics and spinal injury,” says Weisenberger, who oversees the Distinguished Scholar Award program and serves as chair of the selection committee. “Thus, his work not only gives us a better understanding of basic biomechanics theory and modeling, but also has helped in a practical way to reduce the incidence and severity of workplace injuries.”

Marras was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013 based on evaluations by peer scientists, and is a fellow of six other national and international distinguished organizations.

In addition to numerous papers he has written, committees he has served and awards he has won, Marras holds three patents on apparatuses for monitoring the motion components of the spine. He is a much sought-after consultant for corporations such as Ford Motor Company, RCA, Ross Laboratories, Steelcase, Honda of America, The Limited, Target, Sears, Safeway and Costco.

Marras has presented to NATO and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as regional, national and international organizations. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications and he has authored or co-authored eight books on ergonomics and contributed to dozens of others.

He is a member of nearly every professional society in his field, including the International Ergonomics Association, the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, the New York Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and served as the past president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society – the world’s largest organization in this space. Throughout his career, Marras has mentored and advised countless numbers of students and colleagues.

He earned his PhD in Bioengineering and Ergonomics and a master’s in Industrial Engineering from Wayne State University, and a bachelor’s in Systems Engineering – Human Factors Engineering from Wright State University, and holds an honorary doctorate from University of Waterloo. Marras also served in the Ohio Air National Guard where he earned the rank of Sergeant.

Marras and other Distinguished Scholars will be recognized at a May 2 reception at the Wexner Center for the Arts and during a football game in Ohio Stadium this fall.

ISE Welcomes Dr. Bita Analui on 3/9/17

Overcoming model uncertainty and inaccuracies in power system planning and operations

Seminar by Bita Analui, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar

School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering; Arizona State University

Thursday, March 9th from 5:30 – 6:30 pm

210E Baker Systems, 1971 Neil Avenue

Planning the operations of power system introduces a number of optimization problems that need to be solved in different time resolutions under various sources of uncertainty. Due to the inherent non-linearities and non-convexities, these problems are often very challenging to solve at large scales. Multistage stochastic optimization is the state of the art tool to address sequential decision-making under uncertainty. This talk focuses on addressing and overcoming inaccuracies that are tied to the practical application of this tool.

First, uncertainty is not only due to a probabilistic model but also data-driven, as there is an intrinsic ambiguity in the choice of a probability model that may result in misleading solutions. To address this problem, we first present a theoretical framework to address model uncertainty (ambiguity) in multistage stochastic optimization problems and the corresponding algorithms to compute the saddle point solution.  We present an application of this method to a multistage stochastic economic dispatch incorporating ramping constraint, in which reserve requirements can be represented as distributionally robust scenarios of generation schedules.  In the second part of this talk, we address the issue of selecting scenario trees and solving problems dynamically. We show how one can formulate dynamic multistage stochastic unit commitment in which scenarios are selected from a library of scenario trees that is also dynamically updated as new data are observed. Finally, a continuous-time formulation for multistage stochastic unit commitment is proposed to capture the continuous nature of net-load and optimally schedule continuous-time generation and ramping scenarios, further reducing the inaccuracy that is associated with solving a discrete problem rather that the true variational problem.

Bita Analui is a postdoctoral scholar in Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering School and Postdoc in Computing Best Practice Fellow at Arizona State University. Prior to joining ASU, Bita was a research assistant at Computational Optimization Doctoral College, University of Vienna in Austria, where she received her Ph.D. in Statistics and Operations Research and graduated cum laude in 2014. Her thesis contribution was on the theory and solution algorithms for multistage stochastic optimization problems under model uncertainty. Bita’s research interests include stochastic optimization, data analytics, statistical modelling, scenario generation and designing dynamic decision models under uncertainty for real world class of problems. Much of her recent works span all of these fields in order to provide a new perspective towards conventional problems.

IISE Students Attend Great Lakes Regional Conference

30 Ohio State IISE students attended the 2017 Great Lakes Regional Conference this past weekend at Ohio University. The theme was “Finding the IE in relief” and focused on how to create good by using IE and process improvement skills to benefit the world. The event included a variety of guest speakers, companies, workshops, networking sessions, and an industrial engineering-specific career fair. The students that attended gained skills applicable to all industries and learned more about the numerous career paths an industrial engineer can take after graduation.

OSU also competed in the conference’s simulation competition and brought home first place. The team was composed of Maria Pandolfi, Georgia Lindner, Gunnar Smyth, Brad Eckstein, and Daniel Chang. Ohio State IISE is looking forward to hosting the 2018 IISE Regional Conference next year.

ISE Welcomes Jitamitra Desai on 3/8/17

Data-driven models and algorithms in aviation operations research

Seminar by Jitamitra Desai, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering Cluster

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Nanyang Technological University

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 from 4:00-5:00 pm

144 Baker Systems, 1971 Neil Avenue

In this talk, we present a portfolio of models and algorithms that arise in aviation operations research. Beginning with an introduction to the various operational problems that occur within the Terminal Maneuvering Area (TMA) of an airport, this talk specifically focuses on flight sequencing and scheduling operations within the TMA. While runway sequencing and scheduling has been well studied in the literature, the problem of scheduling flights taking into account the TMA configuration and constraints is a relatively nascent area of research. This problem is proven to be NP-Hard, and detailed data analysis of the problem parameters and their impact on problem complexity is discussed. A 0-1 mixed-integer programming (MIP) formulation is derived, and several model enhancement strategies are presented. Recognizing the computational difficulty in directly employing this MIP model to solve realistic instances, a novel “data-driven splitting algorithm” is prescribed. Detailed algorithmic insights and analyses validate the rationale and strength of the proposed approach, including a combinatorial exposition of the reduction in the search space. Computational results reveal the efficiency of the proposed algorithm in solving large-scale realistic instances in real-time, while achieving the optimal solution in nearly all of the instances.

Dr. Jitamitra (Jita) Desai is currently a faculty member of Operations Research at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Dr. Desai’s research interests are in the areas of data-driven optimization and big-data analytics, with wide-ranging applications to engineering and management problems. He is currently the lead investigator on several research projects, having garnered over S$10M in research funding from various government and industry agencies in Singapore. He is currently supervising 5 PhD students and 3 postdoctoral scholars. Dr. Desai obtained his Ph.D. from the Industrial and Systems Engineering department at Virginia Tech, and his B.Tech degree is from the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras. Dr. Desai has authored several refereed journal articles and book chapters, and is actively involved in the OR community. He has taught several graduate and undergraduate-level courses in the OR and decision analysis areas, and was awarded the Nanyang Education Award (2014), a university-wide teaching excellence award.