NDSU Students Attend, Present at Tech Conference

Thirteen North Dakota State students presented papers at a prestigious professional conference, the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers’ Defense and Commercial Sensing Conference, over the last week.

The presenters from NDSU consisted of 10 undergraduates and three graduate students, each serving as the first authors of 13 of the 25 NDSU papers presented at the conference.

SPIE is an international society and nonprofit organization to advance emerging light-based technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, career development and advocacy.

Topics presented by NDSU students included wireless sensor networks and the development of satellite technologies.

First year electrical engineering student and Fargo’s Davies High School graduate, Alex Wiitamaki, is working to develop a technology for the autonomous repair of spacecraft for both space exploration and the military.

“Not many students get the opportunity to conduct their own research and present it at a conference, especially first year students,” Wiitamaki said, speaking of his experience at the conference.

While in California, Wiitamaki had the chance to speak to scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory about his work.

NDSU junior Brandon Rudisel is working to develop a software that will allow others to upload apps to a satellite to run, a technology similar to that used in cell phones.

Rudisel, who graduated from Fargo North High School, said his technology would protect satellites, as the apps sent to space would not be able to take control of or crash the satellite.

Jeremy Straub, an assistant computer science professor at NDSU who served as a mentor to NDSU student attendees, said working on research provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and gain skills and experience in key areas like project management and interdisciplinary collaboration.

“When these students are talking to prospective employers, they have a significant ‘leg up’ on those that only have test scores and small-scale class projects to discuss,” Straub said.

NDSU electrical engineering junior Evan Gjesvold recognized the advantage his experience at the conference would be to his future career.

“Attending the SPIE DCS was a big step for me as a student. It provided the impetus for me to learn about optics well before my peers have the chance, increasing my employability,” Gjesvold said.

Gjesvold received a scholarship to cover his travel expenses and conference fees, an indication of the conference’s interest in his level of work.

“The conference was a great opportunity to get the experience of presenting a formal academic paper, to learn by watching other people’s fascinating presentations and to network within the STEM community,” Gilbert Fiedler, a mechanical engineering senior, said.

The students have been working on their projects throughout the 2016-2017 academic year. They hope feedback from the conference will help them to continue to develop their respective technologies and will allow them to meet with the prospective users they are developing the technology for.

The conference was held in Anaheim, California. It is over 40 years old with attendees ranging from individuals of academic, government and commercial entities.

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