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Week of October 7, 2013

Faculty Spotlight

Computer science professor helps students bring apps to life


Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography.

Jeff Ringenberg’s office is a technophile’s dream. Shelves full of printers, computer accessories, and neat stacks of new Macbooks share space with hefty books — everything from “Microelectronic Circuit Design” to “Essential Matlab.”

As a lecturer IV for the Computer Science Engineering Division of the College of Engineering, the technology comes with the territory.

It wasn’t too long ago that Ringenberg was reading about Matlab while taking, not teaching, courses for his undergraduate computer engineering degree at Michigan. After getting his bachelor’s in 2000, he continued to study computer engineering and received his doctorate in 2008. He has been a full-time lecturer the last five years.

“It’s my dream job. When I started teaching, I realized I loved the whole process of learning. It fits a lot better with my personality than sitting at a computer and doing research all day,” Ringenberg says.

He teaches Engineering 101, which means he interacts with a great deal of incoming CoE freshmen. “I love to see students go from essentially knowing nothing about engineering to, at the end of the term, being able to have a conversation about computer programming,” he says.

Because many of his students are taking their first college classes, Ringenberg makes sure to engage them. “I try to remember that I am not them, though I was them not too long ago, and keep in mind that they aren’t experts in the field,” he says. He frequently puts “newsflashes” in his lecture slides to keep lectures engaging and to “reset the attention span of the average student.”

When he’s not in the classroom, Ringenberg works with MSuite, a student collaborative for the design of mobile applications. MSuite created a version of Mobile CTools that Information and Technology Services adapted as the base for the current Mobile CTools app offered by U-M. MSuite has recently worked on an app for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital that allows donors to locate specific memorial tiles within the hospital.

Through MSuite, student programmers are connected with a faculty member to work on a project. “We work with real clients, and to keep students accountable, it’s run like an independent study course, with grades attached. The goal is to connect companies with students while they’re still in school,” he says. Students who have their own ideas for apps are encouraged to pursue them, utilizing CoE resources and faculty advisors.

Ringenberg spends his free time with his wife, 2-year-old son, Elliott, and his month-old son, Owen. He also enjoys playing computer games. “I just really like gadgets — a lot. I like making them do cool things. There’s an intangible element about technology and how we use it and how it impacts our society, that’s just exciting to me.


The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

Jeff Ringenberg, lecturer IV for the Computer Science Engineering Division of the College of Engineering, on what inspires him: “Innovation and the pace of technology — the next new thing is always right there.”