Author: College of Engineering

Michigan Tech Part of $15M Great Lakes Innovation Hub

In an effort to nurture a regional innovation ecosystem and move more discoveries from the research lab to the real world, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a Great Lakes Innovation Corps Hub and Michigan Technological University plays a key role.
 
The 11-university Hub is led by the University of Michigan (U-M), and it’s one of five Hubs across the country announced Aug. 26 as NSF continues to evolve the I-Corps program. Launched in 2011, the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, trains scientists and engineers to carry their promising ideas and technologies beyond the university and into the marketplace to benefit society.
 
In addition to Michigan Tech and U-M, the Great Lakes Hub includes Purdue University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Toledo, the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Akron, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Impact of I-Corps

Each university in the Great Lakes Hub already has a successful I-Corps program. Michigan Tech has been part of the NSF I-Corps Site program since 2015. Over the past five years, Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site has helped introduce the entrepreneurial mindset to over 300 researchers, faculty, staff and students, and helped teams assess the commercial potential of nearly 150 technologies.

Mary Raber is Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech

The Great Lakes I-Corps Hub aims to connect people at a large scale to increase the “effective density” of the Midwest’s innovation ecosystem. Mary Raber, Michigan Tech I-Corps principal investigator and chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, said Michigan Tech researchers will be able to engage with the other members of the Hub and benefit from the extensive resources available throughout the Great Lakes region.
 
“Being invited to join the Great Lakes Hub is reflective of the success of Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site program and the number of teams that have been selected to attend the National I-Corps program,” said Raber.
 
Other members of the Michigan Tech I-Corps team include Lisa Casper (Pavlis Honors College), Jim Baker (Office of the Vice President for Research), Michael Morley and Nate Yenor (Office of Innovation and Commercialization), and Jonathan Leinonen (College of Business).
 

“Michigan Tech is an integral part of the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub.”

Dr. Mary Raber


“The Great Lakes region is home to many of the world’s leading research institutions, and many of our nation’s critical industries. Our goal with this I-Corps Hub is to leverage this intellectual depth to create a lasting economic impact on the region,” said Alec D. Gallimore, the U-M Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor of aerospace engineering.
 
“We’ll do this by creating new businesses, by keeping our existing companies globally competitive and on the leading edge of technology, and by developing talent that not only has technical and cultural expertise, but also an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said.
 
The new Great Lakes Hub has set a goal of training 2,350 teams in the next five years and sending an additional 220 teams to a more in-depth National NSF I-Corps program.
 
In this way, I-Corps is helping to fill what Jonathan Fay, executive director of the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship, calls the “widening gap” between the cutting-edge research being done at universities and the development work of industry to turn research into societal benefit and economic gain.

Read the full story on Michigan Tech News.

Jeremy Shannon Named Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Michigan Tech Principal Lecturer Jeremy Shannon is the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Jeremy Shannon was recently named the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

“For more than a decade Dr. Jeremy Shannon has been a key faculty in field geophysics at Michigan Tech,” said Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. 

“Dr. Shannon provides vital contributions to GMES instruction and advising, especially through the summer Field Geophysics course and specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. 

The endowment was established by Carl G. Schwenk, who obtained a BS in both Geological and Geophysical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1962 and 1965, respectively. He worked as a Field Geophysicist with Kennecott Copper Corporation and was instrumental in the discovery of the Flambeau copper-gold Mine in Wisconsin. Later, he worked with the  large iron company Vale do Rio Doce exploring for base metals in Brazil. After his return to the US he was hired as Great Lakes District Manager for Noranda Exploration where he led a successful State Supreme Court challenge to Wisconsin’s Geologic Disclosure Law. 

“Carl lives in Colorado and remains closely involved with our department, providing tremendous support to our students,” said Smirnov.

Shannon is also a Michigan Tech alumnus, and took the Field Geophysics class as an undergraduate in the summer of 1992. He was honored to take over the class in 2007 and has continued and built upon the legacy of applied geophysics education at GMES created by professors Lloyal Bacon, Jimmy Diehl, and Charles Young to deliver a unique field experience for students.

“I am humbled to receive this appointment and am extremely grateful to Mr. Schwenk and others who have made this possible,” said Shannon. “I look forward to using this gift to improve and advance educational opportunities in geophysics at Michigan Tech.”

“Shannon’s contribution to the department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences perfectly aligns with the purpose of the fellowship, which is to provide leadership in mentoring and teaching students at Michigan Tech in the practical use of geophysics for characterization and discovery of subsurface resources,” added Callahan.

In addition to instruction in the field of applied geophysics, which includes specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods, Shannon serves as the academic advisor for undergraduate students majoring in Geology and Applied Geophysics.

Shannon generously lends his expertise to students working on senior design projects, as well as graduate students whose research involves field work, notes Smirnov. “Dr. Shannon helps students develop both practical knowledge and intuition. As a result, they are able to find their own best academic and professional pathways, leading to impactful and rewarding careers.” 

In recognition of his contributions to teaching, Shannon was also recently honored in the Michigan Tech Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Auris Wins! Michigan Tech is Launching Into Space—with Ears

The team’s spacecraft, Auris, is a small satellite, a 12U cubesat. Its size in centimeters is just 20 x 20 x 30; its mass is 20 kg (about 44 pounds). Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Tech has done it again.

Earlier this month, 10 Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise team members, all undergraduates, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico August 13-15 for the culminating event of the University Nanosatellite Program, a three-year design competition funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory – AFRL.

The Michigan Tech team won, along with teams from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M. The three will now move to Phase B of the program, where they have AFRL funding for a multi-year development program to bring the spacecraft to flight maturity—and a guaranteed launch opportunity from the US Department of Defense. No launch date is set yet, but could happen as soon as 2024.

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Technological University will have three working satellites. One of the team’s satellites (Oculus) is now in orbit; their second small satellite (Stratus) is due to launch in March 2023. Now, Auris will be the third to launch.

“It’s hard to say, but a conservative estimate is that at least 250 students have worked on the Auris mission since its inception, says Michigan Tech electrical and computer engineering student Matthew Sietsema, the team’s chief engineer and student lead.

These undergraduate students in Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise traveled to New Mexico for the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program Flight Selection Review. Back Row (Left to Right): Jonathan Joseph, Thomas Ziegler, Nolan Pickett, Matthew Carey, Kyle Bruursema. Front Row (Left to Right): Emi Colman, Samantha Zerbel, Zoe Knoper, Rachel Mellin, Matthew Sietsema

Lyon (Brad) King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professor of Space Systems in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. As the founder and faculty advisor of the University’s Aerospace Enterprise, King empowers undergraduate students to design, build, and fly spacecraft. 

Professor Lyon Brad King

“Michigan Tech’s winning spacecraft is called Auris, which is Latin for ‘the ear,’ King explains. “Auris will fly in low-Earth orbit and will point its antenna ‘up’ to higher geostationary Earth orbit.” (Geostationary satellites are located 22,237 miles above the earth’s surface.)

“The spacecraft will listen to the signals broadcast from communications satellites as it flies through their transmission beams, and be able to map the spatial extent and shape of the transmission beams,” adds King. “Auris will also determine the location of the transmitting satellite.”

Auris signal trace. Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

This is the second time the Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise student team has won the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program competition. The first time, in 2011, Michigan Tech was the sole winner with Oculus-ASR, which was launched from Cape Canaveral on a Space-X Falcon Heavy in June 2019. Oculus-ASR now serves as an imaging calibration target for ground-based observatories tasked with characterizing spacecraft. 

In 2020 NASA slated Michigan Tech’’s second student-built satellite, Stratus, for a deployment from the International Space Station (ISS). That launch is expected in 2023. Stratus is a pathfinder mission funded by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Program and the CubeSat Launch Initiative. The Stratus vehicle is a three-axis-stabilized thermal infrared telescope that will be used to image atmospheric clouds.

“I am so incredibly proud of our Aerospace Enterprise team.” 

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

At the University Satellite Program’s recent Flight Selection Review event in Albuquerque, a total of ten university student teams competed for the chance to advance their satellite design project to the next phase and launch: Missouri S&T, Minnesota, SUNY Buffalo, Texas A&M, Saint Louis, Western Michigan, Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan Tech, Auburn, and UT Austin.

Judges from Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), United States Space Force (USSF), Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Space Dynamics Lab, Missile Defense Agency, and NASA were present to evaluate the missions.

The MTU students staffed a booth, briefed their mission to the judges and other schools, and performed technical demonstrations for the judges.

“Michigan Tech will soon have no less than 3 student-designed and built satellites in outer space—it’s amazing.”

Bill Predebon, Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program, with more than 25 teams working on projects and products with researchers and companies, provided the overarching framework for the Aerospace Enterprise. 

Like all Enterprise teams at Michigan Tech, Aerospace Enterprise is open to students in any major. “It’s important for students to learn how to work in an interdisciplinary group,” says King. “In the workplace, they will never be on a team where every member has the same expertise. To design, build, manage and operate a satellite requires mechanical, electrical, computer science, physics, materials, everything— it really crosses a lot of boundaries and prepares them for a career.”

Last, but not least: “Aerospace Enterprise has a leadership and management hierarchy that is self-sustaining,” says King. “Current leaders are constantly working to mentor their successors so we have continuity from year-to-year.”

Matthew Sietsema ’22

Q&A with Matthew Sietsema, Chief Engineer and Student Lead, Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise Team

Matthew Sietsema is an aspiring Space Systems Engineer working toward a Michigan Tech double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. He’ll be graduating next December 2022. As Chief Engineer of the Aerospace Enterprise team’s two spacecraft programs, Auris and Stratus, Sietsema serves as the technical lead of 100+ undergraduate students. He’s head of all assembly, integration, and testing activities, requirements management and verification for the two satellites. “The dual purpose of the Auris mission,” he explains, “is both Space Domain Awareness (SDA), and Space Visualization.”

Q: How does it feel for Auris to win the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program along with the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M?

A: It feels incredibly gratifying and I’m extremely proud of our team and our mission! Auris has been in the works for more than five years at this point, and to be able to finally close the loop and push forward to the next phase is an electrifying prospect. My congratulations also go out to both UMinn and Texas A&M—the motivations behind each of our missions are very similar, so it’s validating to see the fundamental concepts of our mission being lauded all around.

Q: It sounds like Phase B is about building the actual Auris satellite. What all goes into that?

A: In part, yes. Phase A was about designing and building the prototype version of the spacecraft, known as the Engineering Model (EM). One of the primary focuses of Phase B, among many other things, is to construct the final spacecraft meant to go to space⁠—the Flight Model (FM). We must first finish our build-up of the prototype, taking care to ensure that all of the individual components are working together properly and that the design itself is sound. From there, we move into building the FM spacecraft. This involves four distinct phases of build-up, or ‘integration stages’. The first is Component-Level Testing, where we ensure that each of the individual parts and circuit boards function as intended. Second is Subsystem-Level Testing, where we group components with similar jobs together and ensure that they can communicate with each other and correctly interoperate. Next is System-Level Testing, where we combine each of the discrete subsystems and make sure that the entire spacecraft works as designed. Last is Behavioral Testing, where we do an end-to-end verification of the function of the spacecraft and essentially ‘pretend’ to operate it like we would in space. The idea is to simulate and/or test everything that the spacecraft can possibly do, to make sure there are no unintended behaviors or nasty surprises once it gets on orbit.”

Q: Is it challenging for the team to manage several ongoing satellite missions?

A: At the moment, we only directly manage two missions: Auris and Stratus. Stratus is still under development, for another two years. Management of the Oculus mission was handed off to the Air Force when we delivered the satellite. But yes, the sentiment remains: it is incredibly challenging to manage a single spaceflight mission, let alone two at the same time. We have a strong core of leaders in our team, and do our best to foster an environment of learning and self-motivation. Our group is structured very closely to actual aerospace companies, so we rely on the tools of the industry and the experience of our members to catalyze progress and keep both missions on track.

Read More

Brad King: Space, Satellites, and Students

And Then There Were Two: MTU’s Next Student-built Satellite, Set to Launch

Michigan Tech’s Pipeline to Space

Winning Satellite to be Launched into Orbit

Husky Bites: Join Us for Supper This Fall!

Craving some brain food? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guests each Monday at 6 p.m. ET this for a 30-minute interactive Zoom webinar from the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University, followed by Q&A. Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity). All are welcome. Get the full scoop and register⁠—it’s free⁠—at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Upcoming special guests: a hockey coach, numerous engineering faculty, a social scientist and an astronomer. Each has volunteered to present a mini lecture for Husky Bites. They’ll weave in a bit of their own personal journey to their chosen field, too. Also invited to join in during the session—their colleagues, former students and/or current students.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with a ‘quiz’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll), about every five minutes. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. We are hoping entire families will enjoy it,” she adds.

Dean Callahan first launched Husky Bites June 2020, after the the first few months of the pandemic. Since then, she has hosted attendees from Michigan Tech’s campus community, across the US, and even attendees from various countries around the world. “There’s something of interest for all ages,” she adds. “A lot of folks turn it on in the background, and listen or watch while preparing, eating or cleaning up after supper,” she says.

Those who join Husky Bites via Zoom can take part in the session Q&A, one of the best features of Husky Bites. But there are a few ways to consume the webinar. Catch the livestream on the College of Engineering Facebook page. Or, if you happen to miss a session, watch any past session on Zoom or youtube. (Scroll down to find the links on mtu.edu/huskybites)

Husky Bites Fall 2021 kicks off on Monday, September 13 with “Hockey in the Copper Country,” a session featuring Joe Shawhan, head coach of the Michigan Tech hockey team. He’ll be joined by John Scott, NHL All-Star MVP and Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alum (ME ‘10). You can read all about it here.

What else is on the menu for Fall 2021? Here are some of the topics: Drilling Wells in the Keweenaw; the Lift Bridge; Engineers Without Borders Australia; NetZero (how do we get there); tiny house design (for cold climates); engineering holistic solutions; a GoPro tour of the MTU Sustainability Demonstration House; new lightweight materials for manned Mars missions, what’s next for NEXTCAR, and NASA’s best space images.

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

Want to see the full schedule? Just go to mtu.edu/huskybites. You can register from there, too.

Last but not least (and well worth noting): Dean Callahan awards some really great prizes for attendance. High school students who attend at least five session qualify for a nifty swag bag.

Tech Students Take Home the Prizes

screen shot of certificate during the Zoom ceremony for NASA's Watts on the Moon Challenge
A Michigan Tech was a Grand Prize Winner of NASAs Watts on the Moon Challenge!

ME-EM Assistant Professor Paul van Susante’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab won $100K as a Grand Prize Winner of the NASA Watts on the Moon Challenge. Sixty teams submitted original design concepts aimed at meeting future needs for robust and flexible technologies to power human and robotic outposts on the Moon. Read more here

SAE Autodrive Challenge. NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge. US Department of Energy Solar Desalination Prize. And more. In this past challenging year—Michigan Tech students and faculty excelled. 

ME-EM Assistant Professor Sajjad Bigham and students in his Energy-X Lab were among eight teams (out of 162) selected as semi-finalists in the US Department of Energy Solar Desalination Prize. Their team, “Solar Desalt: Sorption-Based ZLD Technology” will receive $350K in funding to advance their research using solar-thermal energy to purify water with very high salt content, in the competition’s three-year, second phase. The team integrates standard multiple-effect desalination system (MED) technology with a high temperature desorption process and a low-temperature crystallization process in order to achieve zero liquid discharge (ZLD). Read more here.

Students and advisor stand in the lab around a small table displaying their crystal award plaque.
NASA’s Artemis Award, in Planet Surface Technology Development Lab. Congratulations!

Prof. Van Susante’s Planet Surface Technology Development Lab took home another top honor, the Artemis Award, in NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. Their design, a rover called “T-REX” (short for Tethered permanently shadowed Region EXplorer) deploys a lightweight, superconducting cable to keep other lunar rovers powered and provide wireless communication as they operate in the extreme environments of the moon’s frigid, lightless craters. Read more here.

The winning team! Left to right, MMET students Andrew Ward, Jake Lehmann, John Kurburski, and Alexander Provoast

Michigan Tech students in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology were declared the Overall Champions of the 2021 National Fluid Fluid Power Association Vehicle Challenge, a national competition hosted by Norgren, a world leader in motion control and fluid technology based in Littleton, Colorado. The contest, dubbed “Hydraulics Meets the Bicycle,” combines human-powered vehicles along with fluid power and consists of three races—sprint, endurance, and efficiency. Senior Lecturer David Wanless advised the team, and MMET Lecturer Kevin Johnson contributed to their understanding of pneumatic and hydraulic circuits in his fluid power class. Read more here.

Two Michigan Tech teams, part of the student-run Built World Enterprise, captured First and Second place at the Airport Cooperative Research Program’s University Design Competition, a contest hosted by the National Academy of Sciences/Transportation Research Board. The teams are advised by CEGE Department Chair Prof. Audra Morse. Read more here.

Michigan Tech’s Wave Tank, located in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Students in the SENSE Enterprise team at Michigan Tech, advised by Great Lakes Research Center Director Prof. Andrew Barnard, ECE Associate Professor Tim Havens, along with another team of students advised by ME-EM Professor Gordon Parker, were all selected to compete in the US Department of Energy’s 2022 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition. The students will use the Michigan Tech Wave Tank for this work. Read more here.

The four-year SAE Autodrive Challenge wrapped up on June 14 with Michigan Tech’s Prometheus Borealis team bringing home the second most trophies and earning 3rd place overall. Teams from University of Toronto and University of Waterloo earned first and second overall, making Michigan Tech’s team first among all the US contenders. ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos and ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette serve as advisors to the team. Next Up: SAE International and General Motors (GM) announced 10 collegiate teams selected to compete in AutoDrive Challenge II. Michigan Tech was on the list. Read more here.

Michigan Tech’s SAE Autodrive Challenge team will soon need a bigger display case!

Know of any more Michigan Tech student awards or engineering competitions? Email engineering@mtu.edu. We want to help share the good news!

Alumni Help Bring Advanced 3D Metal Printer to Michigan Tech

A look inside Michigan Tech’s new 3D Metal Printer. Direct metal printing is additive manufacturing. It starts with metal powders, added bit by bit.

Thanks to a group of generous mechanical engineering alumni, Michigan Tech has acquired a highly advanced 3D metal printer.

The 3D Systems ProX350, 3D Metal Printer and accessories arrived on campus at the end of March. Installation is taking place now, in a shared facility at Michigan Tech.

The new system can print using 11 unique metals, including bio-grade titanium (for biomedical applications), cobalt and chromium, several types of stainless steel at a resolution of 5 microns.

Faculty and graduate students will have access to the printer for research projects. Undergraduate senior design and Enterprise teams will, too.

Obtaining the new 3D metal printer was made possible by the generosity of seven Michigan Tech alumni.

For starters, ME-EM Department Chair Bill Predebon obtained a 20 percent discount on the $875K system from Scarlett Inc. Owner Jim Scarlett is an ME-EM alumnus.

In addition to Scarlett, six other Michigan Tech alumni donors pitched in. One anonymous donor provided over $600K , and five others made up the difference to meet the full cost of $673K. Those five are: Ron Starr, John Drake, Frank Agusti, Todd Fernstrum, and Victor Swanson.

“This will be a game changer for Michigan Tech,” Predebon says. “It is one of the most accurate metal 3-d printers available. With approximately a 1-ft. cube size billet, which is an impressive size billet, you can make a full-size or scaled-down version of just about anything. Very few universities have a 3D metal printer of this quality and versatility.”

Coming soon: More photos and details on Michigan Tech’s new 3D metal printer.

Autonomy at the End of the Earth

Michigan Tech’s student team, Prometheus Borealis, designs, builds, and tests a fully autonomous vehicle, “Borealis Prime” for the SAE Autodrive Challenge.

Jeremy Bos and Darrell Robinette, mentors and advisors of Michigan Tech’s SAE Autodrive Challenge (and both Michigan Tech alums) share their knowledge on Husky Bites Live, on campus in the Rozsa Center at Alumni Reunion 2021. The session takes place Friday, August 6 at 1:30 pm ET. Everyone in attendance will learn something new, with time after for Q&A. 

Can’t make it in person? Join us remotely. We’ll share a link to join the Zoom webinar on the Alumni Reunion website as the event draws near. Afterwards (weather permitting) you’re invited to join us out on the Walker Lawn. Meet the students of Prometheus Borealis and Robotics Systems Enterprise, get a close look at their autonomous vehicles—and be sure to bring your questions.

It’s a wild ride.

Starting with a Chevy Bolt, Michigan Tech students outfit it with sensors, control systems and computer processors to successfully navigate an urban driving course in automated driving mode. And, test it in blizzard conditions!

It’s also an ambitious project with an equally ambitious goal: Three years of the competition, with increasing levels of autonomy and more difficult challenges in each successive year. 

Michigan Tech’s team is Prometheus Borealis, after Prometheus, the Greek deity responsible for bringing technology to people, and Boreas, the purple-winged god of the north wind.The SAE Autodrive Challenge competition is jointly sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE).

Credit: Photographer Tim Cocciolone and fellow prankster John Marchesi (both Michigan Tech alums).

“The competition focuses on the electrical engineering, computer engineering, robotics engineering, and computer science skills needed to implement the sensors, signal processing and artificial intelligence needed to make the car drive itself,” says team co-advisor, ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos. “Mechanical engineers and a wide range of other disciplines are represented on the teams, as well.”

ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette is the team’s other co-advisor. Robinette worked as an engineer at GM for 9 years before joining Michigan Tech in 2014, with roles in transmission, NVH, electrification and calibration engineering groups. He is a longtime First Robotics Competition mentor, too.

Bos earned his BS at Michigan Tech in 2000, and returned to earn his PhD in 2012, both in Electrical Engineering. Robinette earned a BS in 2004 and a PhD in 2007, both in Mechanical Engineering.

A section of the mapping of Michigan Tech’s campus as seen from the road by Borealis Prime’s Velodyne LiDAR VLP-16 using Intel Internet of Things HW. Mapping done with Iterative Closest Point (ICP).

Student-driven Autonomy

On the student side, the AutoDrive Challenge project is spearheaded by Robotic Systems Enterprise (RSE), also advised by Bos and Robinette. RSE is part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program. “It’s one of the best places on campus to learn robotics,” says Bos. The team’s many projects come in many shapes and sizes, from designing a vision system for work with a robotic arm, to an automatic power management system for weather buoys. Clients include Ford Motor Company and Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

SAE Autodrive Challenge Final Results

Jonathon Beute ’21 served as project lead for the VISSION subteam focused on Borealis Prime as part of the Robotic Systems Enterprise. He graduated in June and now works as an electrical engineer at Williams International in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The four-year challenge wrapped up on June 14 with Michigan Tech’s Prometheus Borealis team earning 3rd place overall, bringing home the second most trophies. Teams from University of Toronto and University of Waterloo earned first and second overall. Read the full results on the SAE Autodrive Challenge website.

Teams from eight North American universities competed:  Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, Kettering University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, North Carolina A&T State University

“We’re going to need a bigger trophy case.”

Dr. Jeremy Bos, Michigan Tech co-advisor, Prometheus Borealis

Next Up: Autodrive Challenge II

Also in June, SAE International and General Motors (GM) announced 10 collegiate teams selected to compete in AutoDrive Challenge II. Michigan Tech was on the list. 

The start of Michigan Tech’s dynamic run at M-City for the 99% Buy Off Ride, part of the SAE International Autodrive Challenge. The team placed third in this event and third overall. See the full results here.

The competition continues the strong collaboration between GM and SAE in STEM education and will build on the groundbreaking success of the first iteration of AutoDrive Challenge. Teams will develop and demonstrate an autonomous vehicle (AV) that can navigate urban driving courses as described by SAE J3016™ Standard Level 4 automation.

The following 10 university teams will participate in AutoDrive Challenge II:

Kettering University, Michigan Technological University, North Carolina A&T State University, The Ohio State University, Penn State University, Texas A&M University

University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Queens University and Virginia Tech.

“At General Motors, we envision a future of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, and we have committed ourselves to leading the way toward this future,” said Dan Nicholson, GM vice president, global electrification, controls, software and electronics and executive sponsor of the competition. 

“The AutoDrive Challenge is a great way to give students the hands-on experience they need to find success,” he adds. “We are very excited to work with these talented students over the course of the competition and know they will make an immediate impact on the automotive industry upon graduation.”

“Michigan Tech’s SAE AutoDrive Challenge team has proven our students innovate to succeed.”

– Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

Dr. Robinette, how did you first get started in engineering? What sparked your interest? 

Sage advice from ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette: “Be a doer and a thinker at the same time.”

When I was 5, my dad took me for a tour at his place of work, Detroit Edison’s Belle River Powerplant. It was awe inspiring seeing all the equipment and getting an explanation of how it worked and what it did. Pretty amazing that they hang the boilers from the ceiling, eh? Everything at the plant was just so cool, especially the controls and control room. 

My dad introduced me to all the engineers he worked with, and all of them were MTU grads. They played a part in encouraging me where to go for engineering, even though I was only 5 years old. My dad gave me a Babcock & Wilcox Steam book after the visit. Even though I didn’t understand all the engineering in it at the time, pictures of the power plant equipment, construction, assemblies all caught my interest. 

Also, like most engineers, l played with Legos during childhood. Lots and lots of Legos to build whatever my imagination could create.

Family, home, hobbies?

I go mountain biking whenever I can, also wake surfing, snowboarding, and cross country skiing. My wife, Tara, is an MTU alumna (Pre-Med/Biology ‘07). She is one of the Emergency Room physicians at Portage Health Hospital. We have two daughters: Adelyn, 3, and Amelia, one. I like building, tinkering and fixing (typical mechanical engineer stuff), and trying to be a super dad for my girls.

Dr. Bos, how about you? When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos likes to ask new students: “What are your affinities? Knowing those, I can help point you in the right direction.”

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.

I really liked these new things called ‘personal computers’ and spent quite a bit of time programming them. 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’. 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).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I live in Houghton with my wife and fellow alumna, Jessica (STC ’00). We have a boisterous dog, Rigel, named after a star in the constellation Orion, who bikes or skis with me on the Tech trails nearly every day. When I have time I also like to kayak, and stargaze.

Learn More About Husky Bites

Everyone’s welcome at Dean Janet Callahan’s free interactive Zoom webinar, Husky Bites. Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.
“Feel free to invite a friend,” says Dean Janet Callahan about her Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites. “Everyone is welcome. It’s free, and it’s edifying.”

Launched by Dean Janet Callahan in 2020 near the start of the pandemic, Husky Bites is an interactive Zoom webinar that takes place each fall and spring.

During the semester, every Monday at 6, rach “bite” is a suppertime mini-lecture, presented by a different Michigan Tech faculty member, who weaves in a bit of their own personal journey, and brings a co-host, as well—an alum or a current student who knows a thing or two about the topic at hand.

The Husky Bites weekly Zoom webinar series resumes starting Monday, Sept. 13.

“We’ve had attendees from nine countries, and a great mix of students, alumni, our Michigan Tech community and friends,” says Dean Callahan, who mails out prizes for (near) perfect attendance.

Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Read more:

What’s Next After First

I Saw the Sign (End of the Earth)

Michigan Tech Students Form New Chapter of SASE

Civil engineering student Isaac Fong is the founding president of Michigan Tech SASE.

When Isaac Fong arrived at Michigan Tech as a student in 2019, he took note of the professional societies on campus with cultural identities: The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE); Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE); Society of Women Engineers (SWE); and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

None existed, yet, for students of Asian heritage. But that was about to change.

“Some friends at other schools encouraged me to start a Michigan Tech chapter of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). I started asking around my circles to find people who might want to join an interest group for SASE. I found a staff member who was willing to advise the chapter, and then a faculty member,” Fong says. “From there on, we found enough members, and SASE just took off.”

SASE was officially approved through Michigan Tech’s office of Student Leadership and Involvement in March, 2021.

Founded in 2007, SASE is the national go-to organization for talent and leadership development in science, engineering and technology. It’s also a community where students representing all of the pan Asian cultures connect and support each other.

“Any student at Michigan Tech is welcome to join SASE,” Fong says. “Faculty members can be honorary, non-voting members of SASE, too.”

The SASE logo, which features a blue gear combined with a green beaker.

Fiona Chow, a third year student in the College of Business, is a founding member of SASE.

“Growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by many other Asian individuals, other than family. So the opportunity to be a part of a supportive, relatable community is really appealing to me. In SASE we will help each other advance, both professionally and personally,” adds Chow.

“Isaac reached out, asking if I would be interested in joining and helping get SASE on its feet,” says Michigan Tech student Fiona Chow.

She looks forward to possibly attending the SASE national convention and regional conferences in the future. “These events will not only be a great networking opportunity but also a huge learning opportunity.”

“Our first meeting at Michigan Tech was a Zoom meeting with a handful of people,’ she adds. “The engagement and the excitement to be in one space, and to be starting something new, was so exciting and fantastic. I left the meeting filled with anticipation, for getting to know these people more, developing career skills with them, and seeing how the club will grow.”

Liz Fujita, academic advisor and outreach specialist in Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, serves as co-advisor of SASE. She’s also a Michigan Tech alumna. “I was so excited to hear about the formation of this group,” she says. “It’s one that I wish had been here when I was in college.” Fujita earned two bachelor degrees at Michigan Tech in 2012, Mathematical Science and Social Sciences.

“SASE is open to all students who are interested in the success of professional networking, development, and community among Asian and Asian American students,” says chapter co-advisor Liz Fujita.

SASE’s goal this fall is to have at least one event per month, adds Fujita. “We’ll host guest speakers, internal resume workshops, and social events, including events in partnership with other affinity-based organizations on campus.”

In the meantime, SASE members formed a summer book club, reading two books: Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong and Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu.

“When I was a student in college, I enjoyed being in various student organizations,” says Distinguished Professor Zhanping You, Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor. “As a faculty member, it has been my great interest to support them.”

Zhanping You, a Distinguished Professor of Transportation Engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering, serves as the other Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor. “After years of service in various professional groups at Michigan Tech, I believe an organization of Asian students involved in science and engineering is really needed,” he says. “I am very happy to help the start of this new chapter of SASE.”

Dean of the College of Engineering, Janet Callahan, affirms her support of Dr. Zhanping You, Liz Fujita, and SASE. “This will provide a way for our students to connect, and build—and keep building upon these connections,” she says, adding: “And, I am reading Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu, this summer, in support of SASE and their summer reading project!”

Within the Michigan Tech new chapter of SASE, an Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) relations committee will work to amplify APIDA voices on campus and educate others through planned events. For students and working professionals alike, Fong says he hopes SASE activities and efforts will help educate and support students.

“We were all first supported and educated by others,” Fong says. “Now, through SASE, we have the chance to give back.”

Want to learn more about SASE? Contact Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor Liz Fujita.

ISAAC FONG

President, Michigan Tech SASE
Major: Civil Engineering
Hometown: Canton, Michigan (Metro Detroit)
Campus Involvement: Husky Swim Club, ASCE, Success Center ExSEL Peer Mentor, RA
Summer 2021: LEAPS Project Engineer Intern at Barton Malow
How did you first get interested in STEM?
“I grew up playing with Lego sets. I was obsessed with airports and subway systems from a young age. I didn’t really consider a career in STEM until late in high school, when I learned how I could incorporate buildings and infrastructure into my career. Classes in physics, calculus, and humanities all helped pique my interest in civil engineering.”

FIONA CHOW

Founding Member, Michigan Tech SASE
Major: Management Information Systems
Campus Involvement: SENSE Enterprise (“Cool people. Cool projects. Cool advisors,” notes Chow.)
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota (Twin Cities area)
Summer 2021: Data Engineer Intern at Polaris Inc.
How did you first get interested in STEM?
“It all began in third grade when I switched to a STEM elementary school with opportunities to explore various areas, from engineering to computer science. I started college majoring in Software Engineering and just recently switched to Management Information Systems. It’s a better fit and combination of things I am passionate about—combining people and technology.”

Students Choose Fei Long as ME Teacher of the Year

ME Teacher of the Year, Dr. Fei Long, was selected solely by students of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University

Congratulations to Fei Long, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, for winning the Department’s 2021 Mechanical Engineering Teacher of the Year award.

Dr. Long has been with the ME-EM department since 2013, first as a post-doctoral research associate for one year, and then as an instructor. He was hired as a lecturer in 2020. His areas of research expertise include nanomaterials and scanning probe microscopy (SPM). He earned his PhD from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China in 2011, then served as an application scientist for two years in the Nano Surfaces Division, Bruker Co., which manufactures scientific instruments.

The ME Teacher of the Year Award is selected solely by mechanical engineering students and conducted by the Mechanical Engineering Student Advisory Committee (MESAC). It is a two step process, similar to the process employed by the University teaching award. The first stage is the selection of the top three, voted upon by ME students. In the second stage MESAC students go into all the spring classes of the three finalists with a questionnaire, which contains several questions about their teaching, including why they believe they should be the ME teacher of the year.

Long received a certificate and his name is on the ME Teacher of the Year plaque with past winners in the lobby of the R. L. Smith ME-EM Building. The award was announced during the recent 2021 ME-EM Department Order of the Engineering Virtual Ceremony.

Runner ups were ME-EM senior lecturers Jaclyn Johnson and Aneet Narendranath.

Greetings from the Copper Country to our GMES Alumni and Friends!

A Note from the Chair

I hope you have stayed healthy and safe during these unusual times.
Spring has finally arrived at the Keweenaw after a long winter! As the cycle of Nature starts anew, so too does the process of regular Departmental Newsletters. This newsletter reaches you after a long hiatus, but the dormancy does not mean that progress ceased behind the scenes; on the contrary, we have been keeping busy, and many new exciting developments have occurred.

Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University

Any attempt to recap all the news and excitements over the last decade in a single letter would be impossible, so I encourage you to visit our Departmental News blog to read more about the achievements of our faculty, students, and staff in research and education. You may also want to check out our faculty and staff directories to see some new and not-so-new faces and learn more about our people and their activities.

An achievement that cannot go unmentioned is the reinstatement of our Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering program in 2019. This success came through the dedicated and indefatigable efforts by Professor John Gierke, who served as department chair from 2014 to 2020, and our superb mining engineering faculty, Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee and Senior Lecturer Nathan Manser (an MTU alumnus BSME ‘01), who joined the Department in 2014 and 2018, respectively. Several faculty from outside the department generously contribute their expertise in the education of our mining engineering students. I am delighted to report that, in spring 2020, we celebrated our first graduating class of mining engineers since 2004!

Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to keep our department moving forward positively through the global pandemic crisis. Our achievements and the success of remote and socially distanced learning and research are sources of pride for the department and the wider GMES community. Despite unprecedented challenges, our students and faculty performed extraordinarily well, especially since experiential geology learning is not easily amenable to virtual instruction. Their flexibility, resourcefulness, and perseverance have been exemplary.

Also deserving of praise are our 2020 and 2021 graduates and the student recipients of recognitions and awards.

Our faculty and research scientists have stayed very active in cutting-edge and societally relevant research, collaborating around the globe and providing hands-on, real-world experience for our students.

Many of these achievements have been possible only with your continuing support, encouragement, and interest in our efforts and accomplishments.

Your impact on the world is a great motivator for our students.

On behalf of our students, faculty, and staff, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our alumni and friends who have donated to our department; this support has allowed us to keep offering the best instruction and resources to our students during these difficult times.

One of my overarching goals as chair is to maintain and expand a strong and committed alumni base. If you are ever back in town, I hope you will stop by to say hello and share your story. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to email me any time at asmirnov@mtu.edu, or use this link to share your successes and achievements or offer suggestions. Your impact on the world is a great motivator for our students.

Finally, I invite you to stay connected to the department via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and our website.

Best wishes,
Aleksey Smirnov