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LTU Quadrangle
March 27, 2020

A week in, LTU proves nimble in shift to online-only classes

Lawrence Technological University’s buildings may be closed, but the education of thousands of students is humming along online.

In a week, LTU’s eLearning Services office and faculty moved nearly 700 courses to an online format. Approximately 350 faculty members made the move.

How was this done? “With very little sleep,” said Lynn Miller-Wietecha, LTU’s director of eLearning Services, with a laugh. But seriously: “The biggest thing is that our faculty didn’t miss a beat. Even those who were not big fans of teaching online have stepped up.”

Miller-Wietecha, who has directed LTU’s online learning programs since 2011, said LTU’s laptop program, which gives every undergraduate student a top-of-the-line laptop computer and all software required for their courses, also played a key role.

LTU announced during its spring break week March 9-13 that it would extend that break a week, and move to online education March 23. Online classes will continue through the end of the semester May 15, and LTU’s scheduled May 9 Commencement was postponed to December.

“The faculty have done an amazing job,” Miller-Wietecha said. “We already had a fairly good percentage who were comfortable with online teaching techniques and tools. But the rest of them have been tremendous in working with us in learning those techniques and have become comfortable with the tools. Most of our classes are going on in Zoom as regularly scheduled, and faculty members are recording their lectures for students ot watch later.” Assignments and exams have also moved online.

But what about laboratory classes, so important to a technological school like LTU? Students can’t run a chemistry experiment from home. During that extended spring break, Miller-Wietecha said,: “Our Media Services and Media Production departments dropped everything they were doing, met with faculty in the labs, and video recorded faculty performing labs.” Examples: Associate Professor Yawen Li, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering building tiny machinery for biological analysis in a class on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), or a first-year chemistry experiment.

"You want students to learn how to do the procedure in the lab, and second, learn how to analyze the results,” Miller-Wietecha said. “We’re trying to come as close to executing those elements as we can.”

As for architecture, Miller-Wietecha said, “we’ve been running architecture programs online for years. Our entire Master of Architecture program is online.” The only thing that’s changed is, now the undergraduates are too.

As for those with connectivity programs, she said, the university has been working with internet service providers to work out extending service and providing hotspots for all students and faculty.

Overall, she said, “Faculty who have not used LTU technology tools have been thrown into it with very little time to become comfortable with it, and the faculty has risen to the challenge. The laptop program really helped, but we also had many faculty who were already comfortable with teaching online to serve as guides for their colleagues who may have been less ready.”

One of those is Andrew Gerhart, professor in LTU’s A. Leon Linton Department of Mechanical, Robotic, and Industrial Engineering. Gerhart described himself as “a digital resister… I just got a smartphone a year ago.”

But once the decision to move online was made, during LTU’s extended spring break, Gerhart contacted his students about using the Zoom videoconferencing app for classes, and practiced with LTU physics professor Scott Schneider on the technologies. “With the capabilities of Canvas (LTU’s online learning software) and the capabilities of Zoom built into Canvas, and knowing everybody already had the same computer, it was amazing how quick and easy it was,” he said.

Gerhart is teaching two courses online this semester, a standard junior-level fluid mechanics course that’s all lectures, and a final-semester senior science lab. “The lecture course took some thought, but doing the class periods live in Zoom, and being able to share my screen and use Power Point slides and white boards, no problem,” Gerhart said.

He was worried the lab would be harder, but he set up a camera and did the experiment while students watched remotely—metal plates monitored for temperature that are heated and cooled, and students collect the data and measure rates of heat transfer.

“I ran the experiment while they were watching on Zoom and posted the data on Canvas,” Gerhart said. “When I asked them afterward, the students actually said in certain ways it was better (than being in the lab). Instead of multiple people standing around, they had a direct view from my camera, so they could all see, and their view was really good.” Students in the class are also broken up into teams of four, who got their own private Zoom breakout rooms for discussion.

Overall, Gerhart said, “It’s not exactly the same, but it was surprisingly seamless. It’s really kind of been a fun adventure if you approach it with the right mindset.”

Bahman Mirshab, dean of the LTU College of Business and Information Technology, said for business classes, “the move online has been virtually seamless. There were only a few of our faculty who had no experience teaching online, and the instructions we received from eLearning allowed them to move flawlessly. One good thing to come out of all this is that now all the faculty knows they can use this technology to enhance their classes.”

Karl Daubmann, dean of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design, said that “the LTU laptop program is a huge part of our success. I’m talking to colleagues at other institutions where students don’t have computers or don’t have software and they’ve had major challenges. With us, we have a group of students, and we say, go to this area on the screen, and click this button, and we’re all talking about the same thing., It makes it so much easier.”

Daubmann noted that architects and engineers have long been accustomed to remote work and collaboration. As far back as 2010, when he worked for BluHomes, a prefabricated housing company, “I led a design team that was 1/3 in Boston, 1/3 in Michigan, and 1/3 in California.”

And, Daubmann said, LTU faculty has been using Zoom to keep in touch personally as well as professionally. “A group of faculty had a cocktail over Zoom last Thursday. We’ve never done that in person before… We’re doing a faculty search right now using these tools.” What faculty members are discovering, he said, is that “if you’re a good teacher, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a classroom or online.”

Philip Plowright, a professor of architecture who teaches classes ranging from freshman-year design to advanced graduate courses, also said “the laptop program helps so much—everybody’s got the proper hardware and tools…I took 100 first year students online Monday, with six faculty, and there wasn’t a single glitch.”

LTU’s Master of Architecture program has been online since 2010, and Plowright said “it’s part of our accreditation that we have to prove that the online and in-person experiences are exactly the same. We told the students that there will be zero change to the expectations of the class, whether you’re in a classroom or online. All we did was change modalities. You’re still in class, you have to be fully present, you can still raise your hand and ask questions.”

In some ways, Plowright said, online classes are superior. “There are advantages in flexibility and documentation. In our graduate program, every single session with every single student and every single class is recorded and made available to the student, so they can go back and watch a class from three weeks ago or five weeks ago and make sure they’re on track. At no point is it inferior to being in a physical space.”

Plus, he said, with students required to turn their laptop cameras on, “there’s more accountability. You can’t have a student sleepin’ in the back. In a classroom you might miss that. You won’t online.”

Physics professor Schneider said he had already been doing some class work online, with physics and astronomy presentations students could watch at their convenience, followed by meetings to discuss the lectures. Now, he said, those discussions are on Zoom. The only drawback? “It doesn’t have the immediacy,” Schneider said. But overall, he said: “I think it’s going well. I think we as a school are relatively agile. We did need that second week of spring break to get everyone up to speed.”

Still, Schneider said: “I’ll be very happy to go back to students in the classroom.”  

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March 19, 2020

LTU Alum becomes AIA Grand Rapids board president for 2020

Matthew Christie, Ghafari Associates Project Architect, was appointed president of AIA Grand Rapids. Christie has 13 years of experience with a diverse array of domestic and international projects across the aviation, commercial, education, single-family residential, institutional and industrial sectors.
Christie says “Our mission is to provide value to membership through continuing education, outreach and engagement within the community, peer to peer connection, and support for our emerging professionals, among other initiatives. This upcoming year is exciting as we strive to further expand AIAGR’s effectiveness and reach.”
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March 3, 2020

LTU Alum receives AIA 2020 Associates award

Tiffany Brown, BS Arch 2004 + M Arch 2007 + MBA 2015, has received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020 Associates Award. This honor recognizes outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.
A project manager and construction administrator at SmithGroup’s Detroit office, Brown has dedicated her career to raising awareness for the social impact that planning and design have on urban communities. As a nationally recognized speaker and panelist, she is widely credited for her action-oriented approach to breaking down barriers and creating access to architecture education for traditionally underserved populations.
An active force within the design community, Brown serves as a member of AIA’s national K-12 Advisory Board, is a founding member of the Detroit Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), and helps to advance NOMA initiatives at the national level.
LTU Quadrangle
February 20, 2020

LTU Ranked 3rd on Grad Reports 2020 Best Architecture Schools

LTU appeared on Grad report's top schools for 2020, the schools on the list offer the top Bachelor's Degrees in Architecture, based on median salary one year out of college. The median salary for LTU Architects is $53,400. Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. 
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November 5, 2019

The Guardian features LTU student work in an article about South African architect Kevin Kimwelle

Kevin Kimwelle is a renowned architect that is most well-known for his buildings completely made from recycled materials, including the Slindokuhle crèche made with 2500 wine bottles. In 2019, faculty, students and alumni from LTU partnered with the International Design Clinic and Kevin Kimwelle to design and construct a community maker space, from salvaged materials. This space will be used for welding, woodwork, recycling, 3D printing and waste bike repairs, and will furnish a base of operations so that LTU teams might work with Mr. Kimwelle in the future to design and construct clinics, schools and other much-needed community projects.

Some of the people involved were Scott Shall, Jason Yeom, Ashraf Hijazi, Ken Humberstone, Nathan Ickes, Stephan Karetnik, Magdalene Kuhns, Bethanie Martin, Emily Reem, Breanna Scranton, and Kayla Thompson.

You can read the article here.

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September 4, 2019

Form&Seek Brings Detroit Artists Together for Substance Exhibition

Substance exhibition centers around the processes of material exploration as a driving force of design. Much like the designers of the Bauhaus, Detroit designers are returning to craft-based practices in a post-industrial climate, finding ways of bridging the gap between machine-made and hand-made.

Form&Seek design studio creates a platform for designers from diverse backgrounds to showcase their work in design exhibitions all around the world. Experimental and thought-provoking work unites under fresh, and pertinent themes at each of Form&Seek’s exhibits. For the Detroit Month of Design 2019, Form&Seek has curated works from Detroit based designers and makers to highlight and celebrate the creativity in the city.

You can RSVP for the event here.

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August 30, 2019

LTU CoAD hosts Design and Technology Exhibition in Detroit

The College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University promotes the notion of advancing design practice and ideas that enable us, as a culture, to make lives better. This idea has reinforced our conviction that technology is a human endeavor and a reflection of people at their best. The exhibition features projects from current students, alumni, and our student partners at Detroit Public Schools that reinforce these values.

This exhibition is located at 1001 Woodward Ave in the ground floor gallery and is free and open to the public. Building is located on the M-1 Rail route. Parking garage is located at 35 State St., Detroit, MI 48226. 
Tickets must be presented to enter, either printed or on mobile device.
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August 24, 2019

LTU Alumni granted AIA Associate Award

Known for his experience in design and the built environment, Bryce E. Gamper, BS Arch 2014, is the second LTU Alumni to receive the AIA Associate Award this year. Currently working in commercial design, he has had the opportunity to shape many areas around Detroit. He has served a variety of clients including Bedrock Detroit, Quicken Loans, Detroit Eastern Market Corporation Gardner White, the Hershey’s Company, and Sleep Number. He has also worked for many non-profits throughout Detroit, assisting in the implementation of the annual Light Up Livernois event which has now been incorporated into the yearly Detroit Design Festival.

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August 22, 2019

College of Architecture and Design Faculty member receives Associate Award from the AIA

Project manager Tiffany Brown, BS Arch 2004 + M Arch 2007 + MBA 2015, received the award given to those Associate AIA members who show outstanding leadership and creative thinking. Brown has experience in architectural design, construction management, and construction administration, as well as working with the foundations in her community. She has led programs to raise awareness on how representation in design makes a significant impact on firm practice, culture, and education. Given a grant by the Knight Foundation, she has launched 400 Forward, a program that supports the education and career development of the next 400 women architects.
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August 20, 2019

Young Architect Award given to LTU Alumni

Architect and artist Laura Walker, BS Arch 2006 + M Arch 2009, received the AIA Young Architect award for her contributions and exceptional leadership in and around Detroit. Walker is known for her many skills including fabrication, painting, and urban design. Through her work at SmithGroup, she focuses on inclusive design, considering the impact that her work can have on the communities around her. She also serves as a Coach through SmithGroups Coaching initiative, serves on the Board of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and serves as a design juror at Lawrence Tech.
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