Category: Research

Changing with the Times: The Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering

Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is now officially the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

The name change reflects the inclusion of two degrees in the department: the Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Engineering (formerly Surveying Engineering) and the Master of Science in Integrated Geospatial Technology. Additionally, the department welcomed faculty primarily associated with those degrees — Jeffery Hollingsworth, Joseph Foster and Eugene Levin — two years ago when the programs moved from the School of Technology to the department.

“The undergraduate and graduate geospatial programs and associated faculty bring together the essential knowledge and skills needed by our graduates to design and create the world we live in,” said Morse. “The inclusion of ‘geospatial’ in the department name is a symbol of the integrated relationship that will benefit our students’ education and the research we conduct now and in the future.” – Department Chair, Audra Morse

The name change process was initiated by faculty members and included student, staff and alumni stakeholders.


Funding Opportunity for Rail Transportation/Railroad Engineering Research

Rail

The Federal Railroad Administration recently released a Broad Agency 2021 Announcement (BAA) research program opportunity. Michigan Tech researchers from several departments have had great success in these projects in the past. To date, we’ve received over $2 million in funding for five projects. In addition, the three proposals from BAA 2020 listed below are expected to be awarded in near future.

  • Railroad Crossing Vehicle Warning (RCVW) Application Demonstrations with Connected Vehicles ($380,705)
  • An Integrated and Automated Decision Support System for Ground Hazard Risk Mitigation for Railway ($694,922)
  • Expanding Summer Youth Programs through Virtual Learning and a National Campus Network ($474,695)

Anyone interested in expanding their research portfolio to railway research topics is encouraged to:

  • Review the topics of interest by the FRA (Appendix C)
  • Watch a short video on the program by Pasi Lautala, Director of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program here (passcode: FRA-BAA2021)
  • Contact Pasi Lautala to discuss potential topic ideas and/or
  • Develop a brief, max. one page idea summary and send it to Lautala ASAP, but no later than April 30

We will send all project ideas to FRA for an early feedback and submit full concept papers (max. five pages) on those recommended by the FRA. After review, FRA will request full proposals on those concept papers they are interested in funding.

Feel free to contact Lautala if you have any questions or need additional clarifications … and feel free to distribute this information to your colleagues who might be interested.

By Pasi Lautala.


Update on Experimental Asphalt Road in Dickinson County

Feet walking near asphalt.

A stretch of County Road 607 in Dickinson County paved with an asphalt mix that uses pieces of old tires is now being tested, almost two years after it was installed.

Lab experiments conducted at Michigan Tech by Zhanping You (CEE) and his research team have found the performance has improved over the last two years. Monitoring will continue for ten or more years. The project was a collaboration with You’s research team, the Michigan EGLE, and the Dickinson County Road Commission.

The story was covered by several media outlets including MI EnvironmentPublic Radio 90WLUC TV6 and ABC10.

Over the past two years, Michigan Tech Students have been gathering results and samples, of this road, from different testing sites.

WLUC TV6

10th Annual Lake Superior Water Festival Goes Virtual This Week!

Image of surface water with small waves

Twenty-one classes totaling nearly 400 students in grades 4-8 attended one or more of the nine different presentations offered over the 3-day Water Festival, March 23-25.  First launched in 2012 when the Great Lakes Research Center opened, in-person attendance has ranged as high as 1000 students from the 4-county area.

“Like so many other programs that had been face-to-face, we had to pivot and figure out how to create an online water festival,” explains co-organizer, Joan Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach and a partner in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative that co-sponsored the event.

Teachers were able to select up to six 45-minute virtual sessions to attend at 10 am and 2 pm each day.

The nine sessions, presenters, and a short description of each are listed below.  

“Become a Sooper Yooper” with Mark Newman. author of the “Sooper Yooper: Environmental Defender of Lake Superior”. Students investigated how to address the challenge of ridding the Great Lakes of invasive species (and other environmental pollution battles).

“Great Lakes Freshwater Feasts!” with Dr. Lauren Jescovich, Extension Educator in Fisheries & Aquaculture from Michigan Sea Grant. Students learned why eating local fish is healthy, how to cook fish, and how to get fish from recreational fishing, aquaculture, or commercial fisheries.  

“US Coast Guard to the Rescue!” with Alan Young from Coast Guard Station Portage near Dollar Bay shared multiple short videos, including a tour of the station, some of their boats, and some search & rescue operations.

“Living on the Edge: Saving Shorelines” with Jill Fisher & Nick Potter from the Keweenaw Land Trust explored the Keweenaw Water Trail and the importance of shorelines and shoreline habitats as corridors for people and animals.

“How Do Our Food Choices Affect the Earth?” with students from the MTU Sustainability House explores all of the ingredients — the grass, water, petroleum, fertilizers, and more — that go into producing and transporting our food and how this affects our planet.

“Striving for Zero-Waste” with students from the MTU Sustainability House explores how we can reduce the 4 pounds/day (1606 pounds per year) of waste that the average American discards each year by making choices about what we eat, packaging, and more, through interactive games.

“Monitoring Water Quality with Dragonflies!” with Park Rangers Zach Gostlin and Hailey Burley from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore explores how mercury, a toxic pollutant that can harm humans and wildlife, enters rivers and lakes, then moves through the food web bioaccumulating up the food chain. Students investigate how we know it’s there and what can we do to stop it.

“Forests’ Important to Watersheds: Trout Are Made of Trees” with Shanelle Saunders, Conservation Education Coordinator, Ottawa National Forest, explores how forests filter runoff and help to clean water that people and animals need.

“We Are Where We Live!” with Dr. Erika Vye, a Geosciences Research Scientist, at MTU’s Great Lakes Research Center, will guide students as they explore the local geology, Lake Superior, and Indigenous histories to discover what makes the place where they live unique.

While attendance may have been lower than in some past years, enthusiasm still ran high!

“They really enjoyed learning about the invasive species!” observed Josh Normand, Grade 4-5 teacher at Chassell Elementary. “A lot of my students informed me that they are going to be on the lookout for them this summer when they are fishing.”

“They liked all of the presentations. They could not agree on one they liked best, but had many favorites,” commented Andrea Lahnanen, Grades 6-8 teacher at Sacred Heart School in L’Anse. “They all told me that they really enjoyed it and would love to do it again!”

“A wide variety of science and engineering topics related to land and water stewardship were presented” adds Emily Gochis, Western UP MiSTEM director, at the Copper Country Intermediate School District.

The 2021 Water Festival is made possible with funding from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, the Western UP MiSTEM Network, the Great Lakes Research Center, and the Wege Foundation.

 The Festival is coordinated by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative and MTU Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, with support from the MTU Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Copper Country Intermediate School District.

The Water Festival would not be possible without the participation of presenters from the Keweenaw Land Trust, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Ottawa National Forest, Michigan State University Extension, students at Michigan Tech’s Sustainability House, U.S. Coast Guard, Great Lakes Research Center.

For more information, visit the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) webpage:  http://lakesuperiorstewardship.org/water_festival.php  or contact: Joan Chadde (jchadde@mtu.edu).

“The Water Festival provides an opportunity for students to learn about and celebrate our most precious natural resource – the Great Lakes!” explains Chadde.





Can Engineers Save the Word?

Rose Turner by the solar panels on the Michigan Tech campus

“At Michigan Tech, we don’t just talk about sustainability, we incorporate sustainability in all aspects of the educational experience,” said Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Morse points to environmental engineering student Rose Turner, who followed her passion for sustainability by joining Michigan Tech’s Alternative Energy Enterprise soon after she joined the university.

There are 24 Enterprise teams on campus, each working on real projects for real clients.

“They invent products, provide services, and pioneer solutions. It’s an award-winning program entirely unique to Michigan Tech, and it provides an absolutely invaluable experience for our students,” said Morse.

Self-sustaining homes and solar farms: Student projects that make a real-world difference

Turner and fellow team members retrofitted an existing 5,000 square foot house on Michigan Tech’s campus, turning it into a net-zero energy, self-sustaining home.

Named the Michigan Tech Sustainability Demonstration House, it now provides students with first-hand experience in designing systems to reduce the use of energy, water and water in homes.

Due to her hard work and dedication, Turner was selected to live there, serving as house coordinator. Her role was to identify and launch internal projects, plan public outreach events, and seek donations and sponsorships from companies.

Michigan Tech
Rose Turner in front of the Sustainability Demonstration House

“Michigan Tech equipped me with tools, resources, and knowledge,” she said. “I was able to design and construct an aquaponics indoor gardening system, a raised-bed outdoor garden, and a smart rainwater collection and distribution system — all for the house.”

Taking her environmental engineering education further, Turner won a summer internship at Westwood Professional Services, an environmental engineering consulting firm. As an intern, she designed multi-megawatt commercial solar and wind farms across the US, including a 15 MW solar farm in Ulupalakua, Hawaii.

“It was incredibly rewarding to have an opportunity to design clean energy systems to help power our country,” said Turner.

Turner learned about the internship through Michigan Tech Career Services, meeting up with representatives from Westwood for an interview right on campus. Her internship also led to a full-time role there, working on Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy permits for a 300 MW wind farm design for Isabella County, Michigan.

“Michigan Tech’s Career Services does more than help students find a job, they help us find and launch our careers,” said Turner.

She recently returned to campus to earn an MS in Environmental Engineering. Her goal is to pursue a PhD or work in industry. “Either way, I am looking forward to using my sustainability knowledge to make a difference,” she said.

Where sustainability is central to your studies

The “Sustainability and Civil Engineering Practice” course is essential to Michigan Tech’s civil engineering program.

This course introduces students to the tools that engineers use in sustainable design such as “LEED” and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Envision “rating tool,” as well as state-of-the art sustainability practices in design and construction.

Sustainability also serves as the cornerstone of Michigan Tech’s environmental engineering degree program. Professor Judith Perlinger teaches “Sustainable Engineering,” another course that plays a vital role in the curriculum.

“Students learn about the triple bottom line, the consideration of profit, people, and the planet, and essential tools they’ll use to advance sustainability from a systems approach,” said Perlinger.

Dr. Judith Perlinger

All courses in both programs include important sustainability components, Morse added.

“But the true strength of a Michigan Tech education is the solid foundation in engineering and science. This knowledge is what allows for the incorporation of sustainability in design.”

Sierra Braun, a senior completing her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, jumped at the opportunity to make sustainability in design come to life.

She joined the Green Campus Enterprise, which focuses on reducing the university’s carbon footprint, when she heard they were planning planned to design and build a tiny house.

“Not only has it allowed me to explore my passion of design and construction, I am able to build a tangible example of sustainability right on our campus through the Tiny House Build project.”

Braun and her fellow team members analyzed sustainable design practices for maximizing thermal performance during the design phase of the Tiny Build project. In construction, they’ll optimize materials to reduce global warming potential. They also seek to increase longevity and minimize environmental impact.

Undergraduate research opportunities like no other

Undergraduate research is another learning opportunity at Michigan Tech.

In the Sustainable Pavement Lab, directed by Professor Zhanping You, students conduct research to find out if traditional asphalt mixed with rubber from scrap tires could make better roads.

Students test recycled asphalt materials to maximize the recyclability of materials, work with  biomass to produce variations of a new asphalt-like material called bio asphalt, and use recycled waste — plastics and glass— in other road applications.

They work in labs and in the field at road construction sites in Michigan collecting data and evaluating material field performance.

Many graduates continue their work in Dr. You’s lab while earning their graduate degree at Michigan Tech or other institutions. Others go on to work in the transportation industry, applying sustainability practices in their job each day.

“Working in Dr. You’s lab has allowed me to understand the bigger picture, and be part of it, too,” said civil engineering major Kagan Griffith.

“This applies to the natural world and the engineered materials we combine to advance society. As we move forward in time, I’ve learned the importance of using new technology —and new understanding — to construct the built world in a safe and sustainable way.”

As for Turner, she is now working to create an even greater shift towards sustainability on campus:

“I have a very strong desire to reduce the production of waste, so one of things I’ve been doing lately is to work with a group of fellow students to establish a full recycling programme for our residence halls.”

Michigan Tech
Results of the Waste Reduction Drive

So, do engineers save the world?

“Absolutely,” said Turner, “Michigan Tech has truly helped to cultivate my love for the earth and my passion for educating others on the importance of sustainability in daily life.

“I will forever be grateful for the plethora of sustainability-related opportunities I’ve experienced at Michigan Tech — as well as the freedom the university has given me to make my dreams a reality.”

Michigan Tech is taking all precautions necessary to keep their community safe from the threat of COVID-19.

For the latest updates, please visit the MTU Flex website.

Follow Michigan Tech on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagramYouTubePinterest and Snapchat

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Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program Hosts Midwest Virtual Rail Conference 2020

MRC Midwest Rail Conference

On Aug. 11-12, The Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program, in cooperation with the NURail Consortium and TRB Committee AR040, hosted the Midwest Rail Conference on a virtual platform.

Originally planned for Schoolcraft College, the conference was forced to an on-line platform by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In spite of the issues, the conference moved forward with a slate of more than 30 speakers, covering issues from across the rail industry.

The final tally included nearly 300 participants. Trains Magazine produced an article recognizing the conference and one of the 10 conference sessions.

Given the short time to switch from a live to virtual format, this conference was a huge success.

By David Nelson, Civil and Environmental Engineering.


NSF Funding for Daniel Dowden on Seismically Resilient Mass-Timber Buildings

Daniel Dowden
Daniel Dowden

Daniel Dowden (CEE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received $204,514 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is entitled, “NHERI Tailwood 10-Story Test Building Shake-Table Payload Research Project: Low-Damage Uplift Friction Damper for Seismically Resilient Mass-Timber Buildings.” This is a two year project.

Extract

This award will investigate a low-damage solution for cross-laminated timber (CLT) seismic force-resisting systems (SFRSs) using a novel uplift friction damper (UFD) device for seismically resilient mass-timber buildings. The UFD device will embrace the natural rocking wall behavior that is expected in tall CLT buildings, provide stable energy dissipation, and exhibit self-centering characteristics. Structural repair of buildings with these devices is expected to be minimal after a design level earthquake. Although CLT has emerged as a construction material that has revitalized the timber industry, there exists a lack of CLT-specific seismic energy dissipation devices that can integrate holistically with the natural kinematics of CLT-based SFRSs.

Project data will be archived and made available publicly in the NSF-supported NHERI Data Depot.


Built World Enterprise Team Wins National Competition

Built World Enterprise logo.

A Michigan Tech team, Built World Enterprise (BWE), earned first place in the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) student design competition. The team’s winning submission in the Runway Safety/Runway Incursions/Runway Excursions design category was “Runway Intersection Marking.” 

In making the announcement, the ACRP said “The students’ innovative design brought many technologies together in an affordable system for mid-size and general aviation airports.”

The selection was made from 63 entries by a panel of industry, FAA and academic experts. For its winning entry, BWE will receive a $3,000 award which will be divided among the student team members.

First-place teams will receive their awards and present their work at the Keck Center of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, DC, October 19, 2020. The students will also present their designs at the Airport Consultant Council’s Airport Technical Workshop as a keynote presentation. In addition, they will be given the opportunity to present their winning proposal at an industry professional conference or workshop in fall 2020.

Additionally, Michigan Tech received a second-place award in the Airport Environmental Interactions Challenge, with a $2,000 prize. A list of all winners can be seen on the ACRP website.

BWE addresses challenges typically solved by civil and environmental engineers, including designing infrastructure and solving waste management problems. The team’s advisor is the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Audra Morse.

Morse said the win was a strong start for the new Enterprise team and for the University

“All BWE teams strove to create realistic design alternatives to address airport issues; however, this team excelled in understanding the true root causes of runway incursions. The winning team members, Lindsey Anderson, Skylar Callis and Kaitlyn Wehner, moved beyond purely technical to incorporate human factors into their design, which is why I believe their design was so well received. Thanks to Bill Sproule, Kelly Steelman, and Brett Hamlin for assisting the team on their win. They could not have done it without their help.”

The Transportation Research Board is a program unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.


NSF Research Funding for David Watkins on COVID-19 Project

David Watkins
David Watkins

David Watkins (CEE/SFI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $190,764 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The project is titled “RAPID: COVID-19, Consumption, and Multi-dimensional Analysis of Risk (C-CAR)“. Chelsea Schelly (SS/SFI), Robert Handler (ChE/SFI) and Charles Wallace (CS/SFI) are co-PIs on this one-year project.

By Sponsored Programs.

Extract

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed household dynamics and dramatically changed food, energy, and water consumption within the home. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing has caused U.S. households to shift to working and schooling from home, curtail outside activities, and stop eating in restaurants. Furthermore, as many households face job loss and increasing home utility and grocery bills, U.S. residents are experiencing the economic impacts of the crisis, while at the same time assessing and responding to health risks. The project team has a unique opportunity to study these shifting household consumption and behavioral responses and quantify the associated economic and environmental impacts. The team will collect household food, energy, and water consumption data as well as survey response data from 180 participating households in one Midwestern county and compare it to data collected before the stay-at-home orders were put in place.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.


Minakata Group on Reverse Osmosis for Potable Reuse of Water

Environmental Science and Technology

Daisuke Minakata (CEE) and his students with his collaborator, Kerry Howe, at the University of New Mexico published their research findings and a predictive model in Environmental Science and Technology, a premium journal in environmental science and engineering field.

The study developed a group contribution method to predict the rejection of diverse organic chemicals through commercially available Reverse Osmosis membranes for potable reuse of wastewater. Minakata states that this is a significant step to predict the permeability of many diverse organic compounds through membrane technologies based on only given structural information of organics. The paper provides an MS Excel spreadsheet that allows anyone to download and use for the prediction as supporting information.

Minakata comments that the model is useful for water industries, policymakers and regulators that consider the contaminants under the future regulations, water treatment utilities, and educators who can implement this tool in class. From Minakata’s group, one graduate and three undergraduate researchers worked on this project with the support from WateResearch Foundation and internal Michigan Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) by Pavlis Honors College. 

https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b06170