Category Archives: College of Engineering

TSU Alum Amos Otis Honored with 2015 Rosa Parks Courage Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University alumnus Amos Otis (’65) has been selected as a 2015 Rosa Parks Courage Award honoree. As part of the 60th anniversary observance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 382 days and set off the Civil Rights Movement, the Southern Youth Leadership Development Institute (SYLDI) and Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) honored Otis and other individuals during the “Evening to Remember” awards ceremony Dec. 4 in Montgomery, Alabama.

The event saluted those who have fought for civil rights in Alabama and across the nation and have made significant contributions to civil rights helping to raise the public’s awareness in the spirit of Rosa Parks, who once said, “Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” Parks’ refused to give up her seat on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955.

“I am immensely proud to have been one of five people to receive the Legends Award during the gala,” Otis said. “This award acknowledged my inspirations gained from my community, and especially Mrs. Rosa Parks, through her defiance of the dehumanizing Jim Crow laws. My quest has been to equal their sacrifices and teachings by becoming a successful businessman and entrepreneur, then sharing my success with the institutions of my hometown, Montgomery, Alabama.”

Otis grew up in Montgomery in the same neighborhood as Rosa Parks, who often talked with him and other young children about “the achievements of their people – Negroes,” Otis said.

Along with Otis, other recipients included Southern Poverty Law Center Founder and CEO Morris Dees; U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan); civil and human rights activist Juanita Abernathy; and the Rev. and Mrs. Samuel Rodriguez, among others.

Emcees for the evening were TSU alumni Xernona Clayton (’52) and Dr. Bobby Jones (’59). Clayton was the first black woman to have a prime time talk show with “The Xernona Clayton Show” in 1967 while Jones, a Grammy winner, has hosted the longest-running cable television program, “Bobby Jones Gospel,” on BET.

“Why do I think that we need to celebrate the Montgomery Bus Boycott, because I think we truly changed world history,” Doris Dozier Crenshaw, civil right pioneer and founder of the SYLDI told the Montgomery Advertiser. “Rosa Parks was an advocate of education and community service. We work to bring together people who are doing things special in the community.”

Otis founded SoBran, Incorporated in 1987 after a distinguished 21-year career as an Air Force Officer. He led SoBran from a lean start-up in the basement of his Fairfax County, Virginia home to a $61 million company with diverse bioscience, engineering, logistics, and risk management expertise. Under his leadership, SoBran has reached Inc. magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing private companies and Black Enterprise magazine’s list of the top 100 industrial/service companies. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University, an MBA from The California State University System, and a Master of Military Art and Science from Air University.

“As a successful businessman and graduate of TSU, Amos epitomizes the essence of a Tennessee State University Tiger,” said Cassandra Griggs, director of the TSU Office of Alumni Relations. “For more than 20 years, he has devoted his time through participation in roundtable discussions with students, his professional expertise as a Foundation Board member and his generosity through contributions to an endowment for student scholarships. We congratulate Amos on receiving the 2015 Rosa Parks Courage Award. He is most deserving.”

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at

With Engineering Clinic, TSU Students May Soon Design and Build Computer Games, Small Machines

A new “engineering clinic” will allow students to design and build products related to their discipline. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Engineering and computer science students at Tennessee State University may soon be able to design and build products such     as hand-held computer   games, mobile robots, computer apps and small machines, thanks to a new funding from the National Science Foundation.

A $1.7 million, four-year grant intended to revamp the curriculum and increase the graduation rate of African-American males in engineering, will also include the creation of an “engineering clinic,” which will allow students to design and build products related to their discipline.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove

“We are developing an innovative way of learning that would enhance students’ persistence and better prepare them for the rigors of the engineering coursework,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering and principal investigator of the NSF funding.

According to Hargrove there is a demand to produce a more diverse workforce by developing curriculums that reflect theoretical and practical knowledge and allow graduates to immediately make a contribution to industry. But incoming freshmen are less prepared for the rigors of the engineering curriculum in such areas as math. Only 5.5 percent of black eighth-graders completed calculus five years later, and a mere 1.1 percent of the nation’s black college freshmen enrolled in engineering programs in 2010, an analysis by the National Association of Black Engineers shows.

With the new funding, Tennessee State University, the largest producer of African American engineers in the state, is responding to this workforce demand, Hargrove said.

Dr. Sachin Shetty
Dr. Sachin Shetty

“We have developed a pre-engineering sequence of courses for freshmen that students must take before embarking on the traditional four-year curriculum,” he said. “These courses are infused with hands-on design projects to motivate and inform students about the discipline, and promote team dynamics and engineering fundamentals.”

Freshman Mechanical Engineering major Isaiah Pirtle, a beneficiary of the pre-engineering program, has seen great progress in his performance.

“I was fortunate to participate in the ‘Engineering Concepts Institute,’ a summer pre-college program,” Pirtle said. “That experience gave me an excellent academic background for the mathematics required in my major.”

According to Hargrove, with that preparation, Pirtle and his fellow classmates’ program for the next five years will focus on more design-related projects with the development of the engineering clinic.

Dr. Sachin Shetty, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Co-PI of the NFS fund, will manage the project and the development of the clinic. The project will also support a retention study on the attrition of African-American students, with particular emphasis on black males. Faculty from the Department of Sociology Department and College of Education will coordinate the study.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at

Educators Must Do More to Help Students, TSU President Glenda Glover Says

3-Day Honors Conference Highlights Academic Achievement; Exposes Students to Career Opportunities

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TSU President Glenda Glover receives a gift from Dr. Coreen Jackson, President of NAAAHP, following the TSU president’s keynote address at the conference. Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover has challenged educators to do more to help students who are lagging behind. At a gathering of more than 400 students during the annual National Association of African American Honors Programs conference, Glover questioned why some students do well, yet many more are failing or dropping out.

“It is time to look at the service we provide,” she said. “Our institutions of learning are full of Ph.Ds., but still many of our students are lagging in achievement. We have issues that need answers and it is going to require our very best effort if we want our children to succeed.”

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More than 400 students from 70 HBCUs attended the three-day NAAAHP conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The three-day NAAAHP conference, hosted by TSU and Fisk University at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, brought together students and representatives from 70 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Under the theme, “The Audacity of Vision: Dare to Dream,” the conference features a debate, quiz bowl, model U.N., and scholarly research presentations, as well as a career and recruitment fair with representatives from medical schools, the pharmaceutical and food industries, and manufacturing companies, among others. Representatives from institutions such as Harvard University and Stanford were also at the conference seeking potential recruits for their graduate programs.

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Kroger, a Premier Platinum Sponsor, invested more than $30,000 as one of the major corporate sponsors of the conference. (Submitted Photo)

Glover called on the honor students to help bring along their fellow students who are struggling. “As our best and brightest, you too have a responsibility to encourage your fellow students. You represent excellence. You have set for yourselves a path to success, and I encourage you to continue to run until you have reached your God-given destiny,” Glover said.

Addressing the question of why many students are failing while others succeed, one educator at the conference said the problem was the lack of drive.

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Dr. Lesia Crumpton Young, TSU Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, a keynote speaker at the conference, receives a gift from NAAAHP Board members. From left are Dr. Ray Davis, of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, of TSU; Amani Perkins, of Hampton University; Dr. Coreen Jackson, NAAAHP President; and Angela Divine, of Miles College. (Submitted Photo)

“If lagging is in relation to academic performance, what I have seen is not a decrease in intelligence but a gradual decrease in drive,” said Dr. Sabin P. Duncan, director of the Freddye T. Davy Honors College at Hampton University, who accompanied 29 students to the conference. “Perhaps it could be generational or perhaps socio-economic, but the students I see as lagging often lack drive.”

TSU honor student Mikayla Jones said many students have what she called “this grandiose dream” of making it big in life, but they forget that to reach their goals it requires hard work.

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A recruiter from Harvard University talks to students about graduate school opportunities, at the conference. (Submitted Photo)

“Many students don’t understand that they are the biggest barrier to their own success,” said Jones, a junior Health Care Administration and Planning major with a 3.9 GPA. “What you put in is what you get out, and if you really want it, then you must be ready to work hard.”

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering at TSU, co-moderated a faculty panel on “Navigating Academia for Women and Minority Faculty in STEM.” He said students are motivated by opportunities and goals.

“There is a greater chance of success when students know of opportunities complemented by an environment that nurtures and promotes students success,” said Hargrove, who has co-authored a book on the topic.

Conference facilitators and presenters included NAAAHP Board members Ansel Brown, of North Carolina Central University, and Angeline Divine, of Miles College; and TSU’s Honors College Program Coordinator Susan West, and Associate Director, Dr. Douglas McGahey. (Submitted Photo)

The conference also included faculty presentations on such topics as “Innovative Math and Science Courses in Interdisciplinary Honors Core,” and “The Pedagogy of Diversity in the Entertainment Industry: Teaching the Business of Jazz.” Among other TSU presenters were Dr. Lesia Crumpton Young, Dr. Martens Stanberry and Dr. S. Guha.

The NAAAHP conference also attracted major corporate sponsors such as Kroger, as a Premier Platinum Sponsor, which invested more that $30,000, as well as The Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation, ARCADIS Design and Consulting, and PSAV.

“The success of this conference has been beyond my wildest expectations,” said Dr. Coreen Jackson, president of NAAAHP and Interim Dean of the Honors College at TSU. “Having it at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center has been a wonderful experience. Our staff and administrators, including Dr. (Douglas) McGahey, the students and organizers from TSU, Fisk and all of our other institutions helped to make this all possible.”

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at

TSU Computer Science Program Filling Critical Need for IT Professionals with Advanced Training

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – High-performance computing and bioinformatics, and cyber security and networking are two of the fastest growing areas in the information technology industry, but few universities are offering advanced degrees with these unique concentrations to meet the demand of students and professionals seeking career advancement or employment. But Tennessee State University has joined a handful of institutions that have answered the call.

Last fall, the University began offering a Master of Science in Computer Science degree with a focus on providing training that is on the cutting-edge. TSU is the only public higher education institution in Nashville offering the M.S. degree in Computer Science.

According to Dr. Ali Sekmen, chair and professor of the Department of Computer Science, the new degree program is also suitable for students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in Computer Science or related fields. He added that courses are scheduled in the evenings to accommodate working IT professionals.

shutterstock_59508448Sekmen said students could complete either the high-performance computing and bioinformatics, or cyber security and networking concentrations by pursuing a non-thesis option that requires 33 hours of coursework, or the thesis option that requires completion of 27 hours of coursework and a thesis. The thesis option is strongly recommended for students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree, he said.

“The demand for high performance computing (HPC) in industry and research has significantly increased in recent years,” Sekmen said. “HPC has become a dominant paradigm due to the rapid developments in computer architecture such as multi-core, multi-processer, graphic process units.”

Additionally, Sekmen said the global bioinformatics market has been growing in “double digits” with increased demands in medicine, healthcare, and life sciences.

“HPC and bioinformatics are driving the medical industry’s search for novel systems that will result in innovative therapies. As a result, it is highly important that TSU, as with many other universities, begin to provide opportunities for students to pursue this area of expertise,” Sekmen said.

Although enrollment in the TSU program has doubled initial projections since it started a year ago, it is still a small part of the huge demand. According to the 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the computer science job-opening forecast for 2010 through 2020 is 2.4 times larger than the number of computer science graduates. There will be about one million more jobs than students by 2020.

Between 2010 and 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security increased its cyber-security workforce by 500 percent, but the agency’s demand for more expertise in these critical areas remains very high, with a grim outlook. The U.S. is not producing enough people with the right skills set to make progress in the search for more cyber-security trained experts. When it comes to compensation, Sekmen said Computer Science is among the highest-paid fields in science, technology, and engineering, and the U.S. Department of Labor projects that it will continue to be one of the fastest growing occupations for the near future.

“Employers seek professionals with strong skills in programming and software systems, and development, areas that are strongly emphasized in our Master of Computer Science degree program,” Sekmen added.

For more information on the M.S. in Computer Science program contact Dr. Tamara Rogers at or (615) 963-1520.

Touring Ruins of Monuments in Ancient Cities of the Roman Empire Gives TSU Students Summer Vacation to Remember

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Spending your summer vacation touring ruins of monuments of Greek gods and goddesses in the ancient city of Ephesus, part of the eastern Roman Empire, can be quite an experience. For senior Music major Requel Stegall, it was “beyond life changing.”

“I had one of the best educational experiences of my college career, said Stegall,” one of 18 students from TSU and three other TBR institutions, who visited Turkey on a three-week study-abroad program this summer. “Learning about a culture I was unfamiliar with really broadened my outlook on life and allowed me to discover myself even more.”

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Brianne Rucker, right (front), a TSU senior Music major, shares an earphone with a Turkish student during one of the students’ daily bus rides to or from class. (Submitted Photo)

Stegall and her fellow students, representing majors in Computer Science, Music, Human Performance and Sports Sciences (HPSS), History, and English, visited five cities and collaborated with students from three Turkish universities. The study-abroad program is organized through the Tennessee Consortium for International Study, and is the third to Turkey.

According to Dr. Robert Elliott, one of two TSU faculty members on the trip, this year’s visit engaged the students in academics, excursions and cultural exchanges with their Turkish counterparts. He and his TSU colleague, Dr. Ali Sekmen, professor and chair of Computer Science, taught combined classes with TSU and Turkish students as part of the academic experience.

“Teaching music, literature, and humanities in-country provided authentic learning experiences for students as they examined cultural differences and similarities,” said Elliott, professor and chair of the Department of Music.  “Along the way, students interacted with Turkish peers and learned that people of the world are not as different from one another as they had initially thought.”

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Two TSU students, Darrell Butler, left, an Architectural Engineering major; and Tim Darrah, majoring in Computer Science, study in their hotel room in Ankara, as they prepare for classwork the next day. (Submitted Photo)

Like Stegall, Sarah Needleman, an HPSS major, said the classroom settings and pairing with “our Turkish buddies” helped them to better understand the culture and traditions of the people and places they visited. “This study-abroad to Turkey was the best thing I have been a part of at TSU,” Needleman said. “I left Turkey not only with new subject knowledge in the music class I took, but also with lifelong friends – some in Nashville and some across the globe.”

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2015 study-abroad participants and their professors from TSU and three other TBR institutions join their Turkish peers for one last group celebration before heading back to the United States. (Submitted Photo)

Other TBR institutions with students in this year’s TnCIS study-abroad program to Turkey were Pellissippi State Community College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Motlow State Community College and Jackson State Community College.

According to Sekmen, Turkish institutions that participated this year were Yasar University, Atilim University and Yildiz Technical University. Other cities visited include Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

“It was delightful to see how our students and their Turkish peers could develop life-long friendships in such a short visit,” Sekmen said. “With a right blend of academics, excursions and cultural exchange, the program provided a unique life-time experience for students from TSU and the other TBR institutions.”

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 45 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at

Engineering Professors Attract Funding for Scholarships and Research

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – For the past four years, two professors from Tennessee State University have been relentless in writing grant proposals to initiate and generate funding to begin research projects.  Between the two, they have generated more than $7 million to support research, scholarships, and the engineering curriculum to enhance the academic profile of the College of Engineering.

Dean of the College, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, points out that the amount of funding the College has secured is remarkable given the competition for grant dollars.

“This is rather impressive since the competition typically results in about a 10-15 percent success rate,” said Dr. Hargrove, who along with Dr. Sachin Shetty, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, have secured grants from the National Science Foundation, Boeing and the U.S. Navy among others. “Because of the competition, re-submissions are very common in this highly competitive field of science and engineering solicitations.”

According to Dr. Hargrove, the opportunity to attract external funds through research helps develop students with their involvement, enhance the quality of the academic program, and integrates new knowledge in the classroom and laboratory.

“Our goal is to provide the best academic experience for our students, and research continues to broaden a student's competence and knowledge with a depth of expertise in a discipline of engineering,” stated Hargrove. “This makes our students more marketable and qualified for the many career pathways they may take.”

Among the many grants secured by Dr. Shetty, he has attracted external funding to support his research in cyber security and advanced visualization. He has collaborated with a multi-disciplinary faculty team within and outside of the University to receive more than $3.5 million from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Boeing, and Amazon. He is currently working on multiple NSF funded research and educational projects along with Dr. Tamara Rogers, associate professor of computer science, worth $500,000 in cloud auditing.

With the popularity and growth of smartphones in the last decade for on-the-go financial, business and social transactions, Shetty has also sought out funding for identifying, understanding and mitigating new security risks to these “open softphones” critical to ensuring their continued viability and success in the mobile communications marketplace.

The Air Force has provided more than $700,000 in grants and contracts to support Shetty’s collaborative research with Dr. Mohan Malkani, associate dean and professor, along with Pennsylvania State University in the area of cloud and smartphone security. The Department of Homeland Security has also provided two grants worth $800,000 to support his research with Dr. Deo Chimba, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering, in cloud security and incidence management.

His partnership with Dr. Hargrove and Rowan University to develop visualization software for engineering education has resulted in multiple National Science Foundation grants of more than $750,000.

Shetty has received several awards for his efforts, including recognition from the Annual TSU Research Symposium, a Department of Homeland Security Leadership Award, and Teacher of the Year from the College of Engineering.  He also serves as the Director of the Cyber-Defense and Security Visualization Laboratory in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Dr. Hargrove, who not only serves as dean of the College but also as a professor of mechanical engineering, focuses his research on advanced manufacturing techniques, virtual and augmented reality, and energy storage devices.

He recently initiated research in advanced battery technologies, combining the multidisciplinary talents of professors in chemistry, physics and engineering.  Drs. L. Ouyang, Landon Onyebueke, Mohan Malkani, Richard Mu of Fisk University, and Hargrove recently traveled to a naval research facility to develop a partnership in batteries, and are currently developing a state-of-the art laboratory for battery testing and evaluation.  These efforts are part of the newly formed TIGER (TSU Interdisciplinary Graduate Engineering Research) Institute, a self-sustaining research unit obtained from a  $1.2 million award from the National Science Foundation.

The TIGER Institute will conduct applied research in cyber-defense, bioinformatics, advanced visualization, nano-materials, and energy systems. The U.S. Navy and Air Force, Boeing and the National Science Foundation sponsor current funding of the institute.

Dean Hargrove recently collaborated with Fisk University to receive a $1 million award to support the professional development of teachers.  Fisk University will offer several workshops to enhance the quality of teaching for Metro Nashville Public Schools. For his efforts and engagement with K-12 schools, Hargrove received the 2013 TSU Community Service Staff/Administrator Award.

The most recent award from the collaboration of Drs. Hargrove and Shetty is a $600,000 award for scholarships, and $400,000 for research in energy systems (batteries), both funded by the National Science Foundation.

“We believe our role as a College and academic unit is to contribute to the affordability challenge of our students by attracting external funds through research or scholarships,” said Hargrove. “Our goal is to enrich the student’s experience and provide the opportunity for learning.”

TSU Engineering Students Help “Bridge” Real-World Problem for U.S. Military

NASHVILLE (TSU NEWS SERVICE) – Tennessee State University engineering and computer science students are taking on some major challenges that could be helpful to the nation’s military forces.

Recently, they put their engineering calculations and theories to test to solve a real-world problem facing the U.S. Air Force.

The students, all six from the College of Engineering, joined other students from across the United States to participate in the annual University Design Challenge sponsored by the US Air Force Research Lab at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.

In this year’s competition, students were challenged to build a portable bridge that could be used by a soldier or airman in a variety of situations.

Specifically, the students were asked to design a device that would allow military Special Operations personnel to cross over up to 20-foot-wide gaps with maximum weight of 350 pounds, typically the weight of a Special Ops member with all his gear. Additionally, the device should be convenient to transport, and should be versatile for use to scale buildings.

In a combined team effort, the TSU students and six others from Prairie View A&M University, joined forces to represent the Minority Leadership Program sponsored by Houston-based Clarkson Aerospace Corporation.

The TSU-PVAM group designed and entered two solutions in the competition. The first was able to complete the competition at the 16-foot range, and the second could be used to cross over an 18-foot-wide gap.

A Shalimar, Fla., local newspaper quoted TSU Electrical and Computer Engineering major Alvin Hughes as saying that while meeting the required parameter was quite a feat, the practical applications were another matter.

“The first semester was basically concepts,” said Hughes as he and other students quickly discovered that as opposed to the classroom, calculations on a computer do not always work in the real world.

Overall, the two solutions presented by the TSU/PVAM team received positive nods from the judges.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineering, gave the TSU students high commendation for their participation in the Design Challenge, pointing to the “strong partnership” between the AFRL and his college.

“The College of Engineering has maintained a strong partnership with the Air Force Research Lab for more than two decades,” he said.  “This relationship extends beyond research in sensor networking and surveillance, but also applied projects for student learning.”

He called design competitions “an excellent method” for students to put engineering concepts to practice, while enjoying the camaraderie they obtain by working with other students and other institutions.

Other TSU students whop took part in the Design Competition were: Jasmine Knox and Kamisha White, Mechanical Engineering; Grantland Gray, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and January Wisniewski and James Calhoun, Computer Science.

Some of the other 16 institutions that participated in the Design Challenge were Ohio State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

$334,000 Research Grant Seeks Technology on Identifying Hidden Enemy Intent in Military Warfare

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – A major problem U.S. military counter-insurgency operations face is the ability to easily identify hostile enemy group intent and hidden dangers in obstructed environments.

Such group activities are generally embedded in clutters in urban locations, involving well-trained individuals who blend in with the general population to carry out their mission. The results usually are surprise attacks and high civilian casualties.

A Tennessee State University mechanical engineering professor thinks he has the answer.  As a result of a proposal to the U.S. Army Research Office, he has won a $334,000 defense grant to investigate the possibility of developing an advanced technology that improves the capability of automated surveillance systems.

Dr. Amir Shirkhodaie, professor in the College of Engineering and director of the Center of Excellence for Battlefield Sensor Fusion, said his research will develop a new capability for behavioral pattern learning of partially obscure group activities that take place in confined, obstructed spaces.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a robust information-theoretic framework with supportive techniques that can detect obscure group activities in areas such as inside a vehicle, boat, airplanes or corner alleys of urban areas,” said Dr. Shirkhodaie.

He said this could greatly reduce the false alarm rates in surveillance operations that frequently occur as a result of miscalculation of enemy intent, and help shift the “balance of power” in peacekeeping operations.

“If we can deliver this kind of technology to the battlefield, this is a game-changer,” said Maj. Jay Deason, an aviator with the Tennessee Army National Guard, who has served two tours in Iraq, flying Black Hawk Helicopters.

He said while this technology would have limited application for air reconnaissance operations, it would be greatly useful to ground forces and civil affairs specialists, who identify critical requirements needed by local citizens in combat or crisis situations.

Civilians would also greatly benefit from this technology in homeland security, crowd control, and anti-drug and anti-crime operations, Dr. Shirkhodaie said.

Maj. Deason, who has also served one tour along the southwest U.S. border flying UH-72 helicopters, said this technology will greatly help the civilian population and in border patrol operations.

“This is very exciting. This technology has the capability to save lives,” Deason added.

The main objective of Dr. Shirkhodaie’s proposal, “Detection of Partially Observable Group Activities (POGA) in Confined Obstructed Spaces,” is to develop context-based taxonomy and ontology schema for coherent analysis and inferences of POGA.

The investigation will take place in three phases, including the development of a robust Adaptive Image Processing technique for detecting and tracking of behavior pattern of POGA; a Computational Intelligence technique based on a hybrid neuro-fuzzy system architecture; and a Multi-Layer Hidden Markov Model technique for probabilistic spatiotemporal state transition modeling that leads to context-aware discovery on anomalous group activity.

In student learning, Dr. Shirkhodaie said the project would greatly enhance research opportunities for TSU students in this area, as well as offer scholarly training opportunities for underrepresented minority students in the STEM disciplines.

The Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove who also announced three new research projects with Boeing for more than $500,000, congratulated Dr. Shirkhodaie on his award, adding that the grants represent the dedication and commitment of faculty to research and attracting students to the College of Engineering.

“The opportunity for academia and industry to collaborate to solve industry problems makes the company more competitive, and enhances the quality of our engineering programs for students and faculty,” said Dr. Hargrove.

The three Boeing projects include using artificial intelligence for the development of aircraft propulsion controls; the development of resilient control mechanisms to mitigate cyber attack in engineering embedded systems; and the development of mathematical models for energy harvesting and storage.

The faculty members involved in these projects are Drs. Sachin Shetty, Mohammed Saleh Zein-Sabatto, both professors of Eleectrical Engineering; and Dr. Landon Onyebueke, professor of Mechanical Engineering.

TSU Students Make Connection Between Educational Disciplines and Community Service

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Loréal Spear did not choose Environmental Engineering as a major at Tennessee State University by accident.

“I just love preserving the natural esthetics of the environment,” said the graduate student from Nashville.

Building on the “Think, Work, Serve” mantra, Spear said her interest also allows her to serve as a way of giving back to the community and helping to improve the environment in and around her hometown.

“I have actively participated in TSU’s Service Day and Hands On Nashville service events throughout my undergraduate and graduate career,” she said.

So, it came as no surprise on Saturday, March 23, when Spear joined nearly 200 TSU students, faculty and staff in a day of service as they worked to restore the natural habitats of the community.

The event was part of the Go Green North Nashville program and Hands On Nashville, where volunteers spread out into the surrounding community areas and took part in “Diggin’ It,” a day devoted to planting and rejuvenation.

Dr. Linda Guthrie, acting director of the Center for Service Learning, said the annual spring volunteer day is important not only for TSU, but also to the community that surrounds the University.

“Our community is close-kit and caring,” said Guthrie in an earlier statement. “We try to teach our students to look unselfishly beyond themselves, and to reach out to others and the world. The North Nashville area has supported the University from the beginning. We want to build lasting connections with our neighbors, and aid in the restoration of the natural habitats that surround our community.”

Projects included the TSU Riparian Reforestation, where volunteers replanted native trees along the flood-damaged banks of the Stones River; and Building TSU Rain Gardens, where volunteers dug and planted rain gardens to slow rainwater runoff into the soil.

Spear and fellow graduate student Jamal Henderson, a Civil Engineering major from Bridgeport, W.Va., joined others in TSU Energy Savings Tree Plantings, where volunteers strategically planted tress around the North Nashville community to provide shade and help cut energy costs.
“Giving my background in Architectural and Civil Engineering, these tree planting projects are very relatable as far as helping to improve the beauty and esthetics of the land,” said Henderson. “They improve energy usage and the environment.”

Another project was TSU Tree Potting, where volunteers planted tree seedlings into pots to be stored until the next fall planting season.

Service learning and community service is nothing new to the students, faculty and staff at the University. According to the Center for Service Learning, TSU offered 93 service-learning courses last year, while more than 2,000 students performed 20,000 community service hours at an estimated value of $400,000.

Just recently, TSU was named for the fifth year in a row to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

TSU Graduates Receive Top Recognitions at 2013 Black Engineer of the Year Awards

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduates continue to make great inroads in industry and career achievements.

At the recently ended 27th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Global Competitiveness conference (Feb. 7-9) in Washington, D.C., four TSU graduates were recognized in several key categories of the prestigious awards.

The awards recognize the achievements of African Americans in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It also encourages young black Americans to pursue careers in STEM fields.

This year’s award ceremony was hosted by the Council of Engineering Deans at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lockheed Martin Corporation, US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, and Aerotek.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineer, who was at the conference, is a member of the Council of HBCU Engineering Deans.

The conference, which is attended by hundreds of “elite” professionals and students representing the top tier of people in STEM, allows participants the opportunity to acquire and retain talent, and to learn and network among the best and brightest technology minds in the country.

The TSU graduates and recipients of 2013 Black Engineer of the Year Awards include:

Modern Day Technology Leader award: Lamar Blackwell – a 1996 TSU graduate with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering – As systems engineer staff, Blackwell is the Flight Controls Airworthiness Certification Lead at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He also holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Sheldon Rashad Greene – 2006 M.S. Electrical Engineering. Recognized for his “proven” ability to stand out as a technical contributor in the defense system and industry, Green is Senior Systems Engineer at Raytheon. He develops software architecture and requirement specifications at the giant defense contractor. He is also part of the engineering program at Northeastern University in Boston, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Engineering Management and Leadership. Green recieved his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida A&M University.

Tretessa Johnson – 1995 B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Johnson is Senior Staff Reliability Engineer at General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz. She also holds an MBA degree from Arizona State University.

Community Service award: Rhonda Thomas – 1980 B.S. Electrical Engineering. Thomas is a General Engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C.

“On behalf of the College of Engineering, we want to congratulate these alumni for representing a high level of technical competence complemented by leadership skills in the workplace, said Dr. Hargrove. “Our educational challenge is to continue to produce quality graduates through innovative instruction and experiential learning that acknowledges an employment investment of our major industry and government recruiters.”

This is not the first time TSU graduates have been recognized at the BEYA awards. Previous two-time BEYA award recipient Terrence Southern – 2003 B.S. Computer Science – was recognized in the Modern Day Leader category in 2007, and at the 2012 conference he took the award for Most Promising Engineer.

In talking with the award winners, one thing is common. They all credit their TSU preparation for their academic and career successes.

“TSU provided me with the foundation that has allowed me to thrive academically and professionally,” said Thomas, adding that her involvement with the alumni association has taught her the importance of giving back especially to the youth.

For Southern, the two-time BEYA award winner is particularly thankful for the mentoring and leadership skills he developed at TSU as a resident assistant and founder of a professional organization.

“I find that to be successful in academia or in the work place, one must learn to prioritize, complete tasks, and learn to efficiently use time,” he said. “My TSU family prepared me for great challenges after college, which have helped me along the way.”