Category: Alumni

Lindsay Hiltunen: Winter Carnival—One Hundred Years

Michigan Tech’s legendary Winter Carnival will soon take place—for the 100th time—February 9–12, 2022. This historical snow statue is an old Quincy shaft house. Source: Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
Lindsay Hiltunen

Linday Hiltunen shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, January 24 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 1/24 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Lindsay Hiltunen, Michigan Tech’s University Archivist.

Cynthia Hodges

During Husky Bites Hiltunen will share the history of Winter Carnival, one of Michigan Tech’s most beloved traditions across the decades, through rich images of fun and festivities via the Michigan Tech Archives–from queens to cookouts, snow statues to snowballs, skating reviews to dog sled races, and more. Michigan Tech’s legendary Winter Carnival will take place this year for the 100th time February 9–12, 2022.

Joining in will be mechanical engineering alumna Cynthia Hodges, who serves as a Wikipedian in Residence (WiR) for Michigan Tech. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, Hodges is organizing a Winter Carnival Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, and alumni and students are welcome to help. (Find out how at the end of this blog).


Ice Carnival Elyfunt, circa 1924. Source: Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

It all began back in 1922, when a student organization presented a one-night Ice Carnival. The show consisted of circus-style acts, with students dressed up in animal costumes, bands playing, and speed and figure-skating contests. Twelve years later, in 1934, students in Michigan Tech’s Blue Key National Honor Society began organizing the event, changing the name from “Ice Carnival” to “Winter Carnival”. Students and local school children built their first snow statues that year, and the tradition grew. So did the statues, becoming bigger and more elaborate with each passing year.

Hiltunen is a Michigan Tech alumna and current PhD student with two master’s degrees in library science and United States history. She’s a trustee to the Historical Society of Michigan’s Board of Directors, chair of the Society of American Archivists Oral History Section, and vice president-president elect of the Michigan Archival Association (she’ll become MAA president in June 2022).

Lindsay, how did you first get involved in library science? What sparked your interest?

From the Daily Mining Gazette: “Snowballs Fly South,” to promote Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival back in 1969. Blue Key members load snowballs for airlift to Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, Texas. Donor: Robert Skuggen. Source: Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

I’ve had an interest in libraries and history since a young age. My grandfather was a history professor at Michigan Tech and the first lay president at what is now Finlandia University. The sunroom at my grandparents’ house on Summit Street was my favorite place; one wall of windows and three walls of history books from floor to ceiling. Anytime I was there to visit I would steal away to the sunroom and read and dream for hours. It wasn’t until I attended Michigan Tech as an undergrad and obtained student employment in the archives (then on the 3rd floor of the library) that I knew what an archivist did. I credit my grandpa for the spark and former university archivist, Erik Nordberg for showing me the path to library school.

My library career fully began at the District of Columbia Public Library as a library technician. I became an archivist at Michigan Tech in 2014, and University Archivist in May 2016. As a side note, I’m proud to say I’m now the steward of my grandpa Dave’s impressive book collection.

Hometown and family?

“I’m still an avid hockey fan,” says Hiltunen. “I love to blog and write about hockey. One of my articles was recently published in the 2021 Legends magazine, the official publication of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.”

I grew up in Tamarack City and graduated from Dollar Bay High School. My mom was an avid artist and my dad is the former director of a local social services coordinating agency. I have two brothers and one sister; all but one of us are Huskies. (The one who didn’t go to Michigan Tech has two husky dogs as pets, so that counts for something.)

We grew up playing every sport under the sun. Those sports we didn’t play, we were spectators of, took books and stats, or ran the clock. In the SDC ice rink and Dee stadium I was a competitive figure skater (ice dancing and synchronized skating) and coach. Off-ice practice was just as good because we got to watch the MTU hockey players practice, then attend games with dad and grandpa.

I’m also proud to note that my husband of 17 years, Tom, is a Michigan Tech alum (EE 2005.) He now works as a Primary Patent Examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

 “I even competed at the Nationals for Michigan Tech’s synchro skating team in 2001,” says Hiltunen. “We placed 8th in our national debut.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My vinyl collection has been a passion since I was a teenager. I have over 5,000 LPs and I’m on the lookout for new records all the time. I love to read for my PhD program and also for fun, so nine times out of ten there is a book within an arm’s reach. Painting and drawing bring me a lot of peace.  And I have three pets: A blue point Siamese cat, Little Nero, and two Weimaraners, Otto and Frankenstein. Our home on Keweenaw Bay also has many resident critters, including Swift the fox who runs by nightly, a few bald eagles that troll the shoreline, and many chickadees, finches, jays, and cardinals at our garden feeders. I consider them all friends!

Cynthia, how did you first get involved in engineering? What sparked your interest? 

Cynthia Hodges was inducted into Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae in 1996

I received a scholarship to attend Women In Engineering at Michigan Tech in the summer of 1981 when I was a junior in high school, through Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Program. At that time, it was one of the few programs of its kind to encourage women to study engineering. 

After graduating with my BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering, I began a 32-year career at Ford Motor Company, working as a product test engineer in their durability engineering laboratory. I spent much of my career at Ford involved in chassis engineering, designing fuel and steering systems, suspension, tires, wheels, and brakes for many Ford cars and trucks. 

“When people ask me what has changed my life, WIE did,” says Michigan Tech alumna Cynthia Hodges. That’s her in the center, shaking hands with former Michigan Tech president, Glen Mroz.

Family and hometown?

My hometown is Warren, Michigan. My husband, Andrew Hodges, earned a BS in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech in 1989. My son, Edward, is also an alum–he earned his BS in Forestry in 2019. My daughter, Jane, is a graphic designer. We tried to convince her to go to Michigan Tech as well, but there is no Bachelor of Fine Arts program. She went to Eastern Michigan University.

Hodges has a site on Etsy, Mom’s Kitchen Vintage, where you can find vintage cookbooks, retro glass kitchen magnets, Michigan Tech pillowcases, and even Pasty earrings!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to cook, sew, read and sing, and enjoy the outdoors in the Keweenaw—especially skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. 

How did you and Lindsay become friends?

That is interesting! We started out as facebook friends, because we have a lot of friends in common. I only met her in real life recently, but have admired her work for a long time. I really like history and enjoy visiting the Michigan Tech archives to research old recipes for my food blog, motherskitchen.blogspot.com

Hodges has been writing her blog since 2006. “I love cooking and the lost domestic arts like home canning and sewing. You know, the stuff they used to teach in home economics. Ironically, I hate housework.”

A few years ago Lindsay did an excellent presentation about the history of women at Michigan Tech for the Presidential Council of Alumnae. I am happy to count her as a friend, and excited to work on projects with her, too.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Winter Carnival, we will be improving Michigan Tech Winter Carnival information on Wikipedia. Alumni and students are welcome to help. If you are interested, please contact me at chodges@mtu.edu.

This year’s 100th Carnival logo was designed for Winter Carnival 2022 by civil engineering student Rachel May

Read more

History—and Awards—Run in the Family
Michigan Tech Archivists Preserve the Past for the Future
Ford Motor Company Donates Support for Women in Engineering Scholarships

Winter Carnival 2022: Meet the Dean

Coming to Michigan Tech for Winter Carnival this year? Stop by the Dean’s office to warm up with some hot cocoa and snowflake cookies on Friday, February 11, from 1-4 pm.

Come meet Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. Everyone’s welcome!

The College of Engineering dean’s office area is located on the 7th floor of the M&M (Minerals & Materials) building, room 712. The M&M, a newer building, has two parts connected by an overhead walkway. We’re on the water side of the walkway, just to the west/northwest of Douglass Houghton Hall.

Kanwal Rekhi Receives Michigan Tech’s Highest Honor: Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction

Kanwal Rekhi talking with students at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo

Kanwal Rekhi, a visionary who routinely works to forward entrepreneurial skills and educational opportunities at Michigan Tech and around the world, received the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction during mid-year Commencement in December. The medal is awarded to individuals associated with Michigan Tech who, like its Nobel prize-winning namesake, have exhibited extraordinarily distinguished professional and personal accomplishments. Rekhi, who earned his master’s in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969, is managing director of Inventus Capital Partners in California.

The native of Punjab, in what was then British India (now Pakistan), earned a master’s in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969. In the more than half a century since his time on campus, MTU has never been far from Rekhi’s thoughts–and generosity.

After leaving Michigan Tech, Rekhi worked as an engineer and manager before becoming an entrepreneur. In 1982, he co-founded Excelan, a company that made Ethernet cards to connect PCs to the fledgling Internet. Excelean became the first Indian-owned company to go public in the U.S. In the early 90s, he became a venture capitalist investing in more than 50 startups and sitting on the board of directors of more than 20 companies.

In the past few decades, Rekhi has been a tireless supporter and benefactor to Michigan Tech. He developed and funded the Rekhi Innovation Challenge, a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation. He provided major funding for the Silicon Valley Experience, an immersive tour during spring break of San Francisco area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni, and is a sponsor of the 14 Floors Entrepreneur Alumni Mentoring Sessions.

Additionally, every student who has walked the Michigan Tech campus in the past 15 years has passed the Kanwal and Ann Rekhi Computer Science Hall, dedicated in April of 2005.

The Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction is bestowed on individuals associated with the University who have exhibited especially distinguished professional and personal accomplishments. It is named for 1931 Michigan Tech alumnus Melvin Calvin, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for unraveling the biochemical secrets of photosynthesis. The series of biochemical reactions Calvin identified is known as the Calvin Cycle.

“Kanwal and his accomplishments epitomize the values we share as an institution. His passion for Michigan Tech is unparalleled and he is most deserving of this award.”

Rick Koubek, President, Michigan Technological University

While the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction is Michigan Tech’s highest honor, it is far from the first recognition the University has given Rekhi. He has received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Board of Control Silver Medal, an honorary Doctorate in Business and Engineering, and was inducted into the Electrical Engineering Academy.

Husky Bites Starts Up Again on Monday, January 24!

Join us for a Bite!

Craving some brain food, but not a full meal? Join us for a bite at mtu.edu/huskybites!

Grab some dinner with College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan and special guests at 6 p.m. (ET) each Monday during Husky Bites, a free interactive Zoom webinar, followed by Q&A. Have some fun, and learn something new. Everyone is welcome!

Husky Bites is a free family-friendly webinar that nourishes your mind. The Spring 2022 series kicks off this Monday (January 24) with “Winter Carnival—One Hundred Years,” presented by University Archivist and alumna Lindsay Hiltunen. From queens to cookouts, snow statues to snowballs, skating reviews to dog sled races, discover the history of Winter Carnival across the decades, through rich images of fun and festivities via the Michigan Tech Archives. Joining in will be mechanical engineering alumna Cynthia Hodges, who serves as a Wikipedian in Residence (WiR) for Michigan Tech. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, she is organizing a Winter Carnival Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, and alumni and students are welcome to help. 

Check out the full Spring 2022 “menu” at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Dean Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with ‘quizzes’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll) during the session. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. Entire families enjoy it. We have prizes, too, for attendance.” 

The series features special guests—engineering professors, students, and even some Michigan Tech alumni, who each share a mini lecture, or “bite”. During Husky Bites, special guests also weave in their own personal journey in engineering, science and more.

Have you joined us yet for Husky Bites? We’d love to hear from you. Join Husky Bites a little early on Zoom, starting at 5:45 pm, for some extra conversation. Write your comments, questions or feedback in Chat. Or stay after for the Q&A. Sometimes faculty get more than 50 questions, but they do their best to answer them all, either during the session, or after, via email.

“Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity).”

Dean Janet Callahan

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites. Check out past sessions, there, too. You can also catch Husky Bites on the College of Engineering Facebook page.

Engineering Alumni Activity Spring 2022

Christine Andrews
Christine Andrews

A profile story featuring Michigan Tech alumna Christine Andrews ’06 ’12 (mechanical engineering, Tech MBA) was posted on GE Aviation’s blog. Andrews is a leader in a cooperative project between GE Aviation and NASA to develop a technology demonstration of a hybrid electric engine for commercial aircraft. After graduating from Michigan Technological University, she worked for Gulfstream Aerospace as both a certification engineer and a structural engineer until 2013, when she joined GE Aviation to be closer to family in Cincinnati.

Anurag Kamal
Anurag Kamal

Alumnus Anurag Kamal ’18 (MS, mechanical engineering) is one of 10 standouts featured by Forbes in a story on this year’s 30 Under 30 who are leading the green energy transition. Kamal co-founded ElectricFish, the company behind a containerized combination battery backup system and EV charger that can connect into existing, ubiquitous electrical infrastructure.

Amy Trahey
Amy Trahey

The ACEC 57th Annual Engineering & Surveying Excellence Award Gala was held on March 19, 2022. Amy Trahey, ’94 Civil Engineering alumnus, was presented the ACEC/M Vernon B. Spalding Leadership Award to honor her outstanding leadership roles in ACEC and several community organizations. Trahey is founder of the Great Lakes Engineering Group.

Wesley Davis
Wesley Davis

A Q&A with Michigan Tech alumnus Wesley Davis (civil engineering) was published by Civil Engineering Magazine in “Passion and communication are key to a successful career.” Davis is the principal engineer at Bogart, Pederson & Associates, a 25-person transportation firm in Becker, Minnesota. At an age of just 31, Wesley P. Davis, P.E., M.ASCE, has progressed quickly in his career as a roadway and transportation engineer.

Chaitanya Bhat
Chaitanya Bhat

Michigan Tech alumnus Chaitanya Bhat was profiled in Asphalt Magazine. Bhat is the Asphalt Institute’s (AI) first sustainability engineer. He completed his PhD in civil engineering in 2020 advised by Amlan Mukherjee (CEGE). One major project for Chait will be to collaborate with AI members and agencies to guide AI’s efforts to update and enhance their Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) models for asphalt binders, binder additives and modifiers.

Todd Brassard
Todd Brassard

Michigan Tech alumnus Todd Brassard of Calumet Electronics was quoted by Forbes in a story on the need to rebuild the nation’s domestic microelectronics ecosystem. “Whoever can build the highest density, highest speed systems is going to win,” Brassard asserts. Brassard has a BS in Electrical Engineering.

The Portage Lake Bridge

Portage Lift Bridge, Hancock, Michigan

An ASCE National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

Dr. Tess Ahlborn

Located a little more than a stone’s throw from the Michigan Tech campus, the Portage Lake Bridge connects the cities of Houghton and Hancock, Michigan. The Lift Bridge was named as an ASCE National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in late 2019, following a State Historic Landmark designation in mid 2019.

The Michigan Tech trio who submitted its 300-page application to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) includes Professor Tess Ahlborn and two of her former students, Michael Prast ’19, now a timber structural engineer at Fire Tower Engineered Timber in Calumet, Michigan; and Emma Beachy ‘19, a design engineer at Corbin Consulting in Portland, Oregon. Both earned both their BS and MS degrees in civil engineering at Michigan Tech.

Emma Beachy wearing patterned knit capstands in front of a waterfall in the wood.
Emma Beachy ’19

“Emma and Michael are two of Michigan Tech’s best students,” says Ahlborn. “I mentioned the topic of National Historic Landmarks during Bridge Design class, and let the class know I would be delighted if someone wanted to work on a nomination application for the Portage Lake Bridge. It didn’t take long for Emma and Michael to speak up, and the rest is history. I can’t thank them enough for taking on this project and seeing it through the application process.”

Prof. Ahlborn is a Michigan Tech alum, too. She earned her BS and MS at Michigan Tech, then went to the University of Minnesota to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy in Civil Engineering in 1998. She’s been a member of the faculty at Michigan Tech for the past 26 years, teaching structural engineering courses focusing on concrete and the design of concrete buildings and bridges.

Michael leans at a wooden deck looking out over a harbor on Lake Superior with sailboats
-Michael Prast ’19

Ahlborn has a passion for bridges, something that began when she was quite small. “Growing up, I once told my mom I loved bridges. After that, she started taking me to look at a different bridge each week. Michigan has such beautiful bridges!”

“Bridges are structural art! A piece of art fully exposed to the elements. They involve so many people every day.”

Prof. Tess Ahlborn

As the former Director of the Center for Structural Durability within the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute, Ahlborn has worked with the MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) and USDOT (US Department of Transportation) to seek solutions to improve resiliency of our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

In 2020, Ahlborn was appointed to the American Concrete Institute Committee 318, placing her in the small group of people who establish the ACI structural concrete building code used around the world, a “Supreme Court” of concrete, if you will.

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. As a member of the committee, Ahlborn helps to chart the future of structural concrete—its safety, sustainability, technological advances and environmental impacts.

Ahlborn is also a world expert in remote sensing applications for bridge condition assessment.

As for her secrets to good teaching, she insists there aren’t any. “All you have to do is be fair and consistent and crack a joke once in a while,” said Ahlborn.

Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2021

Mike Pulick Jr.
Mike Pulick Jr.

Michigan Tech class of 2021 celebrates midyear commencement with speaker Mike Pulick Jr. Pulick built an exceptional career through developing the business leadership skills he first learned at Tech. The 1986 electrical engineering (EE) graduate also knows about following in family footsteps — and in his case, those steps led to extraordinary family ties with Michigan Tech.

Eugene Manley, Jr.
Eugene Manley, Jr.

Michigan Tech alumnus Eugene Manley Jr. discussed science, mentoring and STEM diversity as a “brilliant but not famous” guest on the Research Evangelist podcast. He is Director, Scientific Programs at the Lung Cancer Research Foundation. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Technological University, a masters in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and PhD in Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemstry from Boston University.

Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison

Civil Engineering ’81 BS, ’82 MS alumnus Jim Morrison has joined STV Incorporated as VP and engineering chief for tunneling and geotechnical engineering. In this role, Morrison will serve as a project lead and senior advisor on projects with geotechnical and tunneling elements.

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

The appointment of MTU alumnus Eric Roberts (‘93 ME-EM) as the new executive director of 20Fathoms was featured in the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Roberts said 20Fathoms has more than 90 members, a record high. 20Fathoms also taught more than 250 people skills — often virtually — through its HealthSpark Accelerator, tccodes and tccyber through a pandemic.

Bo Chen: What’s next, NEXTCAR?

Bo Chen shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Bo Chen is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech. She’s been a visiting Professor at Argonne National Laboratory, and was named ASME Fellow in 2020.

What’s next, NEXTCAR? What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/15 at 6 pm ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Bo Chen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech.

During Husky Bites, Prof. Chen and one of her former students, alum Dr. Joe Oncken, will share how engineers go about designing and creating the crucial elements of an all-electric vehicle ecosystem. Oncken earned his PhD at Michigan Tech—he’s now a postdoctoral researcher at Idaho National Lab.

Chen and her research team at Michigan Tech envision an all-electric future. They develop advanced control algorithms to build the nation’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure and highly efficient hybrid electric vehicles, integrating with advanced sensing technologies that allow for predictive control in real time. These technologies enable the kind of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication that will reduce our nation’s energy consumption. 

Drs. Chen and Oncken among the fleet, outside at the APSRC.

Throughout her career Chen has made major contributions in the field of embedded systems, developing cutting-edge applications for hybrid-electric and electric autonomous systems. 

One of Chen’s courses at Michigan Tech, Model-based Embedded Control System Design, is regularly in high demand, not only by ME students but also EE students. “This is a testament to her teaching ability and the importance of the topic,” says ME-EM department chair Bill Predebon.

Chen’s Intelligent Mechatronics and Embedded Systems Lab is located on the 5th floor of the ME-EM building. But she spends a good deal of time working on NEXTCAR research at the Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APSRC), located a few miles from campus near the Houghton Memorial Airport.

“Vehicles that are both connected and automated—two paradigm-shifting technologies—will soon become vital for the improvement of safety, mobility, and efficiency of our transportation systems.”

Bo Chen

In 2016 the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $2.5M to Michigan Tech for NEXTCAR research. The project—led by ME-EM Professor Jeff Naber as PI and Co-PIs Chen, Darrell Robinette, Mahdi Shahbakhti, and Kuilin Zhang—developed and demonstrated their energy reduction technologies using a fleet of eight Gen II Chevy Volt plug-in-hybrid vehicles (aka PHEVs).

The team tested the fleet on a 24-mile test loop to showcase energy optimization, forecasting, and controls—including vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

“The rich information provided by connectivity—and the capability of on-board intelligent controls—are shifting the old way (reactive and isolated vehicle/powertrain control) to the new way (predictive, cooperative, and integrated vehicle dynamics and powertrain control),” Chen explains.

Michigan Tech’s NEXTCAR research delivers direct implementation of engineering solutions, tested within the realities of on-road conditions.

Oncken is a hands-on engineer, but not all of his graduate research at Michigan Tech was done under the hood of a hybrid-electric vehicle. In an effort to maximize fuel efficiency in the fleet’s Chevy Volts, he worked with Chen where the car’s digital and mechanical parts meet—powertrain control. He looked at future driving conditions, such as changing traffic lights, and modified the vehicle’s powertrain operation to use the minimum amount of fuel.

Working in Chen’s lab, Oncken used Simulink software to develop a model, specifically looking at predictive controller design. That means when a traffic signal turns red, a self-driving vehicle not only knows to stop, but also gets directions on the best way to slow down and minimize fuel use. 

Oncken would simulate this in the Simulink model, embed the program into the Chevy Volt, then test it using five upgraded traffic signals in Houghton that rely on dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) to talk directly to the car’s programming.

By the end of the NEXTCAR project, the Michigan Tech team had achieved a 21 percent reduction in energy consumption.

All in a day’s work for Dr. Joe Oncken
Dr. Chen with her graduate students at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Now, with new funding from ARPA-E for NEXTCAR II, the team shifts to a broader application of vehicles with level 4 and 5 of autonomy. They will seek to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent this time in the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica and further apply the savings to the RAM 1500 and the Chevy Bolt—while also considering level 4 and 5 automation to gain efficiencies. 

Naber and Chen, along with Grant Ovist, Jeremy Bos, Darrell Robinette, Basha Dudekula and several more graduate students now work together on NEXTCAR II with another round of funding worth $4.5M. They’ll maintain vehicles in multiple locations, both on the Michigan Tech campus and at American Center for Mobility (ACM) for road testing. ACM is a partner in the project, along with Stellantis and GM.

Prof. Chen, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I was attracted by the power of automation and controls. It is currently affecting every aspect of our lives. I want to make contributions specifically to advance the automation technologies.

In her spare time, Dr. Chen likes to work out and travel. Here she’s in Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Hometown, family?

I was raised in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province in China. I lived in Davis, California for 8 years while earning my PhD at the University of California-Davis. My daughter loves snowboarding and lives in New Jersey.

Dr. Oncken, where did you grow up?

I grew up with my parents and two sisters in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I earned my BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of North Dakota in 2016. I came to Michigan Tech to earn my PhD soon after, and graduated in 2020.

How did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

There wasn’t any one moment that made me decide to get into engineering. It was more of a process throughout my childhood. Growing up, I was always interested in how things work. My dad is very mechanically inclined so he was alway fixing things around the house and woodworking, so that launched my interest as a young kid. At that time he worked for John Deere, so I got to spend time sitting in tractors and combines, something that will spark any 5 year old’s interest in mechanical things. 

In high school, I also worked for a John Deere dealer. Another job I had involved the technical side (lighting, sound, and set building) of theater and concert productions. While these may seem like two different worlds, they both gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how machinery and large technical systems operate. Together they made me want to pursue a career where I’d be the one designing how things work. 

Finally, living in a university town, there were lots of opportunities to tour the University of North Dakota’s engineering school and see what students got to work on, opportunities that cemented my desire to go into engineering myself.

Joe, out on the Tech Trails.

Any hobbies? Pets?

My main hobby is anything outdoors. I spend my free time mountain biking in the summer, skiing in the winter—and hiking when I’m not doing one of the previous two things.

I also really enjoy cooking and wood working. I don’t currently have any pets, but I did grow up with dogs. I will have a dog of my own sooner rather than later!

Read More

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Alumni Gift of Advanced 3D Metal Printer Now Up and Running at Michigan Tech

One of the first test prints on Michigan Tech’s new 3D metal printer: intricate little fish.

A gift from Alumni, Michigan Tech’s highly-advanced 3D metal printer—a 3D Systems ProX350—arrived last March. It’s now up and running, able to process 11 unique metals, including bio-grade titanium (for biomedical applications), cobalt and chromium, several types of stainless steel, and more. With a resolution of 5 microns, this new large printer is state-of-the-art. 

Obtaining the new 3D printer was made possible by the generosity of Michigan Tech alumni. ME-EM Department Chair Bill Predebon received a 20 percent discount on the $875K system from Scarlett Inc. The owner of Scarlett Inc, Jim Scarlett, is a mechanical engineering alumnus. 

In addition to Scarlett, several other alumni donors pitched in. One anonymous donor provided over $600K , and five others have 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.

ME-EM department chair Bill Predebon and mechanical engineering alum Jim Scarlett

“Very few universities have a 3D metal printer of this quality and versatility,” says Predebon. “It is one of the most accurate metal 3D 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,” says Predebon.

“We can use our own metal powders, as well,” adds Predebon. “That’s a huge plus. Michigan Tech researchers, particularly those focused on materials development, can use the printer to deposit experimental metal compositions to produce unique metal alloys customized specifically for the 3D printing process.”

Faculty and graduate students at Michigan Tech will have access to the 3D metal printer for research projects. Undergraduate students working on senior design projects and student-run Enterprise teams will, too.

The process is direct metal printing, or DMP, and it’s a type of additive manufacturing, Predebon explains. “You start with metal powders, and from those you create the final metal part. You’re adding a material—in this case, metal—bit by bit. Traditional manufacturing is all about subtracting: taking metal away to make a part. This is the inverse, and it’s a game changer. You can do so much more this way.”

“For many industries—including medical, automotive and aerospace—3D metal printing is a game changer. Here on campus it will be a game changer for Michigan Tech faculty and students, too.” 

William Predebon, Chair, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Very few universities yet have a system with this sophistication and quality, notes Predebon. 

The benefit for Michigan Tech students, Predebon says, is competitive advantage. “When our students interview for a job, they will be able to communicate how they’ve been able to produce parts in a way very similar to what industry is doing. Some companies have metal 3D printers worth millions of dollars. In industry, engineers can use one of those to print out an entire engine block,” he says. “When Michigan Tech graduates see one on out in industry, the 3D metal printer might be larger, but they will already be familiar with the type of system.”

According to Materials Science and Engineering Professor Steve Kampe, development of additive manufacturing of metals represents a huge opportunity that will be prominent in manufacturing for generations to come. “It is a transformative technology in engineering,” says Kampe. “Using 3D printing to create metallic components poses huge challenges; but the potential benefits are enormous.”

“Metal additive manufacturing along with polymer additive processes are industry 4.0 topics included in Michigan Tech’s online graduate certificate in Manufacturing Engineering,” adds Professor John Irwin, chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology. “It is very fortunate for us to have this metal 3D printer here on campus. We’ll use it to demonstrate additive manufacturing design principles and view product purpose: form, fit, and function. 

Michigan Tech’s new metal 3D printer is located on campus in the Minerals and Materials Engineering (M&M) Building. The location in Room 117, is near several other 3D polymer printers. For more information on using the new printer, contact MSE Research Engineer Russ Stein.

Take A Virtual Tour of Our 3D Metal Printer

https://www.mtu.edu/unscripted/2021/10/be-brief-metal.html

Alan Turnquist: Sustainability and Resilience at Michigan Tech—Where We Are and Where We Might Go

Michigan Tech is ranked by the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) as a STARS Silver campus.
What will it take to reach STARS Gold, or STARS Platinum?

Alan Turnquist shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 25 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 10/25 at 6 ET? Grab a bite on Zoom with Dean Janet Callahan and Alan Turnquist, director of Sustainability and Resilience at Michigan Tech. 

Alan Turnquist

Sustainability and resilience are buzzwords that cut across individual choice, corporate culture, and policy at all levels of government. But how do they impact higher education? During Husky Bites, we’ll learn some fresh perspectives on what these issues mean for the future of higher education and how faculty, staff and students at Michigan Tech are integrating sustainability and resilience into our core goals. 

Joining in will be Chelsea Schelly, associate professor of sociology, as well as Larry Hermanson, Michigan Tech’s director of Energy Management. 

“I work side by side with Larry and Chelsea on the Tech Forward Initiative for Sustainability and Resilience,” says Turnquist. “We all come from different places and have different perspectives, but we share the same passion for working together for the future of Michigan Tech.

Turnquist came to Michigan Tech in 2019 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he managed the Agroecology graduate program with faculty from over 20 different academic departments. He also led a team at UW Madison managing the GreenHouse Learning Community, an undergraduate residential program focused on sustainability, environment, food systems and social justice. 

Upon arriving at Michigan Tech Turnquist joined the Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success, where he designed, implemented and led orientation programs for incoming students. He moved into his current position as director of Sustainability and Resilience just last month, in September 2021. 

“Much of my work has a thematic focus on sustainability and social justice,” adds Turnquist. “Regardless of the theme, my professional passion and greatest skill is collaborating and connecting with people while working for a common cause.”

Prof. Chelsea Schelly

Associate Professor Chelsea Schelly joined Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences in 2013. She earned a BS in Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MS in Social Sciences at Colorado State, then returned to Madison for her PhD. Schelly researches and writes about energy practices, consumption behaviors, energy conservation, and the adoption of alternative technology in a wide variety of contexts—from solar electric technology and policy, off-grid living and intentional communities to Rainbow Gatherings and 3-D printers for distributive manufacturing. 

“We’re all three committed to seeing positive change that creates a more sustainable and resilient University,” says Schelly. “That includes more opportunities at Michigan Tech for leadership, research, and education in resilience and sustainability.”

Larry Hermanson

Larry Hermanson joined Michigan Tech in 2015 as Director of Energy Management. Hermanson oversees all aspects of energy management across Michigan Tech’s 3-million square foot campus. He is also an alum—Hermanson earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1992, and secondary education certification in 2012, both at Michigan Tech. He’s had a diverse career with over 20 years of experience in HVAC, construction, and industrial plant operations and maintenance, worked at iron ore and copper mining operations, and also spent a few years teaching high school science and math. Hermanson earned his certification with support from an NSF Robert Noyce Scholarship, and worked as a STEM teacher for Washington Island School in Wisconsin. 

Michigan Tech aims to be a leader in demonstrating sustainability through the campus experience. The university is a member of the EPA Green Power Partnership and, through the student-led Green Campus Enterprise, actively accounts for its campus carbon footprint each year. Michigan Tech is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and is ranked by AASHE as a STARS Silver campus. Many student organizations on campus focus on sustainability activities; and we’ll learn about Michigan Tech’s sustainable electricity, trash, water, and wastewater systems, too.

Sami and Lila

Alan, how did you first get into Sustainability? What sparked your interest?

Growing up in the forests and lakes of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan gave me a deep appreciation for the natural world. Reading Aldo Leopold from an early age taught me the importance of being intentional about the way we interact with the land on which we live. Finally, studying international development and living in Central America brought home the amazing ingenuity of the human spirit, and the challenges we face in working across different perspectives in balancing individual freedoms and collective action.

Hometown, family?

I was raised in Phillips, Wisconsin, a small northern town surrounded by the Chequamagon National Forest. I eventually moved to Madison, where I spent 25 years studying and working before moving to Houghton in 2019. I earned a JD in Environmental and Administrative Law, an MS in Agriculture and Applied Economics, and BA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, all at UW-Madison. My wife, Erin and I have two young children, Sami and Lila, ages 3 and 6.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

The Schelly farmstead. Note the solar panels on the roof of the barn.

So many hobbies, so little time!  I love to be outside skiing, biking, paddling, and foraging. One big appeal of Houghton is that we have actual winter, with real snow that stays on the ground.  It’s like we live in a giant playground.

My wife and I both like riding bicycles. We have commuted by bike pretty much every day for the past 20 years or so. Our “claim to fame” in the biking world is that we strapped our tandem bike to the top of an old volvo 240 wagon and drove it as far north as we could, to where the road ends in Inuvik, Northwest Territories—a small indigenous community in the Canadian Arctic where the Mackenzie River empties into the Arctic Ocean. We gave away the car and rode our tandem bicycle all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina, which is the southernmost point in South America. It took us just over 18 months to cover the 17,000 or so miles, with lots of down time to get to know some amazing people and places along the way. It’s been almost 10 years since we finished that ride, and it’s hard to believe that we actually did it. Just goes to show what a little persistence can accomplish!

 Alan Turnquist once took a 550-day tandem bike trip with his wife, Erin, from the Arctic Circle to Ushaia, the southern-most city in South America.

Prof. Schelly, How did you first get into social sciences? What sparked your interest in sustainability?

I grew up in suburbia, and spent my childhood wondering why anyone would want to live in that setting. Learning about sustainability provided an opportunity for me to see other ways of organizing human life. 

I am motivated by a belief: when humans learn to live in ways that are more respectful of the ecological systems upon which we all depend, we’ll learn to be more respectful of differences across human systems—and be more kind to one another. 

Life on the farm!
Tight squeeze!

Hometown, family, hobbies?

I graduated from high school in Oklahoma and ended up going to college in Madison, Wisconsin. I am now a mom in many ways (biological, step, foster, exchange) and share a farmstead with my husband, our (currently 6) children, 3 dogs and a cat, ducks, chickens, goats, horses, and often a tiny house or van dweller or two. We’re outside—and on the go—a lot! 

Larry is a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Chassell, Michigan Volunteer Fire Department, formed in 1947.

Larry, how about your family? What do you like to do in your spare time?

Teddy!

I have two teenage daughters and enjoy spending time outdoors. I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Chassell Volunteer Fire Department. I also have a great dog, Teddy.

Larry with daughter, Kristen and friend Denice, enjoying the fall colors at Copper Peak, near Ironwood.

Read more

Michigan Tech Sustainability Website