Acoustics—Michigan Tech is Listening!

I’ve been thinking about acoustics lately, after learning about some of the sound-focused interdisciplinary research and learning that engage Michigan Tech faculty.

Cool Sound, Hot Speakers
For example, mechanical engineering Prof. Andrew Barnard (Sound Man) has students working on developing flexible and stretchable nanotube speakers—no moving parts, weighing next to nothing. His popular technical elective: Acoustics and Noise Control is a hands-on course where mechanical engineering seniors solve technical problems, such as designing noise suppression devices and systems.

“I was a musician, so I was into acoustics without even knowing it,” says Andrew Barnard.

Wireless Underwater Acoustic Communication
In electrical and computer engineering, Prof. Zhaohui Wang has her students investigating underwater (and under-ice) acoustic communication. They use machine learning principles to model, understand, and predict underwater dynamics in real time, node by node.

Zhaohui Wang lowers a node into Lake Superior to test acoustic signals under ice, working with Jamey Anderson of the Great Lakes Research Center.

Volcano Sounds
Seismic and acoustic signals are ways to monitor volcanic activity, and Prof. Greg Waite has his students taking the ‘pulse’ of shallow volcanic eruptions using a combination of sensing instruments and field observation. We have four BS majors focused on the Earth beneath us: Geological Engineering, Geology, Applied Geophysics, and Mining Engineering; all of these fields rely on remote sensing for real-time information.

Greg Waite and his team monitor Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala. It’s very active, with small explosions each day. It can also erupt violently, threatening thousands. With better monitoring, they hope to determine more accurate, and timely, evacuation plans.

Make Sound Amazing
Yet another major focused on sound at Michigan Tech is the BS in Audio Production and Technology degree, which has students producing a radio drama and mixing a new multi-track recording weekly, all in their first year. Prof. Christopher Plummer’s loudspeaker design class is another tech favorite—and students keep the speakers they designed and built.

Student built loudspeakers at Michigan Tech!

There’s no doubt about it—acoustics is a field where a person’s genuine interest in sound can lead to breakthrough ideas and accomplishments that inform the world around us.

Now, if acoustics sounds interesting, and you want to hear more, please let me know—

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech