Category: Undergrad Information

Michigan Tech Hockey Hero turned Energy Entrepreneur

Mark Malekoff was a member of the Michigan Tech Ice Hockey team before graduating in 2008 when her earned his Bachelors in Business Administration.
Mark Malekoff was a member of the Michigan Tech Ice Hockey team before graduating in 2008 when he earned his Bachelors in Business Administration.

Mark Malekoff jokingly refers to his four companies as his “backup plan.” The original plan was to become a star in the National Hockey League.

The Grande Prairie-born-and-raised entrepreneur was captain of the local Alberta Junior Hockey League team, the Storm, before receiving a scholarship to play for the Huskies at Michigan Technological University. Plans for an NHL career changed in Michigan, however, as Malekoff studied finance and developed an interest in business and entrepreneurship that set him up to run his own company – then companies – back in Grande Prairie.

After graduating in 2008, Malekoff returned home where he quickly found work as a business analyst with Bonnett’s Energy Corp. and found an opportunity to volunteer coaching AAA hockey. Not one to sit still, he also began working towards a certified management accountant designation, which he received in 2011.

In what he calls his “spare time” between working at Bonnett’s, studying for his CMA and coaching, Malekoff took on enough debt to purchase three rig mats and begin renting them out to energy services companies in and around Grande Prairie. That was the beginning of his first business, TriTech Energy Services Inc., which now rents sour service storage tanks, pipe skids, manifolds and flowlines in addition to rig matting.

Inspired by British billionaire Richard Branson’s “screw it, let’s do it” attitude, Malekoff eventually took on more debt to acquire a safety and training business in June 2013. That acquisition became TriTech Safety and Training Inc., Malekoff’s second company, which provides at least four courses a day for oilfield personnel throughout Alberta and northeastern B.C. who require first aid, hydrogen sulfide or workplace hazardous information system training.

Was taking on debt nerve-wracking? Definitely. “You go from college, where you don’t have a lot of cash, to taking on a mortgage, and then taking on debt payments,” the now 30-year-old serial entrepreneur says, though he echoes Branson’s optimism: “Just go for it.”

This year, he decided to launch two more companies: Nakoda Energy Services and Rise Energy Services. The first business targets hydraulic fracturing companies and hopes to sell them third-party heat-capturing inflatable lid systems for their frack tanks, which he says can reduce water heating budgets for pressure-pumping companies by $20,000 per day. Rise Energy Services meanwhile offers downhole tools services to drilling companies in the field.

Asked if he has always had an inclination toward entrepreneurship, Malekoff says no. Not when he was a young boy or a teenager – he didn’t have time. “I was always pretty tied up playing hockey,” he says.

This story was written by Alberta Oil Staff for Alberta Oil Magazine.


Tech Students Collaborate Innovatively

Michigan Tech’s campus is abuzz with activities leading up to technological innovations and ground-breaking advancements in various fields of engineering. While they may be successful as technologies, do they have the potential to offer opportunities for creating new businesses around them? Our senior year students provide the answer by undertaking the Business Development Experience courses (BUS 4991 and BUS 4992).

Business DevelopmentOffered as a two-course sequence – BUS 4991 in the fall and BUS 4992 in the spring – the Business Development Experience provides students with the perfect entrepreneurial learning experience and the opportunity to work alongside Tech’s engineering students, real-world innovators and entrepreneurs. Students assume entrepreneurial roles and work in teams on projects offered by the Enterprise program, Senior Design, MTEC SmartZone and the Innovation & Industry Engagement (IIE) office housed in the Advanced Technology Development Complex. The course provides an opportunity to integrate these entities into a sustainable entrepreneurial eco-system.

These two courses are taught by Dr. Saurav Pathak, who holds the title of ‘Rick and Jo Berquist Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ within the School of Business and Economics. This year, he has secured six projects for his Business Development Experience course for students to tackle. The majority of the projects for this academic year are sourced from entrepreneurs local to the Upper Peninsula. Among the projects supporting Tech’s surrounding community include a novel clothing protector for traveling professionals, a gravity-enabled wood pellet de-duster, and a patented new masonry brick-laying technology.

Another locally sourced project is brought to Business Development Experience students by Michigan Tech SBE instructor, Jonathan Leinonen. He will be mentoring students and requesting that they offer a fully developed online game related to and of interest to the Michigan Tech student and alumni body.

140415-tech-graphene2_5a7bdfa7b9f6c1c5b7bba8c5555e13aa.nbcnews-fp-1240-600
Graphene, a highly conductive and extremely strong transmittable metal

The course would also involve students finding a “route-to-market” for two patented technologies – offered as projects by the IIE office. Students would find ways to commercialize a new way of processing “red mud” – a toxic waste produced during the extraction of Aluminum from Bauxite – with hydrophobic polymers into useful items such as cat litter. The other project’s goal would be to identify the potential partnerships, applications, and competitive landscape of Graphene, a highly conductive and extremely strong transmittable metal. Graphene is thought to be the future technology for capacitors.

Throughout the process, students will gain skills from establishing a target market, conducting customer discovery, developing a business model, pricing framework, developing a financial strategy, proposing a prototype, and potentially deploying a commercial version of each product. Over the last three academic years (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14), more than 60 students have undergone this entrepreneurial learning experience working across 18 technology-based projects provided by our partners. The academic year of 2014-15 will see 23 additional students undergoing this experience working over 6 projects.

In the past, project owners have made generous donations to show their support for our students’ efforts. This year, the Dean’s office has offered funding that would be used to enhance the student learning experience by letting them go outside the classroom and achieve tasks that are essential of any business development. Dr. Pathak’s vision for the coming years is to make this course a revenue generator for the SBE wherein only sponsored/funded projects would be considered.

Carly Harrington, Academic Advisor for the School of Business and Economics, explains the importance of the Business Development Experience in these projects,

With our senior-level Business Development Experience, students have the opportunity to handle financial planning, marketing plans, and business management for real-world research projects and engineering design teams. This opportunity allows for cross-disciplinary collaboration building teamwork skills and strengthening student’s resumes.

Current Michigan Tech students interested in enrolling in the Business Development Experience should contact Carly Harrington (benson@mtu.edu) to discuss their course schedule. Prospective Tech students with questions about the Business Development Experience should contact business@mtu.edu.

This article was written with contributions from Dr. Saurav Pathak.


Portage Health, Michigan Tech Join Hands to Solve Problems

Dr. Dana Johnson's Six Sigma and Quality Engineering courses worked with Portage Health last semester to applied what they learned in the class room to real-world situations.
Dr. Dana Johnson’s Six Sigma and Quality Engineering courses worked with Portage Health last semester to apply what they learned in the class room to real-world situations.

When Portage Health turns some of its problems over to Michigan Tech students, it’s a win-win situation. The hospital gets innovative solutions, and the students gain real-world experience.

Business and engineering students from Professor Dana Johnson’s Six Sigma and Quality Engineering courses worked with Portage Health on a series of projects last semester, enabling them to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations.

Six Sigma Fundamentals is a course on Six Sigma methodology, a data-driven approach for eliminating mistakes. Quality Engineering covers concepts and methods for quality and productivity improvement.

Johnson worked with Portage Health to find projects that challenged the students to put their classwork into practice.

“My role is to be the customer,” explains Mark Randell, director of rehabilitation and sports medicine at Portage Health. “The students meet with us, and we present the project ideas to them, saying ‘here is an issue we are having difficulties with.’ They act as consultants, investigating it and coming up with more questions, identifying the causes of the problem, and then they put together a plan for making changes.”

In one of the projects, the pediatric physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy department was facing an issue with the scheduling of appointments. They had noticed that they had a high cancellation or no-show rate, which was ultimately affecting their bottom line. The goal of the project was to see if the students could find a trend or common problem that explained these cancellations, and then to find a way to change how scheduling is done to address that issue.

Was the problem a particular date or time? What were the reasons for the cancellations? Did the rate go up when appointments were scheduled too far in advance? The students examined all of these questions. The information they gathered was used to implement some changes, and time will tell if the changes show an actual impact on the problem.

Another project took a look at employee transfers. Its goal was to help Portage Health find ways to automate the process of completing employee transfers. Destin’e Clark, a Michigan Tech alumna who majored in Operations and Systems Management and Marketing, applied Six Sigma tools to determine the root cause of inefficiencies and improvement opportunities for the employee transfer process. She is now working with the team to develop and recommend alternatives.

Portage Health and the students found the projects mutually beneficial.

“I have done projects with other departments and the experience working with the students has been fantastic,” said Randell. “They are very professional as consultants. It’s a win-win for Portage Health and Michigan Tech because the students get real-life experience solving real business problems. The students get to be a part of something useful, and we benefit from getting an outside view.”

The projects with Portage gave the students a look at what working in real business situations is like and how to handle themselves, both on the business side and the problem-solving side. “Experiential learning is critical to student experiences,” says Johnson. “It does come from more than Enterprises and Senior Design.”

The students are also very grateful for the opportunity to have this experience before stepping into their post-graduate careers. “Six Sigma and Lean practices are vital to a company’s success,” said Clark. “Being able to gain this knowledge and experience while still in school is exceptional and something employers will admire. The information and experience I obtained in this course is very applicable to my career. I currently work in transportation where Six Sigma techniques are used daily in improving our processes.”

This story was originally written by Erika Vichcales, student writing intern for Tech Today.


Cavitt and Hendrick selected for MIS Alumni Scholarships

The School of Business and Economics has created a new MIS Alumni Endowed Scholarship to be awarded to students in the Management Information Systems major. It is the Donors’ desire that two scholarship awards be given each year: one $1,000 scholarship awarded to one sophomore, and one $2,000 scholarship awarded to one junior.
Interested in MIS? Contact us today at business@mtu.edu to learn more about this major!
The selection committee awarded the 2014-15 MIS Alumni Scholarships to Skyler Cavitt ($1,000 scholarship for a Sophomore) and Benjamin Hendrick ($2,000 scholarship for a Junior).
Skyler Cavitt is a Sophomore majoring in MIS.
Benjamin Hendrick is a Junior majoring in MIS.
The MIS Alumni Scholarship recipients were selected based on the following criteria:
  • Academic performance
  • Communication skills
  • Demonstrated commitment to the MIS major
  • Financial need

Students majoring in Management Information Systems were invited to submit their resumes and personal essays explaining why they deserve this financial award and recognition. We sincerely appreciate the support and commitment of the MIS alumni who made this endowed scholarship possible: Jamie Linna, Steve Linna, Carrie Schaller and Greg Horvath.


Target Enterprise Project offers real world experience to ITOxygen members

Where does a giant international retailer turn when it needs innovative IT support?  Michigan Technological University, of course.

Target Corporation, with international headquarters in Minneapolis, is the first retail firm to participate in Michigan Tech’s signature Enterprise program. In the Enterprise program, teams of students work with a business or industry sponsor on a real-world problem that the sponsor would like the students to help solve.

ITOxygen is an Enterprise that specializes in information technology (IT) solutions. Their motto: We breathe new life into information technology projects.

ITOxygen Enterprise team members work on an IT project for Target.

Target actually presented ITOxygen with several problems involving mobile app development and computer infrastructure. Over the school year, the students developed an app for the iPad that measures wi-fi connectivity throughout Target stories. Another app lets shoppers with Android smartphones build a shopping list and share it with others.

The shopping list app will be particularly useful for event planners, teachers and parents buying school supplies, or groups of students or others living together.  “With it, you can avoid buying 200 boxes of Kleenex and no crayons, Russ Louks, ITOxygen’s advisor, explains.

The ITOxygen students also wrote scripts to automatically deploy servers nationwide. Then they were invited to present their work to a meeting of high-level corporate executives.

Target not only put money into the project, they really integrated the students into the corporate IT structure, says Rick Berkey, the Enterprise liaison between Michigan Tech and corporate sponsors.  “The students are working right along with Target IT professionals, learning the language of the industry,” Berkey says. “That level of support and time commitment is unusual.”

Target has enjoyed recruiting for technical talent at Michigan Tech, says E. B. Hakkinen, process consultant for Target Corporation’s Technology Solutions. “Target was interested in continuing to build upon our strong relationship with Michigan Tech, she explains. “We wanted to deepen our partnership and technology brand on campus.   We saw a unique opportunity through the Enterprise Program, specifically ITOxygen, to brand Target as an employer of choice for technology students, while collaborating with Michigan Tech students and giving them a first-hand experience of what it could be like to work for Target.”

“We learned a lot in our first year, 2012-2013, working with ITOxygen,” she continues. “This past year we experienced success with all of our ITOxygen projects. We found the best approach is to allow the students to be innovative in their solutions while we provide the support and tools necessary for them to be successful.  We look forward to continuing our relationship and seeing innovative solutions from the ITOxygen students in the coming school year.”

As Berkey puts it, without a hint of a grin, “the ITOxygen students have been right on target.”

One of the students, David Shull, a computer engineering major, was especially impressed with Target’s commitment to integrating technology into retail sales.  “It’s really exciting how innovative they’re being in mobile and web technologies,” he says.

Shull feels that the Enterprise project teaches skills that are hard to learn in a traditional classroom setting. “The most important thing I gained was the experience working on a corporate project with people from all over the country,” he says.

Projects like ITOxygen’s work with Target prepare students for their future in the working world, which is just what Target—the first retailer to come to Michigan Tech’s Career Fairs–wants. “Target is recruiting skilled IT employees,” says Berkey. “It’s more than a retail store.”

Shull says students need the kind of experiences the Target Enterprise project offered. “It’s too easy for students to think they know what ‘real’ work is like,” he says. “I hear students complain about how a concept they’ve learned won’t be of use in the real world. Opportunities like the Target Enterprise project give students hands-on experience that is guaranteed to be applicable in the real world, and demonstrates the value of concepts that were learned previously. They also facilitate self-learning, engineering management and other key skills.

“Plus—there is something really cool about walking into a Target store and knowing that you wrote an app the employees or shoppers are using.”

This story was originally posted in Michigan Tech News and written by Jennifer Donovan. To see the original story please view this link.