Category Archives: News


Engineering World Health’s Team Teaches STEM in Haiti

Michigan Tech students work with Haitian students on STEM activities at HUT Outreach.
Michigan Tech students work with Haitian students on STEM activities at HUT Outreach.

Over the fourth week of May 2018, Engineering World Health’s (EWH) team of Michigan Tech students participated in teaching the first high school class ever held at the HUT Outreach center in Les Cayes, Haiti. Haitian students were exposed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) topics like electronic circuits, forces, and bridges through hands-on learning lessons.

Students in Haiti often drop out of school in the sixth grade, with a diminishing retention rate thereafter. HUT Outreach is trying to break that statistic, and the Michigan Tech team got to be part of changing how these students viewed education.

In a typical Haitian class, the teacher delivers lessons by writing on a blackboard for hours while the students passively take notes. The first activity of their first day of STEM learning involved a health lesson on how germs were spread. The students were asked to stand up and run around the room as part of the learning exercise. They were notably reluctant to participate.

Using persistence and enthusiasm, the Michigan Tech team inspired the learners so much that students would arrive early to get a jumpstart on the fun lessons.

Michigan Tech team member Megan Byrne was recruited and trained as a peer mentor through the newly established first-year engineering LEarning with Academic Partners (LEAP) program. LEAP is implemented by the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, which provided support for the Haiti trip.

I would like to thank you so much for your generous donation to our Haiti trip. We were able to spoil the kids in our program, as well as tell them about why we love engineering and Michigan Tech. Many students told us they would like to be engineers one day, and one student even told us he would like to come to Michigan Tech. Your donation allowed us to bring a smile to so many faces, and inspire passion for education. Giving them MTU gear at the end of the week was an amazing way to wrap up our lessons and give them something to remember the past week by. LEAP Leader Megan Byrne

EWH inspires, educates and empowers young engineers, scientists and medical professionals from more developed parts of the world to use their engineering skills to improve global health.  Michigan Tech is an EWH University Chapter, and Byrne is the vice president of the local chapter. LEAP Leader Megan Byrne had more to say about the experience:

Being a LEAP Leader helped me prepare for my trip to Haiti because I gained so much knowledge in preparing group learning lessons. Our EWH team wanted the students to learn the theory of series and parallel circuits, forces to build bridges, first aid, and how to build water filters. This was a challenge for us because the students had not been exposed to any of these topics or hands-on learning, and they also spoke a different language. Thanks to our Haitian translator, Wesley, and the experience I gained through the LEAP program at Michigan Tech, I had experience with taking a creative twist to difficult lessons to help the students gain understanding of some cool engineering topics in a way that would be impactful to them. As a matter of fact, the lessons we taught in Haiti were very similar to a LEAP sessions that I would facilitate in the Engineering Fundamentals department at Tech. I am grateful for the knowledge I have gained in not only my coursework, but also in facilitation of peer learning through the LEAP Leaders program. Because of my experiences here, I have had the great opportunity to share my education with those students who may have never had the opportunity, had we not been able to go to Haiti. If we even inspired one student to continue their education one day, the whole trip would be worth it. I believe that the key to solving many of the challenges in Haiti starts with education. It’s been incredible to be a small part in that.


Mary Fraley Among the 2018 VentureWell OPEN Conference Presenters

Mary Fraley
Mary Fraley

Mary Fraley, Engineering Fundamentals senior lecturer, Mary Raber, Pavlis Honors College assistant dean and Magann Dykema, University Innovation Fellow presented at the 2018 VentureWell OPEN Conference that took place in Austin, Texas, March 22-24.

OPEN gathers together representatives from across the innovation and entrepreneurship spectrum to share stories, start new collaborations, and learn emerging best practices in the rapidly evolving field of technology entrepreneurship education.

Fraley, Raber and Dykema presented on a modified first-year engineering curriculum that was piloted at Tech last fall. Based on the successful outcomes of the initial pilot, Michigan Tech was awarded a VentureWell Faculty Grant for the proposal “Building a Curriculum that Fosters an Innovation & Entrepreneurial (I&E) Mindset for our First-year Students.”

The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, Engineering Fundamentals, and the School of Business and Economics (SBE) have teamed up to incorporate design thinking methodology into a combined first-year engineering and business course.

More about how the new grant will be used to expand upon the fall pilot can be found here.

By Pavlis Honors College.


Gretchen Hein Honored for Advising eCYBERMISSION National Winning Team

Gretchen Hein
Gretchen Hein

Gretchen Hein (EF), was honored at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference for her advising of the 2017 eigth-grade eCYBERMISSION National Winning Team. eCYBERMISSION is a “is a web-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competition for students in grades six through nine that promotes self-discovery and enables all students to recognize the real-life applications of STEM” according to their website. The Lake Linden-Hubbell High School team was comprised of Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabriel Poirier, along with guidance from Ryan Knoll, a student in Chemical Engineering. Hein is advising the ninth-grade eCYBERMISSION team and they have submitted their mission folder for review and evaluation.

Mission folder judging is based mainly on application of scientific inquiry using scientific practices or engineering design process. Other criteria include benefit to the community and team collaboration. First-place national award winners receive a $5,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond at maturity per student.

eCYBERMISSION Mission Folder for “Whiz Kids”

Extract from Community Benefit:

Stamp sand is an abundant material in our community. Due to the mining that took place in our community there are some areas of stamp sand along Lake Superior and on Torch Lake near our town. Though the Environmental Protection Agency has remediated some areas by spreading topsoil over the stamp sands and planting plants, there are some areas still with exposed stamp sand.

When learning about stamp sands and where they are located, we took a trip to the stamp sands in the town of Gay Michigan. We looked at the vegetation that was growing on the stamp sand. This relates to our experiment because we are trying to test which type of plant will grow in the least amount of topsoil. On this trip, we saw where plants were already growing in the sands, but we also noticed that there were a lot of barren areas. The regions where plants grew where water pooled or flowed into the area bringing not only water, but nutrients too.

Our school participates in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI). This program “brings together schools and community partners to prepare K-12 students to become knowledgeable citizens concerned about the Lake Superior watershed and actively engaged in stewardship projects in their community.” (LSSI) Students in different science classes at our school sample water and soil as part of the Torch Lake Remediation Monitoring program.

Read more about the Whiz Kids’ scientific inquiry at eCYBERMISSION.

Eighth Grade Team Whiz Kids
Eighth Grade Team Whiz Kids

Lecturers Receive Instruction Grant from VentureWell

First Year Engineering
First Year Engineering Students

Mary Raber (Pavlis Honors College/LIFT) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $22,800 instruction grant from VentureWell.

Mary Fraley (EF), Brett Hamlin (EF), Amber Kemppainen (EF) and Jonathan Leinonen (SBE) are Co-PIs on the project, “Building a Curriculum that Fosters an Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset for Our First-Year Students.” This is the first year of a 2.6-year project.

By Sponsored Programs.


Inclusive Access Helps Students Save on Course Materials

Inclusive AccessThe Fall 2017 semester at Michigan Tech brought something new to first year engineering students taking courses ENG 1001 and ENG 1101: Inclusive Access. The result—a tremendous cost savings.

In an effort to offset the rising costs of course materials, Michigan Tech’s Campus Store—together with a text book publisher, an e-book vendor, and Department of Engineering Fundamentals faculty—provided students course material access (in the form of an e-book) through Canvas for the first day of classes. Students were emailed prior to the semester to explain the process. They could choose to opt-out of the Inclusive Access program within the first 10 days of the semester and seek alternatives on their own. If they didn’t opt-out or drop the course, their tuition accounts were charged.

The cost savings for 896 Engineering Fundamental students exceeded $72,000. Course materials that formerly cost students $230 as physical books only cost them $149 digitally through the Inclusive Access program. The same course material is used throughout the First Year Engineering Program sequence, and students can access the material for two years.

Research indicates students who have access to course materials have a higher success rate in the classroom than those that choose not to use them. The Campus Store is looking to expand the Inclusive Access program to help increase the chances of student success.


Terrific Teaching at Tech

Dillman HallThe Engineering Fundamentals department is teaching in a new space and using some new methods this fall. It’s interesting stuff, pushing technological boundaries and using near-peer learning assistants.

They’ll have great information to share with a bit more experience. But they are also generating ideas that could be implemented anywhere, by any instructor.

This week, one of the instructors involved stopped into the CTL for other reasons and described some of the ill-posed, real-world problems they’re pushing students to try to solve. The problems force students to research, estimate and model, unavoidably “embracing the ambiguity” of the situation.

That phrase “embracing ambiguity” really resonated for me, in terms of pushing our students and ourselves toward better learning. In my own classes, I routinely see students who “freeze” when faced with a problem for which they can’t see the solution from start to finish.

We have to work on getting comfortable with not knowing exactly what to do, but doing something that’s likely to be productive anyway. “Wandering into the woods” this way is often the only way to eventually see the other side, and it often involves several false starts before a path is found.

But that’s the easy part of this. As our classrooms move toward more learning-centered teaching, instructors, too, are challenged to “embrace ambiguity.” It’s relatively easy to plan out a lecture where we control the content and pace and perform virtually all of the activity.

There is substantial uncertainty in allowing students to direct class by choosing examples, asking questions or injecting their own ideas. There is lots of ambiguity in getting students active, because we don’t really know exactly where things are going to go.

I’m convinced that there is increasing value in finding ways to making at least parts of class time responsive to student needs.

In my own class, I’ve discovered that using a tool called Strawpoll to let students pick which homework problems to review is very effective. Using response systems, pre-class assignments, exit tickets, student whiteboards or group quizzes are other ways to give students a voice in the classroom. The biggest challenge is still to set aside my own agenda to do what they need when they use it.

If you’d like to talk more about ways to embrace ambiguity in your classroom, stop into the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.

By Mike Meyer, William G. Jackson CTL


First-Year Engineering Curriculum Development Grant from VentureWell

Mary Raber, Pavlis Honor College, has received a $5,000 grant from VentureWell for the research project Incorporating Design Thinking and Lean Start-up into the First-Year Engineering Curriculum.

The project constitutes an initiative to evaluate best practices in I&E education for first-year engineering programs, and to develop new curricula that will fit within the existing required freshman engineering course sequence. The goal is to broaden impact across campus and foster a culture that encourages and supports innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mary Fraley and Amber Kemppainen are also involved in this nine-month project.

Mary Raber
Mary Raber
Mary Fraley
Mary Fraley
Amber Kemppainen
Amber Kemppainen

Mary Fraley, Gretchen Hein, and Amy Monte Selected as Positive Female Role Models

EF-positive-female-role-model-2The Center for Diversity and Inclusion conducted an anonymous survey of female students, staff, and faculty at Michigan Tech during the fall 2016 semester. Over 250 responses identified 98 individuals across campus as positive female role models. Three Engineering Fundamentals women were named in this group: Gretchen Hein, Amy Monte, and Mary Fraley (photo left to right).

Congratulations to the three of them for being recognized for this honor!


First-Year Engineering Students to Experience Flipped Classroom

First Year Engineering

The College of Engineering’s First-Year Engineering Program, provided through the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, is moving to a new model of instruction called a “flipped classroom.” The flipped classroom is grounded on the idea that students will prepare for class by doing readings and using other resources before class time. Once in class, students will work to solve problems, discuss applications of engineering and participate in engineering projects. To facilitate this model, each student must have a laptop of his or her own to prepare before class and to participate fully in class.

Incoming students for fall 2017 can review the laptop requirements through Undergraduate Admissions in preparation for this initiative.

Original story by Wayne Pennington, College of Engineering and Jon Sticklen, Engineering Fundamentals.