Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Innovation Hub offers opportunities for students and faculty to connect to the community

By Nadia Beidas

     The Lewis University Innovation Hub is currently reviewing the applications of those interested in utilizing the hub to build their business plan.

Ryan Butt, Dean of the College of Business and Director of the Innovation Hub, said the hub is a regional business incubator, a result of a joint partnership with Lewis University and the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise, composed of the Village of Romeoville, Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale and Will County.

     The hub is “an opportunity to be a catalyst for the community,” Butt said. “It is an intersection between Lewis students and faculty expertise connected with the larger communities to create new products with services to benefit not only our community, but beyond.”

A lounge is available for students to meet with clients.

     The Innovation Hub is open to different types of clients, Butt said, such as clients who have an idea, but do not have the resources to fully develop the idea. These clients can be assisted by faculty and students, he said. Another client could be someone with a homemade invention or product, but is unsure how to make the idea successful.  For example, if someone has a product, such as homemade salsa, and is unsure how to scale the business and make the product available in places such as Jewel Osco, then the person could speak with experts and utilize the resources at the Innovation Hub.

In addition to the Innovation Hub work space, a client potentially could also want to utilize other Lewis resources, including the Maker Lab, which has 3D printing capabilities, Butt said. Clients would also have access to coaching by business experts, Lewis faculty.

     “We take people and give them skills they need to be successful in business,” Butt said. He added, “We have the opportunity for people who don’t have resources to go to 1871 [business incubator] in Chicago. We can partner with them and give them our expertise.” He added that potential clients do not have to have a background in business to utilize the innovation hub.

The innovation hub offers work space for clients.

     Lewis University was presented with the $75,000 grant back in November. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker attended and spoke at the ceremony. Butt said Pritzker was highly interested and excited about the Innovation Hub. Pritzker is also the founder of 1871 business incubator in Chicago.

     The pricing for these services is still being determined, but there will be three tiers of pricing. The lower tier will be for the association part, to have access to consulting and lab space, Butt said. The middle and higher tiers will have permanent space and additional resources.

     Students would also have the opportunity to work with clients, Butt said. An innovation lounge is available for students and clients to meet each other, and formulate a plan to work together.

     One of the ways students can prepare is to take part in the Business Plan Competition, Butt said. There are cash prizes up to $25,000 total to be distributed. The top winner also receives free space in the innovation hub for one year. For more information visit

     The innovation hub is also involved with campus events, Butt said. One is a lecture with Carol Lavin Bernick, who is the CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management, which is a company in charge of diversified investments as well as owned operating companies in professional sports and retail. The lecture will be held at the Convocation Hall in St. Charles Borromeo from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on March 17.

The innovation hub also has a conference room for meetings.

     The innovation hub is also sponsoring the Hackathon/Makeathon event for CaMS department [Computer and Mathematical Sciences] on April 18 as well as a Datathon later in the semester.

     For more on events, please visit Additionally, the Romeoville Chamber of Commerce also hosts events posted there.

     Butt said the innovation hub is following the legacy of St. John Baptiste de La Salle, who was an innovator, taught the poor and user vernacular language in his teachings for the poor to become educated.

     Butt said the overall experience of the innovation hub has been very positive. He “sees the energy and the excitement surrounding the students, the faculty who are interested in being a part of it, and the local community.”

     Dr. Ray Klump, Associate Dean of the College of Aviation, Science and Technology and Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “In Computer Science and Computer Engineering, there is so much room to innovate. I think the Innovation Hub could be a great space for our students to make their ideas a reality.”

The Innovation Hub is a regional business incubator. The hub is a result of a joint partnership with Lewis University and the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise, composed of the Village of Romeoville, Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale and Will County.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Florence Hudson delivers an inspirational speech to Lewis students

By Nadia Beidas

     On February 4, ACM [Association for Computing Machinery] and IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] hosted renowned guest speaker, Florence Hudson, who has quite an impressive career and list of credentials.

     Hudson worked at IBM for over 33 years. Her roles there included Director of Corporate Strategy and Internet of Things Business Development, VP Marketing & Strategy for System z Mainframes and VP Strategic Planning on Loan to the Society of Women Engineers.

     She was also an aerospace engineer at Grumman and NASA. She gave a TEDx Talk about Sustainability on a Smarter Planet. Hudson consults and also speaks globally about a plethora of topics, including machine learning, block chain, healthcare, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, diversity and inclusion.

     Currently, Hudson is the CEO and founder of FDHint, a firm for advanced technology, innovation as well as diversity and inclusion. For more information about FDHint, please visit

After the lecture, Hudson answered questions and took photos with faculty and students.

Hudson is a special advisor for the NSF[National Science Foundation] Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at Indiana University as well as the Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University.

     She is part of the standards committee for IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology. Hudson also leads a global IEEE working group on standards for Clinical IoT [Internet of Things] data and device interoperability. “We work together to develop standards to make the world a better place.”

     Hudson serves as editor-in-chief with Springer Publishing Company for the book “Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS[Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety, Security] for IoT [Internet of Things].” Hudson and 16 other global women leaders are published and discuss the importance of increasing awareness of privacy and security challenges in the Internet of Things, as well as the actions people can take in the face of these challenges.

     Her education includes a BSE from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and executive education at both Harvard Business School and Columbia University.

     During the lecture, Hudson talked about her life journey. She showed photos of family, mentors and several notable people who helped influence her life and helped her clarify her values. For example, her brother used to wake her in the early morning to see the Apollo missions launch, which led to Hudson wondering how it was accomplished when she was around three years old. She said that was the day she became an aerospace engineer. 

     She served on a Title IX panel of experts with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Hudson said Title IX regards equality in sports for boys and girls. For example, if a school invests in a soccer team for boys, then the school has to invest in a soccer team for girls, Hudson said.

     Hudson added that there is a STEM clause in Title IX for gender equity in educational programs with federal funding.

Hudson mentioned several people she met on her life journey such as family, mentors and notable people, including 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

     She also mentioned interacting with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was a former student of one of Hudson’s friends. Like Hudson, Sotomayor is also a graduate of Princeton. Sotomayor was also the first in her family to go to college.

     On her personal journey, she also had pictures with Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut, and Mae Jemison, the first US African American female astronaut.

     During her talk, Hudson went over important factors to achieve success in one’s employment, leadership roles as well as quality of life.

      Hudson offered this advice, “Look around the planet, see what needs to be fixed, and go do it.”

     Hudson stressed the importance of planning one’s life for a purpose. She advised students to identify their goals for work and life and then GROW to achieve these goals. She further explained GROW as: “set goals, assess reality, determine options and work it.”

Hudson discussed how students can identify goals and then GROW to their future.

     She showed a map she created of her life plan and encouraged students to make their own life plan.

     She also showed a pie chart where one can visualize how they balance one’s time by identifying how much of the slice is spent on school and work, sports and activities, community, friends and oneself.

Hudson talked about balancing one’s pie chart of school, work and life for success.

     Hudson also said it is important for everyone to believe in themselves, even when others do not. She advised everyone to be on their own side when speedbumps occur. As far as dealing with the speedbumps in life, she said, “Keep rolling over them until you get where you’re going.”

     She also mentioned the importance of building a support network of mentors and “personal cheerleaders” to encourage one on their journey to success. She said these are the people who would remind one how great one is.

     Hudson also advised everyone to stick to one’s instincts and values. She said there would always be situations where one could choose not to speak up when something is not right, but she encourages everyone to stand for ethics.

     She stressed the importance of building different types of skills, such as collaboration, leadership, business and financial, communication and technical skills.

     Hudson emphasized the importance of building a good team and teamwork as a part of collaboration skills.

     In order to build leadership skills, Hudson said one should serve on a board of directors, such as 4-H. She said this is good experience to learn how boards make decisions.

     She also advised everyone to continually build on their technical skills and “become an expert in your field.”

      For women who face challenges working in the field of technology, Hudson advises them to “just keep going and find people you can talk to.” She emphasized the important of women surrounding themselves with the people who matter and seeking inspiration and support from those people. She also said for women to look at role models for aspiration, people who have done what they are wishing to do.

     Hudson touched on her definition of the meaning of life in 60 seconds. “Your job while you’re here on this planet, is to determine the unique gifts God gave you and use them for good every day.”

Hudson touched on several important factors to lead students to achieve success in their life and work goals.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

DataSAIL offers students opportunities with industry experience

By Nadia Beidas

     DataSAIL [Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory] is an organization that involves faculty and students collaborating on projects related to data science and artificial intelligence. DataSAIL was founded in 2015 by Dr. Piotr Szczurek, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences and Director of the Data Science program. This semester, DataSAIL offers an opportunity for students to work on a project with the Yorkville-Bristol Sanitary District.

     Dr. Sam Abuomar, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said students will be designing a system for Yorkville-Bristol Sanitary District to classify images based on the condition of waste, such as solid or liquid.

     “There is also a project on oceanography and geoscience data analytics modeling where Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) meter was used to collect several datasets by measuring water current velocities over a depth range using the Doppler effect of sound waves scattered back from particles within the water column,” Abuomar said.

     DataSAIL members are currently working on a building recognition project, Szczurek said. The project involves gathering images of different buildings on campus from different angles, different times of the day and different seasons in order to identify the correct building, Szczurek said. The data will be used to come up with a predictive model.

One DataSAIL project involves gathering pictures of campus buildings in order to build a model to identify the building.

     DataSAIL prepares students for the future job market by giving students experience in designing solutions to real life problems, Abuomar said. “When they are ready to graduate, they can pursue any project in data science,” he added.

     Dr. Mahmood Al-khassaweneh, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “We give them experience developing up to date algorithms.”

     Abuomar said DataSAIL is open to all students, regardless of major. DataSAIL meets on Fridays at 3 p.m. in AS-106A.

     DataSAIL has a set mission statement, “to help foster the collaboration of faculty and students working on data science program to help the community, society and the university,” Szczurek said. The idea behind DataSAIL was “primarily to get more people to know what data science is and give the faculty the opportunity to be matched up with students to work on different research projects,” Szczurek said.

     During the meetings, members present their work, or they discuss problems in the industry and how to solve them. “The meetings are an opportunity to share ideas, skills and experiences, Al-khassaweneh said.

The DataSAIL team includes faculty members Dr. Sam Abuomar, Dr. Mahmood Al-khassaweneh, Dr. Michael Lewis, Dr. Jason Perry and Dr. Piotr Szczurek (founder of DataSAIL). Student team members are Sebastian Bigos, Joel Feddes, Sheila Lesiak, Frank Martinez, Andrew Milligan and Will Pulkownik.

     There are also two data science research opportunities in development pending approval, Abuomar said.

     One opportunity involves collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, which in under review by the National Science Foundation, Abuomar said. The purpose of this research is to apply data analytics to ALD [atomic layer deposition].

     “Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a thin-film growth technique that offers the unique capability to coat complex, three-dimensional objects with precise, conformal layers. In addition, ALD allows atomic-level control over the thickness and composition of the deposit,” according to Argonne National Laboratory.

     The second research opportunity is in collaboration with Mississippi State University’s biomedical engineering department about a project examining the reasons for traumatic brain injury, Abuomar said. The project is a joint proposal to the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health.

     There is also an additional research opportunity, Al-khassaweneh said, via a grant, Caterpillar Scholar Award from Caterpillar Inc., for the project entitled “Video Auto Tracking System.” This is a video and audio tracking system for drivers and human safety.

     For example, on a two lane road, a car in one lane might stop at a stop sign for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Al-khassaweneh said. The car in the second lane might not see the pedestrian is crossing, and continue on their way without seeing the pedestrian. An application will be developed to warn the driver that a pedestrian is present, and even send a picture from one car to the other that a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

     Additionally, another application will warn drivers about lane changes, Al-khassaweneh said. This warning is applicable to situations such as if a driver is distracted and parts from a lane, or if the user’s car is coming too close to the car in front of the user.

DataSAIL team members discuss projects related to data science and artificial intelligence.

     There are further research opportunities available, Szczurek said. One is the SURE [STEM Undergraduate Research Experience] program, which provides students the opportunity to work with faculty over the summer and receive a stipend, Szczurek said.

     Another opportunity is PUMA [Promotion of Underrepresented Minorities in Academic STEM] Alliance, which is funded by the NSF [National Science Foundation] LSAMP [Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation] program, Szczurek said. This provides opportunities for underrepresented minority students to work on research projects, Szczurek said.  

     Currently, Lewis degree programs include a Bachelor of Science in Data Science, a major in Computer Science with a concentration in data science, a Master of Science in Data Science as well as a 4 + 1 program for students to finish their undergraduate and master’s degrees in data science in five years, Szczurek said. Additionally, students from other majors not relating to STEM can add a Bachelor of Arts in Data Science or a minor in Data Science, Szczurek said.

     The degree programs provide all the skills students need to go in the industry and work as a data scientist, Szczurek said. He added data science and artificial intelligence will take over a lot of industries and encourages students to develop the necessary skills now. 

     “The beauty of data science is it can be applied in different majors and fields,” Al-khassaweneh said. For example, a student of Al-Khassaweneh’s developed an algorithm to differentiate if a skin growth or sore is cancerous or not, based on a data set of over 10,000 images. The algorithm can also detect the type of skin cancer the patient has. Currently, the student’s research paper will be edited and sent to an IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] conference.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment growth for computer and information research scientists should increase by 16 percent from two years ago, 2018, to 2028.

     The enrollment of the data science program is increasing, Abuomar said. Students who major in data science or have a concentration of data science with their computer science degree have many possibilities of future careers including as a data scientist or as a systems engineer.

     Dr. Ray Klump, Associate Dean of the College of Aviation, Science and Technology and Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “DataSAIL is another example of how the department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences provides hands-on extracurricular opportunities for students. Students get a chance to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world problems. This helps prepare them for their upcoming careers.”

    “A number of students became much more interested in data science as a result of DataSAIL and went on to work in the data science field,” Szczurek said. He added other students went on to pursue their doctorate in research pertaining to data science or artificial intelligence. 

     In 2017 and 2018, DataSAIL participated in Kaggle competitions, Szczurek said. Kaggle is a platform for analytics competitions where students receive data and compete to create the best predictive model. Last year, students participated in a Datathon, which was a Kaggle competition set up at Lewis. Students prepare for these competitions through online tutorial sessions as well as in meetings, Szczurek said. 

     Szczurek hopes to repeat the Datathon at the end of the current semester. In the fall semester, there are plans to compete with other schools in the ACCA competition. 

DataSAIL meets Fridays at 3 p.m. in AS-106A.

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Lewis Cyber Defense Club places third in the Cyber 9/12 competition

By Nadia Beidas

    The Lewis University Cyber Defense Club took part in the Cyber 9/12 competition in Austin, Texas on January 16 and 17. Overall the team placed third out of 19 university teams. The team placed ahead of Harvard University, but lost the final round to West Point.

     The students attending were Jocelyn Murray, a freshman majoring in computer science with a concentration in cyber security, Andrew Milligan, a sophomore double majoring in business administration and information security management, David Mendez, a senior majoring in computer science and Puneet Singh, who is studying for his master’s in Information Security.

     The mentor of the Cyber Defense Club 9/12 group is Matthew Kwiatkowski, adjunct professor.

Matthew Kwiatkowski mentored students David Mendez, Jocelyn Murray, Andrew Milligan and Puneet Singh for the Cyber 9/12 competition.

     “Cyber 9/12 is a cyber-security and policy based competition,” Murray said, “The competition deals with large scale cyber events with geopolitical issues.” Murray added the competition focuses on how countries should have an immediate response as well as take long term actions to deter future interference. An example of this would be the situation of large scale attacks on the financial industry, Murray said.

     The competition is run by the Atlantic Council, which is a political think tank.

     Kwiatkowski said this competition is unique. “There’s a cyber-technological component, but it’s a backdrop to international and domestic policies,” he said. “This challenge is built upon preparing collegiate level students to be policy makers and ambassadors to the U.S.”

Students Andrew Milligan, Puneet Singh, Jocelyn Murray and David Mendez look over materials in preparation for the competition.

     Murray said the team is given a scenario brief with news reports, government reports, and social media reports. Their task is to construct the situation and write a brief. Then they must write the decision and deliver an oral brief. In the oral brief they deal with policy options and deal with domestic and international political issues dealing with these large scale hacks.

     The team also looks at private business and government communication regulating vulnerability and how to mitigate the damage, Murray said.

     Every round of competition requires a 10-minute oral brief. In the first round of competition, the team receives material and is given a month to prepare a decision document and an oral brief, Murray said. During the second round of the competition, the team has one night to prepare a decision document and an oral brief. In the last round, the team has 15 minutes to prepare an oral brief and cannot use technology to look up information or ask their mentor for assistance.

The Lewis team qualifies for the final round.

     Kwiatkowski said that one of the sample scenarios is for the teams to play the role of the National Security Council [NSC] and be given an issue of national security concern to brief the U.S. president about. The team reports on options for the solutions to the president outlining the potential outcomes and risks, Kwiatkowski said.

The team members were very excited about their placement as semi-finalists.

     Milligan mentioned there were several keynote speakers. One was Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), who stressed the importance of taking steps in securing electoral process as well as the threat ransomware poses as a national emergency, Milligan said. Additionally, another guest speaker was James Smith, assistant special agent in charge for the San Antonio FBI, who spoke about the role the FBI takes in cooperating with the private sector to mitigate the damage of the attacks, Milligan said.

     Singh said there was a workshop about social engineering given by Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security. Tobac went over the dangers of the cyber world and the importance of not releasing personal information, Singh said. The Lewis team were given a task to find out the details of a company, similar to capture the flag, and took first prize.

The Lewis Cyber 9/12 team with Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security.

     One of the challenges the team faced was a lack of expertise in the international relations policy sector, Murray said. In order to prepare for this challenge, the team sought advice from professors in the political science department, including Dr. Laurette Liesen, Dr. Steven Nawara and Dr. Justin Delacour.

     Murray said the cyber defense team is the reason she came to study at Lewis University.     

     Ryan Meeker, cyber security graduate assistant for CaMS [Computer and Mathematical Science department], said the cyber defense team as a whole is open to all students. Meeker added the team goes to several competitions each year, including Argonne. “We like to have a rounded experience,” Meeker said.

     Meetings are held weekly on Thursdays from 3-5 room AS-101-S, Meeker said. Additionally, there are open lab hours in the Sentinel lab, AS-101-A, for those who cannot attend meetings, or would like to work on projects, Meeker said.

     Murray added that at weekly meetings the team comes up with plans and delegates the preparatory work for the competitions. Meeker added at the meetings, the group processes draw on everyone’s collective experience and knowledge and consistently work on solutions to existing issues.

     “We as a club, we’re open to anyone no matter the major, experiences, or prior knowledge,” Meeker said. He advises students not to be afraid of not understanding something that would be unknown to them before, as the field of computer science always involves learning something new.  

The team poses in front of the first round room assignments.

     Meeker and Murray said one of the classes that prepared them for competitions was Intro to Unix. Meeker added that the class Programming for Penetration Testing also helped him. Murray added the class Cyber Security and Forensics Tools also prepared her for competitions.

     The Cyber 9/12 competition differs from other cyber security competitions, Meeker said. The Cyber 9/12 focuses more on the theoretical aspect of cyber security, while other competitions focus on cyber security as a whole, Meeker said.

     In the general competitions, the team is given a network of machines, and the team will have to discover the existing issues, such as vulnerability, Meeker said.

     One of the upcoming competitions is the Midwest CCDC at Moraine Valley Community College in March. Murray said the team also hopes to go to Cyber 9/12 in Washington D.C. this March.

The team places third at the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge Austin Regionals.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Study abroad offers students unique experience in technology and growth

By Nadia Beidas

     Lewis University offers opportunities for students to study abroad. Eric Spangler, Assistant Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, will be leading three opportunities in China. 

     Following the spring 2020 semester, the first opportunity is at Sanda University in Shanghai for about five to eight weeks. Students will be able to take the classes Exploring Technology on the Global Stage or Forensics, as well as studying the Chinese language, Spangler said. Students will also attend a technical conference and spend time in Shanghai visiting the sites.

     Students would also have the opportunity to study the Mandarin dialect of the Chinese language and pick up different aspects of the culture such as dance, Spangler said. Additionally, the campus is about an eight-minute walk from the metro where students can easily get to different sites or shop. Conveniences include an individual dorm room, a gym and a snack cart area where students meet after 11:30 p.m.

Students have the opportunity to study at Sanda University in Shanghai.

     Additionally, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan offers several academic workshops. For the workshops, students will stay in a hotel.

     One of the workshops is Chinese Language + AI Robot. The workshop runs from July 5 through July 18. Lectures on the subject are offered including Printing & Writing Robots, Industrial Robots and Human-robot interaction.

     There are also opportunities to learn the Chinese language, martial arts and calligraphy. The schedule offers visits to places such as Wuhan Museum of Science and Technology, Hubei Provincial Museum and Huawei corporation.    

     Another workshop is Chinese Language + Mobile Internet. The workshop also runs from July 5 to 18. Lectures include Mobile Internet in China, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

     Students will also have the opportunity to learn the Chinese language as well as calligraphy and martial arts. Students will also learn how to play the Chinese Guqin, which is a traditional musical instrument. Field trips include a visit to the Yellow Crane Tower, the National Optoelectronics Research Center and iFLYTEK corporation.

     Spangler said studying abroad is very beneficial for students as they get to add another component to their student experience in addition to their education. “That will enhance the learning process,” Spangler said. He also added that students will interact with people from different cultures. They will also see how other cultures handle tasks differently than how we handle tasks in the U.S. and students’ perception will change.

     For example, time might be elastic in other countries, Spangler said. If a meeting is supposed to start at 10 a.m., it might start at 11, Spangler said. Students might not ordinarily get that experience without working for a company for several years, Spangler said.

     Chris Swanson, Director of Study Abroad, said the deadlines are approaching for the summer and fall programs at the end of February. There are available opportunities to study computer science and mathematics at universities in England, Australia and Ireland, Swanson said.

     “The cost of the programs, which includes housing, is Lewis tuition plus $350,” Swanson said. The $350 is the administrative fee and airfare and usually meals are not included, Swanson said.

     Students also have an increased level of maturity and confidence in their abilities upon returning from study abroad programs, Swanson said. “Students who study abroad tend to have a higher focus on their major and they tend to have a higher GPA after they return,” he said and added, “After they graduate, they tend to get hired twice as fast and they tend to have about a 25 percent higher salary when they first start.”

     “The ability to show a potential employer that you have international experience, that you can work with people from a variety of backgrounds and that you’re flexible with a variety of situations goes a long way,” Swanson said.

     Hector Dondiego, a junior majoring in computer science with a concentration in pervasive computing, spent the fall 2019 semester in Japan.

     Dondiego said he chose to study in Japan due to an interest in Japanese culture and technology he developed in high school. At the time, his attention was caught by the field of robotics as well as an interest in anime.

The field of robotics inspired Dondiego to spend a semester in Japan.

During his semester in Japan, Dondiego studied Elementary Japanese, Western Philosophy and Anime in Contemporary Visual Culture. Dondiego particularly enjoyed Anime in Contemporary Visual Culture. In this class, he had the opportunity to draw anime characters, work in groups to create anime media and act in a movie as part of a final project.

     In the movie project, Dondiego and two other classmates played the parts of five characters. The characters were three current students, a teacher and a new student. The movie started with the three current students who did not like each other. Over the course of the movie, they learn to overcome their differences.

     Dondiego was also responsible for editing the movie and other videos. He used OpenShot Video Editor and VEGAS Movie Studio 13 Platinum, and he expressed a preference for the latter. He plans to use this software in part for his future capstone project.  

     Dondiego saw several notable technology devices during his stay in Japan. One was Pocketalk, a device that served as a voice translator. One could speak in one’s language of origin and the device translates what is spoken to another selected language.

Dondiego had the opportunity to use Pocketalk.

        However, the device has challenges with pronunciation and dialect that will hopefully be improved upon in the future. Dondiego said the sentence, “We think the device is really cool.” The translation was slightly off. One translation version understood and showed the translation for will you sing this is a pretty cool device, and another translation version understood and showed we sink this is a pretty cool device.

Dondiego used Pocketalk to translate his sentence.

     During his travels, Dondiego usually used Google Translate on his phone. He said it is not a full translation, but gives a general idea of the intended communication.

     Dondiego also found it interesting that the electronics stores had a few differences as compared to the U.S. He said there were a variety of sizes for computer mice. He also said he saw around 30 different kinds of wireless earbuds.

     Additionally, in the shopping mall he saw an Android robot. It was not connected during his visit, but Dondiego speculates that this is a personal assistant robot.

     Dondiego also spent some time in the video game arcades. He discovered a music game called Wacca, and later found out this game is also in the U.S. In the game, players tap to the rhythm. In Japan, he enjoyed another music rhythm game called Chunithm.

     “The music game inspired one of my ideas for my capstone, making my own music game,” Dondiego said.

     Additionally, he got to experience part of the culture. During his travels, Dondiego was part of two dance groups at the university. He had the opportunity to learn Japanese traditional dances and contemporary dances as well as perform with the group.

Dondiego as Tetsuo from the anime film Akira.

     He also formed friendships with international students from Czech Republic, Canada, Portugal, Great Britain, Mongolia, Australia, Slovakia, Peru, Germany and Finland. They still keep in touch via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. “The people you spend time with is the most valuable experience,” Dondiego said. He said they shared a lot of stories, memories and did several activities together, such as traveling to other towns, playing in arcades, going to the movie theater and singing karaoke. 

     Dondiego said his overall experience was wonderful. “I loved it. I wish I could explore more areas.” In the future, he hopes to visit the Aomori Prefecture, which is known for its apples. He also hopes to visit the city of Sapporo for skiing.

     He added that if he visited as a tourist instead of studying abroad for a semester, then he would not have had the experience of visiting the rural areas of Japan. He particularly enjoyed hiking around Lake Tazawa, especially spending time in nature and having time for reflection.

The view during a hiking trip with Dondiego and his friends in Tazawako.

     He would encourage other students to study abroad in Japan or another country for the chance to experience something new, such as the traditional dances, and a chance to make friends from different parts of the world.

     Dondiego encourages students to study abroad as it will give them a chance to travel and continue their studies without losing time in finishing their degrees. He also said it is a chance for personal development and growth. He added, “You get to discover new things about yourself. It [studying abroad] is an experience you will never forget.”

     Dondiego is also considering career opportunities in Japan in the future. Additionally, Japan was the second international study abroad trip he took in 2019. During the spring 2019 semester, Dondiego and computer science students Levi El Fattal, Janeise Davis and I, Nadia Beidas, traveled to Brazil as a part of Eric Spangler’s Exploring Technology on the Global Stage course.

     “The Brazil trip was great,” Spangler said, “It was the first trip of its kind for CaMS [Lewis University Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences]. It had to be good.” He added that one particular advantages involved Lewis alumni, André Siffert, whose company campus b helped set up the trip. Another advantage was the assistance from one of his former students, Maria Clara Leal, Spangler said. She was happy to show her culture in northern Brazil, which does not get a lot of visitors from abroad, Spangler said.

     We visited two universities as well as a variety of technical companies. At the Federal University of Piaui in Teresina, students showcased a variety of projects. One project was a robotic arm. The sensor could sense movement and if one clenched one’s hand, then the robotic arm would clench its hand as well.

     Another project involved virtual reality. One can place the virtual reality headset on and be taken into a room. One can change colors and styles of the furniture, walls, and floor. This is beneficial to an interior designer, who can show a client a room ahead of time and agree on a color scheme and style.

     There was also a program where a figure in a program senses your movement and moves when you move. This is beneficial to home security. A person can wave and be identified, and then the home would unlock.

     Another project showed a math app on the phone. The app simultaneously teaches English and math. The math equations are presented in English, sometimes just numbers and sometimes in words. The students were eager to show their projects and answered a lot of questions.

Janeise Davis uses the math phone app.

     The class also had the opportunity to visit a few companies. One company visited was 128 bits, a company that assists businesses with mobile and web technology. Another company, Aquabit, which is an intelligence platform for the production of fish. The app assists fish farmers and companies and places they sell fish to, such as markets and restaurants, by assisting them earn more, reduce cost, and sell more.

     Another company the class visited was Sebrae. It is an entity of representatives from the private and public sectors. Sebrae seeks to promote and assist small businesses grow with the country’s social and economic development policies. Sebrae has a bidding process to contract works, purchase of the products, and services. The bidding process is utilized to choose the best proposals in order to acquire services and goods.

Professor Eric Spangler with students Nadia Beidas, Janeise Davis, Hector Dondiego and Levi El Fattal on one of several company visits.

     The class also participated in Cais Tech, held at the Floriano campus of the Federal University of Piaui. Students listened to presentations roughly translated to English on a variety of topics, including artificial intelligence. On the last day, we students gave our presentations.

     Levi El Fattal gave a presentation on the analysis of technical entrepreneurship in a global marketplace. “I took certain important technological hubs across the globe and discussed the culture, competitive advantages, and summary of public/private investment resources of each,” he said and added, “For example, Shenzhen, China is a special economic zone that was established as such in the 1980s. Because of this status, Shenzhen received an influx of investment (both public and private) and was turned from a fishing village into a bustling tech hub that manufactures 90% of the world’s electronics.”

     Janeise Davis gave a presentation about medical technology. “In my presentation I talked about bionic devices, prosthetic devices, and nanotechnology in conjunction with other various types of medical devices,” Davis said.

     I, Nadia Beidas, created and presented a program in Visual Basic entitled The Story Generator. The program asks the user to choose from three characters. The user answers three questions and an original short story written by me displayed.

     I was very happy to have the opportunity to combine creative writing with the computer science skills I am continuing to build. Additionally, as a writer, I was very happy to see the audience enjoying the stories I wrote and laughing at the intended moments of amusement. I plan to expand this project to my capstone project.

     The conference opened with a presentation conducted by a few women, emphasizing the importance of women to enter the field of technology. They mentioned some of their struggles when they chose to study technology, and one said she was told she could not handle the material. They encouraged women not to give up or believe they cannot succeed in the field of technology, even if someone tells them they cannot or should not be pursuing a career in technology.

Group picture at the Cais Tech conference in Floriano, Brazil.

     Another presentation went over artificial intelligence and robotics, and highlighted that robots may replace humans for some jobs in the future. A video of robots stocking shelves in a warehouse was shown.

     There was also a presentation about Flutter, a user interface created by Google, which is intended to be a simpler application for users and programmers. Flutter uses the Dart programming language, which is a Google, virtual language, to incorporate widgets and framework. One can create the app and program in Flutter on mobile apps and devices. One can draw and develop the tool kit, then develop and create the app in mind, place it in the tool kit and then program it. The tool kit can be used on both Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

     Another presentation went over medical problems solved by artificial intelligence, such as skin cancer detection. The software would take information from the pictures of the patients’ skin. In order to process skin cancer detection, the software looks at the symmetry, pigment and regression (the presence or absence) of lesions.

     There was also a program with a database of flowers. About 50 flowers are created in the system, identified by weight and size and other categories. Altogether, there was a variety of informative presentations.

Nadia Beidas, Hector Dondiego and Levi El Fattal with one of our translators.

     El Fattal shared his thoughts about the Brazil trip. “While we were in Brazil we experienced much of the local culture and presented at a technical conference. We also met many technological businesses in the area and spoke to them about their work in the space,” he said.

     Davis said, “Going to Brazil was a unique adventure. I got to experience new foods, places, people, and a new language, Portuguese, along with a rich culture. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Brazil and participate in presenting on medical technology.”

      I found the class trip to Brazil to be very rewarding, culturally enriching and a chance to find out more about technology in Brazil. I found the visits to the universities and the companies to be highly informative. Additionally, I was impressed with the warmth and generosity of the people I met during the trip, and I still remain in continuous communication with two of them and have several other new Facebook friends.

     For more information about study abroad programs, please contact Chris Swanson at or visit

Every evening, after the conference, we had the opportunity to spend time with students at the Cais Tech conference.