Pete Willemsen

University of Minnesota Duluth

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Computer Science


I run the Simulation and Interaction in Virtual Environments (SIVE) Lab with a research group composed of Master's level graduate students, and many talented undergraduates. The SIVE Lab specializes in interactive simulations that use GPU-based resources, or benefit from interactive, immersive visualization capabilities.

My research efforts are highly interdisciplinary and are focused on the simulation of physical phenomena and interaction within virtual environments. The GEnUSiS group simulates the complex interactions between urban cities and the environmental aspects of pollution dispersion and energy use, while developing immersive and interactive decision support systems for communicating simulation results. In the another project, our group is developing a stereo-projection virtual environment at UMD that integrates with the University of Utah's TPAWT (TreadPort Active Wind Tunnel) to explore locomotion and haptic terrain rendering with a robotic shoe device.

Mobile Application Development

I encourage our computer science undergraduates to take on interdisciplinary projects across our campus. These scholarly efforts are all aimed at providing experiences to our students that strengthen their education.

Recently, computer science students, working with graphic design and German language students created the UMD German Grammar Guide, which is now available on Apple's App Store. Our efforts have resulted in forming the Mobile Language Learning Group (MLLG) to bring together computer science students, foreign language students, and graphic design students to develop applications for other languages (such as Russian or French) as well as study abroad experiences.

Undergraduates are also working in other areas including projects with faculty from exercise science.

If you're interested in joining these teams, please contact me!

Educational Outreach to Elementary Students

I believe in providing outreach to the community, but especially the elementary students in and around Duluth. My motivation is to teach younger kids about what computer scientists do and how we program computers to solve science problems. These skills are not being taught at the elementary level and in some cases, not even at the high school levels. As part of this outreach, I invite second and third grade elementary classes in Duluth to my lab. I, along with undergraduates from computer science have also taught about one hundred third graders how to program using Scratch. I also participate in organizing Lego robotics activities that are focused on programming and problem solving.

More detail on these activities can be found on the SIVE Lab website:

ACM Club

I am the faculty advisor for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Club at UMD. As the adviser to the UMD ACM Club, I have proposed projects to the group related to human-computer interaction or teaching-focused outreach projects. In past years, the group has constructed the hardware and software for building a multi-touch table. The software that was produced for this project is open-source, and is called Glassomium.

We also travel to Thief River Falls, MN each year to complete in the Digi-Key Collegiate Computing Competition. UMD students have competed in the Digi-Key competition every year since it started, winning the competition in 2000, 2005, and 2014.

UROP (UMN Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program)

I am interested in involving talented undergraduates with my research efforts. If you are interested, please contact me by email or stop by my office.

Recent Activity

UMD Students win DKC³ 2014

Posted: Fri, Oct 17, 2014 - Word count: 200
DKC³ 2014 Programming Competition Each year, I travel with about eight University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Computer Science students to Thief River Falls, MN to compete in the Digi-Key Collegiate Computing Competition. This year, we brought one team of three students to compete in the 15th year of this event. Students Jonathan Beaulieu, Bridget Coughlin, and Scott Redig formed the team Pointless Pointer joining twenty-three other teams from around the area working through a variety of programming problems.

CS 8561- Advanced Human Computer Interaction

Posted: Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - Word count: 2600
CS 8561 (Fall 2014) - Advanced Human Computer Interaction This is the complete description for my course, including the Syllabus and the course material, which follows immediately below: Course Material Readings Each week, student groups (two per group) read a single research paper (and in some cases two papers if short). The paper is then presented to the class in short 12 minute presentations followed by approximately 5 minutes of discussion and questions from the other students.

David Schroeder, Post-Doc

Posted: Tue, Aug 26, 2014 - Word count: 100
Post-Doc David Schroeder David Schroeder has joined the lab as a 3M William L. McKnight Post-Doctoral Associate. Looking forward to working with him over the next year.

UMII Transdisciplinary Faculty Fellow

Posted: Mon, Jun 2, 2014 - Word count: 100
UMII Transdisciplinary Faculty Fellow This summer I was awarded the University of Minnesota’s Informatics Institute’s Transdisciplinary Faculty Fellow award. I’m excited to have received this and look forward to the project! UMII Fellowship Recipients As I establish the interdisciplinary work with colleages on the Twin Cities campus, I’ll post additional details about the project.

Scholar/Teacher Award

Posted: Wed, May 1, 2013 - Word count: 100
Sabra S. and Dennis L. Anderson Scholar/Teacher Award I was awarded the 2013 Sabra S. and Dennis L. Anderson Scholar/Teacher Award. This award is given by the Swenson College of Science and Engineering at UMD to honor a faculty member of scholarly distinction and teaching excellence who has encouraged undergraduates to undertake meaningful research projects. SCSE Faculty Awards

Haptic Terrain Display

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012 - Word count: 400
Main Project Page The primary project page is kept at SIVE Lab - Haptic Terrain. Project Overview The PIs’ goals in this research is to realistically display terrain in an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) locomotion interface, based upon modification of the foot/terrain interaction coupled with graphical and auditory display of the terrain and user interaction. Project outcomes will include novel “smart shoe” technology capable of sensing and modifying the terrain perceived by the wearer at each step so that terrain slope, surface stiffness, height variations, slip and balance can be actively controlled.


Posted: Sun, Nov 14, 2010 - Word count: 400
Main Project Page The primary project page is kept at SIVE Lab - Haptic Terrain. Project Overview Over the past three decades, urban planners have attempted to make cities more sustainable by espousing higher density urban design concepts such as Compact Cities, Walkable Communities, and New Urbanist developments. It has been argued by some urban planners that the per capita energy use and air pollution emissions in densely built cities are less than in their more sprawling less dense counterparts.