Category: Outreach

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.

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US Engineering schools that drive sustainability forward


Center Receives Grant to Provide Outdoor STEM Field Trips for Area Students

Houghton field trip

More than three thousand Western Upper Peninsula (UP) students will have an opportunity to learn outdoors this school year thanks to a $20,000 grant, provided jointly by Mary Nelson and the Wege Foundation, to the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.  The Center’s Outdoor STEM Investigations Field Trip Program is for K-8 students in all 19 school districts in the five counties of the Western UP. Houghton, Baraga, Gogebic, Ontonagon and Keweenaw counties. This past school year, the Program engaged nearly 3000 students in 140 classes from 14 schools in STEM learning outdoors, from physical and earth science, to water quality and forests (numbers were 20% lower due to cancellation of all spring field trips due to Covid-19).

      These STEM field trips enhance classroom learning and provide real-world, hands-on experiences for students. All activities are correlated to Michigan Science Standards and connect to the school curriculum.  The outdoor classroom allows students to utilize science and math skills, including observing, predicting, data-collection, analysis, and graphing. Each grade has two lesson offerings for each season—Fall, Winter, Spring.

Fall Sacred Heart field trip

During the Fall field trip season, students investigate the physics of flight, assessing stream health, and designing the best seed get-aways.

Winter field trip

During the Winter field trip season, students are provided with snowshoes to incorporate physical exercise into their learning. Students investigate topics such as the “wind chill” effect, which materials make better insulators, and wildlife adaptations to stay warm in winter. 

During the Spring field trip season, students explore the benefits and functions of wetlands, soil science, lichens as bioindicators of air quality, and much more.

One teacher observed, “My students absolutely loved the program. Their favorite part was looking for decomposers, which made the food web real.

The Center’s mission is to enhance the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and promote environmental literacy and stewardship amongst K-12 students and teachers. For more information about the grant received from Mary Nelson and the Wege Foundation, or the Outdoor STEM Investigations Field Trip program, contact Joan Chadde at 906-487-3341 or jchadde@mtu.edu.


2020 STEM for ALL Video Showcase: Belle Isle Aquarium

Creating STEM Pathways in Detroit

For the past four years, the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach has collaborated with Wayne State University and the Belle Isle Conservancy to promote an interest in science and science careers among elementary and middle school students in Detroit Public Schools. The project includes a summer teacher institute, field trips to the Belle Isle Aquarium, and mini grants for teachers. Classes come to the Belle Isle Aquarium to see fish, turtles and frogs, and leave with knowledge and excitement about what they could do in the world of science.

View our entry in the 2020 STEM for ALL Video Showcase, a three-minute video about the Belle Isle Aquarium NSF ITEST project, and VOTE for the Belle Isle Aquarium video for the Public Choice Award. Take a look at some of the other videos, too!

Please also view the newly created Virtual Field Trip and Ecology Lesson at the Belle Isle Aquarium. Before COVID-19, every fifth grade student in the Detroit public school system could visit the aquarium during the school year. The new virtual field trip allows anyone in the world to visit the United States’ oldest aquarium — the Belle Isle Aquarium!

Article by Joan Chadde, a leader in the organization of our teacher professional development summer workshops, Joan is an expert at “educating our educators.” As Director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, Joan was recently (2020) named Informal Science Educator of the Year by the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

Dr. Ram’s ‘Creating STEM Pathways at Detroit’s Aquarium’ named an NSF Facilitators’ Choice Video

Jeffrey Ram, Ph.D., professor of Physiology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, in collaboration with Wayne State’s College of Education, the Belle Isle Conservancy and Michigan Technological University, leads a $1.2 million National Science Foundation-funded project that aims to promote the interest of Detroit children in science and science careers.

A video produced by Dr. Ram, “Creating STEM Pathways at Detroit’s Aquarium,” that describes the project, was selected as a Facilitators’ Choice video in the 2020 SEM for ALL Video Showcase. Only 10 of 171 videos entered in the showcase received the honor.

Read more at WSU School of Medicine News.


Copper Country Events Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Below is a list of 50 Years of Earth Day 2020 activities in the Copper Country:

April 21st – May 10th Any time

Self-guided walk at Keweenaw Land Trust’s Paavola Wetlands featuring Houghton Elementary 4th Grade Earth Day Art Flags or enjoy a virtual hike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERNVejCByTo (5 min.). To visit Paavola Wetlands: https://keweenawlandtrust.org/protected-lands/paavola-wetlands-nature-area

April 21st & beyond 

View Planet of the Humans (90 min.)  https://youtu.be/Zk11vI-7czE  

The film takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels & windmills would save us, and giving in to corporate interests.

April 21st – June 20 

Stewardship Network Spring Invasive Plant Removal Challenge – pull invasive species from your yard, natural area, anywhere!  Submit location, number of people, and weight of invasive plants removed:  https://spring.stewardshipnetwork.org/  

Wed. April 22 @ 7-8 pm 

Keweenaw Land Trust’s 50th Anniversary Earth Day Concert on Facebook Live with Marquette musicians & environmentalists John Gillette & Sarah Mittlefehldt.  All donations will be matched 1:1 to raise funds to complete acquisition of Lake Glazon Natural Area in Keweenaw County. http://keweenawlandtrust.org/

Join us in out living room as we play songs and take a peek around our eco-friendly house as the sun sets. Then do you part to help out the Keweenaw Land trust.

Posted by John Gillette & Sarah Mittlefehldt on Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 22 – May 20

Great Lakes Bioblitz in your Backyard  

Community members, families, and students across the Great Lakes states and Ontario are invited to participate in finding and identifying as many wild, living things as possible in a specific area (backyards and other outdoor spaces) during the next month.

Thurs. April 23 @ 6-7 pm

UP’s Energy Future with Jenn Hill, Marquette City Commissioner and UP Energy Task Force member and Elise Matz, Michigan Utility Consumer Participation Board. Have you wondered why UP energy costs are so high? How can we secure our energy future and join the renewable energy transition? Sponsored by the Friends of the Land of the Keweenaw (FOLK). https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88257157452?pwd=WmM5M1dTT0ZjVkgrRUpaSUxuYkFUUT09   

Meeting ID: 882 5715 7452. Password: 967297

Thurs. April 23 @ 7 pm

Native Plant Symposium Part 1:  Brent Hanson, co-owner of Hanson’s Garden Village, in Rhinelander, WI will present “Singing in the Rain—N. WI & U.P. Rain Gardens.” Carol Maass of Friends of the Porkies, in Ontonagon, will present: “Pollinator Garden as a Service-Learning Project.” http://keweenawlandtrust.org/

Saturday, April 25th @ 6-8 pm, 

UPEC 2020 Celebrate the U.P. https://www.upenvironment.org/2020-celebrate-the-up  

Presentations available later at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi_SGwX-pXW4wCz646OPJDQ 

Speakers include Monica Lewis-Patrick, We The People of Detroit; Dr. Sarah Green, International Climate Action; Dr. Angie Carter, Western UP Food Systems Council, and more. The event will wrap up with short videos on how some have turned the stay-at-home order into a positive experience.

April 28 @ 7-8 pm 

What Happens to Houghton County Recyclables?” with Alan Albee, President, and Randy Salmich, VP Operations, Eagle Waste & Recycling, Eagle River WI, and sponsored by Copper Country Recycling Initiative.   Link:  https://michigantech.zoom.us/j/93569258008 

April 30 @ 7 pm

Native Plant Symposium Part 2: Sue Trull, botanist for the Ottawa Nat. Forest, will present “Monarchs & Milkweeds—All Hands-on Deck,” and “Using Native Plants to Support Pollinators” by Jackie Manchester-Kempke, an extension master gardener in Houghton. http://keweenawlandtrust.org/

June 27  – stay tuned

MTU’s Sustainability House Waste Reduction Drive rescheduled. Keep collecting Styrofoam containers, plastic bottle caps, batteries and foil lined granola and energy bar wrappers.


Surveying Engineering Attends MSPS 2020

Clay Hildebrand, Steve Smendzuik, Sanjay Shenoy, Joseph Foster, Chad Holdwick, Alyx Thayer

February 18-21, 2020 marked the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS) Convention held at the Radisson Plaza, Kalamazoo, Michigan that hosted over 400 Licensed Professional Surveyors from around the Great Lake states, as well as Michigan Tech’s Douglass Houghton Student Chapter (DHSC) of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS)…whew, quite a mouth full, but accurate!  An annual event, the Convention provides the opportunity to not only acquire continuing education credits, learn new and upcoming techniques, view and get “hands on” with cutting edge equipment, but also connect with fellow Licensed Professional Surveyors from throughout the region.  Not to be left out, our Surveying Engineering (BS) and Integrated Geospatial Technology (MS) students were invited to participate and exhibit throughout the entire event.

Chad Holdwick and Steve Smendzuik presenting their Senior Capstone Project.

Seminars given during the four-day event covered a myriad of topics including Railroad Rights-of-Way, Mapping the Great Lakes, Safe Excavation Practices, Analysis of Record Title Boundaries, preparing for the 2022 Datum, Collateral Evidence Analysis, Professional Ethics, and the list goes on…up to the Student Capstone Project presentations given by both Ferris State and Michigan Tech University.  Our own Steven Smendzuik and Chad Holdwick presented their project of going through the steps of a rather complicated boundary survey that included an abandoned railroad right-of-way, ambiguous legal descriptions, conflicting field evidence, as well as a forensic survey of a murder scene from the 1800’s, not to mention finishing in two feet of snow!  Needless to say, it was very intriguing and everyone that attended walked away with a new appreciation of what we do every day.

Vendors and equipment suppliers filled the exhibit hall with the latest and greatest in surveying, photogrammetric, imaging, scanning, and UAV instruments.  Every opportunity was given to learn about the new technology and how it can be integrated into day to day operations, increasing efficiency and productivity, while maintaining the precision and accuracy required of our Profession.  Finally, the stories and experiences shared by other Surveyors with our students sealed the deal…it was definitely worth the trip!


Michigan Tech’s NSBE Student Chapter Reaches 500 K-12 Students in Detroit Public Schools during 9th Annual ‘Alternative Spring Break’

Six members of Michigan Technological University’s student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Pre-College Initiative (PCI) reached a total of 500 students during their 9th Annual Alternative Spring Break in Detroit from March 9-11, visiting six middle and high schools in Detroit to encourage students to consider college and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career.

During the school day, the Michigan Tech students made classroom presentations to middle and high school students encouraging them to continue their education after high school, consider going to college or community college, and choose a STEM career path. After the school day ended, the NSBE students conducted K-8 Family Engineering events at two K-8 schools for students and their families, and at a Boys & Girls Club in downstate Highland Park.

Participating MTU-NSBE students included:

# NAME MAJOR YEAR HOME
1 Bryce Stallworth Mechanical Engineering 4th Detroit
2 Rukayat Adeosun Health Informatics 4th Nigeria
3 Meghan Tidwell Civil Engineering 1st Detroit
4 Andrea Smith Chemical Engineering 3rd Southfield
5 Jalen Vaughn Computer Engineering 4th Detroit
6 Koami Hayibo Electrical Engin grad Togo

The schools visited included: Osborn High School, Detroit Arts HS, Mackenzie Middle School, University Prep Math & Science Middle School, University Prep Academy of the Arts Middle School, and Neinas Academy Middle School.

The NSBE students made a special stop at the Fauver-Martin Boys & Girls Clubon Tuesday afternoon, March 10th, to put on a hands-on engineering event for 30 K-12 students from across the city. This event was organized by Mike Reed from the Detroit Zoological Society, who also invited Michael Vaughn, the first president of MTU’s NSBE student chapter in 1995!

The goal of the NSBE classroom presentations and Family Engineering events are to engage, inspire, and encourage diverse students to learn about and consider careers in engineering and science through hands-on activities and providing ‘hometown’ role models (most of the participating NSBE students are from the Detroit area). These programs are designed to address our country’s need for an increased number and greater diversity of students skilled in STEM (math, science, technology, and engineering). This outreach is encouraged by the NSBE Professional Pre-College Initiative (PCI) program which supports and encourages K-12 participation in STEM. 

This MTU NSBE student chapter’s outreach effort is funded by General Motors and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and coordinated by Joan Chadde, Director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach.

High school students at these schools are also encouraged to apply to participate in a 5-day High School Summer STEM Internship at Michigan Tech from July 13-17, 2020 that is specifically targeting under-represented students. Each participating student will be supported by a $700 scholarship.  The Detroit high school students are also informed of scholarships available to attend MTU’s Summer Youth Programs.

For more information about the MTU-NSBE student chapter’s Alternative Spring Break, contact NSBE student chapter President, Bryce Stallworth bastallw@mtu.edu  or Joan Chadde, Director, Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, Michigan Technological University by email: jchadde@mtu.edu or call 906-487-3341. 


Michigan Tech Attends MiCareer Quest Southeast

MiCareerQuest Southeast is one of the most unique opportunities for a student to be exposed to a myriad of Trades and Professions.  Organized, in great part, by Michigan WORKS! and given throughout the state each year, this event is a “hands on”, real world opportunity for high school students to be exposed to over 100 Trades and Professions that they may wish to pursue.  This past November was no exception…over 9,000 students, from surrounding school districts, attended the event.  Ushered into the Suburban Collection Showplace, in Novi, all had a chance to experience what they all could become.

Michigan Tech was in attendance, thanks to the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors, whose booth we shared, to spread the word about Surveying Engineering and Michigan Tech.  One of the few Universities in attendance, we were able to demonstrate what Surveying Engineering is, and what one needs to become a Licensed Professional Surveyor, not to mention all the great opportunities available at Michigan Tech.

Needless to say, it was an exciting opportunity.  One that we look to experience again.

For more information, check out https://www.oakgov.com/advantageoakland/workforce/Pages/Mi-CareerQuest-Southeast.aspx

by Joe Foster, Professor of Practice


Structural Engineering Institute at L’Anse Area Schools

SEI Graduate Students teach kids in the classroom
From the L’Anse Area Schools Facebook page:

As 5th grade wrapped up their engineering unit with a visit from leaders of the MTU Structural Engineering Institute, Graduate Student Chapter. Our students reviewed the engineering design process while observing and suggesting improvements to structures being tested on an earthquake table. Students learned about competitive bridge building and previewed up coming concepts including plate tectonics and material properties.


Chadde Named Informal Science Educator of the Year

Joan Chadde-Schumaker
Joan Chadde-Schumaker

The Board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) has announced that Joan Schumaker Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, has been selected as the 2020 Informal Science Educator of the Year.

Chadde was chosen for her unique and extraordinary accomplishments, active leadership, scholarly contributions, and direct and substantial contributions to the improvement of non-school based science education over a significant period of time.

She will be honored at an Awards Ceremony at the 2020 MSTA Conference.

By Angela Keranen.