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WSUCon 2016-the biggest yet

By Rachel Forbes, President of the Linux Users’ Group

con5On February 5th the Linux Users Group hosted the 14th annual WSUCon. The event took place in the CUB Sr. Ballroom, beginning at 5:00 pm, and lasted for 24 hours. WSUCon is an annual social gaming event started by the Linux Users Group as a way to get students, faculty, alumni, and Pullman-Moscow community members together for gaming in a fun and lively environment. One of the unique things about the event is that it is not just a LAN party; it is a social gaming event that welcomes gamers of all types. All sorts of gaming clubs are invited to the event to host various tournaments and help run board/tabletop/card game tables. Walking into WSUCon, you will see people playing League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, Flux, CS:GO, and many more. All gaming is welcomed and even those that do not game very much can still have a lot of fun at WSUCon!

WSUCon XIV was the biggest WSUCon yet, with tons of tournaments, prizes, and food; the event welcomed over 450 attendees during the 24-hour event. WSUCon XIV had six official prized tournaments, including League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, Smash 4, and other. There were also many ad hoc tournaments like Nidhogg and others put on by attendees, alumni, and organizers. Attendees were especially excited by the abundance of food provided this year, including Panda Express and WSU Catering, all made possible by sponsorships to WSUCon. Not only was dinner served to all attendees, but late night snacks and breakfast were also provided so that attendees wouldn’t have to worry about going out to get food and could fully participate in all of the gaming glory and general awesomeness.

With the success of this year’s WSUCon, The Linux Users Group has already started to think about expanding WSUCon next year to make it even bigger and better. If you are curious about the event or want to learn more, feel free to visit our website:





Vic’s Picks

A chat with Jeromy Johnson and Rae Marks

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

When you talk with Rae Marks and Jeromy Johnson, you feel like you are in the presence of an unstoppable force. They are going somewhere, and they are going fast. Yet you don’t feel like you are going to get run over; there is an inclusiveness in the way they speak. At the time of the interview Jeromy is the president of the Association for Computing Machinery Student Chapter (ACM), Rae is the vice president. The duo took time to sit down with me in the ACM clubhouse in the middle of finals week last spring. We covered a number of topics related to their experiences as computer science students at WSU. Rae and Jeromy are excited about what they are doing. They have insight and experience, and they are willing to share it.

About EECS


About ACM and the Hackathon


About interviewing for jobs


About programming and the future


Advice for new students


We talked about their time here at EECS—favorite professors and recommended classes. Jeromy mentions Computational Genomics taught by Ananth Kalyanaraman. Rae explains, “We are using algorithms to do genome sequencing–solving problems with DNA.” Jeromy adds,

The fun thing about the class is that although the algorithms you learn in that class are taught from the perspective of genome sequencing, that’s not all that they can be used for. I was talking to someone a little while back who was using those same algorithms to find commercials in TV segments.

Rae nods her head and remarks,

That highlights something cool about our program here. We teach a lot of fundamental things. We teach these really cool algorithms. As you leave the University and do things in your job or talk to other people, you realize that you can apply these things to all sorts of different problems.

We talked about the ACM and the successful hackathon that they organized. Rae explains the importance of joining student clubs and how it relates to successfully interviewing for jobs. Jeromy tells me about his Github account and how it has opened up job opportunities for him. He also talks about what he is excited about doing in the future: changing the internet. In his words, “I want to make things better that people didn’t think could be better in a tangible way.”

At the time of the interview Rae is getting ready to head out for her internship with EMC Isilon in Seattle, Washington. This is her second summer working for them. We talk about the interview process and then I ask her if being a woman in a male-dominated field brings specific challenges. Rae says that in her experience so far she does not feel like she is treated any differently just because she is a woman. She goes on to say,

If you are a woman and you feel hesitant to join this field just because you are female, you should come talk to me and other women in computer science. It is not as bleak as it is sometimes painted out to be.

At the end of our chat, I ask Rae and Jeromy what advice they have for people interested in pursuing computer science. Jeromy answers, “Definitely get involved. Community is the biggest aspect of computer science. Sure you don’t need other people to ‘program,’ but if you talk with others about your ideas, it is easier to come up with something novel.”

Rae and Jeromy speak in an encouraging tone to those just starting out. Rae says,

I would say if somebody is just coming into this field in college that they should not be alarmed by students who have been doing it for a long time. It’s okay to start from whatever background; you are still going to make it. Some students think, “There are people who have been doing this for five, ten years. How can I possibly compete?” And the great thing is you don’t have to. You don’t have to compete. There is room for everybody.

Jeromy agrees, adding,

Don’t be discouraged. There is so much work to be done. Companies need every programmer they can get their hands on right now. And I don’t foresee that slowing down. The field is growing massively.

Rae and Jeromy hand over their leadership of ACM this fall. They both have one semester to graduate, and jobs after that. Rae is going to work for EMC Isilon in Seattle, Washington as a Software Development Engineer. Jeromy is going to be a Distributed Systems Engineer at Protocol Labs wherever he wants, working remotely.

Vic’s Picks

Vasiliy Bunakov, Tech Super Hero

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

vasiliy_headshot_croppedIf you have been at EECS for any length of time you have probably asked Vasiliy Bunakov for help of some sort or another. Vasiliy (or “V” to those who work with him) oversees the IT help desk, where a constant stream of faculty, staff, and students come to solicit his advice and help. In between providing desktop support for several hundred individuals in the college, support and maintenance for many research labs, mentoring senior design projects and providing tours for prospective students, Vasiliy is constantly doing two things: answering a wide range of questions and solving problems. All of us on the third floor of Sloan witness his unbelievable schedule. We see him as V-man the tech super hero running between Sloan, Dana, EME, Wagner, TFRB, ELB and ETRL saving the day, every day.

During the last five years Vasiliy has spent supporting EECS and Voiland College he has never taken a sick day. I have never once heard him complain about anything.

Vasiliy was the recent recipient of the Staff Excellence Award, an award that acknowledges outstanding employees who go above and beyond their job description. Vasiliy’s boss, Systems and Services manager John Yates comments,

Everyone is glad to see V and sad when he leaves. V is the go- to-guy for VCEA, everybody seems to need him to fix this or that. He is like a sponge; anything new, he masters it right away. He currently supports three separate areas within the college and fills in for those areas that don’t have tech support for that particular day.  He has taken his personal time to go to people’s homes to set up their system so that they can work remotely. He brings to the group: enthusiasm, knowledge, eagerness, and a positive can-do attitude. I have not had any faculty, staff, or student make negative comments about Vasiliy.

I decided to follow Vasiliy around for a day and take some pictures. I began to question this idea around 10:00 a.m., the time I found myself completely worn out. Vasiliy was constantly on the move with me ten feet behind running to keep up with his ridiculously fast pace. When he was not on the move he was fixing something. There were never any breaks.

Go to the basement of ETRL–build a monitor frame with vesa mounts.
Next stop–sand vesa mounts
Up to the server room–install monitor frame
Back to the 3rd floor of Sloan(help desk)–check email, pick up some files
Delegate task to Daniel
Run up the stairs to the 5th floor of Sloan–Resolve Mat lab issues for faculty
On the way to the ground level of EME–field a question in the elevator
Arrive at destination–Virtual OS install for another faculty
On the way back to the help desk–quick question about an account profile change
At this point I frantically streamlined my apparel and filled up my water bottle, regretting that I had not worn running shoes and yelling, “wait up!”
Down to the basement of Dana–Talk to Gary about setting up his new computer
Reimage/upgrade for a machine
Back to the help desk to drop off the computer
Down to the ground floor of EME–get keys from the boss
Basement of EME–Up on a ladder to check cables–I’m thinking, “I thought IT was supposed to be a desk job.”
Grab the ladder and we are on the move again–Resolve network issues
Back to the help desk–
We stop for a quick picture in the hall with advisor, Linda Howell who calls out “St. Vasiliy thank you for saving my morning!” referring to an event that had taken place earlier before I arrived.
Lower a desk for a staff member and check ports for that room
Confirm switch was configured correctly
The pace quickens (hadn’t thought it was possible). We are on our way back to the basement of ETRL. I take a chug from my water bottle and call out, “Vasiliy, how many miles are we going to walk/run in these halls today?!” He informs me that his daily average is four miles and that what we were experiencing was an average sort of day.–
Make modifications to Vesa mounts
Back to the help desk–Talk with Tony
Down to the server room–Put a server online
I didn’t take a picture each time we went to the server room. I just started whining, “Not the server room again”.
Basement of EME–meeting with new faculty who submitted a request for a server-explain support options

Vasiliy was one of the first people I met when I started working at EECS, which I think is true for most people here. I remember during my first week of work asking him, “What’s going on around here that is cool and unusual?” How ironic that he was the one I asked.

I was only able to keep up for a few hours of Vasiliy’s “average day,” but following him around for a bit confirmed what I have thought since meeting him over a year ago. V is a rare person. His unrelenting drive makes him superior in figuring out how to solve all problems presented to him. He has a machine like work ethic. He is always positive, always humble; never condescending. Watching his interactions with others I realize we all think the same thing, “I am so glad Vasiliy’s got my back.”


Other Picks from Vic

Dr. KC Wang, Professor/Computer Science Guru


Vic’s Picks

50 Years of Computer Science culminates in an original book about operating systems

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

kc_new_500(1)Dr. KC Wang received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University in 1965. It was at that point he decided to study Computer Science. KC explains, “I realized in the late 60’s that computers were the future and began to shift my study in that direction.”

KC began teaching at WSU in 1970 in both EE and CS and continued after the schools merged to become EECS. “KC teaches the really hard classes” says Scott Hanson, EECS Research Operations Manager, “The classes that serious employers like Microsoft want to see on your resume”. KC has intensely studied and taught computer science for the last 50 years.  He has acquired a level of knowledge in this area that only a few in the world can claim.  Having written a complete operating system from scratch entirely by himself he is now coming out with a book that provides a detailed platform for teaching and learning the theory and practice of operating systems.

KC’s new book, Design and Implementation of the MTX Operating System is scheduled to print this fall. It provides a comprehensive explanation of the theoretical and practical aspects of operating systems, and describes the design and implementation of a real operating system in detail. It is intended for computer science students and computer professionals who wish to study the internal details of operating systems. Its inclusion of detailed example code and complete working sample systems make it suitable as a textbook for technically oriented operating systems courses in a Computer Science/Engineering curriculum as well as for self-study by computer enthusiasts.  KC explains: “The book contains a lot of original material that you will not find anywhere else, especially on the design and use of parallel algorithms in SMP to improve the concurrency and efficiency in Symmetric Multiprocessor systems.” Click here for a full list of unique features.

When asked what his advice is to students in the serious pursuit of computer science, KC replies, “It is important that one’s primary focus be on gaining real knowledge. Students must not be distracted by the mercenary concerns of a career in place of the pursuit of real knowledge, otherwise, it will be impossible to adapt to the rapidly changing field.” He goes on to discuss the danger of near- sidedness and explains, “Becoming too narrow in a field is dangerous. Technology is evolving and CHANGING fast, especially in the area of computing.  To be trained in a very narrow and specialized area is undesirable because it may be phased out and disappear very soon. Without a solid and broad background, one cannot adapt to the changing world.”  At the end of the conversation I asked KC why he continues to study computer science after fifty years, he replied, “I still have a lot to learn. Learning is never ending”.

Seely takes advantage of Pullman’s big city living

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

warren_captionUnlike most students who come to WSU, Warren Seely came to Pullman to experience the big city.

Seely, a senior in electrical engineering with an emphasis in power engineering, is originally from tiny Clatskanie, Oregon, where his family has a 500-acre mint farm. He is one of the few students who call Pullman “large.”

“But,” he adds, “It still has a small-town feel to it and a friendly, open atmosphere.”

Growing up on his family farm, Seely enjoyed tinkering with engines.  From a young age, he was working with pumps, irrigation systems, high voltage panels, and farm machinery. He re-built his first tractor engine at age six.  As an entering WSU freshman, he gained some attention for a video that showed his sophisticated, working Lego models of farm machinery.  The video was featured on Huffington Post and led to job offers and even an all-expense paid trip to an irrigation marketing conference in San Diego.

Seely decided to study electrical engineering for the challenge and has remained extremely busy with his difficult major. Whether working to understand transmission, transformers, or distribution, he likes the power program because it is challenging and interesting. Last year, he worked as an intern at Portland General Electric and will participate in a power engineering practicum over spring break. In his spare time, he is developing an autonomous, GPS-guided robotic weed control system for his family’s farm and is close to making a full-size prototype.

Seely is a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship to encourage students in power engineering. The program, which awards 19 School of EECS scholarships per year, aims to address the dramatic need for power engineers to build the smart electric power grid. Approximately 21 percent of power engineers in the Northwest are eligible for retirement in the next five years, and there is also concern that the region is not producing enough engineers to meet the need for the growing green economy.

Support from the scholarship has made a tremendous difference for his education, says Seely, especially because he is an out-of-state student. The scholarship has allowed him to concentrate on his classes, reduce work hours, and minimize loans.  And, he’s had a chance to branch out, meet friends, and grow in a larger community. He’s appreciated School of EECS faculty and staff, who have supported him through his classes.

“The scholarship has a huge, positive impact,” he says.

For his part, Seely is optimistic about his future, looking forward to using his skills in a hands-on, engaging career and sorting through many possible options for a career path.

“There are a lot of opportunities,” he says.

Venkatasubramanian named an IEEE fellow

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture


PULLMAN, Wash. – Vaithianathan (Mani) Venkatasubramanian, professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He was recognized for contributions to online detection of oscillatory behavior of electric power systems. With WSU since 1992, he holds several patents for real-time stability monitoring in power systems using synchronized wide-area measurements. Venkatasubramanian conducts research in the area of power system dynamics with an emphasis on stability and control. This includes monitoring and control of oscillations and voltage collapse in power systems and analysis of complex nonlinear behavior in large power system models. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from India’s Birla Institute of Technology and Science and M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in systems science and mathematics from Washington University, St. Louis.

Learn more about the IEEE at Learn more about the fellows at

Student club night deemed a success

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

bright_facesNearly 200 students packed into a lecture hall in Sloan Hall on September 3rd for “Student Club Night” where faculty, staff and student club leaders provided both pizza and food for thought to new EECS students. The atmosphere was lively and all faces were engaged as the new students were called to get involved in a hands-on way with their future.

Clinical associate professor Andy O’Fallon laid out how vital it is for the success of engineering and computer science students to be involved in studies outside of the classroom. “You have to do the academics; you have to go to class; but you also have to do more. Joining a student club is a perfect example of that.” Assistant professor Matt Taylor also stressed the importance of extra-curricular learning, saying: “Figure out what you’re passionate about and do it. If there’s not a club that does what you want to do, get a group of friends together and build something.” Sounding more like a football coach than a “tech guy,” systems administrator and 30 year staff member of EECS, John Yates had the students on the edge of their seats. He related how awesome it was to see so many undergraduate students taking personal responsibility of their education and future by participating in student club night. EECS director, Behrooz Shirazi summed up the evening, charging the students to “Be curious.”
student_club_night2014 041

The purpose of the evening was to highlight the EECS student clubs and make new students aware of the resources available to them outside the classroom. Following the fast paced presentations, students were given a map of all the student club locations and turned loose for the open house where club leaders waited to answer questions.

Assistant director Sakire Arslan AY and undergraduate advisor Alli Guyer, who headed up the event, were pleased with the attendance and the positive tone of the evening. Sakire explained, “This was an event that was encouraging to both students and faculty. All the people here are interested in doing cool stuff and this was an opportunity to bring them all together in a different format.” She commented on the inspiring effect of taking faculty and students out of the classroom in order to understand each other in a new way. Alli commented from an advisor’s perspective, “We find that students who are involved with clubs do better in school; these students are the cream of the crop. Joining a club reinforces the concepts students are learning in class, and makes them more immersed in the information.” She went on to say,“Especially when it comes to computer science if you want to be successful you need to create a posse. It is so collaborative.”


Andy O’Fallon, Alli Guyer & Sakire Arslan AY drawing the names of the door prize winners from the evening

Vic’s Picks

Sarah Belter’s checklist

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

sara_headshot copy

Sarah Belter graduates with a degree in Computer Science from The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science on May 10th. Two weeks later she starts her first job at Microsoft as a test developer. “Are you just a born winner; how does this happen?” I ask. As I spoke more with Sarah it became apparent that coupling a good education with social skills will take you far in this field.

Sarah first became interested in computer science after taking an introductory web development class in high school. “I found HTML code mystifying but cool, and I wanted to know more,” she says. As a child Sarah enjoyed solving puzzles and working on projects with her dad. “My Dad is a big Do it Yourselfer and we always had home improvement projects going on. I always wanted to help him, even if it was just holding tools for him when I was young. As I got older he let me help him do the planning and the math for the project. For example, when we moved to our new house, we were installing a sprinkler system and he let me help design the layout and had me do some of the measurements for pipe lengths and a number of joints. Although it wasn’t always a complicated project, him letting me do the real work and trusting me to get it right made me work that much harder, as well as made me double and triple check my own work.”

Sarah talks about her experience as a student being positive. She mentions the “atmosphere” and the “college community”. She mentions two teachers specifically: John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon, describing them as “excited, easy to understand, and available.” How did your education here at EECS help you through the interview process at Microsoft? I ask. “My internship interview at Microsoft as well as other companies seemed frightening, but most of the time it came down to the basics that we learned in our first few computer science courses. I had John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon back and forth my first three semesters. Their teaching abilities and passion for computer science helped me learn some of the most fundamental but invaluable information that led to my internship, and which ultimately led to my first job.”

Sarah is easy to talk to. She seems like the type of person who makes a goal, works hard, and does not make a big fuss about it. I ask her about computer science in general. “There are so many jobs out there for Computer Science majors,” she tells me. “Computers are widely integrated into our everyday lives and it has become beyond important that technology become a topic across all fields of study. Even if it is just advanced word processing, everyone can benefit from not just learning about computers but understanding what (and why) things happen the way they do. Ultimately, computer software is still written by people, and those people have to make decisions on how programs work and what they will do, so understanding the process that occurs to create computer programs could help reduce the frustration of many people.”

Throughout my interview with Sarah it becomes more and more apparent that her study of computer science has been more than just job training. There is a contagious passion for discovery that is evident in all of her explanations. The exciting thing about computer science is, in her words is: “[That] it’s never going to stop, it will always progress.”

Team Gleason takes 1st place in the EECS Senior Design Poster Contest

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

winning_gleason-1Fifteen competing senior design teams from EECS displayed their posters in the halls of the department on April 24th. The judging was administered by five industry representatives specializing in areas such as: microelectronics, power systems, electrical engineering and software development. The winning team, Team Gleason, was chosen based on their poster, their project as a whole, and their presentation.

Team Gleason was inspired by former WSU football star, Steve Gleason who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a terminal disease that attacks motor neurons, causing the loss of muscle function. This makes communication very difficult, especially in the late stages of the disease. Because patients are able to control their eyes and eyelids up until the end, this becomes their only potential means of communication. Eye-tracking software has been develpoed to help patients communicate; unfortunately, it is very expensive. The goal of Team Gleason, a non-profit organization, is to raise awareness about ALS, while at the same time providing a more affordable means of communication for those suffering from it.

cropped_gleason-1Team Gleason has been developing a reliable predictive-typing software program which runs on a generic Android or Windows-8 tablet; and uses two hardware platforms for eye tracking: The Eye Tribe and The Pupil. Steve Gleason’s mother, Gail Gleason(pictured below at the Open House) is very supportive of  the Team Gleason project and has attended most of their weekly meetings. “He (Steve Gleason) liked our software way better than his expensive system in some key ways, including predictive typing,” says team mentor, David Bakken.