Faculty Profile: Robert Vermilyer, Ph.D.

Dr. Vermilyer with 10 students at the Innovation CenterProfessor of Computer Science

“Computer science requires creativity and problem-solving, skills students can use while they’re in college and after they graduate.”

As an undergraduate in the mid 1970s, Dr. Robert Vermilyer observed that there were not a lot of degree options for students interested in computer sciences. So he majored in mathematics, hoping to land a job in a technical field. He did—at Lear Siegler Inc. (now part of URS Corporation), a designer and manufacturer of electromechanical equipment for aerospace, missile, and ordnance applications. As a software engineer, he helped develop real-time avionic software for a variety of government and commercial contracts.

Three years later, Dr. Vermilyer decided to return to college, earning his master’s degree in computer science at Michigan Technological University. He was hired as a computer science instructor at The Ohio State University before becoming a consultant on system design and implementation projects for the Technology Exchange Center in Grove City, Ohio.   He later earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Vermilyer returned to academia in 1986 when he took a position as Chairperson and Professor of Computer Science at Franklin University. Over the years, Dr. Vermilyer held a variety of roles at the University, including Dean of the School of Computer and Information Science, Chief Technology Officer and Associate Vice President for Academics.

Dr. Vermilyer began teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas College in 2005. Since then, he’s taught a variety of computer science classes, including computer graphics, animation, 3D modeling, gaming, human computer interaction, robotics, networks, operating systems, and computational thinking. He is pictured above (far right) with his robotics class students.

His primary research interests are graphics, human-computer interaction, human-robotic interaction and educational gaming.

“Most young people spend a lot of time playing games every week. I think that in addition to entertainment value, games should have an educational component,” Dr. Vermilyer explains. “The problem is that educational games often aren’t viewed as fun—in fact, they’re drill and practice exercises.”  So Dr. Vermilyer developed iD-STEM, a research project that seeks to develop models for educational games, with a focus on design strategies that encourage creativity, exploration, problem solving, integrate science literacy and computational thinking, incorporate gaming into the classroom, and provide methodologies for applying STEM skills learned from gaming to specific engineering problems. His students work right alongside him.  “Students work on a variety of projects for a 3D third-person exploratory learning game we’re creating as part of the iD-STEM research,” Dr. Vermilyer says. “Some of my students worked on creating models of Stonehenge to put into the game, while another modeled the game’s protagonist.”

In his spare time, Dr. Vermilyer enjoys traveling and running. He even has a few marathons under his belt.

B.S., Mathematics, Grand Valley State University
M.S., Computer Science, Michigan Technological University
Ph.D., Computer Science, Nova Southeastern University