Category: Outreach

MTU students help provide fresh vegetables for needy families

As part of 2022 Make A Difference Day, ten enthusiastic Michigan Tech students from Delta Zeta Sorority and Beta Sigma Theta Fraternity helped dig more than 400 pounds of carrots, rutabagas, and beets from a local farm for distribution to needy families through the Western UP Food Bank and Salvation Army in Houghton and Hancock.


Students came from the following departments:
Sam Griswold and Dominic Sobcinski, Electrical & Computer Engineering;*Corbin Sullivan, Civil Engineering; Samantha Ludwick, Chemistry; Emma Quinn, Materials Science; Hunter Malinowski Computer Science and Psychology;  Emily Kughn, College of Business; Lauren Kiss, Biomedical Engineering; Emaly Jadin and Zoe Kumm, Chemical Engineering. Samantha Ludwick, VP for Philanthropy with Delta Zeta National Sorority, was enthusiastic about their experience. “We had a blast harvesting veggies to be donated. We’d be happy to
help out again!”


Corbin Sullivan, a 3rd year Civil Engineering student, observed, “I participated in the Fall harvest yesterday because I wanted to learn more about agriculture and what it takes to grow one’s own food. As a Civil Engineering student, it is our job to design a world that serves humanity. Sometimes we forget what it took our ancestors to get to where we are now. I think that learning about the natural world around us is a must so that we know how to preserve it– not just for the future of the human species but for all species– and to prevent or mitigate any damage we might cause in the world.” 


The Western UP Food Bank serves more than 400 families and 500 seniors in Houghton, Baraga, and Keweenaw counties, and delivers food to 40 organizations in six counties. They are the only food bank in operation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They rely nearly 100% on local donations from businesses and individuals. To support their work, send your contributions to: P.O. Box 420, Hancock, MI 49830.


This community service event was organized by Joan Chadde, with the Michigan Tech Center
for Science & Environmental Outreach.
Way to go students!

CEGE Seeking Corporate Sponsors for Mobile Interactive Displays

The Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering Department is seeking corporate sponsors for three Mobile Displays. The purpose of the Mobile Displays is to provide opportunities for prospective students, K-12 students, families, friends, and visitors to campus to experience civil, environmental, and geospatial engineering. 

The Mobile Displays will be in prominent locations throughout Dillman Hall and Dow Engineering and Experimental Sciences Building so that prospective students on a campus tour can learn about our programs through hands-on activities and connections to real-world engineering. Being mobile, the displays will be used during K-12 Outreach events, Career Fairs at area schools, and travel with our Geospatial Engineering Trailer, which supports K-12 outreach to students in Michigan and beyond. Of course, the Mobile Displays will be deployed in our own classrooms as demonstrations faculty use to emphasize key principles to future engineers. Each Mobile Display is based on a key principle essential to the discipline and the degree program. 

The key principle demonstrated in the Civil Engineering Mobile display is stress. Stress is the result of when a force like tension or compression acts on a material or body.  Stress is measured as a ratio of force over area (e.g., lb/in2, N/m2).  The higher the force, the higher the stress – or the smaller the area the higher the stress.  All materials have a “stress limit” that, if reached, will fail said material or body.  Stress on a bridge beam being “loaded” by moving traffic can be controlled by changing the area moment of inertia, I, which is defined by the geometrical cross-section of the beam.  The higher the moment of inertia the less stress a beam will experience.  The beauty of the engineering design process in this simple case is best explained by considering that a pipe (which is hollow) will have a bigger area moment of inertia than a rod (which is solid) using the same amount of material.  This Engineering Mobile Display demonstrates how a specific load (or a specific deflection) can affect the stress on a beam based on its cross-sectional shape.  The many “mini beams” represent real-world structural sections currently used by industry.  Students and visitors can see the interaction of loads, deflections, stresses, materials, shapes, and even failures with hands-on “interplay” and real-time calculations.  The almost seemingly rudimentary principles of the ancient tried-&-true engineering process is easily explained and is sure to capture the interest, and spark curiosity, in all folks that stop by to play with us. 

Concentration is the key principle demonstrated through the Environmental Engineering Mobile Display. Using their own breath, students can see the impact of the amount of CO2 they release when they breathe in their environment. Those CO2 concentrations are then connected to current and past atmospheric CO2 concentration data. Concentration is a fundamental way in which we express the amount of substances in our water, air and soil environments. Helping our students experience firsthand the concept of concentration can draw them into the field. 

Location is the fundamental principle demonstration in the Geospatial Engineering Mobile Display. Location is the basis of positioning, where a person, place or thing is identified in three-dimensional space. We all occupy space and location is where we are at any given point in time. This location can be quantified by measurements that ultimately identify position. Geospatial Engineers use a multitude of tools that include electronic total stations, 3D scanners, UAV’s, and GPS to precisely and accurately measure position to determine location. Look around you. There is literally nothing that has been constructed, placed, erected, or removed without first knowing its location.  Location is where we are and will always be.Designed with sustainability and accessibility for all in mind, the Mobile Displays are easily transportable and easy for children of all ages to explore. Sponsorships are available for each Mobile Display. To become a CEGE Mobile Display sponsor, please contact Audra Morse at anmorse@mtu.edu or 906-487-3240.

Michigan Tech’s Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA Implements Two Projects

The student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA at Michigan Tech successfully completed two implementation projects in the spring and summer of 2022. First, in April, they coordinated with the EWB country office in Guatemala to construct a gravity-fed water supply system for the community of Cantón Libertad in northwestern Guatemala. Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, this was a “remote” implementation project coordinated by EWB-Guatemala staff engineers. Although members of the Michigan Tech chapter did not travel to assist with construction, they were responsible for system design, construction planning, and fundraising for the project that is providing safe drinking water to more than 400 people. The students are currently working to improve water supply wells for a neighboring community that could not be reached with the gravity-fed system, and they will continue to monitor and evaluate the system and provide technical support to both communities as needed.

A second project was implemented in Bolivia in August. Six students and a professional engineering mentor traveled to the community of Santa Barbara, Bolivia for the first stage of a road improvement project involving resurfacing and installation of drainage facilities. During this trip, the team worked with their local partner organization, Etta Projects, to install a new culvert and reduce erosion on steep areas along a section of the road. Future stages of the project will continue to upgrade critical sections of the road and improve access to schools, clinics, and shopping areas for over 200 community members.

Five High School Students Participate in One-week Summer STEM Internship at Michigan Tech ~ July 18-22

Five high school students from Detroit and Houghton participated in a 5-day science and engineering summer internship program at Michigan Technological University (MTU) from July 18-22, 2022. The students were paired with faculty with a variety of expertise and research interests.

Students worked in the lab and/or in the field (outside), toured campus, lived in a dorm, ate in the dining hall, and met students from around Michigan and beyond.

Dr. Daisuke Minikata, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, hosted two interns in his lab that were supervised by graduate students, Rose Daily, Benjamin Cerda Barrios, and Ben Morhardt. High school students, Michelle Simpkins and Eural Johnson learned about PFAS contamination by sampling local bodies of water and using the Orbitrap for qualitative identification, built PFAS molecules in ChemDraw 3D, toured the wastewater treatment plant and MTU Sustainability Demonstration House, became familiar with careers in environmental engineering. Michelle attends UPrep Academy for Math & Science and Eural Johnson attends Cass Tech.

Dr. Kuilin Zhang, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, hosted high school student Omaree Ishmael. Omaree used a Traffic Counter App to collect traffic data at Sharon Avenue and M-26 intersection. He then used the data to create a signalized intersection model using PTV VISSIM, a multi-modal traffic flow simulation software package. He also performed the CAV (Connected and Automated Vehicles) cooperative driving automation simulation.

Lastly, Dr. Evan Kane at the USDA and post-doc Julia Stuart, hosted two interns—Nora Sullivan and Bryson Taylor. Nora attends Houghton High School and Bryson attends Davis Aerospace Academy in Detroit. They learned how to conduct an N2 fixation in the field, performed a glucose assay in the lab, and visited the Nastoria bog field research site.

On the last day of their internship, students summarized the skills and knowledge that they had gained throughout the week in a presentation to fellow interns, hosts, and to their parents who joined virtually.

Students received a $900 scholarship to cover their meals, lodging, and roundtrip transportation on a Michigan Tech coach bus. In addition, the students went mountain biking at Tech Trails which was a brand new experience for four of the five interns. Some experienced being in a forest for the first time.

Students had this to say about their internship experience:

I learned how wastewater will change how the water is used in the world.

Our visit to the bog was very interesting.

Learning and experiencing new things!

Faculty and graduate students were always willing to answer my questions.”    

One student’s comment wraps it up, “Everything was great!”

Three of the five say they are now more seriously considering Michigan Tech after their internship experience.

The high school STEM internship program is coordinated by Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, with funding from the National Science FoundationDepartment of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, USDA Forest Research Lab, Raytheon, and the Shannon Foundation.

Michigan Tech brings STEM to Metro Detroit Youth Day on Belle Isle

MTU Booth
Ashley Curie and Joan Chadde setting up the booth

On July 13, the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE) teamed up with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to offer science & engineering activities and information about Michigan Technological University at the 38th annual Metro Detroit Youth Day on Belle Isle in Detroit.

Typically, 20,000 students ages 8 to 15 years descend on Belle Isle for a fun and educational day. In the aftermath of COVID, the numbers were smaller. It was the first-time experiencing Metro Detroit Youth Day for Michigan Tech representatives Dr. Wayne Gersie, V.P. for Diversity & Inclusion; Jeff Littmann, chair of the MTU Board of Trustees; Chris Sanders and Ashley Curie, CDI staff; and Joan Chadde, Director, MTU Center for Science & Environmental Outreach.

“It was a fun-filled day with tons of smiling faces. I was amazed to see so many young minds that were already thinking about their future. I’m so happy that Michigan Tech was able to be a part of their excitement,” observed Ashley Curie.

“Our team was glad to be part of this initiative that channeled the students’ curiosity in learning in a manner that helped develop their educational and career aspirations. Through science activities and exploration, we were able to offer a small glimpse of the Michigan Tech experience,” shared Dr. Wayne Gersie, VP for Diversity & Inclusion.

Youth participants designed electrical circuits, created launchers to see which could project a cotton ball the furthest, identified Michigan owls, and compared tree growth rates.

“This STEM outreach event was funded by OHM–Advisors to increase awareness of STEM careers and the diversity of the STEM career pipeline,” explained Joan Chadde. “We would like to participate next year!”

Bill Sproule Presents on Transit Systems

Old photo of a monorail with city architecture in the background.
World’s Fair monorail, 1962
Item 73122, World’s Fair Slides (Record Series 9955-01), Seattle Municipal Archives.

Professor Emeritus Bill Sproule (CEGE) attended the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 18th International Conference on Automated People Movers and Automated Transit Systems in Seattle, Washington, held June 1–3, 2022

Sproule gave the keynote presentation, titled “Back to the Future,” on the history and future of automated people movers and automated transit systems. In addition, he gave a presentation titled “Seattle Monorail and the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.”

Sproule was also the proceedings editor for the conference.

Geospatial Escape Trailer Visiting Area Schools

During the month of May, a team from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE) is visiting area middle schools to introduce students to geospatial engineering with a grant funded by the Engineering Information Foundation.

The purpose of the grant is to enhance interest and increase students’ awareness of geospatial engineering by providing hands-on experiences that mimic the work of geospatial engineers while interacting with female role models in engineering. By the end of the month, the program will reach over 1,000 middle school students in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton and Ontonagon counties.

The Geospatial Escape Trailer is the centerpiece of the outreach event, and was made possible with gifts from Atwell LLC, R.A. Smith, Seiler Instrument Geospatial, and Spalding DeDecker. The grant was written by PhD student Jess Alger and CEGE faculty: Audra Morse, Joan Chadde, Melanie Kueber Watkins, Joseph Foster, and Jeffery Hollingsworth.

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

BWE Team Places at WERC Environmental Competition

A group of three undergraduate environmental engineering students from Built World Enterprise (BWE) — Francine Rosinski, Jake McDowell and Morgan Hallberg — competed in the 32nd annual Waste Management Education Research Consortium (WERC) Design Contest. For WERC, they had to prepare a written report, oral presentation, poster presentation and bench scale demonstration. At the competition, they placed first overall in their task for the bench scale demonstration, second overall in their task, and second for the flash talk presentation.

Morgan Hallberg, Jake McDowell, and Francine Rosinski
Morgan Hallberg, Jake McDowell, and Francine Rosinski

Task 3: Value-added Use of Copper Smelter Slag

They focused their research experiment on value-added copper smelting slag use. They were asked to recover an economically valuable material from the copper slag and/or produce a useful product from copper smelting slag that makes use of its unique properties. In the theoretical business plan, the team extracted the high content of iron from the copper slag and used the remaining material to replace sand with copper slag in ceramic tiles. This, overall, increased the sustainability and strength of ceramic tiles.

Way to represent Michigan Technological University, BWE WERC team!

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Ride the Waves Program Receives $40K Grant

Teachers and Group Leaders

Michigan Tech’s Ride the Waves Program invites Grades 4-12 students to join scientists from Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center in the exploration of Lake Superior, Portage Waterway, and Torch Lake. Programs are led by the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach staff and MTU students and funded by General Motors Foundation. There are three programs available for 2022:

  1. Aquatic Food Web Investigation (Portage Waterway)
  2. Mine Waste Remediation and Torch Lake Restoration
  3. Keweenaw Geoheritage (Jacobsville and White City)

Ride the Waves Sign Up 2022

About Ride the Waves

Michigan Tech’s Ride the Waves program, coordinated by the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, will receive a $40,000 two-year grant from General Motors to conduct Great Lakes education aboard the research vessel Agassiz.

The Center has received funding from GM for the program since 2016 with the assistance of Marty Auer, professor emeritus in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

The purpose of the funding is to put rural and underserved youth “on the water” to learn about STEM careers related to the Great Lakes, inland waters, environmental stewardship and sustainability. This will be accomplished through scientific excursions aboard MTU’s research vessel Agassiz paired with laboratory investigations led by Michigan Tech scientists and graduate students.

Since 2016, Ride the Waves with GM has served nearly 3,000 participants, delivering a variety of programs. Attention to inclusion and diversity has been a high priority, and the program has provided opportunities for Keweenaw Bay Indian Community youth and Michigan Tech’s Women in Engineering Program and Muslim Students Association, along with students from Detroit and Flint high schools, to learn how scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes.

For more information, contact Joan Chadde, director of the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, at jchadde@mtu.edu or visit the Great Lakes Research Center website.

By Joan Chadde, Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Listen to the interviews with Joan Chadde on the Keweenaw Report.

12th Annual Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series kicks off this week

The 12th Annual Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series kicks off this week with a discussion of Chasing Coral, a 2017 film release, that examines how coral is vanishing around the world at an alarming rate. Between 2014 – 2017, Chasing Coral captured the most severe bleaching event in recorded history. During these years, 75% of corals suffered or died from heat stress brought on by climate change. It is predicted that if nothing changes, by 2034 there will be severe bleaching events every year, and by the end of the century, every reef in the world will bleach. (88 min.) The film is available on Netflix and YouTube (free).

The public is invited to participate in a free online facilitated discussion from 7:00-8:00 pm, Thursday, January 27, led by Casey Huckins, Professor, MTU Department of Biological Sciences, Great Lakes Research Center.

A $5 suggested donation per film to support the Sustainability Film Series is appreciated. Make donations online. Register HERE to receive the FREE zoom link to participate in the facilitated discussion on January 27th or request the link from Joan Chadde: jchadde@mtu.edu

The Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series is co-sponsored by Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, College of Forest Resources & Environmental Science, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, MTU Sustainability Demonstration House, Keweenaw Land Trust, and Dept. of Social Sciences Sustainability Sciences Program.

See the complete set of events for January-May 2022 here.

2022 Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series ~ SCHEDULE

Chasing Coral (2021) JAN 27 Netflix and YouTube
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an alarming rate. Between 2014 – 2017, Chasing Coral captured the most severe bleaching event in recorded history. During these years, 75% of corals suffered or died from heat stress brought on by climate change. It is predicted that if nothing changes, by 2034 there will be severe bleaching events every year, and by the end of the century every reef in the world will bleach. (88 min) Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Casey Huckins, MTU Dept of Biological Sci.

Fauci (2021) FEB 17 Link provided for 1-week.
This National Geographic documentary chronicles the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci, world-renowned infectious disease specialist and the longest-serving public health leader in Wash. D.C. He has overseen the U.S. response to 40 years of outbreaks from HIV/AIDS, to SARS and Ebola. (104 mins)
Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Terry Kinzel, Gerontology & Internal Medicine

Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater (2021) MARCH 17 YouTube
Much of the planet relies on groundwater. From the U.S. to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – so much water is pumped from the ground that aquifers are being rapidly depleted and wells are going dry. The film investigates the consequences of this emerging crisis in several of the world’s hotspots of groundwater depletion. These are stories about people on four continents confronting questions of how to safeguard their aquifers for the future – and in some cases, how to cope as the water runs out. (64 min)
Discussion Facilitator: Dr. John Gierke, Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering & Science

OWN the Land. (2021) APRIL 21 YouTube
How the residents of North Memphis work with local government to turn their neighborhoods into a healthy and livable place. Solutions to low income neighborhood homes in disrepair, food deserts & urban farming; community empowerment. (46 min.)
Discussion Facilitator – Memphis & Shelby County Community Redevelopment Agency

The Ants & The Grasshopper: How do you change someone’s mind about the most important thing in the world? (2021) MAY 19 1-week link provided
What do we owe each other in the face of an existential crisis like the climate emergency? That’s the question at the heart of this documentary exploring how power and privilege shape climate justice and food justice from Africa to America – and how we might move forward together. (74 min.) Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Sarah Green, Interim Chair, Dept. of Chemistry (invited)

Questions? Contact Joan Chadde: jchadde@mtu.edu