Category: Outreach

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

Great Lakes Investigations Aboard Michigan Tech’s Research Vessel Agassiz for Students in Grades 4-12

Dr. Noel Urban aboard the Agassiz with students

The Ride the Waves program completed its 8th year of offering scientific excursions aboard Michigan Tech’s research vessel Agassiz for students in grades 4-12 and the community. Twenty-four excursions for 374 adults and students were conducted during the summer and fall. The Agassiz was a popular attraction at two community events (Strawberry Festival in Chassell and Lake Superior Day in Copper Harbor) during the summer where participants learned how scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes. Students in grades 5-8 participated in nine scientific excursions.

School classes could choose from two programs offered—Aquatic Food Web in the Portage Waterway and Torch Lake Mine Waste & Remediation in Torch Lake.

The Aquatic Food Web & Lab (3-hr program: 1.5 hrs lab & 1.5 hrs Agassiz) investigates water quality (depth, clarity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen), and students collect benthic and plankton samples that they bring back to examine in the lab to find out “how do you make a lake trout?”Dr. Cory MacDonald and PhD student, Kenny Larson, along with graduate students in the lab—all from the CEGE Department– led these investigations.

Torch Lake Mine Waste Remediation (4-hr program: 2 hrs Agassiz; 2 hrs remediation assessment on land) presents the history of mining & milling copper and its impacts on the land and water. Students visit a historic copper milling site, evaluate a reclaimed former Superfund mine waste site along Torch Lake, and compare sediment cores from healthy and impacted parts of the lake. Dr. Noel Urban, in the CEGE Department led the Torch Lake investigation, along with Joan Chadde leading the land remediation assessment.

Thank you notes from students

Some of the students’ observations included:

I didn’t know there were so many types of zoo and phytoplankton!

I learned a lot of new things—what a Secchi disk measures and looking for organisms in mud.

I learned how activities on the land affect life in the water.

Now I know that fish smell like algae!

I sincerely appreciate learning about local history.

We are so grateful that we got to do this field trip!

The Ride the Waves Program is made possible with a generous grant from General Motors (GM). Logistical support is provided by Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. More than 3000 youth have benefited from GM’s support since 2013.

For more information, contact Joan Chadde, Director, Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach at the Great Lakes Research Center: 906-487-3341 or jchadde@mtu.edu

Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative provides place-based professional learning for teachers this summer

Photo credit: George Stockero

The Inland Seas schooner facilitated western UP teachers exploring the geoheritage of the Keweenaw Waterway and learning to use 360° cameras to create virtual tours to share with their students this school year.

Since 2008, the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) has brought together schools and community partners in a 5-county area of the western Upper Peninsula to prepare K-12 students to become knowledgeable citizens concerned about the Lake Superior watershed and actively engaged in stewardship projects in their community. A partnership between Michigan Tech’s Center for Science and Environmental Outreach and the Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD), LSSI has provided place-based professional learning opportunities for teachers. This summer, a 2021 NOAA B-WET grant awarded to the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, in partnership with the Western UP MiSTEM Network and others, afforded meaningful watershed educational experiences for K-12 teachers at schools in the western Upper Peninsula.


In July, two outdoor professional learning experiences for teachers – a K-8 Project Learning Tree Workshop and Assessing Forest Health (for middle and high school educators) –provided participants with hands-on, interdisciplinary activities and resources for learning about ecosystems, food webs, invasive species, soils, water cycle, tree physiology, and environmental impacts.


Another July event provided an opportunity for teachers and community partners to participate in a scientific excursion aboard the Inland Seas schooner, to explore the geoheritage of the Keweenaw Waterway. The exploration focused on significant natural and anthropogenic features of the waterway while sailing to the Jacobsville sandstone cliffs at the South Entry. Another local partner, the Regional Education Media Center, provided instruction on how to record place-based experiences using 360° cameras and images. Participants also received training on how to use photos and information from the schooner trip to create virtual tours through RoundMe. These virtual tours will be shared with classes during the school year and become models for future geo-investigations created by students.


In August, teachers and community partners participated in a workshop to gain strategies and lessons for integrating gardening into their curriculum led by expert teachers and extension educators.

The Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) is part of the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Over the past 15 years, many Michigan Tech faculty and students in CEGE, as well as, other departments and colleges at MTU, have provided expertise, conducted professional learning, made classroom presentations, and provided resources that have helped school-community teams to accomplish their stewardship projects and contributed greatly to LSSI’s success.

By Lloyd Wescoat, K-12 Educator, Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach

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.