CCAT Hosts Second Annual HBCU Conference with the University of Minnesota

The 2023 HBCU Conference Cohort

CCAT Hosts Second Annual HBCU Conference with the University of Minnesota

The 2023 HBCU Conference Cohort
The cohort from the 2023 HBCU Conference at the Minnesota Regional Transportation Management Center

In September, the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation (CCAT) hosted its second annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Conference. This year, the event was held at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, one of three new members of the CCAT consortium. As with the inaugural conference, faculty and students from five HBCUs were invited to participate including Benedict College, Bowie State University, Central State University, Morgan State University, and Prairie View A&M University. Much of the cohort remained the same which included undergraduate and graduate students focused on environmental engineering, cybersecurity, and computer engineering.

The 2023 cohort comprised 6 faculty and 10 students including:

  • Professor Gurcan Comert, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Engineering, joined the cohort for the first time representing Benedict College. Professor Comert invited Charlton Rolle and Nabeyou Tadessa as his student representatives.
  • Professor Haydar Teymourlouei, Associate Professor of Technology & Security at Bowie State University and Director of the Bowie State Cyber Squad Team, returned from the inaugural conference. Professor Teymourlouei chose John Francis Belcina Paja and Ian Gabriel Mondares as his student representatives.
  • Professors Krishnakumar Nedunuri, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Director of the C.J. McLin International Center for Water Resources Management, and Ramanitharan Kandiah, Professor of Environmental Engineering & Program Coordinator, who returned and serve as the key personnel representing Central State University in the CCAT consortium. Professors Nedunuri and Kandiah welcomed back Kimberly Smith and Kojo Mawasha as their student representatives.
  • Professor Mansoureh Jeihani, Professor of Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies as well as the Director of the Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Regional Transportation Equity Research Center, the Region 3 University Transportation Center returned from the inaugural conference. Professor Jeihani selected Temitope Adedara and Chukwujekwu Sylvester as her student representatives.
  • Professor Annamalai Annamalai, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Prairie View A&M University and Associate Director of the SECURE Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, returned from the inaugural conference. Professor Annamalai chose Adewumi Adeoluwa Adeloye and Natara McNary as his student representatives.

The goal of the conference is to expose students to the multitude of job opportunities in the transportation industry, invite leaders in the field with similar backgrounds to speak, provide tours and demonstrations of partner facilities, and facilitate discussions and networking opportunities to explore areas of collaboration. Gina Baas, Deputy Director of the Center for Transportation Studies, and her team organized the conference.

Headshot of Gina Baas

“The University of Minnesota was honored to host the faculty and students from the HBCUs. It was a great opportunity to hear about the research they’ve been working on and to learn where we could potentially collaborate in the future.”

Gina Baas, Deupty Director, Center for Transportation Studies (CTS))

The conference began with presentations from several representatives from the University of Minnesota including Dr. Andrew Alleyne, Dean of the College of Science & Engineering at the University of Minnesota, who provided welcoming remarks. Next, Gina Baas, Dr. Zhi-Li Zhang, McKnight Distinguished University Professor at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Rajesh Rajamani, Benjamin Y.H. Liu / TSI Applied Technology Chair at the University of Minnesota highlighted the work their team is doing in the connected and automated transportation field including protections for bicyclists on roadways and cybersecurity protections for the CAV ecosystem. Finally, Dr. Richard Ezike, former Program Communications Specialist at the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, served as the keynote speaker and discussed the research opportunities available to the students through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The students were then invited to present the research they have been conducting over the past academic year. Charlton Rolle and Nabeyou Tadessa spent the past year investigating the impacts that extreme weather has on communications such as humidity and its relation to packet loss. John Paja and Ian Gabriel Mondares are currently exploring machine learning (ML) performance under varying computing infrastructures to advance transportation systems. Kimberly Smith demonstrated the phone application developed through a CCAT-funded research project titled “CAV Systems Incorporating Air Pollution Information from Traffic Congestion” which aims to be implemented in connected vehicles and reduce emissions and increase air quality. Adeoluwa Adeloye and Natara McNary, who are studying cybersecurity, centered their presentation on strengthening smart electrical power grids which has led to a publication in Great Britain Journal, and will continue utilizing simulation software. Temitope Adedara and Chukwujekwu Sylvester spent their academic year investigating V2X conflicts collected by LiDAR sensors at signalized intersections in the city of Baltimore.

Brian Davis, Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota and Associate Director of the Mobility Technology Laboratory, provided an overview of the MnCAV Ecosystem Vehicle which serves as a collaborative environment for advancing research, engagement, and workforce development to prepare Minnesota and the world for broad-scale CAV deployment as part of a safe and equitable mobility system. A shuttle vehicle took the cohort to the Minnesota Regional Transportation Management Center where the students learned how the state can increase transportation safety through its MnPASS, Incident Management Program, and smart lanes.

Finally, the CTS team organized an outing to see the Minnesota Twins play the Los Angeles Angels before concluding the conference. Highlights of the conference from the faculty included the tour of the Regional Transportation Management Center, the Twins Game, and the opportunity for their students to network and explore graduate school opportunities. Students enjoyed forming connections based on common interests, the ability to showcase research findings, and riding on the Light Rail Transit System. Purdue University has been selected as the host for the 2024 conference with Dr. Sam Labi leading the organizing committee.

Over the week of December 10th, CCAT will spotlight the students from each college and university here on our social media channels (LinkedIn, X).

Student Spotlight

Benedict College

Name: Nabeyou Tadessa
Major: Undergraduate student majoring in Computer Engineering
Academic History: I’m currently a junior in Computer Engineering with a perfect GPA at Benedict College, where I have immersed myself in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. A defining moment that steered me towards this path was during a high school ICT class; the intricate workings of computers and the logic behind software development captivated me instantly. Another pivotal moment was my involvement in the Google-sponsored TechWise program, where mentoring from industry professionals and hands-on project experience solidified my passion for software engineering. These experiences have not only shaped my academic pursuits but also fueled my aspiration to innovate in the tech industry.
Research Background: The past summer, I was involved in a research team that investigated the effects of different weather factors on the 5G wave, which affects connections between Autonomous Driving Vehicles. We were using simulation software to study how much these weather factors affect Vehicles.
Post-Graduate Plans: After graduating, I plan to get a year of experience at a full-time job before getting my master’s degree in Computer Science.

Bowie State University

Name: John Francis Paja
Major: Undergraduate student majoring in Computer Technology
Academic History: I’ve always had a deep fascination with computers and their remarkable capacity to propel advancements across a variety of industries. From the moment I first encountered these incredible machines, I was captivated by the endless possibilities they presented, the way they could transform the way we work, communicate, and innovate.
Research Background: Our research harnessed the incredible potential of machine learning technology to drive advancements across a wide spectrum of transportation systems. It was a testament to the transformative power of artificial intelligence in reshaping the way we conceive, develop, and optimize the movement of people and goods.
Post-Graduate Plans: After I graduate, I plan to work and continue learning in the IT/Cybersecurity industry in different sectors such as healthcare, finance, transportation, government, and more.

Name: Ian Gabriel Mondares
Major: Undergraduate student majoring in Computer Technology
Academic History: I have always been fascinated by computers and their complex inner workings, which sparked my interest in this sector. My academic route was determined by my ambition to understand computers in their entirety.
Research Background: The focus of our research is on the use of SSDs and HDDs as storage devices in combination with three different machine-learning approaches: Random Forest, Neural Networks, and Gradient Descent. The goal of this research is to find creative solutions to transportation-related problems.
Post-Graduate Plans: In the future, I am committed to augmenting my experience in the field by actively pursuing internships and employment opportunities in the realm of technology. These practical experiences will further enhance my skills and knowledge, propelling me towards a fulfilling and successful career in computer technology.

Central State University

Name: Kimberly Smith
Major: Undergraduate student majoring in Environmental Engineering
Academic History: I had always known I wanted to be an engineer, even though I wasn’t sure what kind of engineer I wanted to be. I didn’t realize that my actual purpose was to protect the purity of air and water until I enrolled in the environmental engineering program and took a few foundational courses. The turning point came when my mentor, Dr. Kumar told stories of his trips throughout the world to help villages in desperate need of clean water. That was the moment when my mission became clear to me: I wanted to make sure that everyone, in any situation, could easily obtain clean, fresh water, just like I do at home.
Research Background: I became quite interested in the field of air quality as my studies went on. Using state-of-the-art software, my colleagues and I examined greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants in high-traffic areas, with an emphasis on interstates. Our findings were alarming: these dangerous substances continued to exist at ground level, endangering the air we breathe. As someone who has lived my whole life in an urban environment divided by interstates, I found personal relevance in this cause. Seeing the direct effects on my own neighborhood inspired me to take action. Together with my team, we built an app aimed at empowering individuals with knowledge, suggesting alternate ways to steer clear of harmful contaminants wherever feasible.
Post-Graduate Plans: With graduation quickly approaching, I have a clear idea of how I want to use my skills to further my purpose of preserving our most valuable resources for future generations: by entering the consulting sector. You’ll find a committed supporter and engineer in me who is working to create a more sustainable future for all.

Morgan State University

Name: Temitope Adedara
Major: Undergraduate student majoring in Transportation Systems
Academic History: I started my educational background in Nigeria, and I came to the United States in 2015. I have started observing Transportation systems as a field that I will contribute my potential to when I have the opportunity, or when I get to university. In some other parts of the world, Describing what transportation structure looks like and what it means to people and the economy and the way it’s been managed around them, most especially in Africa, I realized it was not safe and was not efficiently optimized. I choose to work in this field of transportation because I see the transportation system as a continuous integration of development and innovation in every part of the world, which requires more contributions from a young passionate generation to keep optimizing and deploying innovation into the transportation system. Transportation systems play an important key role in the way people live and have a strong impact on the economy of any country in the world.
Research Background: My research showcases how a LiDAR device can be used and serve as a great help in observing the interaction happening in an intersection by monitoring how pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicle movement interact at the intersection. Getting the interaction data information, it will give us an idea of proper solutions and adjustments needed to the occurrence issues within the intersection to make it a safe intersection for all road users.
Post-Graduate Plans: Once I graduate, I plan to work on some research that can help optimize safety on the highways including urban and suburban traffic infrastructures. I would love to work with a Transportation research company.

Prairie View A&M University

Name: Adewumi A. Adeloye
Major: Graduate student majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Academic History: Over the last 14 years, I have acquired practical experience as an Electric Power Systems Engineer. Since my second year as an undergraduate, I have stimulated and sustained an unwavering desire for an optimal and resilient Electric Power System. The desire and preparation for the emergent technological era prompted me to study for, and receive the B.Eng in Electrical Engineering and an M.Eng degree in Electrical Power Systems Engineering. After about 10 years of lecturing and field practice, I commenced a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the Prairie View A & M University, Texas, USA. My doctoral research focuses on strengthening cyber security in smart electric power grids.

The smart grid is a complex system that comprises two components: information networks and power grids. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of cyberattack incidences on smart grid systems in various application domains. Protecting the smart grid under threat conditions, and maintaining network optimal performance is topmost priority for me. My desire is to deploy the training exposure and experience I have acquired to ensuring the prevention of black out, loss of private information, and a host of multiple negative impacts on traffic, healthcare and security.

With the upsurge in the demand for electric vehicles, more charging units would be required. Dedicated power sources might be considered to meet the charging demand with the current charging rate. A design that provides seamless interaction between all cyber-physical components required to ensure energy provision and resilience, such as the integration of a variety of communication methods with equipment, elimination of single point of failure, and contingency handling is my present research focus. My solution includes Machine Learning features and algorithms for enhanced information anomaly and intrusion detection within the cyber-physical perimeter of load points servicing critical infrastructures such as the transportation domain.
Research Background: My research has a strong emphasis placed on the importance of secure power supply to the proposed innovation and expansion in the transportation domain. My solutions incorporate machine-learning (ML) capabilities and algorithms to boost the detection of irregular data patterns and security breaches within the cyber-physical boundaries of essential infrastructure locations, particularly in critical sectors like transportation.

Significant research efforts inclusive of the reconstruction of a real-time Cyber- physical System (CPS) Anomaly Detection testbed, simulation of cyberattacks’ impact on the power system, selection of effective machine learning algorithms, and examining feature selection approaches for network packets were discussed. The methodology employed involves feature selection and supervised learning using the KITSUNE dataset, with specific network attacks analyzed. Random Forest, Logistic Regression, and Naïve Bayes algorithms were tested, with Random Forest performing best with a score of 97.5. The combination of Random Forest for feature selection and ML Model predictor is highlighted for its effectiveness and adaptability to edge hardware accelerators. This is particularly adaptable for autonomous cars, charging port clusters and traffic monitoring infrastructures.

A significant research milestone is the publication of a first of two journal manuscripts from the progress made in less than one year of research.
Post-Graduate Plans: Upon my graduation, I look forward to every opportunity to deploy my knowledge and exposure to providing practical solutions in the infrastructural space within Corporate America. I have been equipped with a solution that is critical to the mitigation of future national security threat on critical infrastructures. Should this solution be required for deployment or implementation, I would like to be a part of those who would have the first right of refusal.