Category: Outreach

EWB Travels to Bolivia to Address Roadway Flooding and Erosion.

Michigan Tech Students with Young Community Members
Young community members receive a lesson on how to fly and take pictures with a drone. Pictured: Maria Carpita, Sarah Hirsch, and Travis Durgan.

The Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) Chapter at Michigan Tech has been working with the communities of Santa Barbara and Buena Vista, Bolivia to address the major regional problem of roadway flooding and erosion during the rainy season. When the road becomes impassable, as it frequently does in these months, it can completely cut off community members from access to healthcare, agricultural work, education, and commerce. In May of 2019, five student members and one alumni advisor traveled to Bolivia to assess the situation and the needs of the communities. During their visit, the team utilized drones to topographically map the community and 8 km of road leading to and from Buena Vista. They also met with local government officials to discuss the problem and potential solutions and held an introductory meeting with community members.

Students setting up a drone landing.
Students on the May 2019 Assessment Trip stage the Mavic Pro Drone for data collection along an 8-km stretch of road.
Pictured: Sarah Hirsch, Joshua Langlois, Jake Aguado, and Travis Durgan.

In the coming year at Michigan Tech, the team will use the data they collected to design and eventually implement affordable and sustainable solutions, potentially including culverts, drainage ditches, and alternative materials and road resurfacing methods.  EWB-USA community partnerships last for a minimum of 5 years and work to address basic human needs through projects in water distribution, sanitation, energy, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure.


Stan Vitton on Unique Norwood Shale

Norwood Shale showing rocky hillside

The Hayes Township Board of Trustees could cover up what is considered one of the most unique rock formations in the world because of flaking shale.

Stanley Vitton is a professor at Michigan Tech, who has a Ph.D. in civil engineering, a Master of Science in mining engineering and a Bachelor of Science in geological engineering, and also has worked for the Shell Mining Company, which is a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company. He is also an expert in geometrics, along with having a long list of scholarly research and creative contributions throughout his career.

Vitton informed the board the shale wall is structurally safe, after he examined the shale inside Hayes Township Park Camp Sea-Gull.

Read more at the Charlevoix Courier, by Lonnie G. Allen.

Video: Norwood Shale at Hayes Township Park Camp Sea-Gull


Rural School Educational Grant

Lloyd Wescoat
Lloyd Wescoat

Lloyd Wescoat (CEE/GLRC) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $74,967 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Joan Schumaker Chadde (CEE) and Amanda Gonczi (GLRC) are co-PIs on the project titled “Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative – Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences for Rural Schools.”

This is an 18-month project totaling $74,967.


Center Receives Grant to Provide Outdoor Science Field Trips for 4000 Area Students

Brian Doughty Nara Nature Center
Science specialist Brian Doughty teaches at the Nara Nature Center.

More than four thousand western UP students will spend time learning outdoors this school year thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Wege Foundation recently provided to the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach. The Center’s Outdoor Science Investigations Field Trip Program is open to elementary and middle school students in all 19 school districts in Houghton, Baraga, Gogebic, Ontonagon and Keweenaw counties. Last year, the Field Trip Program engaged more than 4000 students in 200 classes from 14 schools in outdoor science learning, from physical and earth science, to forestry, wildlife, and stream monitoring.

Two activities are offered for each grade level during each season, led by the Center’s science specialist, Brian Doughty. Activities for younger students focus on exploration and observation. These 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.

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 techniques used by wildlife to survive our cold, snowy winters. One teacher observed, “My students absolutely loved the program. Their favorite part was looking for decomposers, which made the food web a reality for them. Later on that day, one of my students was very excited because she found the word, ‘carnivore’ in her reading. This is just what we learned this morning!”

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


Family Science and Engineering Night at Barkell

Brian Doughty demonstrating in classBarkell Elementary School hosted Family Science and Engineering Night Wednesday evening, February 6, 2019, giving children grades K-5 opportunities to think outside of the box in the fields of science and engineering, with educational yet fun activities.

Brian Doughty of the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, led an activity in which fourth- and fifth-grade students explored generating electricity with a lemon.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Graham Jaehnig.

Students Learn About Ice

The students took a hike through the winter trail at the Nara Nature Center, as well as participated in some hands on activities inside. “This program allows roughly 4,000 students in the Western Upper Peninsula to experience the outdoors and to learn science in the outdoors,” said Joan Chadde, Michigan Tech’s Director for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Read more at the Keweenaw Report.

Brian Doughty Nara Nature
Brian Doughty leads the Nara Nature expedition.

Nara Nature Field Trip TV

Much of the program’s funding comes from contributions and strong community support. “We are super excited to have received a $20,000 grant from the Wege Foundation this year to continue the program.” – Chadde

Watch the Video, by Lee Snitz.


Veronica Webster on Intense Rain Events

Veronica Webster
Veronica Webster

HOUGHTON — Going by historical norms, the storm that hit the Copper Country on June 17 was a 1,000-year event.

But the combination of warmer, wetter weather and changes in land use means events like it could become more common, said Veronica Webster, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University. Webster’s Tuesday lecture, “Is Intense Rain the New Normal? Understanding Our Risks” was the second in the Keweenaw Natural History Seminar Series, which is focused on the causes and effects of and responses to the flood.

As development increases, the community needs to consider how runoff could increase from changes in the climate or the watershed, and take into account how roadways affect runoff patterns.

Where we choose to build and how we choose to build impacts our resilience to the increasing risk of heavy storm events and flood events,” she said.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.


Watkins and Mayer Discuss Father’s Day Flooding

Father's Day Flood showing a destroyed streetHOUGHTON — As high rain or flood events become more prevalent, many areas are putting a renewed focus on natural methods to mitigate flooding.

Michigan Technological University researchers spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Carnegie Museum Thursday on the changing climate patterns and extreme weather conditions which contributed to the severity of the June 17 flood.

As air gets warmer, it holds more water vapor, said David Watkins, a Tech civil and environmental engineering professor. At the same time, accelerated warming in the Arctic has shifted the jet stream that circulates air globally, turning it from a direct path to a “lazy river,” Watkins said.

By 2030, extreme weather events will be more likely, and urbanization will have accelerated, said Alex Mayer, professor of geological and mining engineering sciences and civil and environmental engineering at Tech. In 2030, a projected 60 percent of all urban areas will have been built in the past 30 years.

The talk is the first in a series of Father’s Day Flood presentations held by the Keweenaw Land Trust and Carnegie Museum.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.


Stan Vitton Works to Stabilize Redridge Dam

Redridge Dam
Redridge Dam

STANTON TOWNSHIP — In the June 17 storm that caused flash flooding in many areas, the steel dam at Redridge suffered accelerated and aggravated damage and distress.

Stan Vitton, of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Michigan Technological University, is now the principal investigator for stabilization project to be funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Vitton and his team have worked to monitor the dam’s condition, needed repairs, and other stabilization procedures, Vrana said, and their work has been instrumental in keeping the project on the front burner since the study and restoration programs started in 2008.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Graham Jaehnig.


7th Annual Lake Superior Water Festival was Held Oct. 17th for Gr. 4-8 at Great Lakes Research Center

More than 700 students in grades 4-12 in thirty classes from ten schools in Houghton, Baraga, and Gogebic Counties descended upon Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center on Wednesday, October 17, from 9am to 3 pm, for the 7th Annual Lake Superior Water Festival. Students from the following schools participated :  Baraga High School, Barkell Elementary, CLK Elementary, EB Holman School, Houghton Middle School, Ironwood High School, Jeffers Middle School, Lake Linden-Hubbell Middle School, South Range Elementary, and Washington Middle School.

Twenty-four different sessions were presented throughout the day, presented by Michigan Tech scientists (including Dr. Audra Morse and Daisuke Minakata’s graduate Student, Ryan Kibler) and graduate students, along with U.S. Coast Guard, Ottawa National Forest, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, BHK AmeriCorps and Copper Harbor Trails Club. See attached list of presenters/locations.

The Water Festival provides an opportunity for students to learn about and celebrate our most precious natural resource – the Great Lakes! A wide variety of topics from science and engineering to creative writing will be presented.  Students attend four 35-minute activities. Some of the topics to be presented include Remotely-Operated- Vehicles, Leave No Trace Outdoors, cleaning wastewater, Careers with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Chemistry of Corrosion, Design a Fog Harvester, and more.

The 2018 Water Festival is coordinated by the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, with funding from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to present at Water Festival. It was a blast to teach all of the students. Thanks for all your hard work in organizing such a wonderful event. It’s so exciting to see kids getting hands-on experience in labs and introduced to science at a young age.”  – Ryan Kibler, ENVE MS Student


STEM Panel Discussion for the Film: Science Fair

Science Fair move posterFor Middle and High School Teachers and Students ~ We hope that you and your students will attend this special event!

FILM TITLE: SCIENCE FAIR (90 min) is the opening film for Michigan Tech’s 41N Film Festival Nov. 1st-4th!

DATE: Thursday, Nov. 1st, 2018

TIME: 7:00-9:00 PM

LOCATION: Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts

DESCRIPTION: This special free screening of the new National Geographic documentary SCIENCE FAIR follows nine high school students from around the world as they prepare for and attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Already hard at work on problems such as the Zika virus and nerve tissue regeneration, these students (and their teachers) offer us an inspiring story about the passion and intelligence of our next generation of STEM researchers. A flyer for the Science Fair film is attached.

PANEL DISCUSSION follows the screening:

Dan Pertile, 5th grade Science Teacher & Science Fair Coordinator, Barkell Elementary,

David Flaspohler, Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University.

Emily Gochis, Director MiSTEM Network Western UP Region

Joan Chadde, Director, Center for Science & Environmental Outreach and STEM Festival coordinator, Michigan Technological University

Prize drawings for both teachers and students!

For more information about the 2018 41N Film Festival, visit http://41northfilmfest.org.

Science Fair follows nine high school students from around the globe as they navigate rivalries, setbacks and, of course, hormones, on their journey to compete at The International Science and Engineering Fair. As 1,700 of the smartest, quirkiest teens from 78 different countries face off, only one will be named Best in Fair.