Category Archives: Departmental and Program Support

Michigan Tech Receives $110,000 Grant from General Motors

In an effort to expand student competencies related to emerging technologies in the automotive industry, long time university supporter, General Motors (GM), recently awarded Michigan Technological University a $110,000 grant through its University/Organization Partner Program.

GM Check Presentation

The grant will provide continuing support for a variety of student activities, including the Advanced Hybrid Electric Vehicle and Advanced Motorsports Enterprises, Manufacturing Engineering Initiatives, pre-college STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) outreach, and diversity programs. A highlight of this year’s grant is GM’s focus on providing significant funding for diversity programs administered by Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI).

The mission of the CDI is to foster student success by providing engaging programs for students of multiple social and cultural identities.

“With continued support from GM, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion was able to enhance our Social Justice Lecture Series and helped us bring well known educators and quality speakers to campus that enrich our community. GM Foundation continued support is much appreciated.”

-Kellie Raffaelli
Director of Michigan Tech’s
Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Through a broad range of services, workshops, and events CDI fosters student success by embracing a deeper understanding and appreciation for diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

“As the corporate landscape continues to evolve, it becomes even more evident that diversity will play a major role in corporate success,” said Kurt Wiese, GM’s Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering. “With the consumer market evolving and customer demands exceeding new levels, it is imperative that organizations remain agile and adaptive. Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion provides the experiences and support for engineering students to become important contributors to society. As a company, General Motors values diversity, in all forms, as a core strength in our ability to meet or exceed customer’s expectations today and going forward.”

Michigan Tech and General Motors share a long-standing partnership dating back to at least 1940, supporting a wide range of activities across campus including scholarships, Senior Design and Enterprise programs, student organizations, sponsored research, recruiting support, youth programs, diversity initiatives and more.

Through the University/Organization Partner Program, the GM annually grants $3 million to support leading universities and partnering organizations across the country. The program aims to strengthen higher education curricula in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and other fields important to the automotive industry, with a goal of preparing more students to graduate with related organizations, and career development resources.


Bosch – Supporting STEM K-12 Outreach

 

BoschRobert Bosch LLC, is North America’s largest supplier of automotive components. Other business units include, power tools, security systems, home appliance, engineering, and electronics. Robert Bosch and the Bosch Community Fund have been consistent and valued partners for many years investing in a variety of programs and projects at Michigan Tech. Over the past decade, Bosch has been very active on campus through recruiting efforts, research, funding student projects, and supporting K-12 outreach.

Bosch exhibit 4EBosch’s most significant involvement with Michigan Tech has been in our pre-college outreach programs. Over the past several years, they have been a major supporter of Michigan Tech’s signature K-12 program, Mind Trekkers. Mind Trekkers is a nationally acclaimed traveling K-12 outreach initiative founded in 2010. The group brings the excitement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) directly to K-12 students in the communities where they live .Bosch exhibit 3E

In the fall of 2015 and 2016, Mind Trekkers co-hosted the Southeast Michigan Science & Engineering Festival held at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI. About 4,000 middle school students and families attended each of these events. The Bosch Community Fund and Robert Bosch LLC have been major funding partners of this festival each year.

“I am very proud of Bosch’s partnership with Michigan Tech’s Mind Trekkers program. As a corporate foundation, we are very interested in closing the STEM skills gap, and the Mind Trekkers program plays a very important role in getting students interested in STEM. Having college students from Michigan Tech share their knowledge and enthusiasm about STEM with middle school students through fun and exciting hands-on activities is clearly a winning approach!” -Eve Haley, Program Officer, Bosch Community Fund

Bosch exhibit 2EIn order to share our passion for STEM and to bring events into communities like Livonia, Mind Trekkers must partner with industry and many other organizations to host and participate in STEM festivals. Industry participation is especially important since they are the ultimate beneficiary of STEM outreach by inspiring K-12 students to consider STEM careers within their companies. Bosch has made a significant commitment in this area by supporting Mind Trekkers who reach thousands of K-12 students with a positive message that STEM is an exciting and attainable career path.

In addition to providing funding, Bosch has had an exhibit at each festival showcasing fun hands-on science and engineering principles. Bosch employees volunteered and hosted demonstrations and activities that festival guests found interesting and fun.

We value Bosch’s partnership through the many ways they are involved with Michigan Tech and we look forward to broadening the scope of our work together.Bosch exhibit 1E


ArcelorMittal – A Long History of Student Involvement

ArcelorMittal has a long history of investing in Michigan Tech students.  This consistent investment has helped many students with their education, campus life, and careers.   For ArcelorMittal, campus involvement is more than simply attending the Career Fair.  It is a comprehensive approach across campus.

April 2016 - "Signing Day"
April 2016 – “Signing Day”

ArcelorMittal has consistently attended the Career Services Advisory Board meeting to help guide and direct student career development.  They volunteer to help with resume and interview preparation in the weeks leading up to the Career Fair.

March 2016 - Factory Tour
March 2016 – Factory Tour

To help students understand the true experience of working in a steel factory, several trips to facilities have been scheduled.  These trips help students gain an appreciation for life in the factory but also why leadership, attention to detail, and a focus on safety is important in both the workplace and through every aspect of life.

Real-world projects for students to learn design and project management help augment classroom education with practical applications.

September 2016 - Steel Day
September 2016 – Steel Day

Steel Day started four years ago with a simple premise: “Help students understand the depth and breadth of careers in this industry”.  ArcelorMittal has attended each of these annual events and brought new technology and new displays each time to showcase how the Steel Industry continues to change.

The next generation of Huskies continues to benefit from these experiences that enhance the educational experience for all Michigan Tech students


Systems Control

Systems Control 3Systems Control, a division of Northern Star Industries, Inc., has over fifty years of expertise as an industry leader in the design and manufacture of engineered solutions that enable the reliable delivery of energy to the world.

Systems Control 2

Their history and relationship with Michigan Tech runs deep. Born and headquartered in Iron Mountain, MI, a small mining town in the Upper Peninsula, the once small town company has grown to over 500 employees, including additional engineering offices in Pewaukee, WI and a recent SmartZone expansion in Houghton, MI in May 2015.

“With proximity to the university, the engineering talent, the technical ability that we have in this community, we thought it’d be a natural for us to open the office here, and take advantage of the talent pool and the strong work ethic.” -David Rowe, Manager – Houghton Office and Michigan Tech alumni

As its company grows, Systems Control recognizes the need to create and develop its own talent and not wait for it to come to them. For many years, owner and Michigan Tech alumni Dave Brule Sr., has made it a priority for the business to invest in its local community talent by creating a scholarship for employees to send their kids to Michigan Tech’s world renowned Summer Youth Programs. These programs not only create excitement and passion with science and engineering for those who attend, but also make memories, friendships, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Children of employees can explore programs from wildlife and outdoors to robotics and computer science. However, the talent pipeline development effort doesn’t stop there.

Systems Control also employs local high school students with summer internships in its manufacturing and engineering facilities. In 2015, seeing a need for more power engineers, the company created a $250,000 scholarship fund, earmarked for students concentrating in Power Engineering in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Michigan Tech. The first cohort of “Systems Control Scholars” was created when five students were granted scholarships of $10,000 per year to complete their studies at Michigan Tech. Many of these students are offered internship and co-op work experiences throughout their college career, potentially landing their full-time dream job with Systems Control after completing their degree.

“I am pleased to be able to support the educational and career goals of aspiring electrical engineers with the establishment of the Systems Control Scholarship program,” states Dave Brule Sr. “It is our goal to attract the best and the brightest among Tech’s electrical engineering students as Systems Control Scholars. We hope to employ them full time upon graduation.”

What makes Systems Control unique in its relationship with Michigan Tech? It is an unwavering commitment to invest in people, leveraging Michigan Tech’s faculty, staff, and students in developing collaborative partnerships to build the future together. Whether it’s supporting continuing education for employees, providing experiences for employees’ children, or providing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to be challenged in an internship experience, Systems Control will continue to be successful in its endeavors.

To learn more about Systems Control, please visit its website, http://www.systemscontrol.com/, or click the video below to hear the company’s story.

Systems Control 1


Pavlis Honors College Inspires New Entrepreneurial Venture – Airmax Aerial

Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College (PHC) supports highly motivated Michigan Tech students from all programs to achieve the highest standards of academic excellence.

“We encourage the unexpected by challenging the norm. We push you outside of your comfort zone. We urge you not to be a passive player on campus; instead embrace the values of the institution and the reasons you came here. Take charge of your education to create your future.”

These words helped inspire current student, Aaron Kostrzewa, a sophomore majoring in Civil Engineering to enroll in the PHC. The PHC serves highly motivated students to enhance their college experience and take full advantage of the amazing opportunities that Michigan Tech has to offer by customizing their education to suit interests in industry, innovation, research, domestic service and other global engagements.

Airmax Aerial
Michigan Tech students, Aaron Kostrzewa and Max Casler

Aaron and fellow student, Max Casler, a sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering, were excited to see the resources available for entrepreneurs in the PHC and that entrepreneurship is encouraged on campus. Both Aaron and Max developed a passion for the emerging technology of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) during their first year at Michigan Tech. Together they acquired equipment and developed skills to use the drones to photograph the amazing beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula and their hometown of Traverse City, MI. This led Aaron and Max to start an aerial photography and cinematography company that utilizes unmanned aerial systems to capture the world from a new perspective. AirMax Aerial, LLC, the vision of Aaron and Max, now use top of the line drones to create captivating photos and videos for their clients.

Engineering minds aren’t just good for designing systems and solving problems. Max uses his engineering skills to design a business and learn how to grow an idea into a company. Aaron has previous experience in business ownership from a lawn business he started in his hometown. He combines his existing client interaction skills with the technical skills learned at Michigan Tech to create a business that can compete in 21st century markets.

Aaron and Max are also staying current on all air traffic laws. Because small, unmanned commercially available aerial vehicle use is somewhat controversial, AirMax Aerial is taking all recommended precautions for safe and legal flight. Some of these include filing information with the appropriate governmental agencies, contacting local authorities before flying, clearing flights near airports with air traffic controllers, and educating people interested in these systems.

Aaron and Max realize that the commercial drone market is expected to be saturated in the coming years. Therefore, AirMax Aerial is making ample preparations to stay ahead of the game. Specialization is the key. Through business connections, they have established contacts in the golf and boating industries. However, signing a client is only half the work. Exceptional video editing, customer relations, marketing, and branding are all essentially to future business. AirMax Aerial seeks to be highly professional and to build a high caliber company to compete and excel in the marketplace.

As a member of the PHC, Aaron is able to improve the business through the vast resources available through the PHC and at Michigan Tech. He has a mentor for business advice and support, while classes through the PHC challenge him and allow him to grow as a leader. AirMax Aerial is benefiting from training, mentoring, business counseling, and access to a rich network of resources through the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship which is housed within the PHC and was recently established to leverage experience in technology commercialization and startup business development on-campus with related off-campus connections to serve students who have a passion for transforming ideas into commercial opportunities and ultimately into capital.


American Transmission Co. Sponsored Senior Design Receives Award

Senior Design projects provide an opportunity for students to apply their skills and knowledge to real life engineering challenges. It also provides companies with a taste of what Michigan Tech students have to offer in developing creative solutions that utilize skills and knowledge acquired throughout their degree pursuit.  Senior design is a win-win for students and industry partners alike.

This year’s American Transmission Company (ATC) Senior Design team was nothing short of fantastic. While they gained experience relevant to their Electrical Engineering course work, they also contributed towards solutions and innovations in the area of motor drives for ATC.  ATC acknowledged the student project in their June newsletter issue of PluggedIn.

Guided by their faculty advisor, Trever Hassell, along with a team of professional engineers from ATC, with their mentorship and support the students not only met all project goals and expectations set by ATC but also earned the Electrical and Computer Engineering department’s “External Advisory Committee Industry Innovation Award”. This award is given annually to the Senior Design team whose project and deliverable are considered most impactful to industry expectations while benefiting the sponsor.

http://blogs.mtu.edu/ece/category/senior-design/

For more information about the Senior Design program please contact Rick Berkey,  rjberkey@mtu.edu, (906)-487-4309.


Chrysler Helps Formula SAE Team Make it to Competition

On the road to competition in Detroit, MI, the Michigan Tech Formula SAE team ran into transmission issues just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Chrysler of Gaylord, MI came to the rescue in good time to help them make it to competition and back safely.

The team is very appreciative of all the assistance they received from Chrysler. “Chrysler has always been a tremendous asset to the Formula SAE team and Michigan Tech” said the teams Chief Engineer, Chais Eliason.  “We are keenly aware that we could not have been successful down at competition this year without the support of Chrysler”. The team earned 61st place overall out of 126 teams.


Students Pull Together to Pull Off BonzAI Brawl

by Dennis Walikainen, senior content specialist, Michigan Technological University

The recently completed Seventh Annual BonzAI Brawl attracted some 120 students, alumni, faculty and staff and was a resounding success, according to organizers and advisors.

“Northern Michigan students even competed remotely, due to weather, and that’s the first time we’ve done that,” said Mike Stefaniak of Husky Game Development (HGD) Enterprise. With Women in Computing Sciences (WiCS), they were the chief organizers. “We hope to do that again in the future.”

According to Stefaniak, in the BonzAI Brawl, teams create autonomous agents (via artificial intelligence, the AI in BonzAI) to overcome challenges and outperform their opponents. Students have no prior knowledge of the game design and mechanics before BonzAI. The morning of the event, students learn about the game and then have eight hours to develop their autonomous agents. In the evening, they watch their agents face off against each other as they compete for first place.

This year’s top three teams were:

1. Slaughterhouse: Kyle Falk (Computer Engineering) and Zachary Dunham (Computer Engineering)
2. Team Dinosaur: Michael Kent (Computer Science), Joseph Ryan (Computer Science) and Matthew Vaught (Computer Science)
3. The Headcrabs: Tim Bradt (Computer Engineering), David Pariseau (Electrical Engineering) and Evan Bajek (Electrical Engineering)

“The main core of students from WiCS and HGD Enterprise put hundreds of hours into creating the game and setting up the event,” said advisor Laura Brown, assistant professor in computer science.

“It is easy to underestimate the huge number of details that need to be taken care of for the event to go smoothly,” said Scott Kuhl, advisor and assistant professor of computer science. “All the planning really adds up and took a lot of effort from students to organize. The students helped with everything including writing the custom software we use for BonzAI, testing the software for bugs, finding sponsors, handling registration, creating artwork for the software and marketing materials, and ordering food and prizes.”

“Outside of this core group, we had volunteers from Michigan Tech’s chapter of ACM (Association Computing Machinery) and UPE, the computer science honor society, helped with many activities,” Brown added. “This year the Copper Country Programmers, a club of middle and high school students learning to program, also got to help beta-test and try out the game.”

“If others in the campus community (faculty, staff, alumni) are interested in participating in or sponsoring the event next year, please stay tuned to http://bonzai.cs.mtu.edu for announcements for BonzAI 2015,” said Brown.

The event was sponsored by Lasalletech, Jackson National Life Insurance Company and ControlTec.


Upcoming Design Expo Showcases Michigan Tech Enterprise and Senior Design Teams

In a recent Business Insider article it was announced that Michigan Tech has been designated the “11th university with the smartest students” in the United States. Among these smart individuals are those who will be presenting and competing in the 2014 Design Expo. This is an opportunity for over 600 undergraduates involved in Enterprise and Senior Design to compete for awards and present their projects to corporate representatives and the campus community. Often sponsored by industry, Senior Design and Enterprise help Michigan Tech students gain professional experience and a better understanding of real industry problems.

Stop by the 2014 Design Expo in the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, 3rd floor on Thursday, April 17th from 8am-4pm.

Interested in judging at Design Expo? We need professionals to serve as distinguished Design Expo judges. If you are available to judge please use the online form below to register as a judge, or email Rick Berkey.

Register to be a Design Expo judge at https://michigantech.wufoo.com/forms/rsvp-form-for-guests-and-judges/

This year’s Design Expo is sponsored by ITC Holdings, Black & Veatch, American Transmission Company, Continental, and Cliffs Natural Resources.

To learn more about the 2014 Design Expo http://blogs.mtu.edu/expo/, Read the Business Insiders article http://www.businessinsider.com/public-colleges-with-smartest-students-2014-3 or for more Michigan Tech data by Niche, http://colleges.niche.com/michigan-technological-university/

Winning 2013 Senior Design Team

Team Members: Beau Baldwin, Matt Boersema, Nathan Rogers, Sarah Wells, and Elias Whitley, Electrical Engineering
Advisor: John Lukowski, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor: ITC Holding and Mitsubishi Electric

Winning 2013 Enterprise Team

Team Leaders: Evan Beckner, Operations and Systems Management; Katy Hickey, Biomedical Engineering
Advisor: Robert Warrington, Institute for Leadership and Innovation; Michael Neuman, Biomedical Engineering


Silicon Valley Tour – Day 3

Day 3 of the Brocade sponsored Silicon Valley Spring Break Tour was a day of atypical engineering applications in Northern California for the group of 15 students. Michigan Tech alumna Debra Campbell, Construction Program Manager for the National Park Service Service was first to treat the group to a personalized, behind-the-scenes, historical and engineering tour of Alcatraz Island. Stabilization efforts under the island’s largest structures are a unique challenge for engineering efforts given constraints of location and environment. The island’s shift from diesel fuel to alternative energy is an additional engineering challenge. NPS employees helped guide the group through cell block tours and a variety of off-tour experiences and insight to the island’s varied uses over the years.

An equally interesting tour was given by Tim Porter, son of Michigan Tech alum and entrepreneur Tom Porter, who toured the group though the Porter Family Vineyard in Napa. The Porter’s unique application of mesh network, remote sensing, and automated controls of everything from vine to aging is novel in the wine industry. Successes and failures of implementing bleeding edge technology in this historically hands-on industry has presented unique challenges and produced most stellar wine.

The student’s impressions of both are below:

Tuesday we had to be up bright and early in order to meet with the National Park Service down by the pier in order to catch the first boat of the day out to Alcatraz. The ride out to the island was just amazing; the view of the city and it’s surroundings along with the sunrise over the bay was simply breath taking. First we were given a brief history of the island where I learned the island was originally used as a fort before being turned into a military prison and then later changing purposes again into the federal prison that most people know it for. Once we got to the island we started off with the standard audio tour which allowed us to learn a lot about the prison and it’s history The audio tour included viewpoints from both some of the guards and ex-inmates giving us insight on some of the inmates accommodations as well as the security practices the prison implemented. I thought it was very interesting to learn about all the different aspects of the prison. Once the audio tour was over we met back up with the National Park Service representatives for some more exclusive access. We were privileged enough to get a private tour of the lighthouse, the citadel basement, the the batteries used to power the island, and the new industry building where the “good” prisoners were able to spend some time working instead of spending their whole day in their cell. While they were all great to experience the lighthouse was my personal favorite. The view from the top of the tower was insurmountable. Once we were done touring the island we caught the boat back to the main land where they also provided us some sandwiches and snacks for lunch. Needless to say they treated us very well and I was very grateful for all of their accommodations. After lunch we got some vans, headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head towards Napa Valley to tour the Porter Family Vineyards. Continuing the trend, the view was amazing with the all the rolling hills and the mountains in the background. We were given a tour of the vineyard and educated on how much the vines are effected by different amounts of water and nutrients in the soil. After that we got to see how they sort all of their berries and remove any debris before fermenting the wine and learn about the fermentation process. After that we got to tour the cave they use to age their wine. This may or may not sound like a very impressive element to the vineyard but I will ensure you that it was one of the highlights of the trip; I think it’s something you have to see to fully appreciate. The cave seemed to never end but we eventually came upon a nook in the cave set up for us to partake in a vertical wine tasting in order to experience how the wine tastes different from year to year. We were taught how to properly examine the color, aroma, body, and the taste which was judged by the acid, sweetness, and tannin of the wine. While it was easy to tell each wine had a distinct smell and flavor, my palate isn’t quite refined enough to be able to distinguish their characteristics. I still enjoyed getting to taste the various wines though and I won’t lie, it felt pretty awesome to be sitting in the vineyards cave drinking wine that sold for around $80/bottle which is much more than my college budget can really afford. I also really enjoyed getting to hear someone that knows what they are talking about teach us so much about every aspect of wine. Our guide also talked to us about some of what is necessary to pass the sommelier examination which I was just blown away by. If you don’t know what it is I would recommend reading into it a bit because I find it amazing. Once the tour was over we headed to a local pizza place to grab a bite to eat before making the drive over to San Jose and checking into our new hotel. It had been a pretty long day for all of us so we were pretty tired. We decided it was best just taking some time to settle into the new hotel before calling it a night.

-Kevin Coleman – Computer Engineering, Fifth Year

7 AM in the lobby with our bags packed was a struggle for most.  We were off to the to get a private tour of Alcatraz. The walk to the trolley stop unusually windy, but a warm wind which was a nice change from the Houghton weather.  Arriving at the port, we boarded a boat to Alcatraz with the crew since the island wasn’t open to visitors quit yet.  We were able to take the audio tour through the prison and seeing what life was like at Alcatraz.  Once the audio tour had finished, we reconvened on the lawn to head up the lighthouse.  The lighthouse is closed to the public and was only open once at the 150th anniversary of the previous lighthouse.  This exclusive tour was the best view of the city. At the very top, everyone could get a 360 degree view of the city.  Even though I was holding on for my life and trying to not be the clumsy person I am, I wished I could stay and take in the view all day.  After we descended from the lighthouse, we got a personal tour of the basement, tunnels, the workers buildings, the gun gallery, and much more that the public was not able to see.  Debbie was one of our tour guides and an alumnae, provided us with a lunch once back on land.  Leaving the pier, Debbie gave us hugs and wished us luck .  Retrieving our bags, loading up the vans and off to Porter Family Vineyard.  There were many different aspects of a vineyard that I had never realized went into making wine, not to say the time it took for a vine to begin budding.  The most fascinating part of the vineyard was the cave that the Porter Family own. They had build it to produce their wine in, the humidity in the cave was better for the fermentation and there wasn’t enough space in the original office.  In one cove where we were able to technically taste wine that was produced from 2005 (the first Porter Family win made) to 2010.  Being able see the differences in the wine in the color, body, taste, aroma, and quality was fascinating to me.  I did not know that wine was this complex. We learned how to get the best aroma out of the wine for a better evaluation of each year.  We were able to mingle and ask as many questions we pleased, most of us did not want to leave the vineyard. Alcatraz and the Porter Family Vineyard were some of the best memories I had at this point. Being able to hear the history and find out how a small startup is properly run was a great learning experience.  Google and Tesla should be interesting to see.

-Kirsten Dulbandzhyan – Mktg & Mngmt, Third Year

Today I awoke to the sounds of the city and my blaring alarm clock at 6 AM. San Francisco takes on a whole new feel at 7am, and clearly shows its roots in business with all the early morning chaos. Once down at the docks we met up with Debra Campbell and boarded the ferryboat. As it turns out we were graced with riding one of the newer hybrid electric boats, which was a big excitement for the EE majors on the trip. The ferries were outfitted with solar panels, wind turbines, and electric motors, in a system that helps reduce the boats use of fossil fuels. It also showcased the National Park Services drive for becoming more environmentally friendly. As one can imagine the ride out to Alcatraz was filled with more amazing views of the cityscape and vibrant sunrise. Once on the Island it became apparent that we were getting the VIP treatment so to speak, and received tours before all the other tourists arrived.  The park rangers also allowed us access to the top of the island lighthouse, and a look at the basement construction projects that were underway. I can say that being atop the 86 foot tall lighthouse was more than nerve racking, but well worth it. The view of the bay was not only stunning, but also from a perspective that most people will never have the chance to see. We then made our way into the catacombs beneath the prison buildings. Here we snaked through the ruins of the first edifice the island supported, a 1850’s civil war fort. As it turns out the prison was built right on top of the fort, and was suffering from sever structural degradation. Debbie showed us how the park service was re-constructing some steel and cement beams to stabilize the building above, while still maintaining the look of 1850’s construction. Our group re-surfaced and caught the 1:00 PM boat back to shore, where we ate a great lunch provided by the NPS and loaded up in vans. The next stop was Napa Valley, and Porter Family Vineyards. I didn’t think that California could offer up any more amazing views than those found in the bay area, but I was quickly proven wrong. The rolling green hills were dotted with wineries, and very beautiful to say the least. The Porter vineyard was atop a high hill, and overlooked a large section of the valley. Tim met us in the yard, and commenced what was sure to be a great cultural experience. We all walked with him as he explained the wine making process, and the business behind his winery. Then he took our group through two giant doors, and into his very own cave. This cave was simply jaw dropping, boasting 15-foot ceilings, textured Shotcrete walls, and loads of gorgeous stainless steal processing equipment. It was lined with barrel after barrel of wine, and wrapped around the corner out of sight. Tim talked us through the various aspects of wine making, and explained that the barrels are made of French oak, and contribute about 40% of the wines characteristics. We then walked about halfway through the tunnel, and entered a wine tasting room. This room was absolutely breath taking, sporting artwork, lit candles, and of course about 100 different bottles of wine. The room had a romantic and affluent ambiance that instantly made me feel far more elegant than I really am. I sat down at a beautifully set table, and spent the next 2 hours or so technically tasting Porter wines. I must say that the experience was beyond my expectations. I really discovered why wine tasting is such a hobby among many people. Tim and his intern exposed how wine has much more to it than just a color. We got to evaluate his wine for things like body, clarity, acid, tannin content, and aroma. He even said that our input would be used in conjunction with the first tasting of the wines to see how they have aged. It was so enjoyable, and quite unforgettable! Tims passion for wine was evident in his every word, and was only outweighed by his gracious hospitality. After a quick goodbye we put the terraces of the vineyard in the rear view mirror, and headed down into a small Napa town were we had pizza for dinner.

-Nicholas Schweikart – Mechanical Engineering, First Year