Michigan Tech Partnering with Local Businesses – GreenForces

Michigan Tech would like to announce its partnership with GreenForces – a consortium of aerospace, technology, and defense companies located in the Upper Peninsula.  The GreenForces consortium provides niche technology capability for developing product solutions in heavy vehicle, off-highway, aircraft, rotorcraft, and marine applications.  The consortium focuses on developing engineering and production solutions that are sustainable and environmentally conscious.  This includes material optimization for weight reduction and increased lifetime as well as performance optimization for mechanical systems, engines, electronics, and power utilization.  Michigan Tech provides material, metallurgy, electrical, and mechanical engineering expertise to compliment the capability and capacity of the other members of the consortium.

Greenforces graphic for blog

Each of the partnering businesses has the versatility and quick response that only small businesses can bring while leveraging the research and development capability of Michigan Tech.  With the combined resources of the companies, the consortium can provide support to any part of the product development process.

GS Engineering – Electrical, mechanical, and material engineering for vehicle and aircraft systems.  They provide innovative solutions for weight/size reduction, FEA and failure analysis, structural optimization, electronic equipment design, and vehicle testing.

Great Lakes Sound and Vibration (GLSV) – Noise, vibration, and harshness analysis, design, and testing services.  GLSV has extensive experience with exhaust systems, suspensions, and isolation systems and has a suite of capabilities for benchmarking, standard tests, and root cause analysis.

Creative Composites – Composite material development as well as component design and fabrication.  With design and development in armor and ballistic protection, Creative Composites brings effective and practical composite solutions.

IR Telemetrics – Advanced testing solutions for rotating equipment and hard to acquire data.  IR Telemetrics provides custom testing solutions for wireless acquisition of strain, pressure, torque, temperature, and fluid flow in harsh environments like those inside engine hot sections.

L’Anse Manufacturing – Precision machining and low volume high mix manufacturing for aluminum, steel, magnesium, titanium, plastics, and other materials.  L’Anse Manufacturing provides the high reliability and quality machining that is needed for aerospace, medical, and military applications.

Calumet Electronics – High Reliability bare printed circuit card fabrication since the dawn of the industry.  Calumet Electronics provides secure, safe, and sustainable PCBs for aerospace, military, and power transmission applications.

For more information on GreenForces, visit their website at www.greenforcesllc.com.  If you have interest in joining GreenForces or working with the members of the organization, please contact Executive Director Rob Cooke at 906-231-7769 or rob.cooke@greenforcesllc.com.

MTRAC Program Accelerates Commercialization Potential

Through a grant from the 21st Century Jobs Trust Fund, received through the Michigan Strategic Fund from the State of Michigan, Michigan Tech is moving advanced applied materials research closer to benefiting people and our planet.  The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program is supporting the acceleration of commercially viable advanced applied material technologies developed by university researchers.

Two other Michigan universities were also awarded MTRAC grants in 2013.  The University of Michigan has two MTRAC programs focusing on life sciences and transportation while Michigan State University’s grant supports advancing ag-bio technologies.

Guided by an oversight committee of entrepreneurs, investors, and leading faculty researchers, four Michigan Tech teams were selected in June 2014 from among sixteen proposal submissions.   John Diebel, MTRAC Program Director at Michigan Tech explains the rigorous review process, “In order for a faculty or team of researchers to submit a proposal, there has to be an invention disclosure on file with the university to determine that there is a high potential for commercialization.  The application process uses a multi-phase submission including a Letter of Intent, an invitation to submit a proposal and then a full proposal submission, which may require modifications to meet the oversight committee’s recommendation to move forward. The final step in the selection process concludes after an inventor presentation to the Oversight Committee.”  The program provides fifty percent of the project funding and the university and the Principal Investigator must provide the matching funds.

John Diebel, MTRAC Program Director, Michigan Technological University


The four projects currently being conducted at Michigan Tech include mineral removal from torrefied agricultural wastes as a sustainable replacement for pulverized coal in utility boilers, led by Ezra Bar-Ziv (ME-EM); commercialization and purification of oligonucleotides and peptides for research and therapeutic markets, led by Shiyue Fang (Chem); commercialization of a nanosensor platform, led by Tom Daunais and Paul Bergstrom (ECE); and, commercialization of a scalable synthesis process for 3-dimensional graphene materials by Yun Hang Hu (MSE).

How will these projects impact people and the planet?  Bar-Ziv’s project could yield a sustainable and renewable alternative fuel to help the utility industry meet renewable resource and greenhouse gas emission targets.  Fang’s project would provide a method for efficiently producing pharmaceutically-pure drugs for treatment of many diseases including cancer other life threatening illnesses.  Daunais’ project would allow for rapid testing of foodborne pathogens-a process that currently takes days.  This would allow food to pass criteria to begin shipping to markets and stores more quickly reducing waste and spoilage.  And Hu’s project could lead to innovations in regenerative braking, solar power, grid management systems, defense weaponry, and provide the ability to recover kinetic energy in a host of other industrial applications.

The next Michigan Tech MTRAC program cycle will be announced in December 2014 with a call for Letter of Intent submissions due in mid-January.  For more information, please contact John Diebel at 906-487-1082 or by email jfdiebel@mtu.edu.

American Transmission Co. Sponsored Senior Design Receives Award

Senior Design projects provide an opportunity for students to apply their skills and knowledge to real life engineering challenges. It also provides companies with a taste of what Michigan Tech students have to offer in developing creative solutions that utilize skills and knowledge acquired throughout their degree pursuit.  Senior design is a win-win for students and industry partners alike.

This year’s American Transmission Company (ATC) Senior Design team was nothing short of fantastic. While they gained experience relevant to their Electrical Engineering course work, they also contributed towards solutions and innovations in the area of motor drives for ATC.  ATC acknowledged the student project in their June newsletter issue of PluggedIn.

Guided by their faculty advisor, Trever Hassell, along with a team of professional engineers from ATC, with their mentorship and support the students not only met all project goals and expectations set by ATC but also earned the Electrical and Computer Engineering department’s “External Advisory Committee Industry Innovation Award”. This award is given annually to the Senior Design team whose project and deliverable are considered most impactful to industry expectations while benefiting the sponsor.


For more information about the Senior Design program please contact Rick Berkey,  rjberkey@mtu.edu, (906)-487-4309.

Chrysler Helps Formula SAE Team Make it to Competition

On the road to competition in Detroit, MI, the Michigan Tech Formula SAE team ran into transmission issues just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Chrysler of Gaylord, MI came to the rescue in good time to help them make it to competition and back safely.

The team is very appreciative of all the assistance they received from Chrysler. “Chrysler has always been a tremendous asset to the Formula SAE team and Michigan Tech” said the teams Chief Engineer, Chais Eliason.  “We are keenly aware that we could not have been successful down at competition this year without the support of Chrysler”. The team earned 61st place overall out of 126 teams.

Students Pull Together to Pull Off BonzAI Brawl

by Dennis Walikainen, senior content specialist, Michigan Technological University

The recently completed Seventh Annual BonzAI Brawl attracted some 120 students, alumni, faculty and staff and was a resounding success, according to organizers and advisors.

“Northern Michigan students even competed remotely, due to weather, and that’s the first time we’ve done that,” said Mike Stefaniak of Husky Game Development (HGD) Enterprise. With Women in Computing Sciences (WiCS), they were the chief organizers. “We hope to do that again in the future.”

According to Stefaniak, in the BonzAI Brawl, teams create autonomous agents (via artificial intelligence, the AI in BonzAI) to overcome challenges and outperform their opponents. Students have no prior knowledge of the game design and mechanics before BonzAI. The morning of the event, students learn about the game and then have eight hours to develop their autonomous agents. In the evening, they watch their agents face off against each other as they compete for first place.

This year’s top three teams were:

1. Slaughterhouse: Kyle Falk (Computer Engineering) and Zachary Dunham (Computer Engineering)
2. Team Dinosaur: Michael Kent (Computer Science), Joseph Ryan (Computer Science) and Matthew Vaught (Computer Science)
3. The Headcrabs: Tim Bradt (Computer Engineering), David Pariseau (Electrical Engineering) and Evan Bajek (Electrical Engineering)

“The main core of students from WiCS and HGD Enterprise put hundreds of hours into creating the game and setting up the event,” said advisor Laura Brown, assistant professor in computer science.

“It is easy to underestimate the huge number of details that need to be taken care of for the event to go smoothly,” said Scott Kuhl, advisor and assistant professor of computer science. “All the planning really adds up and took a lot of effort from students to organize. The students helped with everything including writing the custom software we use for BonzAI, testing the software for bugs, finding sponsors, handling registration, creating artwork for the software and marketing materials, and ordering food and prizes.”

“Outside of this core group, we had volunteers from Michigan Tech’s chapter of ACM (Association Computing Machinery) and UPE, the computer science honor society, helped with many activities,” Brown added. “This year the Copper Country Programmers, a club of middle and high school students learning to program, also got to help beta-test and try out the game.”

“If others in the campus community (faculty, staff, alumni) are interested in participating in or sponsoring the event next year, please stay tuned to http://bonzai.cs.mtu.edu for announcements for BonzAI 2015,” said Brown.

The event was sponsored by Lasalletech, Jackson National Life Insurance Company and ControlTec.

Upcoming Design Expo Showcases Michigan Tech Enterprise and Senior Design Teams

In a recent Business Insider article it was announced that Michigan Tech has been designated the “11th university with the smartest students” in the United States. Among these smart individuals are those who will be presenting and competing in the 2014 Design Expo. This is an opportunity for over 600 undergraduates involved in Enterprise and Senior Design to compete for awards and present their projects to corporate representatives and the campus community. Often sponsored by industry, Senior Design and Enterprise help Michigan Tech students gain professional experience and a better understanding of real industry problems.

Stop by the 2014 Design Expo in the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, 3rd floor on Thursday, April 17th from 8am-4pm.

Interested in judging at Design Expo? We need professionals to serve as distinguished Design Expo judges. If you are available to judge please use the online form below to register as a judge, or email Rick Berkey.

Register to be a Design Expo judge at https://michigantech.wufoo.com/forms/rsvp-form-for-guests-and-judges/

This year’s Design Expo is sponsored by ITC Holdings, Black & Veatch, American Transmission Company, Continental, and Cliffs Natural Resources.

To learn more about the 2014 Design Expo http://blogs.mtu.edu/expo/, Read the Business Insiders article http://www.businessinsider.com/public-colleges-with-smartest-students-2014-3 or for more Michigan Tech data by Niche, http://colleges.niche.com/michigan-technological-university/

Winning 2013 Senior Design Team

Team Members: Beau Baldwin, Matt Boersema, Nathan Rogers, Sarah Wells, and Elias Whitley, Electrical Engineering
Advisor: John Lukowski, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor: ITC Holding and Mitsubishi Electric

Winning 2013 Enterprise Team

Team Leaders: Evan Beckner, Operations and Systems Management; Katy Hickey, Biomedical Engineering
Advisor: Robert Warrington, Institute for Leadership and Innovation; Michael Neuman, Biomedical Engineering

Silicon Valley Tour – Day 5

Day 5 marked the culmination of a lot of planning on the part of our staff, our corporate partners, and especially Michigan Tech’s California-based alumni. It also marked one of the most full days of the week. Another early morning start at Netflix with computer science alumna Dianne Marsh – director of engineering tools – who provided breakfast and an in-depth, honest look at Netflix from one of their theaters. Computer science faculty member Dr. Linda Ott joined and learned as much as the students.

The activities at trip sponsor Brocade Communications began in the early afternoon with an introduction by Rachel Moussa and an executive briefing by VP of software marketing, Kelly Herrell. Herrell gave a presentation on leadership and answered questions by the students before transitioning to a panel discussion led by Michigan Tech VP of student affairs and advancement, Les Cook. Rita Hui, Sindhu Payankulath, Dhanashri Patil, Jeff Rangel, and Jodi Podolsky represented engineering, corporate affairs, and diversity. The group tackled a wide range of technical, strategy, and leadership questions before taking a lab tour with Josh Oelrich. A networking social followed and the students were joined by additional Brocade employees who discussed career opportunities, technology, and life in California.

The networking continued at an alumni event at Mezcal Restaurant in downtown San Jose. Michigan Tech president Glenn Mroz and wife Gail were joined by local alumni including Dave House ’65, Darel Hodgson ’63, Alex Hays ’86, Frank Shoffner ’62, Dan Lykowski ’01, and many others who shared their own stories and heard first-hand of the students’ experiences from the week. Their summaries below:

Thursday was our last day in Silicon Valley before we had to head back to Michigan and it proved to be the busiest day of the trip. We started off nice and early again, meeting at 7:15am, with Netflix as our first stop of the day. We received a brief tour of the building before having a meeting with some Netflix representatives, including a MTU alumna. While the tour was quick the building seemed to have a nice ambiance. Since the meeting was early Netflix was gracious enough to provide us a catered breakfast from Panera. Netflix turned out to have a pretty interesting work culture. They explained to us how their number one value is speed of innovation and it shows in many aspects of the company’s culture. For example, they typically do not hire new graduates and favor candidates with around 8 years of experience. This is for the simple fact that they can give their employees more liberties if they are experienced. One of these liberties is to commit their own code to the without need for approval from anyone, then if their code changes break anything they are contacted directly. This allows the whole process to be accelerated, therefore innovation can happen faster. We were also able to receive some career advice while we were there. The best piece of advice I think we received was to figure out what is the absolute most important thing to us at work, then in interviews ask questions about its shadow. They gave this example to help explain, if you want to know how they handle an employee making a mistake then ask the interviewer about a time they made a mistake and what the outcome was. This allows you to get a better idea of what actually happens due to the policies they have opposed to if you were to ask the question directly.

We had a lot of time to before we needed to be at Brocade so we decided to make a stop at the Intel museum. The museum had much of what you might expect including history of their products, how their products have helped drive innovation, along with the process of fabricating silicon wafers. Then we made a quick stop at the hotel so people could drop off/pick up some things and headed over to the plaza right behind the Brocade building.

Soon we headed over to the Brocade building where we met up with Les Cook before heading in. Once we were in we headed to a conference room where Brocade had a panel Q&A for us. We had prepared a list of questions that was given to the Brocade panel before our arrival so it was mostly directed by the list but we were able to embellish on the questions and ask further questions based on their responses. Through the panel we were able to get a better idea of Brocades significance to the market and how they see themselves leading innovation in the future along with a little bit about their company culture. Next we received a short tour culminating with a tour of their massive data center. Data centers aren’t really my area of expertise but it was still pretty impressive. As expected it utilized Brocade’s latest and greatest products and we were given a little education on them. The last stop at Brocade was a networking event where Brocade employees from different areas were present. We were able to talk to mingle with them and discuss the different roles they played within the company as well as connect with them for potential job opportunities.

From there we went to Mezcal, a restaurant where the school was hosting an Alumni event. Michigan Tech alumni from various companies in the bay area showed up to the event. I was able to connect with many of them including Dave House, the Chairman of Brocade’s Board of Directors, as well as people working at Amazon, Apple, HGST, and more. The event, as well as the trip in general, was truly a great way to meet some of Tech’s alumni and see the success they are having innovating the future while working for some amazing companies.

During the event one of the alums invited us to stop by the Hacker Dojo afterwards where he would be willing to show us around. The Hacker Dojo was a makerspace/hackerspace where people can go to utilize the equipment they have and along with the community that forms there. The Alumni event got over kind of late so some of the group wasn’t up for the visit and went just went back to the hotel while some of us decided to go check it out. The area was simple but provided some tools that would be a little too expensive for the average person to buy themselves including some 3D printers, a laser cutter, and some machinery such as a drill press. The biggest advantage the space provided though was the community of people that use it. There are lots of people with lots of different backgrounds that use the space and they are always willing to help out however they can and that can lead to some pretty amazing things. For example, we were informed that Pintrest and the Pebble watch were two projects that originated from the Hacker Dojo. When we were done there it was pretty late and we headed back to the hotel, arriving right around midnight, and most of us went straight to bed.

Our flight was in the afternoon the next day and we had nothing else planned so we didn’t have to meet until 10am and we were able to get some extra sleep before starting our journey back to Houghton. As I said before it was a long day but it was full of great opportunities and I am sure we were all grateful for the entire experience. I personally believe the entire trip was one of the best, if not the best, opportunity I have ever had and it is certainly an experience I will never forget.

Kevin Coleman – Computer Engineering, Fifth Year

Our final day in sunny California, it was a bitter sweet feeling.  Waking up late to my alarm, I missed breakfast and hurried to get ready.  Once in the vans, we headed to Netflix.  Netflix was one of the companies that I was most excited to see.  I had a few questions in mind for Netflix. I was surprised to find that the building had a more adobe feeling to it rather than a skyscraper with hundreds of windows. Sitting in one of their meeting rooms, we had a breakfast provided by Netflix and started asking questions.  I really enjoyed this type of setting because we could all hear each other, there was plenty of time to ask questions, and it was a more intimate setting.  We sat and asked questions, shared laughs, and when it came to leave, we were sad to go.

We had almost 3 hours between Netflix and Brocade, so we took a detour to the Intel museum.  The museum was surprisingly interactive.  Hearing our stomaches start to growl, the group headed to the Brocade campus to have lunch.  He groups split up and headed which restaurant they thought would satisfy their hunger.

Bellies full, the group reconvened and walked over to Brocade where we met up with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Les Cook, to have a panel discussion with a few members of the staff. Les mediated the questions that we had sent in in advance, while the staff members answered them.  The next part of the Brocade tour was being able to see some of the data rooms. When we entered the room, it seemed almost as if we were in a movie.  I had never seen such technology before unless it was in a picture or in the movies.  After everyone got the tour, we headed back to building three for a meet and greet with various members of the staff.  I had a great time meeting with company members and being able to talk to them about what their positions were at Brocade.

Following that, we headed over to the alumni reception.  The alumni reception had to have been one of my favorite parts of the trip.  I got to meet alumni that had been at tech when my mother was, some that had graduated only a few years ago, and some who graduated many years back.  Being able to hear their stories and how far they have come was inspirational.  Most of their job careers have taken them to start their own consulting firms and other to companies such as Brocade and Apple.  It seemed as if many people do not stay at jobs for more that a few years before switching to a new job.  At the alumni event, I was able to get great advice on the startup company that I am working on, as well as future contacts if I many have any questions about starting a company.  The day was so eventful that as soon as I came back to the hotel, I feel asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I wanted to thank the advisors that came on the trip, Russ and Andre.  Also, Adam for putting together the company tours.  I would have not had this experience if it weren’t for these people and Brocade for sponsoring the trip.  Thank you to all that took time out of their work days to open their offices to us.  It was an overall amazing experience.  I will be recommending this program to other students in the future.

Kirsten Dulbandzhyan – Mktg & Mngmt, Third Year

Today was quite involved. We were scheduled to visit not only our trip sponsor Brocade, but also the ever-popular Netflix. We left early around 7:15, and pulled into Netflix about 15 minutes later. Dianne Marsh greeted us in the lobby, sporting an enormous bag of Panera Breads breakfast treats.  She lead us upstairs to a theater shaped office room, and got us going on the food. Soon we all were sitting around chomping, and chatting. She then introduced herself and her colleague Roy Rapoport. They gave us a brief overview of what it takes to make Netflix run, and what their jobs entitled. We then were able to ask a huge variety of questions, on everything from Net Neutrality to job opportunities. I learned a lot about Netflix in the process, and discovered that they truly value the customer above all else. After thanking Dianne and Roy, we packed into our white vans and set out to find the Brocade Campus.

Brocade turned out to have a very nice campus, complete with an almost Google like feel. There was a small play area, and even basketball courts! The tour started with a speech by Kelly Harrel (VP for Software Networking), where we received awesome advice on how to get somewhere in life and technology. Then a panel of five other Brocade employees came in for a more robust Q and A. It was truly eye opening to hear from active professionals in the company. After an hour or so of panel discussion our tour guide Rachel Moussa took us to an adjoining building to meet up with Josh Oelrich. He gave us a tour of Brocades state of the art lab and Data Center; which was beyond impressive. The technology in these rooms was dedicated to modern networking, and represented hardware found throughout the world. Data Centers like this one literally run the modern economy, government, and pretty much any other company that stores data.  Josh and Rachel then accompanied us to a meeting room in Brocades main building. Once there we were treated to a table of appetizers, and even more Brocade employees. I was able to network and engage in great conversation with a multitude of people. Some were just out of internships while others had senior positions. I must say that the event went off without a hitch, and showed shear professionalism. I’ll take this time to once again thank the folks at Brocade for sponsoring the trip, and for making our last day one of the most memorable.

Anyway, after that we left Brocade and went straight to the Mezcal Restruant for an alumni event. Once there we enjoyed more food, and introductions to more than a dozen former MTU grads. There was a slight concentration on computer and electrical based vocations, but quite a few of the alumni had degrees in other areas; such as chemical, geological, and business. The highlight of my night and possibly the trip was meeting Dave House, who is a current chairman for Brocade. He has been wildly successful in areas surrounding computers, occupying high job positions in Intel and other major companies. His start at MTU and long list off accomplishments really showed me that hard work can pay off in a big way.  By the time we got back to the hotel that night I was exhausted, and could barely muster the energy to pack, but my day was nothing short of exhilarating.

Nicholas Schweikart – Mechanical Engineering, First Year

Silicon Valley Tour – Day 4

Day 4 of the trip began with Michigan Tech alumna Danielle VanDyke leading the group through Google’s Mountain View headquarters. She explained work / life balance, her typical day, Google culture, and how she uses her 20% time. Danielle introduced the group to Googler Ben Chang who answered questions from the students and highlighted stories of leadership and responsibility. A highlight was a tour through Google’s own trading room arranged by assistant treasurer and Tech alum Tony Altobelli. This eye opening and behind the scenes view of how Google manages 18.8B of on-hand assets was a treat.

The group’s next stop was Tesla’s manufacturing facility in Fremont. The former NUMMI plant sits on a 370-acre site, with most activity concentrated in the 5,500,000-square-foot main assembly building. Sheet metal in one door, vehicles out the other. Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alum Glenn Wheelock walked the group through Tesla’s red and white, robot-filled facility for two hours before letting the students play with a showroom vehicle. Their impressions below.

Starting off our day, we hopped into the vans and headed to the Google campus.  The welcome area of Google had a very relaxed feeling to it.  We got to play with a giant version of Google Maps, there was about 6 different screens that displayed what we were looking at. We were taken from the welcome center to the trading room. Oddly enough, most of the employees that did not work in the trading room have never heard about the trading room.  It was very eye opening to see how Google operated their finances, why they bought the smaller startups that they did, and how they estimated the risks.  The coolest part of Google, was being able to see a self driving car.  I had never seen one before.  This was on our way out of Google, heading towards Inn and Out Burger.  Being able to sit outside and eat lunch under the sun was refreshing.  We were very lucky to have such great weather while in Silicon Valley.

Out next stop Tesla, one of my personal favorites.  I was not caught up on all the innovations that Tesla was experimenting with.  Being able to walk through a car manufacturing floor for the first time was interesting.  Seeing the start of the model S at the beginning stage through to the finished product showed how much work and detail went into these automobiles.  Tesla let our group sit in a model S in their show room, I was ready to camp out there.  Next Christmas I know what I am putting on my wish list.  There was no chance I was leaving the Tesla campus and not getting some swag to take home with me.

Later that night, after visiting Google and Tesla, we went out in search of a restaurant that would suit a college students budget.  We walked for about an hour trying to find a restaurant that wasn’t too expensive, my group ended up back at the hotel restaurant enjoying their choices instead of the few other options.  We were getting tired at this point and decided to hangout by the pool and chat, until one by one, people started falling into the urge of sleep.  There was a lot of excitement about Netflix and Brocade the next day.

Kirsten Dulbandzhyan – Mktg & Mngmt, Third Year

Today started with more excitement than any so far. We were scheduled to tour Google, and Tesla Motors; basically two of the coolest companies in the world.

The first stop of the day was Google’s campus in San Jose, and all that was on my mind was the movie “The Internship”. Upon arrival our group was bummed to find out that much of the campus was undergoing construction projects. I noticed a lot of contractor trucks, big fences, and torn up ground. This may have taken away from the expected look of Google, but I knew the best things were inside the building anyway. After struggling to find the right entrance door for about 15 minutes, we managed to meet up with our MTU connection Danielle VanDyke in the visitors lobby. From there we all followed her through crazily decorated rooms. Some had doors over the windows, balloons, etc. Our first stop was the Google trading floor, which apparently not many of the employees even knew existed. The trading floor was a collection of 20 or so computers, each sporting 6-monitor displays, and all the stock market data imaginable. Danielle turned the tour over to a worker familiar with the trading floor, and he gave us a basic rundown of what they do there. I was not surprised, but still amazed to know that in that room they control about 60 billion dollars worth of assets and cash. From the trading floor we moved outside and walked across a very beautiful courtyard to another building. This one turned out to be a small professionally catered cafeteria; which is free to all Google employees. Here another Googler was waiting for us. He gave a speech and answered questions relating to Google, and professional development. Overall Google appeared to be a great place to work.

We left campus after a quick stop at the gift shop, and shipped out to Tesla Motors. By the time my van arrived at the gates to the factory, I had already seen about 20 of the absolutely stunning Tesla Model S cars zipping through San Jose. Now before me was an enormous building with the words Tesla printed across it in 20-foot tall letters.  Needles to say I was chomping at the bit to get inside. As a group we stood in the parking lot for a while gawking at a maroon Model S parked up by the building. As it turns out this particular car was one somebody owned, and he was more than surprised to see 15 college kids taking picture and scrutinizing his car. Our guide for the day finally found us, and herded the group inside to get nametags. This MTU alumni was Glen Wheelock, a B.S in Mechanical Engineering major. Once inside I was blown away by the size of the factory, and the fact that at every point in my vision there was a Model S in some stage of completion. Were talking everything from body shells, to drivetrains half mated to the frame. Glen gave us a walking tour of the factory floor, which was shut down for lunch. It was beyond imagination to see the assembly lines riddled with Tesla parts, giant robotic arms, and impossibly complex machines. Just when I thought the tour couldn’t get any better, Glen led us through some doors to a hidden outside parking lot. MY MIND WAS MELTED! I’am pretty sure I started drooling, because before us sat about 200 Model S cars in every color of the rainbow, gleaming in the Californian sun. With weak knees I followed Glen to inspect one of the Tesla Supercharger Stations against the building walls. He explained how it could bring a Model S to half charge in 30 minutes. Which for anyone that doesn’t know, is absolutely astounding. To end the tour Glen deposited us in the company gift shop, but surprised the group by letting us explore a Model S that was parked in the Showroom. This took the cake for most awesome part of the day, and I was able to sit in the 106,000-dollar car. The fit and finish was unparalleled by American standards, and there was enough technology in the car to sink a ship. All said the entire group left Tesla with wide grins, and hopes that we all could own one somewhere down the road.

Nicholas Schweikart – Mechanical Engineering, First Year

Wednesday morning we were able to sleep in a little bit and take our time getting ready and having breakfast as before meeting up at 9:45am and heading to Google. It felt good to sleep in a little bit since we had such a long day on Tuesday and I think we were all happy that we were provided a breakfast buffet at this hotel. When we got to the Google campus we had a little trouble locating the front lobby due to some construction but we eventually found our way there and met up with the MTU alumna that would be showing us around. We got a brief welcome to Google and were introduced to the Google culture a little bit before heading over to visit the trading floor. On our way there we made a quick stop to see Stan, Google’s T-Rex which is modeled after an actual T-Rex skeleton. Stan was decorated in flamingos as though he had eaten them; helping to show the fun nature of the Google campus. We continued on to the trading floor where we were able to talk to the employees responsible for making secure investments. It was a pretty interesting room that looked much like something right out of a movie scene of Wall Street. Each person sat at a computer with six different screens used for various things from what looked to market monitoring to taking care of emails. The room also had a couple fairly large televisions set to help them monitor the market as well. However, the most interesting thing to me was that each person also had two phones, one standard phone and one with a direct line to the bank that could be used to continue trades in case something happens to their standard phone lines.

Next we met up with an employee that provides support for Google’s enterprise customers. He gave us some insight into the type of work he does on a day to day basis before opening up for questions. During the Q&A we were able to get a better view of the Google culture including how employees are encouraged to use their 20% time, the ease and encouragement of moving around the company, and how it’s understandable to make mistakes sometime. The guy we were talking to told us a story about how he was troubleshooting an IMAP problem for a customer when it was first rolling out and he accidentally turned the feature off for everyone in the world and quickly received a call from someone telling him to never touch the feature again. He said he was pretty scared he was going to lose his job at first but he was ensured nothing would come of it and that everyone makes mistakes. Then they told us how there is a joke that new Googlers are considered Newglers until they break something in production.

Before leaving we made a stop at the Google store so some of us could buy some Google swag before being on our way. For lunch we just found an In-N-Out Burger which many of us had never been to before and were told was a must have. Personally I found it to be just another fast food place but that’s just me.

After taking our time for lunch we headed over to the Tesla factory. We were shown around the factory by another MTU alum. The tour was pretty awesome as we were able to see pretty much the whole process starting with body assembly and ending with a complete vehicle that gets some in house QA testing. I found it pretty awesome to see the vehicle at each stage and see how it progressed throughout the assembly process. Once the factory tour was over we were once again given the chance to ask any questions we had. Throughout the tour and the Q&A session we were able to learn a lot about the company’s vision and the vehicles they currently make.  Then we were given the opportunity to sit in and explore one of the vehicles they had in the showroom. I am pretty sure this was some people’s favorite part of the trip.

We headed back to the hotel after that. Most of the group decided to go to a Greek restaurant for dinner but some of us decided to just hang around at the hotel for a bit and explore the area for a restaurant to eat at. We soon realized that we didn’t have the same luxury of selecting from dozens of restaurants as we had in San Francisco. So we ended up just eating at the hotel restaurant and then just hanging out outside around the pool for the rest of the night and enjoying the nice weather.

Kevin Coleman – Computer Engineering, Fifth Year

Silicon Valley Tour – Day 3

Day 3 of the Brocade sponsored Silicon Valley Spring Break Tour was a day of atypical engineering applications in Northern California for the group of 15 students. Michigan Tech alumna Debra Campbell, Construction Program Manager for the National Park Service Service was first to treat the group to a personalized, behind-the-scenes, historical and engineering tour of Alcatraz Island. Stabilization efforts under the island’s largest structures are a unique challenge for engineering efforts given constraints of location and environment. The island’s shift from diesel fuel to alternative energy is an additional engineering challenge. NPS employees helped guide the group through cell block tours and a variety of off-tour experiences and insight to the island’s varied uses over the years.

An equally interesting tour was given by Tim Porter, son of Michigan Tech alum and entrepreneur Tom Porter, who toured the group though the Porter Family Vineyard in Napa. The Porter’s unique application of mesh network, remote sensing, and automated controls of everything from vine to aging is novel in the wine industry. Successes and failures of implementing bleeding edge technology in this historically hands-on industry has presented unique challenges and produced most stellar wine.

The student’s impressions of both are below:

Tuesday we had to be up bright and early in order to meet with the National Park Service down by the pier in order to catch the first boat of the day out to Alcatraz. The ride out to the island was just amazing; the view of the city and it’s surroundings along with the sunrise over the bay was simply breath taking. First we were given a brief history of the island where I learned the island was originally used as a fort before being turned into a military prison and then later changing purposes again into the federal prison that most people know it for. Once we got to the island we started off with the standard audio tour which allowed us to learn a lot about the prison and it’s history The audio tour included viewpoints from both some of the guards and ex-inmates giving us insight on some of the inmates accommodations as well as the security practices the prison implemented. I thought it was very interesting to learn about all the different aspects of the prison. Once the audio tour was over we met back up with the National Park Service representatives for some more exclusive access. We were privileged enough to get a private tour of the lighthouse, the citadel basement, the the batteries used to power the island, and the new industry building where the “good” prisoners were able to spend some time working instead of spending their whole day in their cell. While they were all great to experience the lighthouse was my personal favorite. The view from the top of the tower was insurmountable. Once we were done touring the island we caught the boat back to the main land where they also provided us some sandwiches and snacks for lunch. Needless to say they treated us very well and I was very grateful for all of their accommodations. After lunch we got some vans, headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head towards Napa Valley to tour the Porter Family Vineyards. Continuing the trend, the view was amazing with the all the rolling hills and the mountains in the background. We were given a tour of the vineyard and educated on how much the vines are effected by different amounts of water and nutrients in the soil. After that we got to see how they sort all of their berries and remove any debris before fermenting the wine and learn about the fermentation process. After that we got to tour the cave they use to age their wine. This may or may not sound like a very impressive element to the vineyard but I will ensure you that it was one of the highlights of the trip; I think it’s something you have to see to fully appreciate. The cave seemed to never end but we eventually came upon a nook in the cave set up for us to partake in a vertical wine tasting in order to experience how the wine tastes different from year to year. We were taught how to properly examine the color, aroma, body, and the taste which was judged by the acid, sweetness, and tannin of the wine. While it was easy to tell each wine had a distinct smell and flavor, my palate isn’t quite refined enough to be able to distinguish their characteristics. I still enjoyed getting to taste the various wines though and I won’t lie, it felt pretty awesome to be sitting in the vineyards cave drinking wine that sold for around $80/bottle which is much more than my college budget can really afford. I also really enjoyed getting to hear someone that knows what they are talking about teach us so much about every aspect of wine. Our guide also talked to us about some of what is necessary to pass the sommelier examination which I was just blown away by. If you don’t know what it is I would recommend reading into it a bit because I find it amazing. Once the tour was over we headed to a local pizza place to grab a bite to eat before making the drive over to San Jose and checking into our new hotel. It had been a pretty long day for all of us so we were pretty tired. We decided it was best just taking some time to settle into the new hotel before calling it a night.

-Kevin Coleman – Computer Engineering, Fifth Year

7 AM in the lobby with our bags packed was a struggle for most.  We were off to the to get a private tour of Alcatraz. The walk to the trolley stop unusually windy, but a warm wind which was a nice change from the Houghton weather.  Arriving at the port, we boarded a boat to Alcatraz with the crew since the island wasn’t open to visitors quit yet.  We were able to take the audio tour through the prison and seeing what life was like at Alcatraz.  Once the audio tour had finished, we reconvened on the lawn to head up the lighthouse.  The lighthouse is closed to the public and was only open once at the 150th anniversary of the previous lighthouse.  This exclusive tour was the best view of the city. At the very top, everyone could get a 360 degree view of the city.  Even though I was holding on for my life and trying to not be the clumsy person I am, I wished I could stay and take in the view all day.  After we descended from the lighthouse, we got a personal tour of the basement, tunnels, the workers buildings, the gun gallery, and much more that the public was not able to see.  Debbie was one of our tour guides and an alumnae, provided us with a lunch once back on land.  Leaving the pier, Debbie gave us hugs and wished us luck .  Retrieving our bags, loading up the vans and off to Porter Family Vineyard.  There were many different aspects of a vineyard that I had never realized went into making wine, not to say the time it took for a vine to begin budding.  The most fascinating part of the vineyard was the cave that the Porter Family own. They had build it to produce their wine in, the humidity in the cave was better for the fermentation and there wasn’t enough space in the original office.  In one cove where we were able to technically taste wine that was produced from 2005 (the first Porter Family win made) to 2010.  Being able see the differences in the wine in the color, body, taste, aroma, and quality was fascinating to me.  I did not know that wine was this complex. We learned how to get the best aroma out of the wine for a better evaluation of each year.  We were able to mingle and ask as many questions we pleased, most of us did not want to leave the vineyard. Alcatraz and the Porter Family Vineyard were some of the best memories I had at this point. Being able to hear the history and find out how a small startup is properly run was a great learning experience.  Google and Tesla should be interesting to see.

-Kirsten Dulbandzhyan – Mktg & Mngmt, Third Year

Today I awoke to the sounds of the city and my blaring alarm clock at 6 AM. San Francisco takes on a whole new feel at 7am, and clearly shows its roots in business with all the early morning chaos. Once down at the docks we met up with Debra Campbell and boarded the ferryboat. As it turns out we were graced with riding one of the newer hybrid electric boats, which was a big excitement for the EE majors on the trip. The ferries were outfitted with solar panels, wind turbines, and electric motors, in a system that helps reduce the boats use of fossil fuels. It also showcased the National Park Services drive for becoming more environmentally friendly. As one can imagine the ride out to Alcatraz was filled with more amazing views of the cityscape and vibrant sunrise. Once on the Island it became apparent that we were getting the VIP treatment so to speak, and received tours before all the other tourists arrived.  The park rangers also allowed us access to the top of the island lighthouse, and a look at the basement construction projects that were underway. I can say that being atop the 86 foot tall lighthouse was more than nerve racking, but well worth it. The view of the bay was not only stunning, but also from a perspective that most people will never have the chance to see. We then made our way into the catacombs beneath the prison buildings. Here we snaked through the ruins of the first edifice the island supported, a 1850’s civil war fort. As it turns out the prison was built right on top of the fort, and was suffering from sever structural degradation. Debbie showed us how the park service was re-constructing some steel and cement beams to stabilize the building above, while still maintaining the look of 1850’s construction. Our group re-surfaced and caught the 1:00 PM boat back to shore, where we ate a great lunch provided by the NPS and loaded up in vans. The next stop was Napa Valley, and Porter Family Vineyards. I didn’t think that California could offer up any more amazing views than those found in the bay area, but I was quickly proven wrong. The rolling green hills were dotted with wineries, and very beautiful to say the least. The Porter vineyard was atop a high hill, and overlooked a large section of the valley. Tim met us in the yard, and commenced what was sure to be a great cultural experience. We all walked with him as he explained the wine making process, and the business behind his winery. Then he took our group through two giant doors, and into his very own cave. This cave was simply jaw dropping, boasting 15-foot ceilings, textured Shotcrete walls, and loads of gorgeous stainless steal processing equipment. It was lined with barrel after barrel of wine, and wrapped around the corner out of sight. Tim talked us through the various aspects of wine making, and explained that the barrels are made of French oak, and contribute about 40% of the wines characteristics. We then walked about halfway through the tunnel, and entered a wine tasting room. This room was absolutely breath taking, sporting artwork, lit candles, and of course about 100 different bottles of wine. The room had a romantic and affluent ambiance that instantly made me feel far more elegant than I really am. I sat down at a beautifully set table, and spent the next 2 hours or so technically tasting Porter wines. I must say that the experience was beyond my expectations. I really discovered why wine tasting is such a hobby among many people. Tim and his intern exposed how wine has much more to it than just a color. We got to evaluate his wine for things like body, clarity, acid, tannin content, and aroma. He even said that our input would be used in conjunction with the first tasting of the wines to see how they have aged. It was so enjoyable, and quite unforgettable! Tims passion for wine was evident in his every word, and was only outweighed by his gracious hospitality. After a quick goodbye we put the terraces of the vineyard in the rear view mirror, and headed down into a small Napa town were we had pizza for dinner.

-Nicholas Schweikart – Mechanical Engineering, First Year

Silicon Valley Tour – Day 2

Day 2 of the tour included visits at both Autodesk and Cisco. Alum Rob Fjerstad toured the group through the 2nd floor gallery in Autodesk’s downtown San Francisco office and led a discussion with recruiting and engineering representatives. Cisco’s new acquisition, Meraki, was next on the stop. Support, and technical reps led the group through their brand new offices and open work areas on the waterfront and answered technical questions from the group. Students’ impressions below.

I woke up on Monday morning around 7:15, before my alarm even had a chance to go off, ready for the day. I got up, got ready for the day, and had a small breakfast before heading to the hotel lobby to meet up with the group at 9 o’clock. Once everyone was there we started walking towards the AutoDesk office. We were quite a bit early for our 10 o’clock meeting so we took a jaunt to the nearby Starbucks to kill some time. The meeting with AutoDesk started with a tour of their gallery which showcased some of the amazing work that their products play an essential role in. The gallery was pretty cool, containing a variety of things from watches, bridges, and buildings to animated movies, the giant Lego sculptures, and 3D printing prototypes. After the gallery tour they had a short presentation about the company and their available positions before opening up for some Q&A. The group had a wide variety of questions that provided some interesting insight into the companies values and work culture. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of their work space but from everything that we did see and hear about the company it seems like a great place to work. We had a nice break before we had to be at Cisco so we were able to head down towards the bay and grab some lunch at the markets by the piers. A few of us found a nice little shop where I decided to grab a chilly dog. Little did I know they didn’t mess around when it came to their chilly dogs and it came fully loaded to the point where there was no way I could eat it without a knife and fork. We got to enjoy our lunch outside along with some great weather and an amazing view of the Bay Bridge. After finishing up our lunch we headed back to meet up with the group and start our long walk to Cisco. While it was kind of a journey I didn’t mind the walk as I enjoyed getting to talk with some of the group members and enjoy the view of both the city and the bay. The Cisco meeting started off with a tour of their building which seemed like an absolutely wonderful place to work. They pride themselves on giving their employees a large amount of luxuries at work to make it feel like their “second home”. They have done a pretty good job at it too as they have lots of lounge style seating along with a plethora of healthy snacks for the employees to enjoy while they are at work. There was no question that Cisco values their employees and wants to keep them happy. After walking through the office space for a bit we had a chance to sit down and talk with a few of the employees about what they like about their jobs at Cisco, the available positions, and their hiring process. When were done meeting with Cisco a bunch of the group didn’t feel up making the long walk back to the hotel so they opted to use the bus line but a few of us didn’t mind making the walk. We took a different route back to the hotel to experience a little more of the city and continued to be in awe of how amazing we found the city. After everyone got back to the hotel we changed out of our business clothes and took a little time to just hang out and relax before heading out for some dinner. Some of us utilized this time to write a blog post for our first day, unfortunately I was experiencing some technical difficulties that caused me to push it off until after dinner. A few of us, including myself, really wanted to get some Indian food while we were in the city so we set out on a search for a reasonably priced Indian restaurant. We found a pretty nice place called New Delhi. It was some of the groups first time trying Indian food but I was happy to hear they really enjoyed it as Indian is one of my favorite cuisines. The group decided they needed some desert so we headed across the street to grab some Cold Stone and then wandered around the downtown area a little more. We have a pretty early morning tomorrow, meeting at 7am to check out of the hotel, so we figured we should call it an early night and head back to the hotel, hang out some more while I casually wrote my blog post. That brings us to now as I’m finishing around 1am. Now I think I need to go pack up my stuff so I am ready to check out in the morning and head to bed. I’m really excited for the Alcatraz tour and wine tasting tomorrow before we head down to San Jose and I expect it will be another fun filled day.

Kevin Coleman – Computer Engineering, Fifth Year

I woke up today with sore feet and tired legs, but pumped to go tour our first round of companies. After a quick breakfast of Wallgreens cottage cheese and coffee from Starbucks, we headed off to Autodesk. We all decided that the city transportation would break the bank, so we walked the mile or so to the building. I must say I was completely blown away by the office space. The Autodesk gallery was ultramodern and offered up spectacular views of the bay area. Our tour guide was MTU alum Rob Fjerstad. He lead us through a multi display exhibit of all the types of companies that use Autodesk software, and how they use it. He then gave a great presentation on what Autodesk is all about, and what they have to offer collage graduates. We all asked some great questions, and even shared a few laughs about the Houghton weather. After a quick good buy we walked some more…surprise surprise..to a spot to grab lunch. We ate at a flee mall type tourist attraction, and I got a pretty solid pulled pork sandwich and fries from The Meat Company. Most of us went outside to enjoy the sun and low 70s temps, while eating the in shadow of the gorgeous Bay Bridge and surrounding waterfront. We reconvened as a group and set off on foot to Cisco for the next tour. About 3 miles later most of us realized that 2 dollars to ride the city bus was a bargain. It was however great to see so many awesome views of the bay. Cisco was on the 4th floor of a very new building, and had some serious thought put into interior decoration. The front desk alone was a work of art. Once past a pair of large glass doors we meet our tour guide in one of the coolest lobbies Ive ever seen. She then showed us around the office space and it was aboslutely mind-blowing. This place had the most fun looking layout imaginable. Were talking like toys on desks, free catered lunch/snacks, and Nerf gun office wars! Everyone we talked to was smiling and so genuinely happy with their job that the feeling was contagious. These people loved were they worked, and actual thought of it as a second home. Needles to say it left me with a very good impression, and a new outlook on what it means to really like what you do. We talked with a few employes and they had nothing but good things to say about living and working and Silicon Valley. As we left Cisco most of the group was fed up with waling, and opted to take the trolly back to the hotel. However a few of us guys decided to hike it back to camp, and absorb some more of the California sun. We made it in about 30 hard earned minutes, and passed another 100 or so awesome attractions and shops. I got back to the room, and wrote the blog post for day 1. Then a few of us decided that Indian food was on the menu for dinner. We meandered around down town, and finally settled on the first place we found that was under 30 bucks a plate. I got some very spicy curry and delicious traditional bread, then we walked down the street to Coldstone for dessert. After that we made it back to the hotel and decided to retire early because the next morning starts before 7am…..

Nicholas Schweikart Mechanical Engineering, First Year

Starting our day off right with some Starbucks, we headed down to the pier to our first stop, Autodesk.  Autodesk really surprised me when I learned about the projects that their software was a part of.  They work with different movies, health care products, architecture, art, legos, and much more.  We had gotten a tour of their gallery that is open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Heading into the conference room, we had stopped to get some refreshments when one of my class mates broke the faucet in their kitchen! Makes for an interesting first impression, good thing we have students that know how to fix these types of problems.  We talked about openings in their company and some of the projects Autodesk is working on at the moment.  Lunch time had finally come, the group walked down to the pier to get some grub before heading down to Cisco.  Ordering an over priced hamburger was on the menu for lunch today.  Even though the price was a bit steep, it was a spectacular hamburger with an exquisite view of the Bay View Bridge.   The sun was out, the pier was filled with people, and our talk about our experiences made our lunch very relaxing.  Cisco was the second company on our list to visit.  We ended up walking around 2.5 miles from the pier to the local headquarters.  For future reference, do not walk that distance in heels.  Take it from someone who knows what it feels like. Cisco was a very young and modern company.  Their working space was wide open with no cubicles.  They have lunch catered to them everyday with activities to entertain themselves after their lunch.  Cisco was a more informal tour that many of the students enjoyed and thought they could see themselves working there.  The day finished off with a small group of us walking around down town to find some authentic Indian cuisine.  The meal was everything we had hoped for and more.  The restaurant allowed us to take a tour of their kitchen and show us how they prepared their homemade nan bread.  We calmed our sweet tooth with a cup of Coldstones ice cream and walked around the shops in town.  Overall the day was successful and eye opening.  I thank the companies for opening their doors to us and inviting us in to learn more about them.  Tomorrow should be a fun day starting off with Alcatraz taking us to Napa Valley and ending in San Jose.  Can’t wait to see what is in store for us tomorrow!

Kirsten Dulbandzhyan Mktg & Mngmt, Third Year