Category: Education

Portage Health Foundation Research Excellence Fund Awards Spring 2021

Trisha Sain
Trisha Sain
Hyeun Joong Yoon
Hyeun Joong Yoon

The Health Research Institute is pleased to announce the Spring 2021 Portage Health Foundation Research Excellence Fund (PHF-REF) awards.

We would like to thank the reviewers, deans, department chairs and applicants for their efforts on this internal award process. The following are the faculty award recipients in engineering programs.

PHF-REF Research Seed Grant (PHF-REF-RS) Recipients

Trisha Sain (ME-EM)  
Hyeun Joong Yoon (BioMed) 

More information about REF awards and the application process can be found on the Research Excellence Fund page.


Graduate School Announces Summer 2021 Award Recipients

Clock tower on campus.

The Graduate School proudly announces the recipients of the Doctoral Finishing Fellowships for the summer 2021 semester. The following are award recipients in engineering graduate programs.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Award Recipients in Engineering

Sri Ram Kumar ValluriChemical Engineering
Rajput OudumbarMechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Nathan D. SpikeMechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Congratulations to all nominees and recipients. Read more information on the awardees who provided bios on the Graduate School Newsblog.


Michigan Tech Students Win 2021 NFPA Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge

This award-winning fluid-powered bike was designed, built and tested by a Michigan Tech student team in Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET).

Earlier this month a team of students from Michigan Technological University was declared the Overall Champions of the 2021 National Fluid Fluid Power Association Vehicle Challenge, a national competition.

The contest, dubbed “Hydraulics Meets the Bicycle,” combines human-powered vehicles along with fluid power and consists of three races—sprint, endurance, and efficiency.

The Challenge is hosted each year by Norgren, a respected world leader in motion control and fluid technology based in Littleton, Colorado. This year the competition was expanded into two separate virtual competitions hosted by Norgren plus a second company, Danfoss Power Solutions, in order to reach a wide range of students and industry members all over the country. 

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

John Kurburski, Andrew Ward, Alexander Provoast, and Jake Lehmann made up the winning team. All are students in Michigan Tech’s Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology. The fluid-powered bike project also served as their senior design project, required for graduation.

MMET Senior Lecturer David Wanless advised the team, and MMET Lecturer Kevin Johnson contributed to their understanding of pneumatic and hydraulic circuits in his fluid power class. 

Competing with twenty-two schools from all over the country, the Michigan Tech team placed first in efficiency, second in endurance, and third in the sprint race. After race results, two design reviews, conference participation and a final presentation the Michigan Tech team was awarded Overall Champion of the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge for 2021.

close-up of the bike mechanism

They powered their bike using a hydraulic circuit—transferring pedal power through a hydraulic pump and motor to drive the rear wheel. “The circuit can also be powered with stored energy in an accumulator, which can be recharged mid-race through regenerative braking,” Wanless explained.

“A pneumatic circuit is also used to actuate the controls of the hydraulic circuit through the use of two switches,” added Alexander Provoast, MMET team member.

The competition was helpful to the students in several different ways, said MMET senior John Kurbuski. “The best part of competing was being introduced to members of the industry and the learning that came with it. I definitely gained a lot of knowledge relevant to my career.”

Due to Covid, NFPA organizers decided it would be best if each university created their own bike course according to the guidelines and rules. The Michigan Tech team first built their bike in the MMET Machine Shop on campus while following MTU Covid guidelines. To compete, teams then recorded their results and submitted them to NFPA. Reviews and mentor interactions were done via Zoom.

According to Kurbuski, the greatest challenge was figuring out how to create a fluid powered bike in such a short amount of time.

“There was a huge learning curve for our team. We had little knowledge about fluid power prior to the competition.”

MMET senior John Kurbuski

Most members of the team will be graduating soon, either this spring or summer. Kurbuski will graduate in April. His job hunt is now underway, with “NPFA Fluid Vehicle Challenge Grand Champion” as a great new addition to his resume. 

“I look forward to finding a career in the manufacturing industry,” adds Kurbuski.

Be sure to check out the team’s final presentation here


Award Results for Design Expo 2021

PPE Project

As we’ve come to expect, the judging for Design Expo 2021 was very close, but the official results are in. More than 1,000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design showcased their hard work on April 15 at Michigan Tech’s second-ever, fully virtual Design Expo.

Teams competed for cash awards totaling nearly $4,000. Judges for the event included corporate representatives, community members and Michigan Tech staff and faculty. The College of Engineering and the Pavlis Honors College announced the award winners below on April 15, just after the competition. Congratulations and a huge thanks to all the teams for a very successful Design Expo 2021.

Last but not least, to the distinguished judges who gave their time and talents to help make Design Expo a success, and to the faculty advisors who generously and richly support Enterprise and Senior Design—thank you for your phenomenal dedication to our students.

Please check out the Design Expo booklet and all the team videos.

ENTERPRISE AWARDS

(Based on video submissions)

  • First Place—Husky Game Development (Team 115) Advisor Scott Kuhl, (CC)
  • Second Place—Aerospace Enterprise (Team 106) Advisor L. Brad King, (ME-EM)
  • Third Place—Innovative Global Solutions (Team 116) Advisors Radheshyam Tewari (ME-EM) and Nathan Manser (GMES)
  • Honorable Mention—Consumer Product Manufacturing (Team 111) Advisor Tony Rogers (ChE)

SENIOR DESIGN AWARDS

(Based on video submissions)

  • First Place —Advanced PPE Filtration System (Team 240) Team Members: Matthew Johnson, Electrical Engineering; Bryce Hudson, Mary Repp, Carter Slunick, Mike Stinchcomb, Braeden Anex, Brandon Howard, Josh Albrecht, and Hannah Bekkala, Mechanical Engineering Advised by: Jaclyn Johnson and Aneet Narendranath, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Sponsored by: Stryker
  • Second Place—ITC Cell Signal Measurement Tool (Team 204) Team Members: Reed VandenBerg and Andrew Bratton, Electrical Engineering; Noah Guyette and Ben Kacynski, Computer Engineering Advised by: John Lukowski, Electrical and Computer Engineering Sponsored by: ITC Holdings Corp.
  • Third Place—Development of a Beta Brass Alloy for Co-Extrusion (Team 234) Team Members: Anna Isaacson, Sidney Feige, Lauren Bowling, and Maria Rochow, Materials Science and Engineering Advised by: Paul Sanders, Materials Science and Engineering Sponsored by: College of Engineering
  • Honorable Mention—EPS Ball Nut Degrees of Freedom Optimization (Team 236) Team Members: Brad Halonen, Rocket Hefferan, Luke Pietila, Peadar Richards, and David Rozinka, Mechanical Engineering Advised by: James DeClerck, Mechanical Engineering- Engineering Mechanics Sponsored by: Nexteer
  • Honorable Mention—Electric Tongue Jack Redesign (Team 230) Team Members: Jack Redesign and Brandon Tolsma, Mechanical Engineering; Collin Jandreski, Christian Fallon, Warren Falicki, and Andrew Keskimaki, Electrical Engineering Advised by: Trever Hassell, Electrical and Computer Engineering Sponsored by: Stromberg Carlson
  • Honorable Mention—Bone Access and Bone Analog Characterization (Team 212) Team Members: Sarah Hirsch, Mechanical Engineering; Elisabeth Miller and Christiana Strong, Biomedical Engineering; Morgan Duley, Electrical Engineering; Katelyn Ramthun, Biomedical Engineering Advised by: Hyeun Joong Yoon and Orhan Soykan, Biomedical Engineering Sponsored by: Stryker Interventional Spine Team
  • Honorable Mention—Blubber Only Implantable Satellite Tag Anchoring System (Team 221) Team Members: Quinn Murphy, Lidia Johnson, Joshua Robles, Katy Beesley, and Kyle Pike, Biomedical Engineering Advised by: Bruce Lee, Biomedical Engineering; Sponsored by: NOAA

DESIGN EXPO IMAGE CONTEST

(Based on image submitted by the team)

  • First Place—Blizzard Baja (Team 101): “Our current vehicle, Hornet, after a race.” Credit: Blizzard Baja team member
  • Second Place—WAAM Die Components (Team 237): “MIG welding robot printing a steel part.” Credit: Mike Groeneveld
  • Third Place—Aerospace Enterprise (Team 106): “Team photo, pre-Covid.” Credit: Aerospace Enterprise team member

DESIGN EXPO INNOVATION AWARDS

(Based on application)

  • First Place—Consumer Product Manufacturing Enterprise, Shareable Air project (Team 101) Advised by: Tony Rogers, (ChE)
  • Second Place—ITC Cell Signal Measurement Tool (Team 204) Advised by: John Lukowski (ECE) 
  • Third Place—Hospital Washer Autosampler Implementation (Team 218) Advised by: Sang Yoon Han and Houda Hatoum (BioMed)

DESIGN EXPO PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

(Based on receiving most text-in voting during Design Expo)

ENTERPRISE STUDENT AWARDS

  • Rookie Award—Jack Block, CFO – Supermileage Systems Enterprise
  • Innovative Solutions—Cody Rorick, Alternative Energy Enterprise
  • Outstanding Enterprise Leadership—Andy Lambert, CEO – Supermileage Systems Enterprise and Daniel Prada, Spark Ignition (SI)
  • Team Lead—Clean Snowmobile Enterprise

ENTERPRISE FACULTY/STAFF AWARDS

  • Behind the Scenes Award—Kelly Steelman, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Dept. of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, nominated by Built World Enterprise.

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

Mary Raber is the new chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech.

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that Mary Raber has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, beginning July 1, 2021.

“I am delighted that Dr. Raber will be chair of Engineering Fundamentals and I look forward to her joining the leadership team of the College,” states Dean Janet Callahan. “Her experience with design thinking, innovation and the principles of lean together inform her approach to solving problems. Dr. Raber’s industry background is an additional asset. Her experience will help us strongly align the engineering foundational first year with what we prepare our engineering graduates to accomplish.”

After a 14-year career in the automotive industry, Raber joined Michigan Tech in 1999 to lead the implementation and growth of the highly distinctive undergraduate Enterprise Program. She helped found the Pavlis Honors College, where she facilitated learning in leadership, human-centered design, and lean start-up and most recently served as assistant dean for academic programs.

A design-thinking and innovation enthusiast, Raber loves to help others embrace the tools and mindsets of innovation to effect positive change. She serves as co-director of Husky Innovate, Michigan Tech’s resource hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, and  she leads IDEAhub, Michigan Tech’s collaborative working group for educational innovation, as its Chief Doing Officer.

Raber earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University. Her PhD in Mechanical Engineering was earned at Michigan Tech, with a focus on engineering education.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

In part, it was a decision to move back to the area to be closer to family, but the timing couldn’t have been better, as the innovative Enterprise Program had just received NSF funding and Michigan Tech needed someone to get the program up and running.  It was a perfect fit for my interests and background, and with a lot of support from our industry partners who immediately saw the benefits of the program we have been able to grow it into the award-winning educational experience it is today. That experience set me on a path of educational innovation and curricular program development focused on experiential learning through high-impact practices. It’s a passion that continues today through my work with IDEAhub and the Pavlis Honors College. I look forward to bringing these experiences with me to the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

My interests lie at the intersection of innovation, education and learning. The connections between these three can bring about transformational change to the learning experience, and better prepare students to fulfill their personal and professional goals. Teaching allows me the opportunity to connect with students and build empathy for their challenges and hopes. In turn, these insights can lead to innovations in the classroom, so that courses and programs are designed with the needs of the students in mind. 

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair?

I look forward to working with, and learning from, the Engineering Fundamentals team, and to help continue their tradition of educational innovation. We share many of the same passions for student success with a goal to strengthen and enhance the role of the first-year engineering learning experience in order to best prepare students to meet the needs of the 21st Century. 

As a key partner in delivering the strategic mission and vision of the College and University, the Engineering Fundamentals team plays an essential role in helping students transition into their college life. It will be a privilege to work with the team that helps students begin their path toward successful careers in engineering.


Register by April 9 to Attend Virtual Design Expo 2021 at Michigan Tech

Discovering Solutions Through Inspired Design is the theme of Design Expo at Michigan Tech on April 15, 2021. This year, due the pandemic, it’s will be a virtual showcase. Register in advance, by Friday, April 9, at mtu.edu/expo.

Join in as we celebrate our students at Michigan Tech’s Virtual Design Expo. This year, Design Expo will be a fully-virtual event. We wish everyone good health as we navigate safely through the global pandemic.

Please register in advance by Friday, April 9, at at mtu.edu/expo. Everyone’s welcome! Register for all or parts of the big day, which is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Students will be ready to share their projects on a virtual event platform, Gatherly, where you can meet the teams, view projects, and ask questions in real time.

Hosted by the Pavlis Honors College and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech. More than 1000 student teams showcase their work and compete for awards.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR THURSDAY, APRIL 15

11:00 a.m.: Opening Remarks via live Zoom webinar
11:30 a.m.: Virtual event opens on the virtual event platform, Gatherly. Meet the teams, view projects, and ask questions in real time.
1:30 p.m.: Gatherly virtual event and Remote Judging closes
3:00 p.m.: Presentation of Awards via live Zoom webinar
3:30 p.m.: 2021 Design Expo concludes


Kit Cischke: Students Boldly DOING Where No One Has Done Before

Kit Cischke and three graduating seniors from Michigan Tech’s Wireless Communications Enterprise team share their knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, April 12 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 4/12 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Kit Cischke, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at  Michigan Technological University. He’s also longtime advisor to Wireless Communications Enterprise (WCE), part of the University’s award-winning Enterprise Program.

“I can’t lie,” says Kit Cischke. “Part of the reason I got excited about Enterprise way back in 1999 (as a student) was because the name of the program was the same as my favorite fictional ship.”

Joining in will be Abby Nelson, Ken Shiver, and Michael Patrick:  all three are ECE students and senior members of WCE. During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company.

Part of the university’s award-winning Enterprise Program, WCE is focused on technology—wireless, optical, renewable energy and biomedical. The student-run enterprise works as a think-tank for companies looking to push their product lines to a higher level. And WCE members also work as entrepreneurs, taking their own ideas to a level where they can be useful for industry and consumers alike. 

A student sits in the lab, soldering another LED onto the printed circuit board she designed herself and fabricated on equipment sitting not two feet away. A group puts the finishing touches on a setup for an experiment to detect water leaks in washing machines. Two students are at a computer, debugging code. A 3D printer hums away as yet another prototype is fabricated. Amid all this are students just sitting on the couch, discussing events of the day. It’s 10:00 PM on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester. Nobody has made these students come; they are here by their own volition. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“There’s no shortage of interesting and meaningful projects,” says Cischke. “Just a sampling: Android tablet programming with machine learning algorithms; machine vision algorithms; estimating the power contribution of anaerobic digester systems; and establishing a Bluetooth connection to a smart power tool. Some are explicitly wireless, others are not. Regardless, student leadership abounds.”

As an ECE instructor and WCE advisor, Cischke has the fantastic ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life.

During Husky Bites, Nelson, Shiver and Patrick, along with Cischke (WCE faculty advisor) will walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company. 


“This is a Differential Amplifier Circuit used to sense the voltages of 4 cells in a battery pack,” says WCE team member Abby Nelson. “Version 5. It will be connected to an arduino so that we can remotely find out the charge of those cells in the battery.”

Cischke first came to Michigan Tech as a student in 1997. During his studies, he worked as an intern for IBM, verifying hard drive controllers in VHDL, and helped found one of the original Enterprise teams—the Wireless Communications Enterprise. He graduated in 2001 with a BS in Electrical Engineering, went to work for Unisys for about four and a half years and completed a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.

“When I gathered in a classroom in 1999 with 40 fellow students to found a new Enterprise team, WCE, we couldn’t have imagined how it is today,” he recalls. “We had no space to call our own. We had no equipment. We had no clear projects. Over time, we found our footing and established our course,” says Cishke.

“I graduated into the ‘real world’ and found that the structure we were striving toward in WCE was the very structure found in industry,” he adds. “It was a considerable shock when I returned to Michigan Tech in order to teach—and found WCE had become an engineering company, composed entirely of students, only five years later.”

I watch the final presentation of a student who has been in WCE for four semesters and heading off to the “real world” now. There is no comparison to the student he was before WCE. He is older, wiser and more experienced. He has worked in a team and led a team himself. He is ready to make his mark on the world. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“When I was first asked to advise WCE students, I was intimidated,” Cishke admits.”The previous advisor had nursed the group through the formative years and had them operating at a state I couldn’t imagine sustaining. My fears were unjustified.

“It takes active effort on the part of an advisor to upset the momentum the students have. Student leadership abounds. Turns out it’s not intimidating to be their advisor—it’s a pleasure.”

Kit Cischke

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

Actually, it was Star Trek. Some friends got me watching it in high school and my hero was Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer on the Enterprise). I don’t know that I expected “real” engineering to be like a day in deep space, but I loved the technology and problem solving. I first came to Michigan Tech as a budding chemical engineer, but realized that I liked playing with computers more than chemistry and switched into electrical and computer engineering. It’s a field that I enjoy and is constantly changing. 

The Star Trek character Geordi LaForge, portrayed by LeVar Burton.

What was the best part of taking part in WCE?

The best part is working with the students and watching them do cool things. When I started as a student, there was a sense that we didn’t know exactly what we were doing. What was our purpose? What was our value-add to the department and university? Now, the program and the students practically sell themselves. They accomplish so much and are so driven to do it. I have the “grade stick” to hold over them, but most of the students are internally motivated. 

Any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

Yes! I love bikes and the riding of bikes! I ride on mountain bike trails, paved roads, and gravel roads. I commute to the campus year-round on my bike—it’s far more possible than most people think. I’m a USA Cycling official too. When I’m not on a bike, I referee hockey, run, and I’m also learning how to do cross-country skate skiing and play guitar at my church.

Meet These Three Wireless Communications Enterprise Members at Husky Bites

Abby Nelson had two internships at John Deere, and accepted a job upon graduation. She’ll be taking part in the company’s development program for new engineers, with three 8-month rotations, all in different jobs and locations.

Abby Nelson ’21, Computer Engineering

Growing up I was always interested in how things worked. I caught onto computers pretty quickly. When I had to choose a college major, I chose computer engineering off the cuff. It turned out to be the right choice.

As soon as I walked on campus at Michigan Tech and saw the buildings and the people, I immediately knew that this was where I was going to go. In WCE, I’ve worked hands-on so much more than I would have in the classes I’ve taken in my major alone. I’ve met business connections and learned from other people, as well. WCE projects are student led (faculty advised), so there is a lot of problem solving involved in completing projects.

In my spare time, I enjoy biking, kayaking, and hiking around the UP. There are so many outdoor adventure opportunities, I wouldn’t trade this place for anywhere else. I will be graduating April 30th, 2021, and I am literally counting the days! Then I’ll move to Moline, Illinois to work at John Deere starting in May.

Kenny Shivers takes a break during a hike near Hungarian Falls.

Kenny Shivers ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

During high school I took part in FIRST robotics. For those who aren’t familiar, every year a new game and game rules are released on the first Saturday of the year. Teams have six weeks during the “build season” to prototype, design, and build 120-pound competition robots to play against each other in 3v3 teams. After that come district, regional, state, and world championship competitions. All that fast-paced environment and creative problem solving got me interested in engineering. I ended up here at Michigan Tech as a result.

The best part about WCE are the people. This may sound a bit odd, since senior design or Enterprise are required to graduate. In WCE, those of us working on similar projects group together, which forms a sense of camaraderie. We’re all at Michigan Tech together and mostly dealing with similar problems. When it gets closer to the end of the semester, it’s crunch time, with more and more things to do on deadline. It’s a lot like a real job out in industry.

Like most Tech students I enjoy spending time outdoors and working with my hands. Last summer I stayed here in the Keweenaw because of the pandemic. I got an old, broken bike and fixed it up. It’s not a bike I would necessarily let someone else ride, but I know it well enough to trust it for myself. I also play piano and read a bit. Lately I’ve been focused on trying to make sure I have everything together to graduate and find a job. I’m actively looking for employment in embedded systems in Southeast Michigan.

Michael Patrick and his son, Charlie. “He’s an adorable little man.”

Michael Patrick ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

I first became aware of engineering from my mother, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering graduate. She homeschooled me during my early education years. Then, in my FIRST Robotics team in high school, I was on the controls and electrical team (FRC Team 1718, The Fighting Pi). From that experience I knew I wanted to pursue electrical and computer engineering.

The best part of WCE, for me, have been the lab space and the community. I have made good friends in WCE, and the lab space has allowed me to tinker with electronics using tools I normally wouldn’t have access to. Right now I’m using it to repair a bluetooth speaker for a friend of mine.

Outside of school and becoming a new parent, I have a passion for cooking and healthy eating. I began a plant-based pescatarian diet 3 weeks ago, and never felt better. I also enjoy teaching and tutoring. I’m looking forward to having a side job as an online tutor once I graduate. Right now I’m still on the job hunt, looking ideally for an embedded software engineering position. Once I establish employment, I intend to start my loan payoffs and take a few years off from education, before pursuing a graduate degree.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders
Paul Sanders

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Professor Paul Sanders of the Materials Science and Engineering Department for this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase. Sanders coordinates MSE’s curriculum-critical capstone design course sequence, as well as the pre-capstone preparation course. Callahan notes, “Dr. Sanders has built MSE’s capstone program into a highly effective sequence that not only teaches critical design skills, but prepares his students to become highly sought-after employees.”

A six-sigma black belt engineer during his prior association with Ford Motor Co, Sanders has developed this sequence into a professionally-relevant, and sustaining experience for the department and its students. Subjects and approaches included in the MSE student preparatory course and later in capstone projects include hypothesis development, simulation and prediction, designed experiments, laboratory experiences, measurement system analysis, analysis of results, and communication skills. The amount of personal contact time and dedication that he provides the students far exceeds that which is normally expected or expended on coursework. He remains active and dedicated to its continuous improvement. In addition to and in support of these classroom duties, Sanders has been successful in securing 100% sponsorship of all capstone projects since he began leading these courses in 2010.

Sanders’ reputation as an effective and innovative educator is well known across the discipline and external to Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech’s MSE senior design teams have placed in the ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition in eight of the last nine years, taking first place in the last three; this level of success is unmatched by any other university nationwide in this international competition that began in 2008. Not surprisingly, yearly assessment and feedback from project sponsors and MSE’s external advisory board (EAB) underscore the relevance of his classroom activities to the duties of a practicing engineers, and the edge that these courses give our students. Tied to this success, Sanders delivered an invited presentation in the Materials Design Symposium at a TMS conference to summarize the successful implementation of the implementation of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME; aka the “digitalization” of MSE via the federally-advocated Materials Genome Initiative) into an undergraduate curriculum, for which Michigan Tech has been recognized as a leading example and model program.

To make his accomplishments in the classroom all the more significant and impressive, Dr. Sanders is one of Michigan Tech’s most prolific and creative researchers. He holds the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professorship of Materials Science and Engineering, and leads and supports a large, externally funded research team; typically comprised of about 8 graduate students, several undergraduate interns and co-op engineers, and four technical staff members. His research focuses on alloy development, and in particular on alloy design using computational simulation which is followed up with subsequent processing, calibration, and optimization in MSE’s materials processing facilities.

MSE Department Chair Steve Kampe said, “Paul is an amazingly dedicated teacher and an effective mentor to our students at this formative and defining time in their educational experience at Michigan Tech. He is really able to capture and nurture the essence of what makes Michigan Tech students unique and valued as engineers and scientists.”

Sanders will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate 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.

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

Written by Stephen Kampe, Department Chair, Materials, Sciences and Engineering


Tiny Nanoindentations Make a Big Difference for Prasad Soman

microphoto of nanoindentations seen near the grain boundary of iron, seen at 20 microns
Nanoindentations performed near or away from the grain boundary of iron, made to study their effect on deformation. Photo credit: Prasad Soman

Prasad Soman will graduate soon with his MSE PhD. But instead of walking down the aisle and tossing his cap in Michigan Tech’s Dee Stadium, this year he’ll take part in Michigan Tech’s first-ever outdoor graduation walk.

“My PhD research goal was to better understand how the addition of carbon affects the strengthening mechanism of iron—by looking to see what happens at the nanoscale,” he explains.

Soman studied the mechanisms of grain boundary strengthening by using an advanced and challenging technique known as nanoindentation to get “up close and personal” to the interfaces between individual crystals within a material. Just last week Soman successfully defended his PhD dissertation: “Study of Effects of Chemistry and Grain Boundary Geometry on Materials Failure.” The research was sponsored by the US Department of Energy.

photo of Prasad Soman
“My experience at Tech has been exciting and fulfilling: study, teaching, and research amidst the beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” says Prasad Soman, who will graduate from Michigan Tech on April 30 with a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering.

He’ll soon be moving to California to take a position with Amazon, the culmination of many years of hard work. “My journey into the field of metallurgy and materials science began in India, way back in high school, when I was thinking of choosing a major for my undergraduate studies in engineering. I had developed a great interest in Physics and Chemistry, then discovered I could pursue my interest even further by choosing metallurgical engineering as my major,” he says. Though his new position will not utilize his metallurgical expertise in a direct way, Amazon was drawn to Prasad’s ability to independently carry out and complete a detailed research project that required a high level of attention to detail, data collection, and advanced analysis and physical modeling.

“I attended College of Engineering Pune, one of the top tier schools for metallurgy in India. Upon graduation, I went on to work in the steel industry for a while, and then decided to pursue higher education in the US.

Soman arrived at Michigan Tech with the intention of earning a Master’s in MSE. Professor Yun Hang Hu advised Soman towards that degree, involving him in research focused on the fabrication and characterization of Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2)-based electrodes (aka Moly) for supercapacitor applications. The experience prompted Soman to continue on in his studies and earn a PhD.

For his MS degree, Soman worked with Yun Hang Hu, Charles and Carroll McArthur Professor of MSE at Michigan Tech

Two MSE faculty members, Assistant Professor Erik Herbert and Professor Stephen Hackney, served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors. “Prasad analyzed the effect of grain boundary segregation on the strengthening and deformation mechanism in metals and alloys,” says Herbert. “To do this Prasad intensively used small-scale mechanical testing, including nanoindentation and in-situ TEM experiments.”

“The most exciting part of this work involved utilizing various material characterization techniques,” says Soman. “The Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL) facility, located in the Michigan Tech M&M building near the MSE department, is one of the best materials characterization facilities in the world. Characterization of the materials response to mechanical indentation was essential for my PhD work, so having access to the many techniques available in ACMAL was both revealing and fulfilling.”

‘The work was painstaking, but thanks to Prasad’s incredible hard work, skill, and dedication, he was able to make significant inroads to improve our understanding.” 

Dr. Erik Herbert, Assistant Professor, Materials Science & Engineering

Soman used a variety of characterization methods in his research, including nanoindentation, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and electron backscatter diffraction spectroscopy (EBSD). “All help examine materials behavior at the nanometer scale,” he adds.

In particular, Soman used nanoindentation to study local grain boundary deformation in metals and alloys. “Using nanoindentation we can measure hardness at a very small length scale. The indentation impression size is on the order of a couple of microns—smaller than the width of a human hair,” Soman explains.

Two MSE faculty members, Professor Stephen Hackney (l) and Assistant Professor Erik Herbert (r) served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors.

“Performing a nanoindentation was challenging at first. The goal is to get the indentation very close to the grain boundary. The task is done using a simple optical microscope, yet accuracy on the order of a couple of microns must be achieved. That kind of accuracy is essential for the proper positioning of the indent relative to the boundary. But just as for any other thing, the more you practice (and learn from mistakes) the better you perform. It’s been a great achievement for me to consistently get the indentation accurately placed.”

PhD Candidate Prasad Soman hard at work in Michigan Tech’s ACMAL Lab

“Instrumented indentation experiments allow us to measure materials properties—including hardness and elastic modulus—as a function of depth,” says Soman. “We also examine how different microstructural features—grain boundary vs. grain interior—respond to a very localized deformation at nanometers length scale.”

Soman says he decided to join Michigan Tech’s MSE program due to its strong emphasis on metallurgical engineering. “While here at Tech, however, I was exposed to a variety of domains within materials science—energy storage materials, semiconductors, polymers, and more. So, while I focused on my passion for fundamental science in metallurgy, I also developed understanding and skills in these different domains,” he explains.

“That has come to fruition, as I will now be going to work in the consumer electronics industry, which requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

The large building on the far left of this campus photo is Michigan Tech’s Mineral and Materials Engineering Building (aka the “M&M”)—home to the MSE Department and the Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL).

Soman will soon pack up and move to Sunnyvale, California. He’ll be working as a hardware development engineer at Amazon. “The team is a cool group of engineers/scientists with diverse backgrounds—mechanical, chemical, design and other disciplines, as well. We’ll develop health and wellness electronic devices, such as smart watches, smart AR/VR glasses, and more. This job will allow me to utilize some of the key skills I developed at Michigan Tech in the field of metallurgy and mechanics. More than anything, I am eager to learn from the best of the best—all the folks in my team.”

One last thing, adds Soman: “I will terribly miss Houghton. I call it my home away from home.”


Volunteer to Judge at Michigan Tech’s Virtual Design Expo 2021

Due to the pandemic, Michigan Tech’s Design Expo showcase of Enterprise and Senior Design student projects will be virtual again this year, for the 2nd time in its 21-year history.

Just how well do students in Michigan Tech’s Enterprise and Senior Design programs address design challenges? You be the judge—volunteer at Design Expo 2021!

Now’s the time to consider serving as a distinguished judge at Michigan Tech’s upcoming 21st annual Design Expo, held virtually on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Hosted by the Pavlis Honors College and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech.

Learn more at mtu.edu/expo.

At Design Expo, more than 1000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design teams showcase their work and compete for awards, which allows students to gain valuable experience and direct exposure to industry-relevant problems.

“No experience or education in engineering is required to be a judge,” says Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Tech. “In fact, we welcome judges from various professions, disciplines and backgrounds to volunteer to judge at this year’s event.”

As a virtual event, 2021 Design Expo will include a digital gallery of student-created videos showcasing project work. Judging usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

“We hope you will virtually join us at the 21st Design Expo. Whether a judge or simply a virtual guest, your involvement in the event is greatly valued by our student teams and makes a valuable contribution to their education.”

Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Pavlis Honors College, Michigan Tech

Sign Me Up!

Visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page for more information and to register to judge by Monday, April 5, 2021.

In order to be considered as a judge, please commit to the following: 

  • Attend Design Expo between 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM on April 15, 2021 to visit assigned teams via RocketJudge.
  • Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge prior to the start of Design Expo, April 12-15, 2021.

Who should judge?

  • Community members
  • Alumni interested in seeing what today’s undergraduate students are accomplishing as undergrads
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project
  • Anyone with an interest in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning
A student from Advanced Metalworks Enterprise, one of the teams competing at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo 2021

Questions?

Feel free to contact Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College, at bctucker@mtu.edu