Author: Kim Geiger

SAE Winter Baja Invitational: Driving Innovation from the Ground Up

Michigan Tech is the home of the Winter Baja Invitational, which recently brought 22 universities and 45 student-built off-road vehicles to campus on January 28, 2023.

Winter Baja is one of the most exciting invitational events in the SAE Collegiate Design Series. It also serves as a frozen dress rehearsal for the official SAE International Baja competitions, which take place each spring and summer in different locations across the country. Student engineers design and build their vehicles from scratch around an SAE-designated engine.

Blizzard Baja, a student-led team, part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program, organizes this event annually—on top of designing and building a new vehicle for entrance into one or more of the national SAE Baja events. 

This year, Winter Baja was held on Saturday, January 28, 2023, near the Student Development Complex at Michigan Technological University. It attracted 45 off-road vehicles from 22 universities, which raced around a one-mile snow/ice circuit course.

The day started with the pickled egg slalom race. This event requires drivers to reach the end of the course, hop out of their vehicle and eat a pickled egg. Then a new driver must jump in the vehicle and drive it back to the starting line. Next was the hill climb race, where vehicles drive as high as possible up the snow bank. 

Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team hosts the SAE Winter Baja Competition every year, and takes part in the competition, as well.

Finally, the main event—the endurance race—started at 10:30 AM as cars gridded up at the starting line. TV6 News reporter Tristan Hendrick covered the event: Michigan Tech hosted annual Baja race to give students work experience.

University of Iowa’s Iowa Baja came in first, with 55 laps around the course. Results of the endurance race are available here: https://winterbaja.enterprise.mtu.edu/downloads/WinterBaja2023FinalLapResults.pdf

Congratulations to The Iowa Baja, University of Iowa, which took first place in the endurance race, completing 55 laps around the course in 3:39:02.
Virginia Tech’s Baja Valkyrie took second, completing 51 laps in 3:39:27.

The Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team is advised by Kevin Johnson, assistant teach professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Steven Ma, professor of practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Michigan Tech computer engineering student Rithik Sawant served as this year’s Winter Baja Coordinator. “The 42nd annual Winter Baja Race this year was one of the largest we have ever held,” he said.

“Winter Baja is the ultimate test for your vehicle—we don’t skimp on the difficulty of the track and size of the jumps.”

Rithik Sawant

Michigan Tech’s Baja team has a long history of success in SAE competitions since the 1970s. Students use modern engineering and manufacturing processes to enhance vehicle performance by focusing on reduction of vehicle mass, maximization of drivetrain efficiency, improvement of driver visibility and comfort, and optimization of off-road vehicle handling and maneuverability.

The 2023 SAE Winter Baja Competition events took place around the clock on January 28 at Michigan Tech.

The Winter Baja Invitational pays tribute to the roots of the Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series and began at Michigan Tech in 1981. Michigan Tech professors emeritus Bill Shapton and Larry Evers created the event to provide students with hands-on engineering experience. One of the first baja races led students through beaver dams and sand pits, from the abandoned Keweenaw town of Mandan up to Copper Harbor. It evolved into a global engineering series with annual official SAE collegiate Baja racing events taking place in North America, South Africa, Brazil, and South Korea.

The starting lineup for the endurance race.
MTU Blizzard Baja’s test vehicle, Hornet, competed with a new front suspension system for research and development.

SAE Winter Baja 2023 Event Sponsors

Special thanks to all SAE Winter Baja event sponsors: McLaren Engineering, Milwaukee Tool, TeamTech, Daimler Truck, Kohler, Caterpillar, Pratt Miller, Ford, Professional Fabricating, Extreme Canopy, and locally, Diamond House International, LevelUp, Keweenaw Petroleum Service, Houghton Powersports, Houghton Fire Department, and Superior Search and Rescue.

Winter Baja photography by: Andrew Erickson, Mackenzie Johnson, and Peter LaMantia.

Engineering Alumni Social at the Dog House this Thurs. at 3pm

Do you remember the Dog House from your time at Michigan Tech?
Hope to see you there!

Are you coming to the Michigan Tech campus for Winter Carnival? Take a break from viewing the statues on Thursday, February 9 from 3-5 pm to enjoy a beverage and some snacks!

Join Dean Janet Callahan, the College of Engineering department chairs, and fellow Michigan Tech engineering alumni for a social at the Dog House in downtown Houghton (aka Armando’s, at 517 Shelden Avenue). You’ll also have a chance to learn more about how to support the college during Give Back to the Pack, Michigan Tech’s 48-hour giving challenge.

Anyone who donates $100 or more to the College of Engineering or any of its departments during the social will get a College of Engineering t-shirt.

Want to see all the College of Engineering giving challenges thus far? Here’s a link: https://www.mtu.edu/engineering/giving-day

And for complete information, go to https://www.giveback.mtu.edu

Joe Foster: Geospatial Imagery

AFTER: A 3d-printed Winter Carnival snow statue created by Michigan Tech students, one that never has to melt!

Joe Foster will share his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar Monday, 2/6 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes or so, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Joe Foster

What are you doing for supper this Monday 2/6 at 6ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Joe Foster, Professor of Practice in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be four of his geospatial engineering students—Brayden Brincks, Wes Hyslop, Case Vander Heide, and Jacob Wysko. They’re all three members and leaders of the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (aka DHSC of NSPS).

During Husky Bites they’ll share details of their unique new endeavor at Michigan Tech’s annual Winter Carnival (coming up soon, February 8-13, 2023.) 

One of the most thrilling things featured at Winter Carnival are the larger-than-life snow statues built by a Michigan Tech students—spectacular, elaborate displays of snow and ice. When Winter Carnival comes to a close the statues eventually melt. While there are lots of photos to remember them by—now there’s something much more tangible.

BEFORE: Winter Carnival 2022’s winning snow statue, by Phi Kappa Tau. Look familiar? Scroll back up to compare.

Recently, Foster and his students have found a way to take the love of Winter Carnival one step further using LIDAR (Light Imaging Detecting and Radar) to scan the snow statues, with help from Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, plus top-of-the-line equipment and support from Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing.

“LIDAR data collected from this endeavor, literally millions of points, enables us to 3D-print an entire snow creation as a trophy, given to each of the prize-winning snow sculpture student teams,” Foster explains. 

During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through the process and show us the amazing results.

Joe Foster snapped this photo of his geospatial engineering students during Winter Carnival last year.

Professor Foster, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I first got interested in Surveying/Geospatial Engineering while studying forestry at Michigan Tech. Surveying was one of the courses in the program. That’s where I learned there could be an entire profession centered on surveying alone. I was hooked. It incorporated everything I had come to enjoy about forestry—working outside, using sophisticated equipment, drafting, and actually putting all the math I had learned to practical use. After earning my first bachelor’s degree in Forestry, I decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in Surveying and to pursue that as my career. 

Hometown?
I was born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan, but spent a fair amount of time in the U.P. over the years visiting. I have strong family ties to the U.P. I came to Michigan Tech after graduating from Mona Shores High School in the fall of 1982. I’m glad to be back in the Copper Country.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend time outdoors enjoying what the Copper Country has to offer.  And I always have my “sidekick” Deirdre (5 year old hound mix rescue) with me.

Brayden Bricks hangs out with Chief on a suspension bridge he built himself using recycled materials.

Brayden, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

As with most students in high school, I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation. However, I was decent in mathematics and enjoyed both indoor and outdoor work. While the field of geospatial engineering is often unadvertised, with a little research I found it to contain a wide range of career opportunities, a very strong future outlook, and a dense concentration of “good” people—people you are willing and want to spend your entire career working with. Michigan Tech was the second closest school I found (11.5 hours from home compared to Eastern Tennessee’s 11.25 hour drive).

Michigan Tech was the first (and only) university I visited in high school. When I met Prof. Foster during my trip I knew Michigan Tech—and the rest of the very welcoming Houghton community—was a perfect fit.

Hometown and family?
I grew up on a farm outside of Maryville, Missouri, a small college town about the same size as Houghton, near the Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas state borders in the heartland of the country. I have one younger sister who will be graduating high school this year. And yes, it does snow, but only 15″ a year on average. 

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
In the winter I enjoy downhill and cross country skiing, and when the snow is not on the ground you can probably find me “gravel cycling.” I also have two pets back home, Tater a small toy poodle, and Chief, a large black lab. In addition to the community at DHSC I can often be found hanging with friends from Saint AL’s, a student parish here at Tech.

“I first met Professor Foster while visiting Michigan Tech. Since then, he has been a supportive teacher, and a great advisor.”

Brayden Bricks
Photo of the Arvon Range, by Wes Hyslop
Wes Hyslop, on a recent trip to Colorado.

Wes, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I kind of stumbled into Land Surveying/Geospatial Engineering as a major, like a lot of students do. I came to Tech after a gap semester after high school. One of the classes I ended up taking was Intro to Surveying. From there I just kind of fell in love with the profession and everything that goes into it. The technology, ability to have my office be the great outdoors, and the history behind it all heavily sparked my interest.

Hometown, family?
I was born in Laurium, Michigan, but have lived in Houghton for the last 18 years. My father is a lecturer in the Department of Forestry and head of the MGIS program (that’s Master of Geographic Information Science) at Michigan Tech. My mother runs her own small business, and I have three brothers.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy basketball, hiking, fishing, and hunting, and doing basically anything outdoors in my free time. I have two dogs—a Viszla and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever Mix, as well as a cat.

Jacob Wysko has loved computer software ever since he was five years old, and these days he also enjoys flying drones.

Jacob, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a keen interest in mapmaking and cartography. I liked to make detailed maps of the house and property that I grew up in. Finding out that there is a degree and career based around making detailed and accurate surveys really sparked my interest. 

I initially started out in Computer Science, thinking I wanted a job that utilized technology, but after learning of the Geospatial Engineering program, I discovered that I could combine both of these aspects—technology and mapping—into a career. It’s been a wonderful experience being able to use and learn the latest technology that surveyors and geoinformaticists use to map the world.

Hometown, family?
I lived in Haslett, Michigan until about the age of 12, then moved to Okemos, Michigan. I attended and graduated from Haslett Public Schools. My dad is an electrician for the Enbridge pipeline station in Mackinaw City, and my mom owns a local healthcare business in the Greater Lansing area.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a strong computer background. My mom always tells the story of how when I was age five or six, my granddad got me a cheap, hand-me-down Windows XP computer that had no internet access. I would play on that computer and look through all the settings and learn all the features of each program. Because of that, my primary hobby today is software development. I find it thrilling to slave and ponder over a problem that I could make a computer solve—I love spending hours crafting and perfecting code to make some sort of software. Besides that, I also enjoy flying drones, playing bass guitar, and practicing stenography.

Time to Give Back to the Pack

Paws courtesy of Echo, Dean Janet Callahan’s very own Siberian Husky. Meet Echo in the video posted further down in this blog.

Celebrate Winter Carnival 2023 from wherever you are and Give Back to the Pack on Feb. 8–10!

Your gift—big or small—will create an immediate impact on the lives of Michigan Tech students and the community.

Huskies from across the country and globe are coming together during this time-honored Michigan Tech tradition to make a difference in the lives of our 7,000+ students.

Give Back to the Pack starts at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 as Winter Carnival recess begins on campus. It ends 48 hours later on Friday, Feb. 10. All giving will be routed through the website: giveback.mtu.edu. Gifts can be made in any amount and to any area of campus. Dozens of exciting giving challenges from departments and individuals across campus will increase the impact of gifts with dollar-for-dollar matches.

Curious to see all the giving challenges? Visit giveback.mtu.edu

In addition to making a gift, you can make a difference by spreading the word about Give Back to the Pack. Sign up to be an official ambassador for the 48-hour giving challenge, or simply tell others through your channels and help us spread the word.

Worth noting: Michigan Tech’s last giving day event was in April 2019 and raised $570,813 from 1,337 gifts.

This event celebrates what makes Tech special: our strong culture of philanthropy among alumni, faculty, staff, students and the community.

Thank you for supporting Michigan Tech. Together we can make a great impact for our University!

Go Huskies!

Play Give Back to the Pack – Days of Giving 2023 video
Preview image for Give Back to the Pack - Days of Giving 2023 video

Give Back to the Pack – Days of Giving 2023

Tau Beta Pi Honor Society at Michigan Tech Initiates 13 New Members

Congratulations to our Fall 2022 Tau Beta Pi Initiates! (Not pictured here: Yifan Zhang and Nathan Machiorlatti.)

The College of Engineering inducted 11 students and two eminent engineers into the Michigan Tech chapter of Tau Beta Pi at the end of the Fall 2022 semester.

Tau Beta Pi is a nationally recognized engineering honor society and is the only one that recognizes all engineering professions. Students who join are the top 1/8th of their junior class, top 1/5th of their senior class, or the top 1/5th of graduate students who have completed 50% of their coursework. The society celebrates those who have distinguished scholarship and exemplary character, and members strive to maintain integrity and excellence in engineering.

Fall 2022 Initiates

Undergraduate Students:

Brodey Bevins, Civil Engineering
David Bradbury, Biomedical Engineering
Erin Ganschow, Environmental Engineering
Heather Goetz, Mechanical Engineering
Madison Ide, Biomedical Engineering
Samuel Kuipers, Civil Engineering
Michael Loucks, Mechanical Engineering

Graduate Students:

Anna Li Holey, MS Environmental Engineering
Nathan Machiorlatti, MS Civil Engineering
North Yates, PhD Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Yifan Zhang, MS Environmental Engineering

Eminent Engineers

Dr. Jin Choi, Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Jason Blough, Interim Chair and Distinguished Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Husky Bites Returns for Spring Semester 2023

Looking good!

Craving some brain food, but not a full meal? Join us for a Bite!

Grab some dinner with College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan and special guests at 6 p.m. (ET) each Monday during Husky Bites, a free interactive Zoom webinar, followed by Q&A. Have some fun, learn a few things, and connect with one another as Huskies and friends.

The series features special guests—engineering professors, students, and even some Michigan Tech alumni, who each share a mini lecture, or “bite”.

The Husky Bites Spring 2023 series kicks off Monday (Jan. 23) with “Sliding into the Future of Mont Ripley,” presented by Nick Sirdenis, General Manager, Mont Ripley Ski Area. He will be joined by Dan Dalquist, ski Instructor for the Mont Ripley Ski & Snowboard School, and Josie Stalmack, student president of the Mont Ripley Ski patrol. We’ll hear about some new features at Mont Ripley currently in the planning stage, plus one now in the works. 

“Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. Everyone is welcome!”

Dean Janet Callahan

Additional topics and speakers coming up this spring semester include Making Skis (Jeffrey Thompson ‘12); Winter Carnival Geospatial Imagery (Joe Foster); Digging it—Volleyball at MTU (Matt Jennings); Solar Energy in Cold Climates (Ana Dyreson); Money Matters and MTU’s Applied Portfolio Management Program (Dean Johnson); Enterprise—Consumer Products Manufacturing (Tony Rogers); Bio-inspired Designs (Bruce Lee); the A.E. Seaman Museum—120 Years (John Jaszczak); and Birdwatching—Quality of Life (David Flaspohler). 

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Dean Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with a ‘quiz’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll), about every 5-10 minutes. You’re bound to learn something new. We have prizes, too, for attendance.” 

You can also catch Husky Bites each Monday night at 6 pm ET via livestream on our College of Engineering Facebook page.

Get the full scoop and register! Check out recordings of all past sessions, too.

Heard on Husky Bites…

The desire to explore space is what drives me. Very early in my studies I realized that the biggest impediment to space exploration is propulsion. Space is just so big it’s hard to get anywhere. So I dedicated my professional life to developing new space propulsion technologies. There is other life in our solar system. That is a declarative statement. It’s time that we find it. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn hold great promise and I’m determined to see proof in my lifetime.

Prof. Brad King, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Ever since grade school, I planned on being an engineer. At first, I wanted to work at mission control at NASA. Later, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. My mom and sister are nurses, and while I didn’t want to be a medical doctor, making medicines really intrigued me. Now as an engineer I can still make a difference without working directly with patients. I grew up in Pinconning, Michigan. My dad dropped out of school in 8th grade to help on the family farm. My parents instilled in me the importance of education and pushed me to get a bachelor’s degree. They were a little surprised when I took it so far as to get a doctorate degree.

Prof. Caryn Heldt, Chemical Engineering

Growing up I loved looking at a beautiful image of planet Earth, one with a very clear sky and blue water. However, as I began to learn how life on Earth suffers many difficult environmental problems, including air pollution and water contamination, I also learned that environmental engineers can be leaders who help solve the Earth’s most difficult sustainability problems. That is when I decided to become an engineer. The water quality and treatment classes I took were the toughest subjects for me. I had to work the hardest to understand the content. So, naturally, I decided to enter this discipline. And then, there’s our blue planet, the image. Water makes the Earth look blue from space. 

Prof. Daisuke Minakata, Civil and Environmental Engineering

I was born and raised in the City of Detroit. I went to Detroit Public Schools, and when I went to college I had to work to make ends meet. I got a job as a cook in the dorm, and eventually worked my way up to lead cook. I was cooking breakfast for 1,200 people each morning. One of my fellow classmates was studying engineering, too. He had a job working for a professor doing research on storm waves and beaches. I had no idea I could be hired by a professor and get paid money to work on the beach! I quit my job in the kitchen soon after, and went to work for that professor instead. My advice for students just starting out is to spend your first year exploring all your options. Find out what you really want to do. I had no idea I could turn a mechanical engineering degree into a job working on the beach. Turns out, I could⁠—and I’m still doing it today.

Prof. Guy Meadows, Mechanical Engineering, Great Lakes Research Center

I first became interested in engineering in high school when I learned it was a way to combine math and science to solve problems. However, I didn’t understand at the time what that really meant. I thought “problems” meant the types of problems you solve in math class. Since then I’ve learned these problems are major issues that are faced by all of humanity. As a chemical engineer I am able to combine my love of biology, chemistry, physics, and math to create fresh new solutions to society’s problems. One thing I love about MTU is that the university gives students tons of hands-on opportunities to solve real problems, not just problems out of a textbook. These are the types of problems our students will be solving when they go on to their future careers.

Prof. Rebecca Ong, Chemical Engineering

My Dad ran a turn-key industrial automation and robotics business throughout most of my childhood. In fact, I got my first job at age 12 when I was sequestered at home with strep throat. I felt fine, but couldn’t go to school. My Dad put me to work writing programs for what I know now are Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs); the ‘brains’ of most industrial automation systems. By the time I was in high school I was teaching classes at the local library on computer building, repair, and this other new thing called ‘The Internet’. A career in STEM was a certainty. I ended up in engineering because I like to build things (even if only on a computer) and I like to solve problems (generally with computers and math). 

Prof. Jeremy Bos, Electrical and Computer Engineering

The factors that got me interesting engineering revolved around my hobbies. First it was through BMX bikes and the changes I noticed in riding frames made from aluminum rather than steel. Next it was rock climbing, and realizing that the hardware had to be tailor made and selected to accommodate the type of rock or the type or feature within the rock. Here’s a few examples: Brass is the optimal choice for crack systems with small quartz crystals. Steel is the better choice for smoothly tapered constrictions. Steel pins need sufficient ductility to take on the physical shape of a seam or crack. Aluminum cam lobes need to be sufficiently soft to “bite” the rock, but robust enough to survive repeated impact loads. Then of course there is the rope—what an interesting marvel—the rope has to be capable of dissipating the energy of a fall so the shock isn’t transferred to the climber. Clearly, there is a lot of interesting materials science and engineering going on!

Prof. Erik Herbert, Materials Science and Engineering

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The College of Engineering believes that diversity in an equitable and inclusive environment is essential for the development of creative solutions to address the world’s challenges.

We stand together as a community to reject any actions associated with racism, hatred or fear. These actions are repugnant to the College of Engineering. They have no place in our classrooms, labs or offices, nor in our society.

Our faculty, staff and students are fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. There is much work to be done and we all have a part to play in order for meaningful change to occur.

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering
Leonard Bohmann, Associate Dean, College of Engineering
Sean Kirkpatrick, Chair, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
Pradeep Agrawal, Chair, Dept. of Chemical Engineering
Audra Morse, Chair, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Jin W. Choi, Chair, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Mary Raber, Chair, Dept. of Engineering Fundamentals
Aleksey Smirnov, Chair, Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences
Walter Milligan, Chair, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering
Jason Blough, Interim Chair, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
John Irwin, Chair, Dept. of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology

Read more:
A Call to Action: Center for Diversity and Inclusion
Supporting Diversity, College of Engineering

Michigan Tech Receives State-of-the-Art Software from Petroleum Experts Limited

MOVE, a geologic modeling software, provides a full digital environment for best practice structural modeling to reduce risk and uncertainty in geological models.

Petroleum Experts Limited has donated the equivalent of $2,764,444.18 to Michigan Technological University. The donation has come in the form of 10 sets of the MOVE suite of programs to be used for education and academic research at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Petroleum Experts, established in 1990, develops and commercializes petroleum engineering software for the oil industry. Petroleum Experts offers educational licenses to accredited universities that provide geology and/or petroleum engineering related Master and Ph.D. courses.

The state-of-the-art software will be installed in a computer laboratory at GMES, where it will be used in the Structural Geology course (GE3050), required for department undergraduate majors, and in graduate-level courses in structural geology. In addition, the MOVE suite will be utilized in academic non-commercial research on tectonics and structural geology, such as the mapping of the Keweenaw Fault and other complex structural systems in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“The researchers and students at GMES greatly appreciate this generous donation from Petroleum Experts,” says Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.

SWE Section Establishes Endowed Scholarship

Congratulations to Michigan Tech’s SWE Section as they announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship!

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech is excited to announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship.

“The scholarship is in honor of our alumnae and alumni who have been part of our section since 1976,” says SWE advisor, Associate Teaching Professor Gretchen Hein.

“Eight years ago, in 2014, we hosted the SWE Region H Conference,” Hein explains. “With the funds received from SWE, we began saving with the goal of establishing an endowed scholarship. At long last, we have met our goal and will begin awarding an annual $1,000 endowed scholarship in 2026 to an active SWE section member.”

The new scholarship is in addition to the current section scholarships being awarded annually, notes Hein.

Michigan Tech SWE logo with gear

“As the President of SWE at Michigan Tech, I am excited that our section can provide an additional scholarship opportunity for our members,” said Aerith Cruz, a third year Management Information Systems student. “Our mission is threefold: ‘to stimulate women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.’ The establishment of our endowed scholarship demonstrates our dedication to support the future of SWE at Michigan Tech.”

Details regarding the scholarship application process will be announced in 2026. The process will mirror SWE’s current scholarship application where students complete a short essay, have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, and provide a copy of their resume and a letter of recommendation.

Adds Hein: “Members of Michigan Tech’s SWE section greatly appreciate the guidance and assistance received from Jim Desrochers, director for corporate relations at Michigan Tech, and also Michigan Tech SWE advisor Elizabeth Hoy, director of business and program development at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. And we thank the University and our current and alumni members for their support!”

Would you like to support the SWE Endowed Scholarship?

Donations are welcome! Contribute via check or credit card. Visit mtu.edu/givenow for online donations or to find the mail-in form.

Key points:

  1. Gift Type is “Make a one time gift”
  2. Enter your gift amount
  3. Gift Designation: Select “Other” and enter “SWE Endowed Scholarship #5471″

SWE Congratulates Our Graduating Seniors and Scholarship Recipients

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech congratulates our graduating seniors: Sophie Stewart and Audrey Levanen (mechanical engineering) and Kiira Hadden (biomedical engineering). We look forward to hearing from them as alumnae!

The section awarded two scholarships to active upper-division students. We are so proud of the accomplishments of Natalie Hodges (dual major: electrical and computer engineering) and Alli Hummel (civil engineering).

We will be awarding two scholarships in the spring to first- and second-year active members and will be posting the application information during the spring semester.

By Gretchen Hein, Advisor, Society of Women Engineers.

Five Times in a Row: Michigan Tech Students Earn First Place in ASM Undergraduate Design Competition–Again!

Michigan Tech’ 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, just one of several tools used by MSE students at Michigan Tech.

Many engineers remember the excitement of applying their classroom knowledge to their capstone senior design project while also being a bit overwhelmed about how to actually do it. 

Paul Sanders, Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech

Back in 2010, this challenge was recognized in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) by Michigan Tech Professor Mark Plichta, an innovator in project-based engineering education, and Northwestern University Professor Greg Olson, a leader in the relatively new field of computational materials engineering. 

The two selected then Assistant Professor Paul Sanders, (who had a Michigan Tech BS and a Northwestern PhD and materials design experience at Ford Motor Company) to implement their vision for MSE capstone senior design. This vision involved using computational materials engineering—a tool that, at the time, was only taught in graduate school. Sanders (somewhat unknowingly) accepted the challenge, and through a sometimes bumpy, continuous improvement process developed the current curriculum in MSE at Michigan Tech.

“Michigan Tech undergrads, with their application mindset, hands-on, problem-solving skills, and openness to mentorship, provided the ideal culture for this endeavor.”

Paul Sanders

One condition of Olson, who provided the computational engineering software tool Thermo-Calc, was that Michigan Tech compete in the ASM Undergraduate Design Competition, an event that started in 2008 with Northwestern University winning first place. The Michigan Tech strategy was to utilize traditional hypothesis-based inquiry through application of engineering statistics coupled with design of experiments (DOEs) in both the modeling and laboratory environment. Eventually a methods course was developed for spring of the junior year that included a semester-long project to demonstrate the tools, followed by two semesters of the capstone senior design course. Prof. Sanders led this coursework and scoped projects to fit the Michigan Tech methodology. Long-term industry sponsors Eck Industries, ArcelorMittal, and Waupaca Foundry were critical to implementing the vision by providing industry-relevant projects that would allow students to use the toolset taught in the curriculum.

Michigan Tech first entered the ASM Design Competition in 2012 earning second place (Northwestern was first). Michigan Tech’s first five entries earned second place three times and third place twice. Starting in 2018, Michigan Tech started winning…and continued winning…for 5 years in a row. This is a credit not only to the student work on these projects, but also to the methodology and support of industry sponsors. As Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech states, “We’re very proud of our world-class senior design students’ experience. Where else do teams win first place five years in a row, for alloy design, in an era where it isn’t about randomly mixing elements, but rather, about predictive modeling based on known materials parameters? These projects⁠—centered on fundamentally interesting questions, are coupled with faculty and industry expertise. No wonder we’re the go-to place for materials engineers!”

Dr. Julio G. Maldonado, ASM Foundation, presents the award to Michigan Tech seniors Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak (2nd from left) Jacob Longstreth, (3rd from left) Jake Klotz (right). Team member Nick Hopp was unable to attend the conference and awards ceremony.

The student team that completed the “five-peat” in 2022 designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions that can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. This student team was unique in that there was only one MSE student on the team, Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak, and three mechanical engineering students, Nick Hopp, Jake Klotz, and Jacob Longstreth. Even though the team graduated in spring of 2022, three of the four team members accepted their award at ASM International’s IMAT Conference in New Orleans on September 12, 2022. 

“The success of the MSE senior design program is due not only to current students embracing the time-consuming process of project engineering, but also our loyal alumni who provide the projects that continuously improve our process.”

Paul Sanders

Cerium is the most abundant (and lowest cost) rare earth element, and Ce is known to improve the properties of aluminum. Given that rare earths are often mined together and that the demand is higher for heavier rare earths, there is excess cerium. The project sponsor David Weiss, vice president of research and development at Eck Industries, collaborates on research teams who identify beneficial uses and markets for cerium in order to improve the economics of mining rare earth. Weiss suggested applying Ce to Al extrusion for Eck’s customer, Eaton Corporation.

Extrusion is the process of forming long, two-dimensional cross-sections by forcing hot metal through a die. The students were tasked with modeling the extrusion of Al-Mg-Ce alloys to predict the necessary extrusion force and resultant flow rate. The team used a DOE-based strategy to develop a deformation model for the alloy using elevated-temperature compression testing coupled with MATLAB data analysis. Material model parameters were then entered into the commercial extrusion modeling software Inspire Extrude from Altair to calculate the extrusion force and flow rate. These predictions were tested in Michigan Tech laboratories by permanent mold casting the custom Al-Mg-Ce alloys followed by extrusion on a 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, donated by Alcoa. To better understand the project, please see the students’ excellent four-minute video .

No small feat: Michigan Tech engineering students designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions. These alloys can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. Pictured above, extruding one of the alloys.

“My decision to return to Michigan Tech as an MSE faculty member was motivated in large part by the type of students Michigan Tech attracts,” reflects Sanders, now the Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “They are smart, hardworking, and willing to learn.”