Category: News

MTU Engineering Students Embrace Meaningful WERC

MTU’s WERC. 4 Team, L to R: Francine Rosinski (graduated), Jenna Cook (senior), Eden Traub (graduated), Nadia Stauffer (senior), Dr. Audra Morse (faculty advisor), Isabel Smith (sophomore), Allison Olson (graduated), and Andrew Wozniak (senior).

Environmental engineering students from Michigan Tech traveled to New Mexico State University to compete in the 34th annual WERC Environmental Design Contest—and took home numerous awards, $4,000 in prize money, plus the opportunity to be published in IEEE Xplore.

All are members of Michigan Tech’s Built World Enterprise (BWE), part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program.

For Francine Rosinski, it was her third year in a row competing at WERC, with a different sort of project each time. This year, tasked with creating a stormwater management plan for a disadvantaged community, Rosinski and six other students, Jenna Cook, Allison Olson, Isabel Smith, Nadia Stauffer, Eden Traub, and Andrew Wozniak, created a system of bioretention cells and bioswales employing natural clays and biochar to remove chloride pollution from road salts. Their client? The small, snowy community of Dollar Bay, Michigan, that has been experiencing flooding issues for years. 

The WERC Environmental Design Contest was established in 1991 as one facet of a Waste-management Research Consortium (WERC), formed by the U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Labs, New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, and Dine College.

The contest expanded and has continued on for 35 years, inviting undergraduate engineering students from across the country to design solutions for conserving and recycling water, energy, natural resources, and waste. 

The MTU team created a bench-scale model of Dollar Bay, showing where each component of their design would be located.

Each year industry and government agencies propose and sponsor real-world tasks for the contest. The tasks are open-ended, giving teams room for innovation and creativity. 

A total of 18 teams competed for prizes this year, including students from Michigan Tech, California Polytechnic State University, Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, Northern Arizona University, Ohio University, University of Mississippi, University of Arkansas, University of Idaho, Washington State University, and Washington University. Some universities sent more than one team to take part in the contest. 

MTU’s WERC 4 team

Michigan Tech sent two teams. MTU’s WERC 1 team earned 1st place overall for its green infrastructure stormwater management design, 2nd place for its bench scale demonstration, and received an honorable mention for its business flash talk, basically a quick, 3-minute business pitch. The students dedicated a full academic year to the creation of their green infrastructure stormwater management system for Dollar Bay.

Michigan Tech’s second team, WERC 4, was comprised of all first-year students. The team earned the WERC Judges’ Choice Award for its algal CO2 removal system. 

“My favorite part of this project was connecting with the community–spending time attending town hall meetings, meeting with local engineers, and interviewing countless residents on their struggles dealing with ongoing flooding in the town,” said team member Nadia Stauffer, who will graduate this December.

“The competition also gave us time to watch the solar eclipse,” says Roskinski. She graduated in April and recently began work as a water resources engineer in Grand Rapids.

“As an engineer, you will have to work not only with other engineers but also with the community and many other people,” adds Rosinski. “This is what I think sets us apart from other teams in the WERC competition because we addressed specific needs in the community.” 

Figuring out how to make an innovative stormwater plan was especially challenging, adds Rosinski. “The competition asked for a nature-based design. There are only so many ways to divert runoff using vegetation or natural materials. We chose to remove a specific pollutant, salinity from road salt and found natural materials that could remove it. This also gave us a competitive edge.”

“College can seem overwhelming and scary at times, but Michigan Tech has prepared us well.”

Francine Rosinski ’24, Environmental Engineering

Besides connecting with the community, participation in WERC provides students with the opportunity to present their findings to knowledgeable professional engineers. “WERC judges offer a great deal of support,” notes Rosinski. “We have received compliments from engineers who said our design was innovative. One judge who has served in the competition for over 30 years told us our poster was one of the best he had seen. Another judge said our writing was great. These opportunities for in-person feedback and professional connections are phenomenal and one-of-a-kind.”

At Michigan Tech, Audra Morse, faculty advisor of Built World Enterprise, encourages undergraduate students of all majors to compete in design competitions and solve problems that relate to civil and environmental engineering. BWE also partners with Engineers Without Borders to provide opportunities for students to collaborate all over the world.

“The competition also gave us time to watch the solar eclipse,” said Roskinski.

“At Michigan Tech classes are hard, but they push you to be better and to grow, and most importantly, to think critically,” notes Rosinski. “Taking part in Enterprise and BWE enabled me to use the knowledge gained in my classes. I could apply it to real situations while using critical thinking. At the same time, I was also gaining soft skills—public speaking, leadership, and teamwork.”

Rosinski first joined BWE as a second-year student. “Back then I didn’t think I had the knowledge or skills to compete against seniors at other universities for the WERC competition,” she says. “I will never forget being with my team and hearing them call our name for first place for our bench-scale model, then second place for our task. All of a sudden I realized I really could be an engineer, that I do have what it takes to be successful.”

When Rosinski first joined the Built World Enterprise, it was new on campus and smaller with around 15-20 members. BWE has since doubled in size, with over 40 members. Rosinski spent her senior year serving as BWE president. 

“Leadership roles are about mentoring and pushing your team to be better, and I strived for that,” she says. “I am so proud, and now I am eagerly waiting to see what BWE does in the future!”

Spring 2024 REF Awards Announced

The Vice President for Research Office (VPR) announces the Spring 2024 Research Excellence Fund (REF) award recipients. Congratulations to each of the awardees.

The REF team also wishes to thank the individual REF reviewers and review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

The principal investigators of the awarded projects include:

Research Seed Grants:

Jiehong Guo
Jiehong Guo
Yixin Liu
Yixin Liu
Bhisham Sharma
Bhisham Sharma

Chris Middlebrook to Discuss MTU Semiconductor Learning Opportunities as Panelist for UPEDA Meeting

Christopher Middlebrook (ECE) was a panelist at a meeting on May 9 hosted by the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance (UPEDA). The event took place at Northern Michigan University. Distinguished leaders from universities and community colleges in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula discussed innovations in the higher education landscape of the U.P. Panel discussions will explore challenges and collaborative opportunities with the workforce.

Middlebrook, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will discuss the new semiconductor-focused curriculum and learning paths now being developed at Michigan Tech — both for traditional undergraduate engineering students, and for other individuals interested in short-term, flexible training to jump-start career paths for in-demand job roles in the semiconductor industry in Michigan.

A wide range of students will be eligible to participate in the new semiconductor learning programs at Michigan Tech, including high school students, University students, community college students, job seekers and veterans. Learning will occur online, on campus at Michigan Tech and on-site at industry partner locations. Scholarships, transportation, child care and other wraparound services will be available to support students. Much of the new curriculum will kick off in fall 2024, said Middlebrook, with further details to be announced. To receive updates via email, add your information to the Michigan Tech Electronics Hub sign-up form.

Some opportunities for high school students will be happening this summer through Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs (SYP). The week of July 21-26, students in grades 9-11 can attend NEXT Scholars: Semiconductors, a weeklong exploration offered on campus. Full sponsorship of the cost is available for 12 students for the program. “This will allow students to attend at no cost, which is very exciting and such a wonderful opportunity,” noted Middlebrook.

ECE Professor Chris Middlebrook

In addition, students who take part in two additional SYP sessions, Women in Engineering (June 16-21) and Engineering Scholars (June 23-28), will have opportunities for hands-on semiconductor fabrication activities and field trips to nearby Calumet Electronics.

MTU has received grants totaling $970,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to support a major expansion of semiconductor education and training programs for workforce development in Michigan. The amount includes $770,000 for the semiconductor curriculum work and $200,000 for the Michigander Scholars Program.

“Our overall goal is to form a talent pipeline to meet Michigan’s increased demand for skilled engineers and technicians in the semiconductor industry, where jobs are projected to grow at least 11% in the next five years,” said Middlebrook.

At Michigan Tech, Middlebrook teaches courses in electrical and computer engineering, with active research in electrical and optical interconnects and platforms. He serves as the faculty advisor for the IPC-Electronics student chapter at Michigan Tech, and directs the Plexus Innovation Center, a professional-grade, electronics-focused makerspace.

Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony April 26, 2024

Cadets and officers on stage for the ceremony.

The Air Force and Army ROTC invite you to the Spring 2024 Commissioning Ceremony on Friday (April 26) at 7 p.m. at the Rozsa Center.

This semester, we have 10 Air Force cadets and four Army cadets commissioning. Those commissioning are from the following programs:

Chemical Engineering | Chemistry | Civil Engineering | Computer Science | Electrical Engineering | Environmental Engineering | Mechanical Engineering | Mining Engineering | Molecular Biology

By Air Force and Army ROTC.

SWE Hosts Girl Scout Engineering Days 2024 at MTU and Grand Rapids

NASA Earth Observatory satellite image of the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.

Girl Scouts Engineering Day at MTU

On March 9, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) section at Michigan Tech hosted their annual Girl Scouts Engineering Day for over 35 scouts in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.

The Brownies and Daisies “Molded the Future,” using Play-Doh to create robotic gripper designs to pick up unique shapes. The scouts then used a digital scanner to see what their models looked like on a computer and learned about the 3D printing process. This session was led by Shane Oberloier, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).

The Juniors and Cadettes participated in sessions sponsored by MTU’s Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) program and ECE. In one session, the scouts learned about human factors under the guidance of Kelly Steelman, chair and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS), while the second session, “FANtastic Controllers,” focused on computer programming, microcontrollers and circuit building. The scouts assembled a circuit that included an Arduino board, a power supply module, a logic chip and a DC motor to create a working fan. Next, they engaged in programming the circuit, gaining insights into the fundamentals of computer science and serial communication.

To make this event successful, Tech students from Blue Marble Security Enterprise and the Open Source Hardware Enterprise volunteered. SWE appreciates the support we received from ACSHF and ECE. Planning has already begun for the 2025 Girl Scout event!

Engineering Days in Niles and Grand Rapids

SWE members Tory Cantrell (mechanical engineering) and Carsyn Boggio (environmental engineering), ECE students Skyler Brawley (computer engineering) and Emily Roth (electrical engineering), and SWENexter Jenna Beaudoin, a Lake Linden-Hubbell High School senior, worked with Girl Scouts and Ring Lardner Middle School students in Niles, Michigan, on April 6. Sophie Owen ’22 (B.S. Electrical Engineering) helped the students construct their circuits.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Amy (Palmgren) Rokos ’08 (B.S. Computer Engineering) joined us and helped with the event. Lilly, a fourth grader and Junior Girl Scout, commented, “I liked the programing. I had to do math, but it was fun! I’m excited to do more things with my kit at home.” (Every participant not only used components, but was given an Arduino kit to take home.)

SWE sends a huge shoutout to Brawley and Beaudoin, who worked hard to design this integrated outreach activity, and to academic advisor Lauren Huested (ECE), who obtained the funding for this trip through a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The funds needed to be used on K-12 outreach that would teach students about EE concepts (specifically motors), making the Arduino/motorized fan kit a perfect fit!

Thanks to our vice president for Global Campus and continuing education, David Lawrence, who permitted us to use the grant funding, we were able to pay for the cost of supplies and travel for the events.

SWE also thanks the College of Engineering and the ECE department for their support, along with the CLS department. Outreach events are exciting opportunities for us to interact with future Michigan Tech Huskies!

By Jaclyn Johnson and Gretchen Hein, Advisors, Society of Women Engineers.

Give Back to the Pack Today!

Give Back to the Pack kicks off today at noon and will run until tomorrow (April 11) at noon! For those 24 hours, our entire Michigan Tech community, including alumni, friends, faculty, staff and families, will come together in a collective celebration of philanthropy.

As we embark on this 24-hour giving challenge, we invite you to join us in making a difference. Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Make a Gift: Visit the Give Back to the Pack website to make a contribution to the area of your choosing and help us reach our goals.
  2. Spread the Word: Share your participation in Give Back to the Pack on social media and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to join the cause.
  3. Engage with Challenges: Explore the various challenges and matches available on the Give Back to the Pack website and consider participating to maximize your impact.

This year, three College of Engineering giving matches are generously offered by our alumni and friends:

For every dollar donated to Chemical Sciences and Engineering Building Renovations, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation will match it, up to $2 million, funding renovations to the Chemical Sciences and Engineering (Chem Sci) Building.

Every 50 donations to the ME-EM department will unlock a $50,000 gift from our anonymous donor, up to $150,000, to support 3D Metal printing experiential learning programs.

SPIE, the international optics and photonics society, will match every contribution to the Optics and Photonics Endowed Scholarship Fund, up to $100,000. Scholarship funds support undergraduate students studying electrical and computer engineering.

Support the people, places and programs that mean the most to you. Here’s how to make a gift within the College of Engineering.

Every gift, regardless of size, contributes to our shared goal of supporting the areas of Michigan Tech that matter most to each of us.

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

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: First-Year Engineering Team

Group of eleven faculty and staff standing by a window.
L–R: Ken Thiemann, Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Jon Sticklen, AJ Hamlin, Matt Barron, Brett Hamlin, Mary Raber, Amber Kemppainen, Amy Monte, Darlene Saari, and James Bittner.

College of Engineering Dean Audra Morse has selected the core first-year engineering faculty team from the Department of Engineering Fundamentals (EF) for the Deans’ Teaching Showcase for their work in developing and delivering an innovative learning experience. The team includes Matt Barron, James Bittner, Gabriel Draughon, Amy (AJ) Hamlin, Brett Hamlin, Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Amber Kemppainen, Amy Monte and Ken Thiemann, and is supported by staff, students and adjunct instructors who are essential to the team’s mission. The team will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Gabriel Draughon
Gabriel Draughon

The team implements many high-impact practices across 11 sections of ENG1101 and ENG1102, serving 800-1,000 students per semester. Students enter with a wide variety of skills and attributes. The team adopts many strategies to ensure all students develop the knowledge and mindsets needed to succeed in second-year classes associated with 18 different majors.

This passionate team of educators continually pushes the boundaries of pedagogy in order to meet students where they are at and support their growth throughout their first year. Their practices include cohort scheduling that places students in several of the same classes together, making it easier to form study groups and friendships; flipped classrooms that foster hands-on learning during class time; and undergraduate near-peer mentors from the innovative LEarning with Academic Partners (LEAP) program who support the active learning environment.

The team embraces the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) framework, which fosters a mindset of curiosity, building connections across disciplines and creating value for others. By using project-based learning and design thinking, students identify opportunities, design solutions using the tools and mindsets of engineering problem solving, and build and test prototypes.

“The EF team is a role model for collaborative instructional teams,” noted Mary Raber, EF’s department chair. “Everyone has participated in professional development opportunities such as entrepreneurial-minded learning, design thinking and inclusive STEM teaching to build their educational skill set. Together, they create an inspiring and dynamic learning environment for students while supporting their growth and development as first-year college students.”

Student evaluations reflect the team’s positive impact, with typically high ratings and positive feedback that includes comments such as, “I really enjoyed your enthusiasm towards the curriculum and found it very helpful that you would sit down and work through something if I had a question,” and “The enthusiastic and engaging energy you bring to the class gives a boost of energy and makes me feel more motivated,” and “Your enthusiasm and interest in our learning was great and the hands-on activities and team projects allowed a lot of room for creativity and personal interest!”

Morse commended the EF Team for their success. “Their diligence in continually innovating the first-year engineering program is phenomenal and key to Engineering’s high first-year retention rate,” she said. “The team constantly looks for ways to help our students succeed, helping them in the critical transition into college, and building their skills so they can be successful in their major.”

By the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.

2024 World Water Day: GLRC Student Poster Award Winners

22 March World Water Day 2024 Water for Peace banner.

Congratulations to the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) Student Poster Award winners, in recognition of World Water Day 2024.

The GLRC winner for the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium coordinated by the Pavlis Honors College on March 22 was:

A big thank-you to our graduate student judges: master’s students Hunter Roose and Ryan Heines (both Biological Sciences) and Cassandra Reed-VanDam (Applied Ecology).

The GLRC winners at the Graduate Student Government (GSG) Graduate Research Colloquium on March 26 placed as follows:

Thank you to all the student participants and their GLRC-affiliated advisors.

By the Great Lakes Research Center.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Jaclyn Johnson

Jaclyn Johnson
Jaclyn Johnson

Dean Audra Morse has selected Jaclyn Johnson, associate teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), for this spring’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Johnson will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other spring showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

“Dr. Johnson’s passion for helping students succeed is evident not only inside the classroom but also within extracurricular activities, where her success in mentoring students impacts students across campus,” Morse said.

Johnson serves as advisor for Engineering Ambassadors (EA) at Michigan Tech, a group that focuses on K-12 outreach while providing professional development for our students. EA is a national network spanning over 40 institutions, and Johnson holds the position of vice-chair of the Membership and Best Practices Committee in the national organization. Locally, Johnson imparts essential skills with her teaching of the assertion-evidence method of slide presentations and engaging with students during outreach visits to K-12 schools.

“Dr. Johnson is instrumental in helping future engineers hone their communication skills while igniting enthusiasm for engineering among younger generations,” a recent EA alum stated. Since 2012, she has collaborated with 114 EA members, collectively reaching nearly 7,000 students through visits to 11 local K-12 schools.

Another EA alum reflected on Johnson’s impactful mentorship: “As one of the leaders of EA at Michigan Tech, I knew we could count on her for invaluable feedback on building and delivering effective presentations. Even now, I often reflect on the coaching I received from Dr. Johnson through EA when I am asked to present information to colleagues, supervisors and customers.”

More recently, Johnson played a pivotal role coordinating EA and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in launching an outreach initiative known as Engineering Day. This half-day program at local elementary schools depends on planning and seamless coordination among the student groups. Our students not only learn the intricacies of event organization, but also cultivate essential skills in collaboration and teamwork. Since its inception in fall 2022, Engineering Day has successfully conducted six events, reaching nearly 1,100 local K-6 students.

“Jaclyn’s approach with EA and SWE is impressive,” a SWE member stated. “She guides students from behind the scenes, allowing them to grow into their leadership roles. We are excited to work with Jaclyn as we grow our outreach programs with local and regional schools, and the Girl Scouts.”

“Jaclyn has truly excelled as an advisor for SWE and EA, going above and beyond by being exceptionally accessible in helping me develop outreach activities,” another student noted. “Her commitment to educating the future generation is truly inspiring. As an undergraduate engineer, I consider her a significant influence in my leadership development.”

Whether inside the classroom or in extracurriculars, Johnson is an inspiring and engaging role model. As a recent MTU alum put it, “Dr. Johnson’s influence has had a profound impact on my life, both professionally and personally. It’s something I can’t quantify, but it’s definitely shaped who I am today.”

Sustainability Awards for Claire Christen and Robert Handler

View of Michigan Tech, Portage Canal, and Portage Lift Bridge in summer.

It takes many hands, hearts and minds to create a sustainable campus. As a part of Earth Month programming, join the Office of Sustainability and Resilience in celebrating four individuals who go the extra mile, dedicating their time and energy to supporting a more sustainable Michigan Tech.

This year’s Campus Sustainability Leadership Awardees are:

Please join us on April 17 for a celebration of the award winners and their accomplishments, a brief update on sustainability work at Michigan Tech and some time to enjoy snacks and interact with your peers. Feel free to bring lunch.

Celebration Details:

What: Sustainability Awards Gathering
When: Wednesday, April 17, from noon to 12:45 p.m.
Where: MUB Ballroom B1

By Alan Turnquist, Office of Sustainability and Resilience.