Category Archives: News

Students Collaborate with UPPCO for Senior Design

UPPCO and CEE Students

BARAGA COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) – A group of students are getting real-world experience as part of their senior design project through a collaborative effort between Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) and Michigan Technological University.

For their project, students are investigating the possibility of adding a new generator at UPPCO’s Prickett hydroelectric generation facility to take advantage of bypass flows that are required under the company’s existing operating license.

Read more at the TV6 FOX UP.


Houghton MS Wins Lexus Eco Challenge

Backyard Backlash
Team HMS Backyard Backlash

Houghton Middle School has done it again for the third time. Their team of eight students has won the 2017 Lexus Eco Challenge. Their project titled “Backyard Backlash” investigates how to prevent nitrate-laden water from reaching Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes by surface area.

Much of the surface and groundwater contamination comes from nitrate-rich fertilizers and topsoils (due to lawn and garden care, roadside grass seeding projects, and agricultural practices) and will eventually reach Lake Superior.

In the Lexus Eco Challenge, student teams tackle environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate, and create practical solutions while competing for amazing prizes. The Lexus Eco Challenge gets students involved in project-based learning, teamwork, and skill building as they identify an environmental issue that affects their community, use their critical-thinking and research skills to come up with a solution, and report on the results by way of an Action Plan. Teams of 5-10 students are led by one or two Teacher Advisors—who are full-time teachers employed at the school.

Houghton Middle School won in 2014 with their invasive species education project, and again in 2015 with their project to identify a grass species that could grow on copper-laden stamp sands.

Teacher Advisor Sarah Geborkoff has participated in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) since 2014. She receives biannual grants to support projects that incorporate environmental monitoring and stewardship in the Huron River watershed. “LSSI has been critical to helping me prepare my students to compete in the Lexus Eco Challenge.”

Joan Chadde, Geborkoff’s mentor for the LSSI project, is equally elated at HMS’ success. “Sarah Geborkoff is a phenomenal teacher who continually goes above and beyond for her students. They start these projects during the summer. These are truly student-led projects. Sarah is an excellent teacher and student mentor.”

Learn more about their project here.


Student, Professor Chosen to Lead Silicon Valley Meetup

University Innovation FellowsMagann Dykema, (CEE) a fourth-year civil engineering student and a University Innovation Fellow, has been chosen by the University Innovation Fellows program as one of 23 student leaders for the program’s Silicon Valley Meetup Nov. 16-20, 2017. This is the third time that Dykema has served in this role.

The student leaders were hand-selected out of an international community of more than 1,200 Fellows for the impact they have had at their schools and for their contributions to the movement.

University Innovation Fellows has also asked Mary Raber (PHC) to serve as one of two mentors to the 30 faculty members who will also attend the event. This is the second time Raber has served in this role.

At the Silicon Valley Meetup, Dykema and Raber will represent their schools in front of 300 student and faculty attendees from 82 universities and colleges around the world. They will share their UIF work, modeling for the new Fellows and faculty the kind of impact they can have at their own schools.

University Innovation Fellows (UIF) is a global program run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. UIF empowers student leaders to increase campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking.

By Jenn Donovan.


2017 RUCUS in Lansing

RUCUS 2017The Center for Technology & Training (CTT) hosted its second annual Roadsoft User Conference of the United States (RUCUS) Nov. 1, 2017, in Lansing. RUCUS was attended by 80 individuals representing 50 Michigan and Indiana road agencies.

Conference attendees looked at a variety of topics including roadway asset inventory, inspection, maintenance and traffic counts; using the Roadsoft Culvert Module, safety, pavement management strategies and project planning. The event also provided attendees with networking opportunities with other agencies and with the CTT staff.

CTT staff attending the conference were Research Engineers John Kiefer, PE and Dale Lighthizer, PhD, PE; Training & Operations Senior Project Manager Christine Codere, CRM Administrator & Software Support Analyst Carole Reynolds, Customer Service & Data Support Specialist Allison Berryman, Principal Programmers Nick Koszykowski and Luke Peterson; Software Engineers Mary Crane, Byrel Mitchell, Mike Pionke, and Sean Thorpe.

A one-day “Introduction to Roadsoft” training was conducted at the conference venue on Oct. 31, 2017.

Also that day, CTT staff provided on-site Roadsoft training and technical assistance for the Van Buren County Road Commission in Lawrence, Michigan; and in Bristol, Indiana for several Indiana road agencies, including the cities of Elkhart, LaPorte, Mishawaka, Goshen and Middlebury; as well as Lake, Laporte, and Elkhart Counties and the Lochmueller Group, Inc..

On Nov. 2, training and technical sessions were held at the Kalkaska County Road Commission and with engineers at Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick, Inc. in Shelby Township, Michigan.

Roadsoft is a roadway asset management system for collecting, storing and analyzing data associated with transportation infrastructure. Roadsoft is developed and supported by the CTT with principal funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

By the Center for Technology & Training.


Excellence in Review Award for Daisuke Minakata

Daisuke Minakata
Daisuke Minakata

Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) published the 2017 Reviewer Awards on November 7. Among the recipients is Assistant Professor Daisuke Minakata, who received an Excellence in Review Award recognizing his contributions during a single year.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b05472

Dr.  Minakata’s research interests include development of computational tools for various water and wastewater treatment technologies, innovative water treatment technologies, and sustainable energy harvesting technologies. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers in ES&T, Water Research, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Applied Catalysis, and others.

The peer review process is inherently anonymous, and it is valued because this is how journals ensure that papers published meet their high standard for quality. The purpose of this international award is to celebrate and recognize the reviewers who went the extra distance to write reviews that were truly exceptions.

ES&T is an authoritative source of information for professionals in a wide range of environmental disciplines. The journal combines magazine and research sections and is published both in print and online.


David Hand on Ballast Treatment

Great LakesIn preparing ballast treatment standards, which a federal court ruled inadequate in 2015, the EPA turned to some of the country’s best scientists in the field to help establish a safe number of organisms that could be discharged per cubic meter of water while still protecting the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters from new invasions.

The only thing the panel could agree on is that the fewer organisms allowed to survive in a ballast tank, the better. Beyond that, they were at a loss because, they said, you can’t just pick a magic number and call it safe.

Unless the number you pick is zero.

That is the number Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green aimed for when she learned in 2007 that an invasive virus deadly to dozens of freshwater fish species was creeping toward her rugged, forested island in the middle of Lake Superior.

Green went straight to the captain of the Ranger III, the 165-foot-long ship that ferries park passengers to the island, 73 miles from its home port on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Worried that the ferry might suck the rapidly spreading virus into its ballast tanks while docked at the mainland, she asked if there were any way to disinfect that ballast before it was released into park waters. The captain said no. “What happens,” Green replied, “if I tell you that you can’t move this ship unless you kill everything in your ballast tanks?”

That’s when the brainstorming started. Green’s goal was to try to figure out how to make the Ranger III safe to sail — not in years or even months, but in a matter of days. She sat down with the captain, the ship’s engineer and David Hand, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University. Hand had worked on water purification systems for the International Space Station that can turn sweat and urine into tap water.

“This,” Hand told the group of the ballast problem, “is not rocket science.”

Two weeks later, Isle Royale’s passenger ship had a crude ballast treatment system that used chlorine to fry viruses and other life lurking in its 37,000-gallon ballast tanks, and then vitamin C to neutralize the poison so the water could be harmlessly discharged into the lake.

Read more at Discover Magazine, by Dan Egan.


Becker and Seagren Speak Out on Biosolids Concerns

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Biosolid spreading at the Mason Stamp Sands has local residents still concerned but experts from Michigan Tech are speaking up on the subject.

“It’s not surprising that people have questions about biosolids because most people don’t think about the whole wastewater treatment process,” said Jennifer Becker, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor.

Top questions include impact on water supply and wildlife.

“We can’t say there is absolutely no risk because there is nothing I can think of that we do that has no risk,” said Becker.

But biosolids are processed to the point where experts says health risks are very low, even in unlikely cases of high contact with the material.

“So, for example, for many of the metals this would be a child actually eating the biosolids. This gives you a feel for the regulations. They are based on a very extreme case,” said Eric Seagen, also a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at MTU.

Read more and watch the video at TV6 FOX UP, by Mariah Powell.

Jennifer Becker
Jennifer Becker
Eric Seagren
Eric Seagren

Xue and Auer to Forecast Algal Bloom Toxicity

Lake Erie Algal Bloom
Lake Erie Algal Bloom, NASA

Pengfei Xue (CEE/GLRC) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $68,975 research and development agreement with Ohio State University. Martin Auer (CEE) is the Co-PI on the project “ECOHAB 2017 Linking Process Models and Field Experiments to Forecast Algal Bloom Toxicity in Lake Erie.”

This is the first year of a three-year project potentially totaling $206,907.

By Sponsored Programs.



Pasi Lautala Interviewed on Railway Education

Summer Youth Rail Program

Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program was featured in the INFORMS Railway Applications Section 2017 newsletter. INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. The article Railway Education for the 21st Century included an interview with Pasi Lautala (CEE) describing our program’s history and current activities.

Feature Article: Railway Education for the 21st Century

The prize for best student recruiting must go to Michigan Tech, which since 2010 has offered a residential summer rail camp experience to students in the 9th through 12th years (American high school). Michigan Tech is the scrappy underdog of railway education.

How did Michigan Tech become one of the top railway education centers in the United States? It all started with the current program director, Pasi Lautala, who came to Michigan Tech in 1997 as an exchange student from Finland. Faculty members Bill Sproul and Eric Petersen shared a mutual interest in rail, and took an interest in Lautala. In 2002, they invited Lautala back to Michigan Tech to teach some courses in railways and pursue his PhD.

The summer youth program is the jewel of Michigan Tech’s program. Founded in 2010, the program is unique at Michigan Tech, because unlike other youth programs at Michigan Tech, it attracts students from all over the United States (Michigan Tech is otherwise strictly a regional school). At its peak under NuRail funding, the program offered 100% scholarship and enrolled a capacity group of 25 students. Today, without NuRail funding, the program offers 50% scholarship and enrolled 14 students last year.

The industry has to change, it has to modernize. Pasi Lautala

Director Pasi Lautala says the student body at Michigan Tech is a good match to the railroad industry, because its students are very hands on, engineering focused, and outdoors oriented, “Railroad people need to drive big trucks and shovel snow.”

Read more at the INFORMS newsletter of the Railway Applications Section, by Steven Harrod.