Faculty Feature: Jeff Falkinburg

Jeff Falkinburg
Jeff Falkinburg

Each week we're featuring a Q&A with a member of our faculty in the School of Computing. Get to know some of our professors! This week we're featuring Assistant Professor of Practice Jeffrey Falkinburg.

Name: Jeffrey Falkinburg
Title: Assistant Professor of Practice

What are your research areas or areas of specialty/interest?
As a Professor of Practice, I am primarily teaching faculty and I have been extremely blessed with the fact that my research interests really fit quite well into the courses that I teach. Essentially, I get paid to teach the things I love. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” My interests include robotics, embedded systems, 3D modeling, and simulation design. Being a tribe lead (faculty mentor) on Senior Design capstone projects, I get involved with many different types of research projects, but I typically gravitate towards projects involving Internet of Things, Robotics, Virtual Reality, or Mobile App Development. My capstone involvement is also what drove me to step outside my comfort zone and start sponsoring a few projects like Husker Scope and Husker STEM VR. These projects primarily started as a way to provide more interesting projects for some of our students, but turned out to provide one application that is very useful in some engineering classes and another as a unique outreach/recruitment tool.

What courses are you teaching this year?
This year I have continued to teach the courses I typically teach which fit very well in my areas of interest, so I really love to teach them. I believe students learn better when they are taught through applied learning. So, in all my classes I attempt to not just teach, but to have them apply what they have learning in realistic ways. This year I was able to add another course to my repertoire, CSCE 10: Introduction to the School of Computing. Paired with my new duties as a faculty advisor, the intro course is a great way to help students explore their career opportunities.
• CSCE 10 – Introduction to the School of Computing: This is a freshmen seminar for all new School of Computing students to explore the resources available to them and explore possible career paths available to a data scientist, computer scientist, computer engineer, or software engineer.
• CSCE 230 – Computer Organization: This course is an introduction to the organization and structure of computer systems and digital design.
• CSCE 336 – Embedded Systems: This course is an introduction to designing, interfacing, configuring, and programming embedded systems.
• CSCE 436 – Advanced Embedded Systems: This graduate level course teaches the design, development, and implementation of advanced embedded hardware and software applications.
• Tribe Lead for six Senior Design capstone projects.

How did you first become interested in computing or your specific area of computing?
My journey began when I first started college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. I came out of high school and was good at math so I decided to study to be an actuarial scientist. Looking back, I am pretty sure I would have been miserable. I mean, who really knows what they want to be when the grow up in the first year of college? I decided on a whim to take a computer science course. At the time my wife thought I was an idiot for taking classes that didn’t contribute to my degree, but I discovered that I love computers! My academic career diverged from there since I enlisted in the Air Force as a computer maintenance technician and didn’t finish my B.S. in Computer Engineering for many years. When I did go back to finish college at the University of Nebraska Omaha, I was able to get the Air Force to pay for it and then commission me as an officer. Once I became an officer in the Air Force, I had a series of amazing opportunities in the world of developmental engineering, program management, and eventually teaching. I ended up getting paid to go to school and get a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering, running a game lab and building games and simulations, teaching at the Air Force Academy, and finally teaching Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at UNL before moving into the School of Computing after I retired from the Air Force.

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of computing? What do you enjoy most about those?
I honestly love spending time with my family and creating things with wood. I enjoy getting outside with my family to hike or go for walk. Since my wife and I get our summers off they end up being really relaxing for us. We get up, go for a walk around the lake and then sit on the back deck and drink coffee all morning. Later we get going and typically do something constructive. Over the years as our boys were growing up, we worked on many different projects like building a playhouse, finishing a basement, building a couple Gibson Les Paul guitars, and then a lot of different burnt wood American Flag projects. I just love spending time with my family and cutting, shaping, and staining wood to create beautiful things.

What is your favorite weekend activity?
Spending time with my family. Whether that be getting outside for a hike, doing woodworking with my boys, or watching movies.

Where is your favorite place you've traveled?
Having lived the transient lifestyle in the Air Force with my family I would say that my favorite place that I have traveled is the many of the places that we’ve lived together. Most of our vacations were spent traveling home to Nebraska even though the Air Force sent me to many exotic places around the world. We really enjoyed our time living in Beavercreek, Ohio, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Shalimar, Florida, and finally back in Nebraska.

What is your favorite food?
I really enjoy a thick cut medium rare ribeye steak with cheesy potatoes.

What is a fun fact or something other members of the school may not know about you?
When I was an undergraduate, I really hated talking in front of people so I never imagined that I would ever be a teacher. Truth be told I was horrible at public speaking. Throughout my life I have found that doing things that seem uncomfortable in the moment can sometimes open doors that you never knew existed. Once I was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force I was thrown into the deep end of the pool with respect to public speaking. I ended up managing programs, money, and people so I continually had to speak in front of leaders and big groups. Teaching at the Air Force Academy initially began as a way to get my family closer to home in Nebraska, but I ended up loving it once I got past the initial hurdle. Because before you can ever teach a class of students, they make you teach at least a couple lessons to all the faculty in your department. Talk about a tough crowd. They know more about the material than you do. After that I knew I could do anything I put my mind to. Now I am in my tenth year teaching at the collegiate level.

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the School of Computing?
The faculty and staff within the School of Computing have been great! Everyone supports each other and strives to provide a superior academic experience for our students. I have enjoyed working with them for the past five years. I also really love interacting with students in class and as a faculty advisor. I enjoy talking with them about their academic and career plans and telling them stories of some of my experiences, successes, and failures. As an engineer I am a firm believer in not being afraid to fail. My philosophy is that “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and have the initiative to put in the effort. Don’t ever let anyone discourage you from your path.”