Day: July 11, 2019

Michigan Tech Alum Sirak Seyoum Attempts Mount Everest

Sirak Seyoum stands in front of what seems to be a massive crevasse on his climb up Mount Everest
Sirak Seyoum admires the dynamic Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest

This past spring Michigan Tech ECE alumnus Sirak Seyoum, an electrical engineer living in San Francisco, took time off his professional position at Cargill to climb Mount Everest. His goal: to become the first Ethiopian to conquer Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

As a young boy, Sirak Seyoum grew up in Gondar, Ethiopia, idolizing sports legends like soccer superstar Pelé and Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila. After discovering his own passion 11 years ago, Seyoum has been climbing mountains pretty much nonstop ever since, some more than once, about 21 in all. (Scroll down to the end of this post to see the full list.)

Seyoum and members of his rope team started their trek from Lukla to Everett Base Camp on April 5th. Their bid for the summit took place 41 days later. Starting at Camp 4 at 9pm on May 15th, the team climbed throughout the night. By 9:54 AM the next morning, Seyoum was just 200-300 meters from the summit of Everest, at 28,210 feet. “I could literally feel the summit and how beautiful it was, but obeyed the order from my Sherpa, telling me to go back down.”

Check out Seyoum’s Everest Power BI chart, to see the live data gathered from his Gen3 satellite device throughout his climb.

Now back home in the Bay Area, Seyoum is already preparing for next year. He’s planning to climb Everest once again, but this time via the north side in Tibet, China—a more challenging and difficult route.

A head and shoulders photo of Sirak with yellow tent behind him, at Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.
At Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.

Q: When did you first start to climb mountains?
I began climbing in 2008 while living in Las Vegas, Nevada. It started out with a small hike up a 5,000 ft. mountain after declining a coworker’s repeated invites and then finally accepting. I was hooked right away and spent every weekend hiking and climbing.

Q: Does being an engineer help you as a mountain climber? And how does being a mountain climber help you as an engineer?
Interesting question. Being an engineer helps support part of my mountain climbing with the necessary funds needed to train for such climbs. Being a mountain climber helps me purge thoughts, and sometimes great ideas come to life during my climbs.

Q: This year especially, there were many news reports about overcrowding on Mount Everest. What was your experience, and how might the problem best be solved?
Overcrowding has always been an issue over the years but what makes this year stand out most is the amount of inexperienced climbers and Sherpas. The combination of both together is deadly. This year there were only a few days to plan the summit bid, due to bad weather. Our team went for the summit during the coldest period of the 2019 season which didn’t attract most climbers hence traffic was minimal. The temps were at -40 degrees. The winds were estimated at 35-45 km/hr.

Q: Is descending the mountain harder than climbing up? Is there a greater risk of falling?
Very true. Descending is more challenging because of muscle loss and fatigue due to not having enough calories during the entire climb.

Q: During your bid for the summit, while climbing at night at such a high elevation, how did it feel?
The stars are way closer and the sky seems to be running out of room for them. What’s also incredible is that at Everett Base Camp, during the day when the sun is out, we could hear the melting of the glaciers all around us, sounding like a tropical island with a nearby stream or waterfall. In the evening, melting stops and sounds of avalanche cascade one after another throughout the night. It was incredible.

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned by attempting Mount Everest?
Never ever stop supplementing your body with electrolytes, water, and energy bars (Ollybars) during and after climbing, especially on the summit bid day.

Q: What was the best part?
The views from Lhotse Face. Reaching Camp 4 with ease and feeling the summit.

Q: What was the biggest challenge?
Lhotse Face. Standing just below Hillary Step, feeling the peak and deciding to turn back around.

Q: You plan to climb next year, via the North side. How will you prepare⁠—mentally, emotionally, physically⁠—for this more difficult route?
Though every step of climbing via the south side was challenging in every way, I have learned a lot about my abilities, and most of all nutrition. My tolerance for high altitude was much higher than I expected, which provides me with a huge boost of mental confidence. The rest will come in line because the hardest part of training is the mental confidence.

Q: Anything more to add?
I would like to recognize and thank my sponsors, Walia and Ollybars. I’d also like to thank Brenda Rudiger, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Engagement at Michigan Tech, for mailing my MTU neck gator and MTU stickers. I have one showing on my mountaineering suit, top left side.

Seyoum’s conquest of some of the most challenging mountains around the world is testament to his level of fitness. Visit Sirak Seyoum’s Facebook page to read posts and watch videos from his climb of Mt. Everest, and learn more about his second attempt.

Last, but not least: While a little anxious, Seyoum’s mother, Dr. Fantaye Mekbeb is his number one fan. Seyoum’s father, Dr. Seyoum Taticheff, passed away in 2011 but was always proud and supportive of his son’s mountain climbing ambitions.

Crossing the Geneva Spu with oxygen mask onr, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Crossing the Geneva Spur, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Seyoum at Camp 2 holding up a big blue flag that says Walia prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum's climbing sponsors.
Seyoum at Camp 2 prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum’s climbing sponsors.
April 2019: Sirak Seyoum at High Camp Lobuche, Nepal
Sirak stands with backpack at Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, "Way to Everest Base Camp".
At Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, “Way to Everest Base Camp”.
Sirak with heavy backpack n the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, Seyoum takes a final selfie
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, a final selfie
Sirak Seyoum with fellow climbers Keval Kakka and Avtandil Tsintsadze in Lobuche, Nepal.
A previous climb: Sirak in the lead on Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Sirak Seyoum waves the Ethiopian flag atop Mt Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Atop Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)

All the mountains (excluding Everest at 8,848 meters) Seyoum has climbed to date:

UNITED STATES
Mt. Rainier, WA, 4392 meters
Mt. Whitney, CA, 4421 meters
Mt. Shasta, CA, 4321 meters
Mt. Wilson, NV, 2056 meters
Mt. Charleston, NV, 2289 meters
Griffith Peak, NV, 3371 meters
Black Mountain, NV 5092 meters
Bridge Mountain, NV, 6955 meters
Mummy Mountain, NV 2264 meters
Rainbow Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV

MEXICO
Nevada de Toluca, 4680 meters

NEPAL
Mt. Kalapathar, 5644 meters
Island Peak, 6189 meters
Lobuche East, 6119 meters

PERU
Mt. Chopicalqui, 6345 meters
Mt. Pisco5752 meters
Mt. Urus, 5423 meters
Mt. Ishinca, 5530 meters

ECUADOR
Mt. Cotopaxi, 5897 meters
Mt. Chimborazo, 6263 meters
Mt. Antisana, 5704 meters

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Expanded Online Engineering Programs, Certificates, and Course Offerings

Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods, a student sits at a computer with code on one screen and microimages of metallurgical materials on a big screen above.
Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods.

Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering is expanding undergraduate and graduate online course offerings. This will enhance learning opportunities for undergraduate students who are off-campus for an internship or coop experience, and also significantly increase graduate level opportunities for learning new skills.

Lifelong learning and professional development are desired by many employers. Get a leg up on your career advancement or take courses to fulfill continuing education requirements. Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Available online course offerings exist in civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. A sample of courses offered this Fall 2019 include MEEM5650 Advanced Quality Engineering, MEEM5655 Lean Manufacturing, CEE5212 Prestressed Concrete Design, EE5455 Cybersecurity Industrial Control Systems, and MSE5760 Vehicle Battery Cells and Systems.

A series of new graduate certificate offerings are under development, to be launched in 2020, including topics in Manufacturing, Industrial Applications and Practices, and more. These graduate certificates will typically have 9 or 10 credits, and can be “stacked” with each other over time, leading to a master’s degree from Michigan Tech.

Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Questions? Please contact College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Leonard Bohmann.

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Karl (’85 BSME) and Christine LaPeer (’85 BSMT) to Receive Humanitarian Award

Karl and Christine LaPeer, photo taken at the son's recent wedding standing in front of a waterfall
Karl and Chris LaPeer

Karl and Christine (Blood) LaPeer practice their humanitarian efforts at Michigan Tech, funding seven, four-year scholarships—and also around the world. The LaPeers are both 1985 Michigan Tech graduates, Karl with a BSME degree, and Christine with a BSMT degree. Michigan Tech’s Alumni Association will present them with the University’s Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Alumni Reunion on August 2.

The Michigan Tech Humanitarian Award is presented to those alumni and friends who, through their outstanding involvement and dedication, have made a significant contribution of volunteer leadership or service which has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

During his time at Tech, Karl vividly remembers the second day of classes as his most memorable, saying “I met my future bride (now wife of 32 years) on the second day of classes in a calculus class. I would have to say that was the best thing that ever happened to me at Michigan Tech.”

After graduation, Karl joined Fanuc Robotics to design industrial robots for the automotive industry. He returned to his studies, in business this time, at the University of Michigan where he became a Henry Ford Scholar, graduated first in his class, and earned his MBA in 1993. After a few years working in the business world, Karl helped start Peninsula Capital Partners, an investment company, where he works to this day. His diverse background in engineering and business allows him to assess both the financial and operational aspects of an investment opportunity. He is a licensed professional engineer, speaks fluent German, and is a member of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, a global association of investment professionals. He is also an active member in his church and frequently serves as a lay minister.

Over the course of the last decade Karl and Chris have helped fund one of the largest mission movements in history, and funded ministries ranging from Christian bands to missionaries and evangelists.

Between 2013 and 2014, the LaPeers and their children, working through the Angel House initiative, funded the building of three Angel House Orphanages (25 children each) and two freshwater wells in India. Angel House is a focused rescue initiative for abandoned orphans and trafficking victims throughout India and Southeast Asia. In May 2013 Karl, Chris, and their daughter, Elayna, dedicated an orphanage. In December 2013 their daughter, Heather, dedicated an orphanage and village well; in December of 2014 their son, Nate, dedicated another orphanage and village well.

The LaPeers served as part of the 1Nation1Day (1N1D) 2015 mission outreach in the Dominican Republic as part of a team of over 2,000 foreign aid workers providing pairs of shoes to children, distributing meals, training business leaders, and providing clean water. During this time Chris also worked in medical clinics around the country treating patients for free, while Karl and their daughter Elayna led the campaign’s University Forum program where 5,600 university students were empowered in 38 forums led by 33 business leaders from around the world.

In Nicaragua in 2017 (1N1D) Karl and Chris were part of a team of 2,800 foreign aid workers in which 8,941 people were treated for free at eight medical clinics, 270,000 meals were distributed, 438 small homes were built, 1,220 business leaders were trained, 16,000 people were provided with clean water, over 100,000 primary school students were given hope in school assemblies, 6,111 women were empowered at conferences, and 3,600 attended pastor conferences. Karl and Chris also headed the 1Nation1Day team in the department (state) of Boaco.

Most recently, the LaPeers traveled to Peru for 1N1D Un Solo Peru 2019, joining the team in Tarapoto, in the Amazon Region of Peru. They co-led the state, working with the 150 foreign missionaries. Chris ran a medical clinic with over 30 medical professionals that treated, at no cost, nearly 1,500 patients in five days. Karl gave lectures at universities, spoke at leadership and business conferences, churches, press conferences, and also gave media interviews.

Their son, Nate (25), daughter-in-law Elizabeth (25), and two daughters, Heather (29) and Elayna (12) also made the trip. “They spent the week in the schools, helping kids understand that they are special and uniquely designed to make a difference in the world by a personal God,” says Karl. “Along with our coworkers, we helped fund two clean-water projects, as well—one in Tarapoto and one in Cusco—that are now providing clean, safe water to people who have never had a drink of safe water in their lives.”

Their goal now, as a family, says Karl, is to “dig deeper to reach more people with a message of hope, purpose, and eternitynot just on foreign mission trips, but each day where we live and work,” says Karl.

The LaPeers are already planning future trips. First, a return trip to India to visit the four orphanages and two water projects they dedicated five years ago. Next summer a trip to Los Angeles, California to join with 20,000 missionaries from around the world. “We’re also being tugged back to Tarapoto, in Peru, to do some follow-up work with business leaders, university students, and churches—and there is an invitation to visit both Cambodia and Pakistan with organizations we know.” Adds Karl: “We can’t see how we can do it all, but we’ll see.”

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