Category: Alumni

I Was Asked to Be a Judge for Winter Carnival

Riley Simpson wears formal attire, a silver crown, and holds flowers and an award on stage at Michigan Tech Rozsa Center.
Asked to be a judge for Carnival Queen this year, I accepted with alacrity. And probably became the first judge ever to ask all the candidates a metallurgical question involving the lever rule—a question I knew no-one would know the answer to (none were materials science and engineering majors, who would have the best shot at knowing the answer). The object of the question was focused on critical thinking.

The Saturday morning before Carnival Week was day one of my judging. In my training, I was told I could ask any questions I wanted, and was given a set of standard questions to choose from. 

“Any questions?” I repeated?”

“Yes, anything you want—just ask everyone the same questions.” 

I warmed them up with a few standard questions: “Why do you want to be Carnival Queen,” and “Why did you choose to come to Michigan Tech,” and then stepped right into it, by going to the board and drawing a banana-shaped phase diagram, labeling the axes, temperature versus component (we used a gold/silver phase diagram).

I warmed them up to it by talking about how a pure component below its melting point was solid, and then after it was heated past its melting point, it was liquid. And then I explained how with a binary alloy with soluble components, the extra component adds a degree of freedom to the system. And that in turn gives such alloys a range of temperatures over which both liquid and solid are present. Then, I identified a state point in this two-phase region, just below the liquidus for a 50/50 alloy, and asked: “At this temperature and composition, we see there is both liquid and solid present. My question is: Do you think the mixture will be mostly liquid, or mostly solid?”

A few candidates asked clarifying questions, a few reasoned out loud. And, as I had hoped, given how we really stress critical thinking across all majors, all got the answer right. When I followed up and asked them why they thought it would be mostly liquid, the reasoning was sound—they tied it in with proximity to the liquidus or to the point being at a higher temperature. Very proud of all the Queen’s Finalists!  
Riley Simpson is shown smiling in her AFROTC uniform.
Congrats to Riley Simpson ⁠— 4th year mechanical engineering student, future commissioned second lieutenant (pending) in the United States Air Force, pilot/aviation enthusiast ⁠— and now, 2020 Winter Carnival Queen at Michigan Tech
Riley Simpson: Impeccable and inspirational at the Michigan Tech Winter Carnival Queen Coronation.

The second judging event took place the following Saturday night, during the Coronation. That evening, I enjoyed seeing all the candidates again, this time formal attire. They answered questions up on stage with last year’s Queen—a much higher pressure situation than I think I put them under! All of the finalists did a great job, and I am pleased to report that this year’s Carnival Queen is a Guardian of the North, Riley Simpson, whose passion is for flying, and whose musical talent was evidenced by an elegant and lively performance on the xylophone.

Riley is a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student and member of the Advanced Metalworks Enterprise who will be commissioned as an Air Force officer when she graduates, and I’m confident she will go far in her career.

It was my great honor to meet all these confident, intelligent, talented, and service-oriented Winter Carnival Queen’s finalists. My last interview question, back on that first Saturday, was, “Do you have any questions for me?” It was immediately evident that they had not anticipated being asked to ask a question (I was mimicking a job interview). And, they all rallied, and with a variety of questions, such as, “Why did you come to Michigan Tech,” and “What does a dean do?” My favorite question came from one candidate who asked me, “Did you ever do anything like this (meaning, run to be Carnival Queen)? “Oh my goodness no!” I exclaimed. “It took me many years to get the confidence to be in the public eye.” It took me about an additional two decades!

Now, if you’re interested in learning the answer to the question I asked the Winter Carnival Queen contestants, “mostly liquid or mostly solid”—or want to hazard a guess, feel free to contact me, callahan@mtu.edu.
Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Mechanical Engineer turned Fine Artist: Gary Johnson ’66

In his guest blog, Gary Johnson ’66, a Michigan Tech alumnus in Fayetteville Arkansas, tells the story of his second career: “We engineers can go from practicing engineering to being artists of all things mechanical and beyond.”

Superior Storm, 2017, Gary Johnson
Superior Storm, 2017, Gary Johnson

Having grown up in Rock, Michigan⁠ (Yeah, I know, where the heck is Rock? Well, it’s smack dab in the middle of the UP. Yup, I’m a Yooper!!) I decided the best place for me to go to college was in the UP, at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, now Michigan Technological University. Why Tech? I was influenced by a couple of neighbors, older than me, who had both started and graduated from Tech. I was pretty fair at math and science, so I did go to Tech—and would do it all over again if I had that same choice to make again today.

I got lucky and graduated in four years, then started work at General Electric Co. as a design engineer. GE was a great place to start my career. I had several promotions while at GE and the company helped finance my MBA, which I received in 1975 from Loyola University in Chicago. I left GE in 1977 when I learned they intended to sell the division I was in, and that no one would be allowed to transfer within GE after the sale. So I moved to Arizona and took my first management position.

Blue Heron, 2016, Gary Johnson
Blue Heron, 2016, Gary Johnson

From that point I guess you could say I was blessed or cursed, depending on which side of the equation your homebody instincts are on. I started in New Jersey, moved to Illinois, then on to Arizona after receiving my master’s degree. From there I moved to California and back again to Arizona after accepting a position as General Manager for a U.S. company in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. From Arizona we traversed the U.S., from Georgia to Washington state to South Carolina, where I ended my career as a Director of Engineering at Hubbell Lighting. Those 40-plus years of my working career were absolutely fantastic, interesting and challenging. The only thing I’d change is the loss of jobs occasionally due to downsizing, bankruptcies or the sale of a company. But with the skill set I developed as a result of my education and experience, I always bounced back—and for that I can thank Michigan Tech.

Alegha, 2009, Gary Johnson
Alegha, 2009, Gary Johnson

At Tech, I learned perseverance. Or, maybe it was my Finnish background, where the word sisu comes into play. Perseverance is a quality we all must possess in today’s working environment. I think I started developing that in my little old hometown of Rock, or maybe at Michigan Tech. It takes a certain strong-charactered individual to put up with the winters and the great curriculum of MTU to get a degree in four years. I wasn’t blessed with the great minds of some of my fellow graduates, but nevertheless, I made it through in fine shape.

Okay, now on to the real reason I wrote this blog. I was asked to write it —because in my retirement I found a new career as an artist.

Shadows of a Bygone Era, 2016, Gary Johnson
Shadows of a Bygone Era, 2016, Gary Johnson

Moving to art was something of a challenge my wife, Jackie, had often presented to me. It was also something I pretty much always wanted to do, especially watercolor art. While traveling with my job, I was blessed to occasionally have Jackie travel with me. While together, mostly on the weekends, we’d visit local art galleries to admire the artistic talents of many different artists. We especially loved the watercolor artists and the work they produced. My wife often would say, “Honey, can we purchase that piece, or get a print of it, at least?” My reply was often, “Hey, I could paint that for you, so why purchase something I could do myself?” Well, that didn’t fly very far, and we’d end up getting something to remember our trip.

That went on for about 20 years until all of a sudden, I found myself between positions while living up near the Canadian border of British Columbia in Bellingham, Washington. I spent countless hours scouring country looking for a new position, becoming really bored with the whole process. So, what was I going to do to overcome that boredom? The answer fell into my lap one Sunday afternoon while reading the newspaper. I spotted an ad for a watercolor workshop for beginners, offered by the local park district. Can you imagine—six classes, every Friday morning for six weeks, for only $30. Was I excited? Hell, yes, I was. It addressed two issues; the first was the challenge to prove to my wife I could do this to her satisfaction and that she’d love my work, and second, to rid myself of the boredom involved in seeking new employment and further, it would address any questions by any HR person about what was I doing during my days off.

Meet my friend, Danny, 2015, Gary Johnson
Meet my friend, Danny, 2015, Gary Johnson

I’ve always had a love of the arts, from the time I grew up. First, I became interested in music and ended up becoming an accordionist. I loved music and played the accordion for many years on into high school. Soon, however, sports and girls entered the equation, so I abandoned the accordion and concentrated on academics, sports and girls, though maybe not in that particular order………LOL. I also always liked to draw and doodle, but not necessarily paint, as good ole Rock, Michigan wasn’t the center of the visual arts back in the day. As I’ve said earlier, travel during my working years led me to loving art even further. Jackie was a very good interior designer. Together we’d pick out pieces of art we both liked for our home—mostly watercolor paintings. That’s when I knew that someday I’d like to give it a go. So, backing up to the workshop classes in Bellingham: I soon became hooked on the process of creating art with watercolor. It was not easy, and I worked very hard at it day in and day out until I felt I could actually show someone outside of our home what I’d been up to.

I went to an art gallery in Bellingham and asked the owner to evaluate what I had done to that point. He agreed to look over my body of work. What a great experience that turned out to be. The first painting he looked at he told me, “Burn It.” Can you imagine what that would do to someone? Well, before we finished looking at all of my work, he managed to find a couple of pieces he thought were just “OK”. Well, just OK isn’t good enough as we all know, so I started to study watercolor art though art journals and “How- to” books related to watercolor art. I took some additional workshops and painted with an art group to learn from others who were better than me. That helped tremendously as I learned from those who knew what they were doing and willing to share their knowledge.

Soon after I found a new position in South Carolina, and we relocated to Spartanburg in the “Upstate” as it is known. I joined an art guild and continued to paint but only sporadically on weekends. My new position of responsibility took precedence over my desire to become that world- class painter.

I joined a second art organization, the South Carolina Watermedia Society (SCWS), whose membership consisted mostly of watercolorists. Through this organization I really became a solid weekend painter. I still wasn’t where I wanted to be from an artistic perspective, but I took the gamble and started to enter juried competitions, to see if I could get into their exhibitions. Well, guess what? I didn’t get picked the first three times I entered a competition. This bruised my ego, because I thought I had done some pretty darned good work. Then I finally had a breakthrough, and made it into my first exhibition. I was thrilled! And it gave me even more inspiration to continue developing my craft. I was selected for three consecutive years and received my Signature Membership in the society—a huge resume enhancer when seeking gallery representation. Since then, I’ve added the “Member in Excellence” moniker to my membership, which means I’ve been in at least five juried competitions.

Stormy Seas, 2016, Gary Johnson
Stormy Seas, 2016, Gary Johnson

People often ask how many years I’ve been painting, and how many paintings I’ve produced. Well, the span of time covers 18 years since those first watercolor workshop days in Bellingham. Needless to say, I didn’t paint during many of those years due to work obligations. Further, after I retired, I chose to do some consulting for a while, 18 months, flying back and forth from Spartanburg, Minneapolis and Osceola, Wisconsin to work with a company who was looking to relocate some of their manufacturing to Mexico. Because I had done similar work in the past, they asked me to develop a strategic plan for the movement of their manufacturing facilities through the startup phase of their operation. Yes, I was one of those guys who helped facilitate that kind of movement. Anyway, after about a year and a half of that gig, I told the company they no longer needed me to help support their strategic plan. We parted ways in July 2011.

Now fully retired, Jackie and I decided we’d love to relocate from South Carolina to our current home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, near my daughter and her family. It turned out to be a really great choice. Not only do we get to see my daughter and her husband, but also our two grandchildren. It also turns out that Fayetteville has a thriving arts community, which has proven to be both challenging and wonderful at the same time.

Jackie and Gary Johnson
Jackie and Gary Johnson

It took us fully two years to get our house built and landscaped to our specs, although one is never really done tinkering with both. Our new home was designed with an art studio so I could continue painting. It took a little bit of time to get back into the saddle and get back to producing good work again, but painting is a little like riding a bike. Once you know how, it doesn’t take long to work through the cobwebs and get back to where you were before. I’ve now joined two Arkansas-based arts organizations: Artists of NW Arkansas where I have served as Chairman of the Board the past two years; and Mid-Southern Watercolorists (MSW), out of Little Rock. Both are great organizations that put on juried art exhibitions. I’ve been blessed with having my work in each of their exhibitions over the past six years. I won the MSWBronze award, and earned my Signature membership there, as well.

As for how many paintings I have produced, it’s in the order of hundreds. I probably consistently produce between 30 – 50 per year. Many are very small sketches that I use to teach. Yes, I am now doing workshops based on the abstract process I use. I also teach art to people ages 60 and up once a month at the Schmieding Foundation in Springdale, Arkansas, a place where they can come and paint for a couple of hours for free. I supply all materials and teach them the basics of watercolor. It’s really a fun experience for me, and hopefully for them, too.

Mr. Bees Pumpkins, Gary Johnson
Mr. Bees Pumpkins, Gary Johnson

I’m asked occasionally if being a Mechanical Engineer has any influence on the type of art I produce. Well, yes it does occasionally. One painting I did was of an old steam- driven device that I discovered in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at an old railroad yard. I photographed it from many different angles and selected one in which the sun had cast a great many shadows onto it, and turned that into a piece of art. It’s titled “Shadows from a Bygone Era”. After winning the Bronze award with this painting at the MSW exhibition in Little Rock this past spring, I was recently invited to an International show in Barcelona, Spain this coming April and May.

So, we engineers can go from practicing engineering to being artists of all things mechanical and beyond.

People wonder where I find my inspiration. My wife will tell you that everywhere I go, I find something that fascinates me. In California once, I slammed on the brakes after seeing an old Chevy pickup truck sitting on the side of the road, exclaiming “There’s a painting waiting to happen!” It turned into one of my best old rusty truck paintings yet, titled “Mr. Bees Pumpkins”.

I found an old tractor near that same railroad yard in Eureka Springs and did a painting titled “Retired in Eureka Springs”. I loved the way the vines and other plant life had engulfed this old tractor left out to return to the earth.

Retired in Eureka Springs, Gary Johnson
Retired in Eureka Springs, Gary Johnson

I’ve painted a lot of old rusty cars abandoned or left to return to the Earth. I enjoy that challenge, of being able to capture their beauty after their useful time as machines, be they tractors, cars, steam engines, etc. However, I also love painting in the abstract, landscapes, and portraits, so I don’t limit myself to one genre. It keeps me motivated to explore new territory in my art. Doing so teaches me more new techniques that I can pass on to those taking my workshops.

I hope you enjoyed reading my story as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it in writing. Feel free to contact me at garyj357@yahoo.com.

Gary

In part 2 of his guest blog post, Gary shares more about what his life is like as an artist. Do you want to embark on a similar adventure? Here’s that link. Want to see more of Gary’s paintings? Find them at garyjohnsonfineart.com


LEAP Leaders: The Power of Near-Peer Mentoring

Just an ordinary day for the LEAP Leaders in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech. AJ Hamlin (far left) and Amber Kempppainen (second from left) are both in the front row.

AJ Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen have been recognized for their leadership in designing LEAP, a highly successful, best practice program for first-year engineering students at Michigan Tech.

by Michael R. Meyer, Director, William G. Jackson CTL

LEarning with Academic Partners (LEAP) co-directors AJ Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen have been selected by College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan for the Spring 2020 Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Both are Principal Lecturers in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals (EF) and alumnae of Michigan Tech.

Both are broadly versed in methods and implementations for active learning and have practiced active learning methods in their classrooms for nearly two decades.

In 2015, EF started considering an approach to first-year engineering that would be effective and scalable. The selected approach used flipped content delivery in a studio environment in which students would have ready access to near-peer mentoring. As soon as the mentoring component was included, Hamlin and Kemppainen stepped up as the two co-directors of the program. Working collaboratively, they learned the principles and implementations of two existing approaches: Supplemental Instruction (SI) (usually associated with the University of Missouri, Kansas City) and Learning Assistants (LA) (usually associated with the University of Colorado). From study and attending on-site workshops and conferences, the two developed a composite approach to near-peer mentoring that became the LEAP program.

In general, SI does not include a mandatory session for students. By contrast, the model pioneered by AJ and Amber did include a mandatory LEAP session between the near-peer leader and a group of not more than 24 students to augment instruction in the EF first-year engineering courses. This was a significant departure that proved very beneficial; first-year students often do not see value in a situation that augments what they do in “regular class.” In effect, the innovation by the LEAP CoDirectors made the LEAP lab section meeting a “regular class meeting.” Once LEAP was experienced by the students over time, they appreciated the nearness of a near-peer to help them.

First-year engineering students meet with near-peer mentors in a LEAP section at Wadsworth Hall, on campus at Michigan Tech.

Hamlin and Kemppainen also adapted the LA model, embedding LEAP Leaders as mentors for the work to be done in the larger flipped classrooms of the first-year engineering courses. The EF major classrooms are in Wadsworth Hall (capacity of 5 LEAP sections, or 120 students) and in Dillman Hall (capacity of 3 LEAP sections, or 72 students).

Dean Callahan’s nomination emphasizes this insight and innovation at Michigan Tech. “Using near-peer mentors is a best practice in teaching—AJ and Amber’s work as co-directors of the LEAP program has been an outstanding demonstration of how to engage students with their learning,” says Callahan.

The LEAP Leader training program was designed almost from scratch by Hamlin and Kemppainen. The training prepares the LEAP Leaders to be learner-centered, but to emphasize that the weight of learning is always the student’s. The LEAP Leader is taught how to mentor students, and the training emphasizes practical learning concepts such as effective scaffolding for a student. It also gives them opportunities to practice the needed pedagogical techniques.

After the rollout of the revised first-year engineering program in Fall, 2017, it became clear that the LEAP leader training and experience was highly educational for those near-peer leaders as well. With that realization, Amber and AJ embarked on developing and teaching leadership courses under the Pavlis Honors College heading. Three courses are now offered: a 2000 level course that Amber and AJ developed and teach collaboratively, and 3000 and 4000 level courses that were designed and taught by Amber. The three courses taken together form the required set of courses in the Leadership Minor, which is offered through Pavlis.

Hamlin and Kemppainen have recognized the power that near-peer mentoring has to engage first-year students in their own education. They designed and implemented a program that is now seen as essential for first-year engineering students.

Jon Sticklen, chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals summarizes: “AJ and Amber have definitely gone above and beyond in their positions as CoDirectors of our LEAP Program. LEAP has become the cornerstone of the First-Year Engineering Program, largely because the undergraduate students who are our LEAP Leaders are well trained and genuinely connected to their first-year engineering students. LEAP works because of the leadership and content training, as orchestrated by Amber and AJ.”

Dean Callahan confirms their exceptional impact, both for the first year students and the LEAP leaders. “Michigan Tech can rightly be proud of the work of AJ Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen. As CoDirectors of the LEarning with Academic Partners program, they have shown a true engineering viewpoint in addressing the needs of first-year students: to have a good role model, an effective mentor, and a learning coach—all rolled into one sophomore student to whom they can relate. They had the vision as a goal, they sought out how existing near-peer mentoring programs addressed the issues, and they developed a near-peer mentoring program that is a critical part of what makes of first-year engineering program ‘tick’. I am very proud of Hamlin’s and Kemppainenm’s work in support of our students.”

AJ Hamlin’s experience in teaching first-year engineering students dates from 2001. In this time, she has done research in and developed an assessment of spatial visualization skills and measured the effectiveness of inverted and blended courses. Among other awards, Hamlin won the 2010 Editor’s Award from the Engineering Design Graphics Journal, and in April 2015 the Michigan Tech Canvas Creative Course Contest (C4). She has served in various offices of the ASEE Multidisciplinary Division, including Secretary/Treasurer, Program Chair, and currently the Division Chair.

Amber Kemppainen, who began teaching in 2005, is now in the final phases of completing a PhD in applied cognitive science and human factors (ACSHF). Through her work for her degrees in the learning sciences, Kemppainen has been supported in part by a King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship (a State of Michigan program). Her areas of research have included qualitative and quantitative analysis and assessment skills in educational settings, and development, deployment, and assessment of online training programs. She won a C4 award in 2015.

Hamlin and Kemppainen will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and, as a team, are candidates for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Learn more about Michigan Tech’s LEAP program here.


Engineering Alumni Activity Spring 2020

Steve Durkee
Steve Durkee

Michigan Tech alumnus Steve Durkee was the subject of the article “Legrand Appoints Steve Durkee to Lead Legrand | AV,” in Mondodr. The story was also covered by AV Network. Steve has been with the company since 2004, joining when it was just Chief Manufacturing. He has held a wide range of leadership roles, most recently as Senior Vice President & General Manager of Commercial AV. Earlier in his career, Steve spent 10 years at Graco in Engineering, Product, Marketing and Sales leadership roles. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech and an MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.

Dhaval Lodaya
Dhaval Lodaya

Michigan Tech alumnus Dhaval Lodaya was featured in the article “SAE International Announces Winners of Second Annual Student and Young Professional Technical Paper Competition,” in Yahoo Finance. Lodaya, Senior Project Engineer, Gamma Technologies LLC, works in system and component level modeling and controls of hybrid electric and electric vehicles. He earned his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Electrified Powertrain Controls from Michigan Tech.

Marty Lagina
Marty Lagina

Michigan Tech alumnus Martin Lagina ’77, was featured in the article “How Marty Lagina achieved a net worth of $100 million,” in Money Inc. Lagina is a reality television personality, engineer and entrepreneur. His most noteworthy work remains to be in the Curse of Oak Island series where he is not only the producer but also one of the people who fund it. Lagina has a BS in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech.

Huaguang Wang
Huaguang Wang

Michigan Tech alumnus Huaguang Wang was featured in the Central New York Business Journal. Wang has joined Indium as a research metallurgist. He is responsible for the research and development of high-reliability, low-temperature solders and bonding materials for use in electronics assembly applications. Wang earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering from Central South University and his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Lisa Larsen
Lisa Larsen

Lisa Larsen, a civil engineer with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, is spotlighted in a guest blog post of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Her position involves projects related to the construction of public infrastructure in communities that are economically distressed. Larsen holds a BS from Michigan Tech in civil engineering.

Julie Fream
Julie Fream

Michigan Tech alumna Julie Fream ’83, a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees, was quoted in the article “Who is an ‘essential’ employee under order for nonessential workers to stay home?” in Crain’s Detroit Business. Fream holds a BS in chemical engineering. She earned several awards from Michigan Tech, such as the Distinguished Service Award, the Outstanding Service Award, and the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Shannon Tait
Shannon Tait

Michigan Tech alumna Shannon Tait was quoted in the article “Building a better future: Three women on why they chose the construction industry,” in Epicenter, Mt. Pleasant. Tait works as the Manager of Commercial Projects for Three Rivers Corporation (TRC) and has been with the company for eight years. She attended Michigan Technological University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Rick Smith
Rick Smith

Michigan Tech alumnus Rick Smith ’81 was the subject of the article “Canyon Resources strengthens team with appointment of leading bauxite executive,” in Proactive. Smith, a bauxite expert, was named chief development officer of Canyon Resources Ltd. Smith holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in geological engineering from Michigan Tech.

Stuart Pann
Stuart Pann

Michigan Tech alumnus Stuart Pann has been named chief executive officer of Bossa Nova, a leading data service provider for global retailers. The store was featured in Benzinga. Pann holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BS in electrical engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Darryl Babbitt
Darryl Babbitt

Michigan Tech alumnus Darryl Babbitt ’08, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Crawford County (Michigan) Road Commission. He has a BS in civil engineering from Michigan Tech. The story was covered in the Crawford County Avalanche.

Jamie Archambeau
Jamie Archambeau

Civil Engineering alumna, Jamie Archambeau ’02, was selected as one of 2020 Denver Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Archambeau is the Director of Transportation Planning West at Atkins.

Jacob Hakkola
Jacob Hakkola

Michigan Tech alumnus Dr. Jacob Hakkola recently joined the vascular and interventional radiology team at UP Health System-Marquette. The story was covered by the Mining Journal. Dr. Hakkola, an Escanaba native, attended college at Michigan Technological University to major in electrical engineering. As an engineer, he worked to develop MRI-compatible pacemakers and was introduced to the field of radiology.

Dan Heldt
Dan Heldt

Michigan Tech alumnus Dan Heldt has been named Chief Financial Officer of LHB in Duluth, Minnesota. The story was covered by Business North. He holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Shawn Vij
Shawn Vij

Michigan Tech alumnus Shawn Vij ’05, was featured in the article “Author, Shawn Vij hits ‘rewind’ on Old Bollywood Values,” on Yahoo.com. He holds an MBA from Purdue University, MS in Engineering from the University of Michigan and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Vij was featured in the article, “Global Business Leader, Shawn Vij Talks About Conscious Capitalism as a New Movement for India Inc.” in Outlook India.

Jacob Heck
Jacob Heck

Michigan Tech alumnus Jacob Heck ’05 surveying engineering, was listed in Outlook 2020s 40 under 40. The list was featured in the Dec. 31 issue of xyHt.com.


Integrity Matters.

Five on a Treasure Island, by English author Enid Blyton, the first book in The Famous Five series.

Integrity matters. 

I learned about integrity from my parents, and from my teachers. I do remember a young-age incident, around first or second grade. My older sister and I broke into a locked room in our rented house (Olinbury House in Sussex, England) which held a treasure of books that we wanted to read. We knew we should not enter that room. However, we could see through the keyhole more books, in the very same enchanting series we loved. This was around 1968. Books still ruled the day—and we were already spending 100 percent of our allowance on books to read. So that was the temptation, more books. 

In the scullery, we noticed a set of keys that we tried against this locked room. In the bathtub, while reading this book, as my mother could not tear me away from it, somehow the truth came out.  Later that evening, I was punished a multiple factor more than I would have been, because of not being truthful about where I had “found” the book. My poor older sister was punished even more than me, “as she should have known better.” She was 9, and I was 7. 

I strongly remember another incident, in sixth grade. We were a set of students at different levels, all “learning” math (without actual instruction). I had fallen behind, and so I faked my homework, copying the answers from the back of the book. Mercifully, I was caught by the teacher, checking my work. I found this incident profoundly disturbing, and I remember feeling ashamed of myself. It was then, about age 11, that I fully realized it was my own decision what sort of integrity I would possess, across my life. In that moment, I believe, my character was set.

Fast forward. Throughout this past year, I’ve been in frequent correspondence with one of our engineering alumni. He lives in California and regularly sends me clippings from the LA Times concerning the admissions scandals at USC. While I do understand parents being concerned about their child’s education, I do not understand how a parent would compromise not only their own, but also their child’s integrity, out of a desire to have them be admitted to a university on a basis other than their own merit.

At Michigan Tech—of course, as you know—no one can earn a degree except through their own work. With this comes character. Along with character comes  confidence, courage, and conviction in the knowledge that with enough time and resourcesyou can do pretty much anything.

The picture below is from our Department of Mechanical Engineering’s senior dinner, where soon-to-be-graduates make an obligation to themselves to uphold the standards of the engineering profession, known as The Order of The Engineer.

Order of the Engineer ceremony, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University.

That evening, in my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Tech, I participated as well:

“As an Engineer, I, Janet Callahan, pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect; and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth’s precious wealth. As an Engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give my utmost.”

Now, if you’re interested in taking this oath (if you haven’t already) and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2019

Tim Swanson
Tim Swanson

Michigan Tech alumnus Tim Swanson was named CEO of Bettcher Industries. Located in Birmingham, Ohio, the company makes equipment for food processing, foodservice, industrial, medical and other uses. The story was reported in several publications including Crain’s Cleveland Business, the National Provisioner and Benzinga. Swanson earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in operations management both from Michigan Tech.

Erik Alburg
Erik Alburg

Lawnbot.biz, a sales and payment platform for outdoor home services, named Michigan Tech alumnus Erik Alburg as the company’s first chief technical officer (CTO). Before joining Lawnbot, Alburg was the product manager and engineering manager at Modustri, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based IOT startup. Prior to Modustri, Alburg was the head of development at Thinaire. He has a BS in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech.

Joe Taddeucci
Joe Taddeucci

Alumnus Joe Taddeucci has been named Director of Public Works for Utilities for the city of Boulder, Colorado. Taddeucci joined the City of Boulder in 2005 as an engineering project manager and was promoted to Water Resources manager in 2012. Prior to joining the city, he was an engineering consultant for 15 years. Taddeucci holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumnus Tim Pozsgai was featured in the story “Medway High School Students Share Stories to Honor Local Veterans,” in the Medway Wicked Local (Massachusetts). Pozsgai grew up in Trenton, Michigan, and enlisted as an electrician. Pozsgai spent four years on active duty in the Navy, deploying to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. When his enlistment was up, Pozsgai decided not to re-enlist and attended Michigan Technological University where he earned a degree in electrical engineering, supported by the G.I. Bill.

Lori Lange
Lori Lange

Michigan Tech alumna Lori Lange ’96, has joined the engineering team of the City of Brentwood, Tennessee. She previously was the Construction Director with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Lange graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Civil Engineering degree from Michigan Technological University.

Kristen Mariuzza
Kristen Mariuzza

With organizational changes within Lundin Mining, CEE alumna and PCA member Kristen Dolkey-Mariuzza has accepted the position of Vice President – Environment & Social Performance. Kristen is currently employed with Lundin Mining as the Eagle Mine Managing Director. Mariuzza is a licensed professional engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Shawn Vij
Shawn Vij

Michigan Tech alumnus Shawn Vij ’92, was the subject of the article “Author Shawn Vij Talks About Corporate Success in his upcoming book,” in The Statesman, one of India’s oldest English newspapers. As Vij clearly states, “It is about ‘being’ a conscious business that raises the overall human condition.” It is not about philanthropy, charity, or corporate social responsibility but rather about always being a conscious business. It’s about each of us doing the right thing always. Vij holds an MBA from Purdue University; MS in Engineering from the University of Michigan and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University. Vij was the subject of the article “India’s Moral Fiber in Business,” in International Business Times. As Global Business Leader, Shawn Vij argues in his new book, Moral Fiber – A Practical Guide to Living Our Values, companies that anchor on a higher purpose achieve greater results.

James A. Morrison is part of a team that received the 2019 Best in Small Projects Award by the Design-Build Institute of America at #DBIACON. The project involved the rearmoring of the 9-foot sediment bypass tunnel at Mud Mountain Dam in King County, Washington. Morrison, Vice President of COWI, has a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from Michigan Tech.

Doug Parks
Doug Parks

Doug Parks, a longtime General Motors engineer who oversees its autonomous and electric-vehicle programs, will become the automaker’s global product development and purchasing chief. Parks joined GM as a tooling engineer shortly after graduating from Michigan Technological University in 1984 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. His career included time as chief engineer of the Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet Cobalt and Chevy Volt. He was promoted to vice president of global product programs under Barra when she was the head of product development.

Thomas Stout
Thomas Stout

HDR has hired Thomas Stout to be part of the advanced technologies for surface transportation practice as the inductive pavement leader. This emerging practice uses inductive charging technology to wirelessly charge stationary and in-motion vehicles. “Vehicle electrification and automation go hand-in-hand and present many exciting opportunities,” Stout said. Stout has a doctorate in computer engineering from North Carolina State University and received his master’s and bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University in electrical engineering and computer engineering respectively.

Michigan Tech Alumnus Jung-Hoe Hopgood ’99, was mentioned in the article regarding the Keystone XL hearing in Pierre, South Dakota. Hopgood, a senior engineer with EXP Global Inc. out of Florida, was accepted by the board as an expert witness during Tuesday’s meeting in Pierre. The story appeared in the Daily Republic. Hopgood earned an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering from Michigan Technological University before earning a masters degree in business administration from Ohio State University

Matt Smorch
Matt Smorch

Michigan Tech alumnus Matt Smorch ’89 has been named president and CEO of CountryMark. Scorch earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and joined CountryMark in 2001. CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining and marketing company. The story appeared in Morning Ag Clips.

Rachael Barlock
Rachael Barlock

Rachael Barlock has received the 2019 Young Professional of the Year Award from the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association. Barlock has demonstrated her facilitation and leadership skills working with water providers along the Huron-to-Erie Corridor in the update of the drinking water monitoring network. She holds a BS in environmental engineering and an MS in civil engineering from Michigan Tech.

Julie Neph
Julie Neph

The Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) has found its new chief bridge engineer: longtime Assistant Bridge Engineer Julie Neph. Neph, who has been with the MBA for the majority of her career, will begin her new role on Nov. 3. Neph has been responsible for management of a variety of both in-house and contracted projects for the maintenance of the Mackinac Bridge and facilities. She keeps 4 million motorists safe every year. She and Executive Secretary Kim Nowack represent the MBA as members of the International Cable Supported Bridge Operators Association. Neph joined the MBA after one year in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Engineering Development Program. She graduated from Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. Her hometown is Sanford, and she currently lives in Cheboygan with her husband, Dave. They have two sons who are both currently attending college.

Denise Rizzo
Denise Rizzo

Denise Rizzo (ME-EM PhD 2014) was elected fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for 2019. Dr. Rizzo is Senior Research Mechanical Engineer at the U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), formally U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research and Development Engineering Center (TARDEC)

Don Njegovan
Don Njegovan

Michigan Tech alumnus Don Njegovan was featured in the article “Osisko Mining Appoints Mr Don Njegovan as COO,” In Steel Guru. In his role as Chief Operating Officer, Mr Don will have overall responsibility for coordinating the feasibility study for the Windfall Project, organization of the development of mining activities and leadership of the mining team for Osisko. Njegovan holds a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Michigan Technological University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba.

Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus Keith A. Foerster was featured in the article “Lazydays Names Foerster VP of Service Operations,” in RVBusiness. According to a press release, Foerster joins Lazydays from Heraeus Medical Components, where he served as president and general manager of North and Central America Operations and led a team of 800 employees in four operating locations.

Brandon Maurisak
Brandon Maurisak

Civil Engineering alumnus Brandon Maurisak is one of Mass Transit’s 40 Under 40. Mass Transit Magazine recognizes 40 young individuals each year that are making a name in the public transit industry. Public transit and rail electives were offered as part of the civil engineering degree program at Michigan Tech, which Maurisak credits for exposing him to characteristics of transit modes, route planning and system operations. His early exposure to rail transit and his professional life came full circle when, in 2013, following his recruitment by AECOM, he worked on the design of an extension of the system kick started by the Hiawatha.

Jason Markesino
Jason Markesino

Michigan Tech alumnus Jason Markesino was featured in the article “2019 Engineering Leader Under 40: Jason Markesino, 37,” in Control Engineering. Markesino has a BS in Mechanical Engineering with Robotics and Automation Emphasis from Michigan Tech. In 2013, Jason became the lead electrical mentor of Team RUSH, a FIRST Robotics Team.

Karl Haapala
Karl Haapala

Michigan Tech alumnus Karl Haapala, ’01, 03 ’08, was featured in the article “OSU Researchers Discuss Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing and New Sustainable Development Methodology,” in AdditiveManufacturing.com. Haapala is an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University, where he directs the Industrial Sustainability Lab and serves as Assistant Director of the OSU Industrial Assessment Center. He received his BS (2001) and MS (2003) in Mechanical Engineering, and his PhD (2008) in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an NSF IGERT trainee, all from Michigan Technological University.


You’re invited: Write a Guest Blog for the Michigan Tech College of Engineering News

Photo of white old fashioned typewriter on an old wooden desk or tabletop.
Remember these? We sure do! Photo by Bernard Hermant.

Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumnus Charles L. Hand ’62 recently authored a guest blog, Circumnavigating Lake Superior, featured on the College of Engineering news website. Now that Chuck has paved the way with his wonderful article, we hope more alumni will want to do the same!

If you are a Michigan Tech engineering alumni, and you’d like to share a story on our news blog, please email your idea and/or article to Kimberly Geiger, outreach coordinator in the College of Engineering, kmgeiger@mtu.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

 


Michigan Tech Alum Sirak Seyoum Attempts Mount Everest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing the Geneva Spu with oxygen mask onr, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Crossing the Geneva Spur, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.

Seyoum at Camp 2 holding up a big blue flag that says Walia prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum's climbing sponsors.
Seyoum at Camp 2 prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum’s climbing sponsors.

April 2019: Sirak Seyoum at High Camp Lobuche, Nepal

Sirak stands with backpack at Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, "Way to Everest Base Camp".
At Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, “Way to Everest Base Camp”.

Sirak with heavy backpack n the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.

On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, Seyoum takes a final selfie
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, a final selfie

Sirak Seyoum with fellow climbers Keval Kakka and Avtandil Tsintsadze in Lobuche, Nepal.

A previous climb: Sirak in the lead on Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)

Sirak Seyoum waves the Ethiopian flag atop Mt Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Atop Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)

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

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

MEXICO
Nevada de Toluca, 4680 meters

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

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

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

 


Expanded Online Engineering Programs, Certificates, and Course Offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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