Category Archives: News

Defining Success

googleBy Lorelle Meadows

Earlier this week, I spent a day with Michigan Tech students in Silicon Valley and had the opportunity to visit with a number of Michigan Tech alums. Among the Tech alums were Stuart Pann, class of ’81, Alex Johnson, class of 92′ and Tony Altobelli. They welcomed us to their companies (HP, Facebook, and Google!), gave us tours and shared their stories. As they presented their ideas to us, I recorded the advice that they gave. Here it is:

  1. It’s not about your major – it’s about what you want to DO
  2. A Michigan Tech background gives you great quantitative skills to build on (these were all engineers), but you need more
  3. Follow your passion – know your strengths and what you love to do
  4. Put in the work – effort and perseverance matter – but also know when to ask for help
  5. Your first job matters, it sets up how you will view the world
  6. Money isn’t everything, just something – make sure the value system of the company works for you (this might mean taking your lowest offer)
  7. The hallmark of a good interview is preparation – you need to convey curiosity, your ability to work in teams and a sense of humility – tell why you want to join THIS company – do your homework – share your projects AND passions – tell your story
  8. Map your path to success, but adapt as opportunities come up and changes happen
  9. Enjoy the ups and downs – nothing in life is perfect – don’t give up on your dreams

Within these valuable tidbits, I could feel the alignment with Pavlis. Here, we build on the skills in your major and challenge you to find your own pathway to success – to figure out who you are and what you want to DO. We demand effort and offer resources. We encourage you to explore your values and purpose and use these to identify the right opportunities for you. We value curiosity, communication and ask you to balance confidence with humility. We push you to develop professional flexibility, to act in the face of uncertainty. We help you compose and then tell your story. It’s hard work, but in the end, we believe that this development of character is exactly what it takes to propel you to your goals and ultimately YOUR success.

I think what stood out most to me was that every one of these alums loves what they do. They all talked about how much they love coming to work every day – even on challenging days. Imagine how that feels and how following their advice might get you there!

Fostering an Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset at Tech

By Amy Karagiannakis

Michigan Tech has been awarded the VentureWell Faculty Grant in the amount of $22,800 for the proposal “Building a Curriculum that Fosters an Innovation & Entrepreneurial (I&E) Mindset for our First-year Students.” The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship teamed up with Engineering Fundamentals and the School of Business and Economics (SBE) to develop a first-year curriculum that infuses design thinking methodology into Tech’s first-year engineering and business courses.

All engineering students at Tech are required to complete ENG1102, Engineering Modeling and Design in their first year and SBE offers BUS1100, Introduction to Business to their first-year students. Last Fall semester, working off a previously awarded grant, PIs Mary Raber, Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin, and Amber Kemppainen piloted incorporating the design-thinking process into two sections of ENG1102. Concurrently, the team also worked with Jon Leinonen to incorporate a similar set of design-thinking modules in three sections of BUS1100.  Students in these courses were ultimately required to form teams and develop innovative solutions for a self-identified problem. Prior to being given a designated challenge however, students were introduced to design thinking methodology through a series of interactive workshops and activities. With the knowledge and concepts they learned, they could apply the phases of empathy, define, ideation, prototype, and test to developing solutions to their prescribed team challenges.


Mary Fraley, Lecturer for Engineering Fundamentals reflected, “We learned in the pilot that including design thinking in a first-year engineering course was an effective way to introduce students to an entrepreneurial mindset. Through the development of an innovative product, students not only improved their critical thinking skills, but also developed an understanding of incorporating customer needs into their design. We look forward to refining this approach in the future.”

The new grant will allow Tech’s PIs to expand upon the Fall pilot, affording business and engineering students the opportunity to work together on innovative solutions to problems they identify. The goal is to refine the curriculum based on lessons learned from last Fall hoping to eventually introduce a permanent curricular offering. The new grant money will also enable Tech to train additional faculty in the design thinking and lean startup methodology through workshops facilitated by those who have completed Stanford’s Teaching and Learning Studio training, as well as Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad training. The team also plans to incorporate Tech’s new makerspace, the Alley, for prototyping and testing student design projects.


Jon Leinonen, lecturer in the School of Business and Economics highlights the interdisciplinary teamwork that the VentureWell project provides as a point of distinction for Michigan Tech’s students, saying, “In this setting, students learn to apply business principles in a technical environment. This provides a foundation for more creative, feasible and rewarding outcomes when graduates step into industry.”Venturewell2

This collaborative project is lead by a team of faculty from the Innovative Center for Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Fundamentals Department and the School of Business. Mary Raber has experience with developing educational programming around Design Thinking, Lean Start-up and makerspaces. Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen are instructors in the first-year engineering program and Jon Leinonen is a business instructor and I&E mentor. Together, this team will lead the efforts to continue to integrate design thinking and lean startup concepts into the core engineering fundamentals and business courses.

Mary Raber, co-director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and Assistant Dean of the Pavlis Honors College stated, “This grant from VentureWell will allow us to build upon the pilot conducted in Fall 2017 that introduced design thinking into first-year engineering and business courses.  Our goal is to give these students an opportunity to begin developing an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset while working together to create innovative solutions to problems of interest.”


Laura Kasson Fiss and Andrew Fiss Interviewed on The Anthill

logo-7eb5f99842eee4b04f0d879253705740The Anthill, a podcast of news outlet The Conversation (UK), ran an interview with Laura Kasson Fiss (Pavlis Honors College) and Andrew Fiss (HU), as well as recordings of songs they performed as part of their presentation at the British Science Festival. Their research considers songs as science communication, in this case nineteenth-century women using parody to defend their right to study traditionally male subjects such as mathematics. Check out this link to hear more about their presentation and the British Science Festival.

Supermileage Systems Enterprise Wins Technical Innovation Award in the Shell Eco-Marathon

By Amy Karagiannakis

The 33rd annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition took place over the weekend, April 27-30 in Detroit, MI. This year’s event was the second season that Michigan Tech’s Supermileage Systems Enterprise team competed.  Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build, test and drive ultra-energy-efficient vehicles. More than 100 teams from universities and high schools across the country and abroad came to the heart of the Motor City to compete on the track located on the city streets surrounding the Cobo Convention Center.


In order to participate, teams must successfully complete a 4-phase registration process, including submission of technical information about their vehicle and design. There are two vehicle categories: urban concept and prototype. Within these categories there are three energy types: internal combustion (multiple fuel types), battery, and hydrogen. In order to compete, teams must pass a rigorous technical inspection and complete 10 consecutive laps around a 0.6 mile closed course in downtown Detroit, maintaining a minimum average speed of 15 mph. Awards are given for teams achieving the highest efficiency (either mpg or m/kWh). Off-track awards are also given for Innovation, Communication, Safety, Design, and Perseverance & Team Spirit. This year, 119 teams from 8 different countries were approved to compete.


The Supermileage Enterprise competed in the Prototype/Battery Electric class. Of the 27 teams that participated, 22 made it through technical inspection and 17 completed at least one performance run. Tech’s Supermileage Systems Enterprise was one of those 17 teams. The team’s design included a 500W brushed DC motor and controller using a 48V/20Ah lithium ion battery back and battery management system. The motor controller must be purpose-built and designed by the team (i.e. no off the shelf controllers allowed). The Supermileage Enterprise improved their controller design from last year and upgraded the battery for improved vehicle acceleration. They completed one run with 104 m/kWh…about 3,500 MPGe. The team took 10th place in the BEV prototype category.


Michigan Tech’s Supermileage Systems Enterprise team also competed for the Communications, Safety, and Technical Innovation Awards at the Shell Eco-marathon.  They won the Technical Innovation Award for their flexible motor controller design. The judges reviewed the application and interviewed the team. They noted the team’s well-defined engineering requirements as one of the key strengths over other applications.

Rick Berkey, Supermileage Systems Enteprise advisor and Director of Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program, commented, “It goes without saying that I am so proud of our team’s accomplishments, throughout the year and especially at the event. Competing in the electric vehicle category is particularly challenging given that teams must build their own motor controller. This is not a trivial task! Receiving the Technical Innovation Award was a real testament to the team’s motor controller design AND their ability to articulate what makes it innovative and unique. To see us place 10th in only our second year of SEM competition shows the talent and drive of the Supermileage Systems Enterprise. It’s rewarding and humbling to work with such a great group of students and to see them get recognition on a national stage among peers from schools around the globe – that was the highlight for me.”

The $3,000 monetary award will be put to good use, and the Supermileage Systems Enterprise now has an impressive trophy to display on campus.


The Supermileage Systems Enterprise team will now begin converting their vehicle over to the internal combustion engine for the upcoming SAE Supermileage competition on June 8-9 at the Eaton Proving Grounds in Marshall, MI. Good luck and congratulations!