Engineering Staff Recognized for 2019 Making a Difference Awards

Michigan Tech campus from Portage Canale.A total of 48 nominations have been submitted for the 2019 Making a Difference Awards. Everyone is invited to a reception honoring the nominees. The reception is scheduled for 2:00pm to 3:30 pm, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2019 in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The recipients for each category will be announced at the reception.

In the College of Engineering, the following staff have been nominated:

Above and Beyond

Carol Asiala – Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Behind the Scenes

Taana Blom – Chemical Engineering
Cindy Wadaga – Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Legacy Award

Owen Mills – Materials Science and Engineering
Alexis Snell – Chemical Engineering

Rookie Award

Rachel Griffin – Materials Science and Engineering
Rachel Store – Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Laura Wiinikka – Chemical Engineering

Serving Others

Pam Hannon – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Katie Torrey – Chemical Engineering

Unsung Hero

Brian Eggart – Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Paul Fraley – Materials Science and Engineering
Shelle Sandell – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Mark Sloat – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Stefan Wisniewski – Chemical Engineering


Engineering Supports SnowBots at Yeti Cup

First Tech Challenge logoThe SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams competed in Kingsford last weekend for the Yeti Cup U.P. FIRST Tech Challenge robotic qualifier competition. All three teams were in the finals and brought home awards from the competition. SnowBots teams are open to area sixth-eighth grade students, and meet at Houghton Middle School.

SnowBots teams are sponsored by: Michigan Department of Education, GS Engineering, Destination Unstoppable, Boundary Labs, ThermoAnalytics, IR Telemetrics, Michigan Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department, Monte Consulting, and Houghton Portage Township Schools. The Kingsford event was sponsored in part by Michigan Technological University College of Computing. The Copper Country was also well represented with 18 community volunteers supporting the event.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.

States bound: SnowBots qualify for state championship

The SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams reached a first-ever milestone at the Pellston regional FIRST Tech Challenge qualifier on Nov 23rd. All three teams, identified by the colors Blue, Red, and Silver, have now qualified to compete at the state championship Dec. 13-14 in Battle Creek. SnowBots Blue and Silver qualified on Nov. 9 and the Red team will be joining them after their great performance in Pellston.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.


Some Attributes of Huskies

Here is a picture of Echo, after recovering from her poisoning, at the cabin.

At Michigan Tech, our mascot is the Husky. I have a lot of fun with this, because Echo, one of our two family dogs, is a Husky. So I have learned a lot about this breed of dog from our Echo.

I want to call out five basic attributes that I associate with Huskies.

First of all, Huskies are very clever dogs. For example, Echo knows the name of many of her toys. Her favorite toys make noises—right now, the special favorite is a stuffed Woody Woodpecker—who makes the most ridiculous noise. So I can ask Echo, “Where’s, ‘whoo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha,’ and she knows exactly what toy to bring me.

Also, Huskies are very careful dogs—most of the time. Echo is really careful to sniff each treat I offer her, before eating it. Even though she knows it’s the same dog biscuit that she had yesterday, well—she has to sniff it every time. Which is why I was so surprised when one night earlier this year, as I was staying one night at what was soon to become our family cabin (out near Point Abbaye, Michigan), I heard her crunching on something. I went to investigate—and I couldn’t believe it. She was eating rat poison which I didn’t realize was there. It had been left in a hidden corner on the kitchen floor! Luckily, it was the kind of rat poison that has an antidote (massive doses of vitamin K).

And—Huskies are VERY VOCAL and musical dogs. I believe Echo speaks entire sentences. She can clearly communicate when she is hungry, when she wants to go out, if she is bored, if something is wrong, and more. And if we begin to howl (as much as any human can), she gets downright musical, joining in and sometimes harmonizing.

Finally, Huskies are incredibly playful dogs. Echo can play catch with herself. She tosses her toys up in the air, and then pounces on them as they come down. She plays dueling stick with our other dog, they run in tandem, each with their mouths on the stick as they bound down the trail, like a harnessed team of horses with a bit in their mouth. And more. Not really a fetching dog, Echo tends to set up more elaborate play-games.

Our mascot, Blizzard, with the Michigan Tech Husky Pep Band.

That brings me to Husky Nation, Michigan Technological University—a place where you can be clever, careful, vocal, musical and playful!

Now, if you’re interested in becoming a Michigan Tech Husky, or know someone who might be interested, and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech

Echo’s hairy paws
Echo is very clever. She “nose” a lot!
Echo runs with a big smile on her face!
Last but not least, our very own Husky statue here on campus at Michigan Tech.

Pre-Schoolers Learn to Engineer

85 parents and their PreK children from the Miigiziinsag Little Eagles Pre-School, KBIC pre-primary , KBIC early headstart, and BHK pre-school attended the first Family Engineering Fun Night held November 13th, 2019, at KBOCC. A pizza dinner was available at 5:30 pm with hands-on engineering activities from 6:00-7:00 pm. The event was conducted by Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, with help from Michigan Tech students with the Chemical Engineering Honors Society Omega Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society student chapters, and funding from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium and the “For the Wisdom of the Children Grant from the American Indian College Fund.”

Man works at table with two children and another adult looking on.
Matt Friiswall and his children Iziah and Isabel work on designing a scoop to remove trash from the “pond”.
Adults work with students at a table in a crowded event.
Michigan Tech student Hailey Mikolitis (right) assists pre-school students Jarron Colbert and Treyson Tapani, who are testing the strength of two different arch designs.
Three people arrange items on trays at a table.
All the right tools set up.
One adult is showing another a foil project at a table.
Michigan Tech volunteer training.

Engineering Students Attend WE19

Romana Carden
Romana Carden
Mackenzie Brunet
Mackenzie Brunet

Ten members of the Michigan Tech chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) went to the 2019 national conference, WE19, November 7-9, in Anaheim, California. Advisor Gretchen Hein (EF) accompanied the delegation of eight undergraduates and two graduate students.

The WE19 conference was attended by more than 16,000 SWE members, both collegiate and professional, from across the nation, who enjoyed professional development breakout sessions, inspirational keynotes, a career fair, and multiple opportunities for networking.

Romana Carden, a 5th year student in engineering management, participated in the SWE Future Leaders (SWEFL) program. Along with Mackenzie Brunet, Carden went to the SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI), a day-long leadership development event. Both programs, led by female engineers working in industry and academia, help college students gain leadership skills.

Full list of students who attended:


Engineering Students at the Health Research Institute Slam

Research Slam event photo of people in the labThe Health Research Institute hosted its first Research Slam Student forum Nov. 8, 2019. The event was divided into three categories: Two-Minute Introduction, Three-Minute Thesis, and Eight-Minute Talks.

Presenters from the Three-Minute Thesis and Eight-Minute Talk categories were judged on comprehension, content, audience engagement and ability to communicate their work and findings clearly.

The winners are:

Three Minute Thesis

Eight Minute Talk

  • 1st – Ariana Tyo, Biomedical Engineering
  • 2nd – Dhavan Sharma, Biomedical Engineering
  • 3rd – Wenkai Jia, Biomedical Engineering

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the presenters for sharing your research with the HRI community. We would also like to give special thanks to our faculty judges: Tatyana Karabencheva-Christova (Chem), Sangyoon Han (BioMed), Samantha Smith (CLS), Jingfeng Jiang (BioMed), Marina Tanasova (Chem), Rupak Rajachar (BioMed), Traci Yu (BioSci), and Shiyue Fang (Chem).


Girls Scouts Learn How to “Think Like an Engineer” at Michigan Tech

Girl Scouts gathered at Michigan Tech this week, to learn about electrical engineering from members of Michigan Tech’s student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

Saturday afternoon, nearly 90 Girl Scouts learned what it means to be an engineer. It came through trying and failing. Then trying again and failing. Then eventually, trying and succeeding. “Seeing that look on their face when they finally get something to work, that’s the most rewarding part of it — to see them say, ‘Yes, I did this. I can do it even though it was hard to do,’” said Zoe Wahr, outreach director for Michigan Tech’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, which organized the event.  Read more about the event in the Daily Mining Gazette.

The Girl Scouts, from kindergartners through 10th grade, arrived at Michigan Tech from across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. The event, called “Think like an engineer” encouraged attendees to think about careers in science, engineering, technology and math. Read more at TV6 Upper Michigan Source.

The scouts first enjoyed brunch at Michigan Tech’s Wadsworth Residence Hall before breaking out into activity groups by age. Kindergarten (Daisies); 2-3 grade (Brownies); 4-5 grade (Juniors); and 6-10 grade (Cadettes and Seniors). The younger groups made paper circuits,  “squishy” circuits made out of dough, and mini wiggling “bots.” Older students visited Blue Marble Security Enterprise headquarters in the EERC building, where they learned to solder holiday-themed LED circuit boards.

At the end of the activities, all of the students gathered for a Q&A panel of SWE members. The scouts also developed a”Take-Action Plan” based on all they learned in their workshops.

“We’re excited to be a partner and to share the fields of electrical and computer engineering with these bright young people,” said Liz Fujita, ECE academic advisor and outreach specialist, who helped coordinate the event.

“The vast majority were from out of the area – only 14 girls are from Houghton County,” said SWE faculty advisor Gretchen Hein, a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. “The furthest away is Green Bay, Wisconsin.”


Integrity Matters.

Five on a Treasure Island, by English author Enid Blyton, the first book in The Famous Five series.

Integrity matters. 

I learned about integrity from my parents, and from my teachers. I do remember a young-age incident, around first or second grade. My older sister and I broke into a locked room in our rented house (Olinbury House in Sussex, England) which held a treasure of books that we wanted to read. We knew we should not enter that room. However, we could see through the keyhole more books, in the very same enchanting series we loved. This was around 1968. Books still ruled the day—and we were already spending 100 percent of our allowance on books to read. So that was the temptation, more books. 

In the scullery, we noticed a set of keys that we tried against this locked room. In the bathtub, while reading this book, as my mother could not tear me away from it, somehow the truth came out.  Later that evening, I was punished a multiple factor more than I would have been, because of not being truthful about where I had “found” the book. My poor older sister was punished even more than me, “as she should have known better.” She was 9, and I was 7. 

I strongly remember another incident, in sixth grade. We were a set of students at different levels, all “learning” math (without actual instruction). I had fallen behind, and so I faked my homework, copying the answers from the back of the book. Mercifully, I was caught by the teacher, checking my work. I found this incident profoundly disturbing, and I remember feeling ashamed of myself. It was then, about age 11, that I fully realized it was my own decision what sort of integrity I would possess, across my life. In that moment, I believe, my character was set.

Fast forward. Throughout this past year, I’ve been in frequent correspondence with one of our engineering alumni. He lives in California and regularly sends me clippings from the LA Times concerning the admissions scandals at USC. While I do understand parents being concerned about their child’s education, I do not understand how a parent would compromise not only their own, but also their child’s integrity, out of a desire to have them be admitted to a university on a basis other than their own merit.

At Michigan Tech—of course, as you know—no one can earn a degree except through their own work. With this comes character. Along with character comes  confidence, courage, and conviction in the knowledge that with enough time and resourcesyou can do pretty much anything.

The picture below is from our Department of Mechanical Engineering’s senior dinner, where soon-to-be-graduates make an obligation to themselves to uphold the standards of the engineering profession, known as The Order of The Engineer.

Order of the Engineer ceremony, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University.

That evening, in my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Tech, I participated as well:

“As an Engineer, I, Janet Callahan, pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect; and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth’s precious wealth. As an Engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give my utmost.”

Now, if you’re interested in taking this oath (if you haven’t already) and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Michigan Tech ECE welcomes Fulbright Scholar Koami Hayibo

Koami Hayibo, MS, a visiting Fulbright Scholar at Michigan Tech, from Energy Generation Academy in Lomé, Togo.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University welcomes Fulbright Scholar Koami Hayibo, from Togo, West Africa, population approximately 7.6 million.

While at Michigan Tech, Hayibo will study electrical engineering with a specialization in power systems. “I plan to focus on the production of energy through renewable energy sources,” he says.  “Togo is a small country in Africa and is only able to produce about 30% of its consumption of electricity. I became interested in this area because I suffered from this lack of electricity when I was in high school. I had to study for my high school degree using old-fashioned kerosene lamps and candles and that’s still the case for a lot of children living in the countryside. That’s why I am doing my best to help bring electricity to remote areas. And I hope my time at Michigan Tech will give me with skills to address this issue in a more effective way.”

Hayibo specializes in solar energy. He earned a Master’s in Engineering and a Master’s in Science both at Université de Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. He came to Michigan Tech from Energy Generation Academy, based in Lomé, Maritime, Togo, where Hayibo serves as Technical Manager. Energy Generation is a pan-African organization that supports young Africans in addressing their generation’s most pressing challenges (in energy, agriculture, health) through entrepreneurship and technology. Its main guidelines are to provide basic electrification to every household in Africa, while empowering youth and offering them alternative employment perspectives, and also to provide a complete tracking of the innovative projects produced by African youth and ensuring  their success.

Michigan Tech has a record number of Fulbright Scholars on our campus this year, with a total of 17 students – 14 master’s and three PhD students, studying in 10 different programs.

The students are from Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Lesotho, Mauritius, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Serbia & Montenegro, Togo, and Ukraine. Such diversity in backgrounds and academic interests brings a richness to Tech and makes our Graduate School like no other.

The mission of the Fulbright Program is to increase international understanding and respond to critical global issues. It is funded and overseen by the State Department, with 155 countries participating in the Program. Fulbrighters exemplify the power of international academic exchange to transform lives, bridge geographic and cultural boundaries and promote a more peaceful and prosperous world.


Seismic Reflections: Siting the Gordie Howe Bridge

The Gordie Howe International Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan is currently under construction and expected to be complete in 2024 at a cost of $5.7 billion.  The bridge is named in recognition of the legendary hockey player, a Canadian who led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup victories.

The construction of any large infrastructure project requires a strong foundation, especially one with the longest main span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America—namely, the Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River. More than a decade before ground was broken, careful siting of the bridge began to take place. By 2006 the list of possible crossings had been narrowed down to just two options.

Historical records from the early 1900s indicated that solution mining for salt had taken place on both sides of the river close to where the bridge was to be built. On the Michigan side, collapsed salt cavities caused sink holes located on nearby Grosse Isle. It was imperative that any salt cavities in the bridge construction area be found and avoided.

Seismologists Roger Turpening and Carol Asiala at Michigan Technological University

Seismologists Roger Turpening and Carol Asiala at Michigan Technological University were tasked by American and Canadian bridge contractors to select the best seismic method for searching for any cavities in the two proposed crossings—referred to at the time as “Crossing B” and “Crossing C”—and to interpret all resulting seismic images.

“Given the task to image a small target deep in the Earth, a seismologist will quickly ask two important questions: How small is ‘small?’ and How deep is ‘deep’? That’s because these two parameters conflict in seismic imaging,“ Turpening says.

“Seismic waves—vibrations of the Earth—are attenuated severely as they propagate through the Earth,” he explains. “Imaging small targets requires the use of high-frequency, seismic energy. When seismic sources and receivers are confined to the Earth’s surface, which is the usual case, waves must propagate downward through the Earth, reflect off of the target, and return to the surface. Soil, sand, and gravel in the surface layer overwhelmingly cause the greatest harm to image resolution, and the ray paths must pass through this zone twice.”

Turpening was one of the early developers of a technique called vertical seismic profiling, or VSP. “Seismic receivers are placed inside a vertical hole near the target. With the seismic source placed on the surface some distance from the hole, it’s possible to explore a region around the hole with ray paths that need to pass through the surface layer only once,” he says. “If the target is very important, we can drill a second hole and place the seismic source in it. Now we have even higher resolution because all of the ray paths are in the rock formations with low attenuation.”

The downside? “We can only make images of the region between the two holes. But if the target is extremely important in a limited area, we can use many boreholes and many images in the search. Given enough boreholes, a block of earth can be imaged with cross-well seismic reflection techniques.

A cross-well, seismic reflection image between test boreholes. The cavity is sharply seen because the shale stringers in the B-Salt (at the bottom of the image) are abruptly terminated. The cavity is approximately 375 ft. wide.

To site the Gordon Howie bridge, Turpening and Asiala chose a frequency band of 100Hz to 2 KHz—much higher than could be used with surface sources and surface receivers—for surveys on both sides of the river. This yielded high resolution seismic images, crucial for detecting cavities—and indeed they found one—on the Canadian side.

“The high-resolution imaging made it easy for us to spot missing shale stringers in the B-Salt layer in that image,” says Turpening. “This made the final selection of the bridge location simple. We found the cavity between boreholes X11-3 and X11-4, thus forcing the Canadians to chose Crossing B.  Obviously, the Michigan group had to, also, choose Crossing B.”

On the US side of the river geologist Jimmie Diehl, Michigan Tech professor emeritus, provided corroborating borehole gravity data.