Category: Education

Q&A with Gretchen Hein: Outstanding SWE Advisor at Michigan Tech

Could this be a future engineer exploring Dr. Gretchen Hein’s family farm?

In the words of Michigan Tech alumna Erin Murdoch, now an automation engineer at Kendall Electric: “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

Gretchen Hein is the recipient of a major award from the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. During ceremonies held online earlier this month on November 5, 2020, Hein was honored by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with the SWE Outstanding Advisor Award. 

Hein is a senior lecturer in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology and has served as the SWE Academic Advisor at Michigan Tech for the past 21 years. She teaches thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and first-year engineering courses. She joined the faculty after earning her PhD in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Gretchen Hein

Dr. Hein, how did you first find engineering? What sparked your interest?

When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a garbage collector because they let us ride through the neighborhood on the back of the truck. That’s also why I wanted to be a farmer—after haying, we were allowed to ride on top of the hay back to the barn. Later, when watching the Apollo Missions, I wanted to be an astronaut, riding on a spaceship. I said so at school, but it was the 1970’s. I was told by teachers and other adults, not my parents, that girls could not be astronauts. No woman had done that before. Being stubborn, I stuck with wanting to be an astronaut.

In high school, I took all the drafting classes my high school had to offer—mechanical and architectural drafting. I loved them. I wanted to be an architect. I read books on Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and IM Pei. During my senior year, my dad, a mechanical engineer, said I should look into mechanical engineering, so I did. It sounded like fun.

I applied to General Motors Institute (now, Kettering University) and interviewed at Allison Gas Turbine Division. Working in a plant that made helicopter engines felt a little like “astronaut” and “architect” combined. I was sold. I began working there two weeks after my high school graduation. After earning my degree in mechanical engineering, I stayed on as a project engineer until I left for graduate school.

Dr. Gretchen Hein, front and center, surrounded by students, family, colleagues and friends, just after receiving the 2020 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award from the Society of Women Engineers


How did you happen to become a SWE advisor?

I was asked to be the SWE advisor when Dr. Sheryl Sorby became the first chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, in 1999. I was new to teaching and unsure of the time commitment involved, so I talked with my colleague, MaryFran Desrochers, and we decided to be SWE co-advisors. We shared advising until 2005 when MaryFran left to spend more time with her family. She returned to campus when her girls were older and now works for Michigan Tech Career Services.

These days there are three SWE advisors: I am in the College of Engineering; MaryFran is our SWE liaison with Career Services, and Elizabeth Hoy at the Great Lakes Research Center helps us manage SWE finances. Our section counselor is alumna Britta Jost, New Product Introduction Manager at Caterpillar Inc. and member of Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae. I’ve always thought that the section was very strategic in choosing their advisors and counselor. We all work together well.

A cobblestone on campus at Michigan Tech shows the date Michigan Tech’s first SWE section was established on campus: 1976.


What do you know now, that you didn’t know then?

Over the past 20 years, my advising style has evolved and grown. At the beginning, I observed. As I learned what the section valued and where their interests were, I began to make suggestions. That’s how SWE’s annual Cider Pressing tradition began at my farm. Students wanted an event outside, and they wanted to meet my sheep, alpacas, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, bunnies, rats, geckos and bees. Now, it’s the most popular social fall event where over 60 SWE members and friends come, press cider and meet the animals.

Michigan Tech members started to become active nationally in SWE. As I watched them grow, I felt that I needed to join them. I learned, through the students, that we can grow, expand our skills, and contribute, even by “standing in the background.”

Great times! SWE’s Cider Pressing tradition takes place each year at Dr. Hein’s farm. This photo is from 2016.


Have things changed for women engineers since then? If so, how?

One of the reasons I chose Michigan Tech for my doctoral studies was because of the friendliness of the faculty and students. It is still a strong characteristic of Tech. The number of women students, along with faculty, has increased over the past 20 years. There are more opportunities and different areas of study in engineering now. As time has passed, people who were less accepting of differences have left, and those who are interested in diversity and inclusion have become leaders.

The grit and independence of our SWE members haven’t changed. The students are still people who enjoy working, collaborating and learning together.


What is the best part about being an advisor?

The students—hands down! And this includes our graduates. For example, at WE19, I saw Anne Maher (a former SWE section president and member). It was like one of those sappy movies where two people run towards each other. I was so excited to see her and meet her mother. I get the same feeling in the fall when I see our students return to campus. I love to hear how their summer went, where they worked, what they did and what they will be doing at Tech. I always try to attend our fall Ice Cream Social, where we all meet new members. They bring so much excitement to the organization. It’s great to learn where they went to high school and why they came to Tech.

Dr. Hein uses duck feet to help teach thermodynamics.

Your happiest time so far?

My happiest time is reconnecting. Every time I attend a SWE conference, I see so many of our graduates. Frequently, they recall “Duck Day” when I bring a duck into ENG3200, Thermodynamics/Fluid Mechanics. It’s a fun day because students get to pet, hold and see a duck. It’s a learning day because the arteries and veins in the ducks’ legs exchange heat to help regulate the duck’s body temperature.

SWE section members celebrate with Dr. Gretchen Hein at the news of her SWE Outstanding Advisor Award.

What motivates you?

The students make Michigan Tech. They motivate me. Like most people with doctorates, I had taken no classes on how to help others learn. My goal was to create a classroom environment that encouraged learning and discussion. At first, I did not succeed, but I really wanted to be the type of instructor where students came to class, enjoyed the class and learned—probably in that order. I kept talking with the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Michigan Tech. I was one of the first instructors to use online videos and blended learning. My students had told me that they were willing to learn material outside of class if we worked through more problems in class, so I learned how to make my course more efficient, to gain that extra time. I began to tell stories in class about my family, my industrial projects, TED talks—anything that would grab their interest and keep them laughing and thinking. I focused on how the course material could be applied to their careers; I invited former students to come talk about their careers in class. Last but not least, I related how much I struggled with Thermo when I studied it in college.

“Dr. Hein is supportive of her students and does her best to ensure each of us have all the tools and resources to flourish, both academically and professionally. She teaches valuable life skills for navigating the professional world as a female engineer, and serves as an exemplary role model.”

Erin Murdoch ’17

Your advice for future engineers?

For me, this question is personal. My son will be graduating in the spring with a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech.

My advice is this: Find what you enjoy and do it, but realize that there will be times when the job is not exciting or that the challenges seem insurmountable. When visiting companies and during the interview process, see if you can visualize working with the people and in that environment. Each company has its own personality and so do you. You want these to mesh well. Figure out what type of community you’re happy in. It’s much easier to go to work when you like where you’re at. Use your contacts and resources.

I encourage everyone to keep learning and exploring, both at work and personally. The great thing is that sometimes growth in one area results in growth in another.

What do you want others to know about Michigan Tech’s SWE section?

The SWE section at Michigan Tech values outreach. And their commitment to SWE continues long after they graduate. Many are involved in their professional section and at the national level.

Members of the local SWE section are holding a thank you letter-writing campaign to show Dr. Hein appreciation for all of the hard work she has put in to help it succeed, and to congratulate her on her award. Send your letters to us here, at this address.


Mary Raber: Solving Wicked Problems

Mary Raber shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 2 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, 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 11/2 at 6? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Mary Raber, Chief Doing Officer of IDEAhub, Michigan Tech’s collaborative working group for educational innovation. Joining in will be Brad Turner, one of Mary’s former students, who earned his BS in Software Engineering 2017. He started his career at Handshake SF and recently joined Blackfynn Philly.

In this Husky “bite” you will be introduced to how Michigan Tech is using design thinking to reimagine education for the 21st century, and how Brad has used the process in his work after graduation.

Mary Raber

A professor of practice, Raber serves as assistant dean for academic programs in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College. She’s also co-director of Husky Innovate (Michigan Tech’s resource hub for innovation & entrepreneurship). A design-thinking and innovation enthusiast, Raber loves to help others embrace the tools and mindsets of innovation to effect positive change. 

While earning his software engineering degree at Michigan Tech, Brad Turner joined the Pavlis Honors College. He worked as student coordinator for the Innovation Program within the PHC Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, and that’s when he met Raber. “Mary became my mentor,” he said.

Brad Turner

Nowadays, Turner is a product designer, one who recently made the switch from building tools that help college students find jobs, to designing software that improves the treatment of neurological diseases. 

During Husky Bites, Raber and Turner will introduce the design thinking process, developed at the Stanford d.school. 

“Design thinking is a tool to help you reframe life’s challenges into opportunities,” says Raber. “It’s a process widely used to solve messy, wicked problems,” she explains. “At its core is the human…those whose lives we are trying to improve in some way.  The process fosters mindsets and skills that enables anyone, young and old, to tackle ambiguous problems.”

Design Thinking: Emphathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test

After a 14-year career in the automotive industry, Raber first joined Michigan Tech to lead the implementation and growth of the highly distinctive undergraduate Enterprise Program. She helped found the Pavlis Honors College, where she now facilitates learning in leadership, human-centered design, and lean start-up. 

Raber was honored with Michigan Tech’s Faculty Distinguished Service Award in 2018. “Through Mary’s exceptional dedication and efforts, opportunities and resources for innovation and entrepreneurship on our campus have grown substantially,” said Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College.

Over the years Raber has co-founded several start-ups (“some of which have been successful, and some that haven’t fared as well,” she says). She’s currently pursuing a PhD at Michigan Tech with a focus on engineering education, and working on developing another start-up to help bring her passion for innovative teaching and learning to others. 

“Design thinking is a tool to help you reframe life’s challenges into opportunities.”

Mary Raber

Raber has cultivated a strong relationship with the Stanford d.school, opening up additional avenues for student exploration and education. Through this collaboration, Michigan Tech has a highly active group of University Innovation Fellows (UIF).

“Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to make a positive impact on the world,” Raber explains. “They attend training at Stanford’s d.school, where they can meet students from across the country engaged in change-making on their own campuses.” Michigan Tech’s UIFs engage with incoming first-year students during orientation week, exposing them early on to powerful entrepreneurial tools and resources.

Turner was a University Innovation Fellow during his years at Michigan Tech. He worked closely with Raber to develop and launch Michigan Tech’s first-ever makerspace, The Alley, located on campus in the Memorial Union Building. He facilitated design thinking classes, and developed a visual language for Alley.

Some of Michigan Tech’s Innovation Fellows exploring the Google campus in Mountain View, CA during a UIF meetup. Brad is second from the left. Looks like fun!

“I went through the (UIF) training with the Stanford d.school during my second year at Tech,” Turner recalls. “It was an 8-week online course where we learned about design thinking. “When I started working on more initiatives related to UIF, I found myself continually looking to Mary for advice, guidance, and support on those initiatives. By the time I graduated, Mary and I worked on a variety of projects together and presented our work together on campus and at national conferences.”

A group of student volunteers helped build tables for Michigan Tech’s Alley Makerspace when it launched.

In 2014 Turner took an internship at Handshake, a company founded 2014 by three engineering students at Michigan Tech to give students access to a larger number of potential employers, no matter their location. Turner worked in the company’s first small office in Houghton, then moved with them to San Francisco for a second internship. Upon graduation he joined the company, helping grow its design system and processes as the Handshake team grew from 35 to over 200 employees.

As Handshake’s lead designer on a variety of projects, Turner collaborated with project managers to dig into challenges and articulate compelling problem statements. He conducted user research and user testing, and partnered with engineers to deliver high quality, accessible experiences.

Turner recently moved from Handshake to Blackfynn, a company that seeks to transform the treatment of neurological disease—including Parkinson’s disease, which affects nearly one million people in the US—with data-driven, next-generation therapeutics.

Raber was honored with Michigan Tech’s Faculty Distinguished Service Award in 2018.

Mary, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I enjoyed math, science and design in high school, so engineering seemed like a logical next step. My concentration was in biomechanics and I was hooked on the connections between health and engineering with my first internship at UMich hospitals where I tested hypodermic needles on cadavers. I was very fortunate to get my first job after graduation at Chrysler Motors working with an all female engineering team to design the sensing and diagnostics systems for the first mass-produced airbag systems. It’s led me to fascinating careers in automotive electronics and now engineering education.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

I have lived in Michigan all my life, moving back and forth from lower Michigan to the UP several times. I’m easing into the empty nester life while my son lives nearby and attends Michigan Tech, and occasionally brings his laundry home. I love to travel and have had the opportunity to visit many wonderful places around the world.  In my spare time I enjoy hiking, gardening, skiing, and creating through hobbies like baking, knitting, and quilting.  

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

After watching too much Grey’s Anatomy in high school, I was sure that I wanted to be a surgeon when I grew up. I was also interested in technology, so instead of thinking about going to med school, I decided to study biomedical engineering to blend my interests in medicine and technology. (My interest in biomed only lasted a year before I discovered design thinking and decided to switch to software engineering).

Brad made the move to Philly after running the Philadelphia Marathon last year.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I grew up in Bay City, Michigan. My older brother was studying mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech and I really enjoyed Houghton when I came to visit him. After spending a weekend on campus with the Leading Scholars program during my senior year of high school, I knew it was the right place for me. I’ve spent the past 4 years in San Francisco and recently (during the pandemic) found a new home with my partner in Philadelphia. Outside of work you’ll normally find me running along the Schuylkill River, trying out a new recipe in my kitchen, or virtually volunteering to help get out the vote this November.


“It’s Working!” — Copper Country Intermediate School District and Michigan Tech Launch a New CTE Program in Mechatronics

Michigan Tech recently launched a year-long Career and Technical Education (CTE) program for high school juniors or seniors in the area of Mechatronics. The new CTE Mechatronics program is offered through a partnership between Michigan Tech and the Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD).

Mechatronics uses electromechanical systems, typically automated for the design of products and processes. Industry 4.0—sometimes called the “fourth industrial revolution”—applies various aspects of mechatronics to manufacturing enterprises. Topics in the CTE Mechatronics program include; automation, computer integrated manufacturing, high speed manufacturing, embedded systems design and controls, industrial robotics, pneumatics, hydraulics, and computer-aided design.

“Students in the program will find careers in smart manufacturing fields, or they can find a pathway at Michigan Tech into undergraduate or graduate degrees in Engineering Technology, Engineering, or Mechatronics.” says John Irwin, chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Teaming up to deliver the instruction are faculty in the Mechatronics, Electrical and Robotics Engineering Technology (MERET) program in the College of Computing, and faculty in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET) Department in the College of Engineering.

There are 10 students enrolled this fall 2020 from the local area school districts of Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, and L’Anse. CTE Director Shawn Kolbus expects the program to only increase in popularity. “Local business owners approached us last year wanting to get more students from the area interested in Mechatronics, CADD and Engineering,” he says. “The result was the Mechatronics program which encompasses standards from each area.”

George Ochieze

The course is taught by two mechatronics professionals who possess both industry and teaching experience. One of those instructors is George Ochieze, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Mechatronics and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Even in difficult times during the pandemic, these young scholars show overwhelming potential to conquer the mechatronics field—a glimpse into a welcoming future in engineering,” says Ochieze.

Chinmay Kondekar

The second instructor, Chinmay Kondekar, will earn an MS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2021. “Teaching for local schools is an opportunity for me to give back to people in the community who welcomed me as an international student,” says Kondekar. “I hope to create a strong interest in robotics and automation in my students. People with these skills will be the future of manufacturing and will have plenty of opportunities.”

Program enrollment is closed for 2020, but will be available again starting in fall 2021. This spring there will be the opportunity for area sophomore and junior students to visit Michigan Tech to tour the labs and meet the instructors. Both the Applied Computing and MMET department labs used at Michigan Tech are equipped with state-of-the-art electronics and mechanical systems partially provided through generous startup funding from the CCISD.

For more information please contact Shawn Kolbus, Director, Career and Technical Education, Copper Country Intermediate School District (906) 250-5353.

Michigan Tech faculty administering the CTE program include Prof. John Irwin, Chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, or Prof. Alex Sergeyev in the College of Computing.


Graduate School Announces Fall 2020 Award Recipients

Auroral activity

The Graduate School announces the recipients of the Doctoral Finishing Fellowships, KCP Future Faculty/GEM Associate Fellowship, and CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Nominees. Congratulations to all nominees and recipients.

The following are award recipients in engineering graduate programs:

CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Nominees:

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Award:

Profiles of current recipients can be found online.


Michigan Tech SWE Chapter Makes It Their Mission to Give Back

child looks in wonder as a play-doh circuit lights up a small led light
Who knew! Play Doh can be used to complete a circuit!

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Michigan Tech make it their mission to give back to the community and to spark youth interest in STEM-related fields.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to grow and make new connections, both as an organization on campus and as a member of the community,” says Michigan Tech SWE section president and mechanical engineering major Katie Pioch. “We love getting kids excited about STEM.”

The team gathered for a photo in Fall 2019. This fall gatherings have been mostly virtual for the Michigan Tech section.

This past year, Michigan Tech SWE students helped high school students at Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools form the first-ever SWENext Club. They also mentored two eCYBERMISSION teams, sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program.

SWENext enables girls ages 13 and up to become a part of the SWE engineering community as a student through age 18. SWENexters have access to programming and resources designed to develop leadership skills and self-confidence to succeed in a career in engineering and technology.  Although the program focuses on girls, all students are encouraged to get involved. 

Students in the Michigan Tech SWE section worked closely with a team of 8th graders from Lake Linden Hubbell schools–Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank–to develop three hands-on electrical engineering outreach activity kits for SWENext-age students and elementary students, too. The girls worked on the activity kits in conjunction with the eCYBERMISSION Competition sponsored by the US Army Educational Outreach Program, earning an Honorable Mention award for their efforts.

The activities: Play-Doh Circuits for upper elementary students, and Paper Circuits and Bouncy Bots for middle school students. 

Play-Doh and Paper Circuits teach how parallel and series circuits work. Bouncy Bots involves a simple series circuit where a coin vibration motor—the kind used in cell phones and video game controllers—is connected to two 1.5 V batteries and adhered to a 4 oz medicine cup. When the circuit is operational, the device “bounces” across a surface.

Together with Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering SWE students shared the activity kits with more than 400 students: regional Upper Michigan and Northern Wisconsin Girl Scouts; 5th-grade students at Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK) schools; 4th-grade students at Hancock Elementary; and 5th-grade students at Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools. 

SWE students mentored Lake Linden-Hubbell eCYBERMISSION 6th grade team, SCubed (Super Superior Scientists). The team recycled school lunch food waste as a food source for pigs, earning an Honorable Mention in the eCYBERMISSION competition.

The Michigan Tech SWE section prepared two grant proposals, one for the SWE-Detroit Professional Section and the other for the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), working closely with Michigan Tech’s ECE department. Both proposals were funded, enabling the students to create more activity kits and take them out into the local community.

The funding also allowed for the purchase of soldering tools, electronics components, and other supplies that will now be used to introduce an entire pipeline of students to electrical engineering topics.

High school students create heart rate monitor circuit boards, and also help mentor middle school students through the process of completing holiday tree boards. From there, high school and middle school students will be shown the Bouncy Bot activity; they will lead that activity for their school district’s elementary students. 

“Both SWE and ECE are excited for this “trickle-down” mentoring program,” says Liz Fujita, academic advisor and outreach specialist for Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Due to the pandemic, SWE members cannot go to area schools. Fujita plans to resume school outreach once the pandemic ends.

Michigan Tech’s SWE Section developed a video describing their year-long outreach projects for SWE’s national FY20 WOW! Innovation Challenge. A portion of the video was created by high school junior Jenna Beaudoin, founding member of the Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools SWENext Club. For their exceptional outreach efforts, SWE awarded Michigan Tech second place in the challenge.

Gretchen Hein, senior lecturer in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology is Michigan Tech’s SWE faculty advisor. “We really encourage our SWE section members to develop professionally and personally,” she says. Students work especially hard on their annual Evening with Industry event, which takes place each fall during Michigan Tech Career Fair.” The event, held just a few weeks ago, was virtual. Sponsors included Nucor, Marathon Oil, John Deere, Amway, Milwaukee Tool, Corteva and CWC Textron.

Gretchen Hein, MMET senior lecturer and Michigan Tech’s SWE section advisor

Hein and a group of ten Michigan Tech SWE section members traveled to the annual WE19 Conference in Anaheim, California, the world’s largest conference for women in engineering and technology. They attended professional development sessions, participated in the SWE Career Fair, and networked with other student sections and professional members. 

While there, Romana Carden, a major in engineering management, participated in the SWE Future Leaders (SWEFL) program. Carden also attended the day-long SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI) with Mackenzie Brunet, a fellow engineering management major. Both programs are led by female engineers working in industry and academia, to help college students gain leadership skills. Zoe Wahr, a civil engineering major, received a scholarship in recognition of her academic, university, and SWE accomplishments. And Hein was recognized at WE19 for her 20-plus years of service with the SWE Engaged Advocate Award, which honors individuals who have contributed to the advancement or acceptance of women in engineering.

“We have a strong and sustainable SWE chapter at Michigan Tech, and Dr. Hein’s work as the college of engineering chapter advisor has played a key role in this,” says Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “I am truly grateful to every person who has contributed to SWE—past, present and future.”

“In the coming year, SWE students plant to expand their outreach,” she adds. “We’d love to have more Michigan Tech students join the section and explore what SWE and the SWE members have to offer.” 

Next month, in early November, the section will participate in the WE20 Conference in New Orleans, virtually.

Interested in learning more about the SWE section at Michigan Tech? Join their email list at swe-l@mtu.edu, or follow the section on Facebook and Instagram, @michigantechswe.


Meet Brett Hamlin, Engineering Fundamentals Interim Department Chair

Brett Hamlin, a Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus, now leads the Department of Engineering Fundamentals

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce Dr. Brett Hamlin as interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

Hamlin grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, both at Michigan Tech.

He first joined Michigan Tech as a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in 1998. He is a senior lecturer as well as previous assistant chair in the department.

Hamlin’s teaching interests include graphics, visualization, solid mechanics, design, and thermo sciences. His research interests include educational methods, spatial visualization, heat transfer, and biomechanics. 
 

“I’m excited about this opportunity. I hope to continue to work with the dedicated faculty of the department and continue to push the boundaries of excellence in engineering education.”

Brett Hamlin, Interim Chair, Engineering Fundamentals


“I am delighted that Dr. Hamlin will be Interim Chair of Engineering Fundamentals, joining the leadership team of the college,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “His passion for first year teaching and learning, and his administrative experience strongly prepare him for this leadership role.”

Hamlin serves as faculty advisor for Michigan Tech’s student-run GEAR Enterprise team. The focus of GEAR (General & Expedition Adventure Research) is to design, model, test, prototype, and manufacture a wide variety of goods and equipment used in recreational outdoor and commercial expedition endeavors. Hamlin was a longtime advisor for Michigan Tech’s SAE Baja Enterprise. He also serves as an instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology—teaching Outdoor Emergency Care.

A former top Nordic skier, Hamlin is a senior level member of the Ski Patrol, qualified on both snowboard and Alpine skis. He is active in the local mountain biking scene, and on any given weekend you will find the entire Hamlin family out and about, either biking, skiing, hiking, camping, or climbing.

“I like to solve problems and brainteasers, and engineering is just like solving brainteasers in real life.”

Brett Hamlin

Previous department chair, Associate Professor Jon Sticklen, returns to faculty ranks. His focus has broadened to include STEM education research and teaching. He also plans to collaborate with Michigan Tech’s Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences in its effort to develop a new undergraduate major, Human Factors.

Interested in meeting or talking with Prof. Brett Hamlin? Feel free to reach out via email or stop by his office at 112 Dillman.


Michelle Jarvie-Eggart on Engineering Education

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart
Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart participated in a paper for the 2020 ASEE conference online. The paper entitled “Work in Progress: Student Perception of Computer Programming within Engineering Education: An Investigation of Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors” was presented by Kelly S. Steelman (CLS).

Other authors include Kay L. Tislar, Charles Wallace, Nathan D. Manser (GMES), Briana C Bettin, and Leo C. Ureel II.

Steelman, K. S., & Jarvie-Eggart, M. E., & Tislar, K. L., & Wallace, C., & Manser, N. D., & Bettin, B. C., & Ureel, L. C. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Student Perception of Computer Programming within Engineering Education: An Investigation of Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . https://peer.asee.org/35683

Jarvie-Eggart also presented work with graduate student Amanda Singer alumnus Jason Mathews at the 2020 ASEE conference. Their paper, “Parent and Family Influence on First-year Engineering Major Choice” indicates matrilineal occupational inheritance may be affecting female engineering students.

Jarvie-Eggart, M. E., & Singer, A. M., & Mathews, J. (2020, June), Parent and Family Influence on First-year Engineering Major Choice Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . https://peer.asee.org/35035

Jarvie-Eggart is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Engineering Fundamentals and Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart (EF/RISE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $199,633 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is entitled, “Research Initiation: Factors Motivating Engineering Faculty to Adopt and Teach New Engineering Technologies.” Shari Stockero (CLS/RISE) is the Co-PI on this two-year project.

Freeman and Jarvie-Eggart to Present at 36th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart (EF/CLS) and Thom Freeman (CTL/CLS) will virtually present a session titled “A Case Study Examining the Effects of Online Instructor Training” at the 36th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference at 12:45  p.m. Friday (Aug. 7)

Know as DT&L to those in the online learning community, it is the longest-running and most prestigious conference centered around innovations in, and advancement of, quality online learning and distance education.

It has been held annually in Madison by the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This year’s conference is a fully online event Aug. 3-7, 2020.


Steve Kampe: Hey, there’s MSE in Your Golf Bag!

True or false: When it comes to golf, it’s not the swing that matters the most—it’s the materials used to make the club. (Ah, unfortunately, false.)


Steve Kampe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 27 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“The sporting goods industry has a history of using materials as an enticing means to market new products and breakthroughs,” says Steve Kampe, Franklin St. John Professor and Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. “I’m always interested in what materials they uncover, and the marketing strategies they use.”

Kampe likes to use clubs in his golf bag as examples of how materials are designed, and how they work. “There’s fun in finding material science in everyday objects. Everything has to be made out of something,” adds Kampe. “The question is out of what—and how do we make it?”

“Where there are breakthroughs in new products and solutions, chances are an MSE is hard at work, often behind the scenes, at its root source,” says Steve Kampe, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech.

These are the questions engineers at Michigan Tech have been asking since the university’s founding in 1885, and the task that graduates from the (MSE) department have excelled at since its inception as one of the two founding departments at the Michigan School of Mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Back then, the department was known as Metallurgy, and its focus was on ways to extract valuable metals, such as copper or iron, from their naturally occurring states within minerals and underground deposits.  

Today, the discipline of materials science and engineering finds ways to use the fundamental physical origins of a material’s behavior in order to optimize its properties. “The invention of a new material could turn out to be a vital part of the solution to many of the challenges we now face,” notes Kampe.

“Since the beginning of recorded history, materials have been used to define our civilizations—and the evolutionary milestones associated with quality of life,” he explains.

“From the stone age to the bronze and iron ages, the materials and the human innovations that addressed the world’s challenges during those time periods, have been inextricably linked. Even today, our ability to address global challenges are heavily reliant on the materials that define our current generation,” he says.

“A lot hinges on the wisdom we possess in implementing in use of materials, and, increasingly, in their re-use.”

Contemporary materials science engineers (MSE’s) not only work with metals and alloys, but also with ceramics and glasses, and with polymers and elastomers. They work with composites, materials for electronic, magnetic and optical applications, and many other emerging materials and processes such as 2-D graphene, nanomaterials and biomaterials. Emerging materials include those for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), smart materials, specialized sensors, and more.

A ceramic crucible in the Michigan Tech Foundry, containing molten
iron at approx. 1200°C.

“For example, MSEs are prominent in the conception and development of new battery technologies, as well as new lightweight materials that make cars and airplanes more fuel-efficient and reduce their CO2 footprint. MSEs are also involved in the development of new materials for the hydrogen economy, photovoltaics for sustainable solar energy, and materials that can convert kinetic energy into electrical and/or magnetic energy.

“The materials we use in our lives have a huge impact on our long term quality of life—and a huge impact on our ability to someday attain a circular economy and a sustainable world,” adds Kampe.

“Right now, today, we have the tools and data we need to make more intelligent decisions about the materials we use⁠ — to decide which materials, even some not yet invented, that would make the biggest difference. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate our dependence on unsustainable solutions.”

Despite its central importance to all engineering endeavors, MSE as a discipline is relatively small compared to other engineering disciplines such as mechanical, electrical, civil, and chemical engineering. 

Polished surface of ductile cast iron. Micrograph by MSE graduate Dan Frieberg.

“It’s one of the best aspects of being an MSE,” says Kampe. “Class sizes are small, so students are able to build strong networks with classmates, faculty, staff—and with like-minded colleagues from other universities and companies from around the world. Our small size also enables collaborative environments with lots of personal interaction and one-on-one mentoring.”

Not only is Kampe a member of the Michigan Tech faculty, he is also an alumnus, earning a Bachelor’s, Master’s and a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. He joined academia after working in the corporate research laboratory for a major aerospace company where scientists and engineers developed new products and technologies for the company’s future. He spent 17 years as an MSE professor at Virginia Tech, before coming full circle back to Michigan Tech.

Microstructure of demagnetized neodymium iron boron (Nd2Fe14B) alloy showing magnetic domain contrast within individual grains; an optical micrograph using polarized illumination. Micrograph by MSE graduate Matt Tianen.


At Michigan Tech, the MSE department manages the university’s suite of scanning electron and transmission electron microscopes, including a unique, high resolution scanning transmission FEI Titan Themis, which all students use, even as undergraduates.

Can you guess what this is? Hint: it’s not a snowflake. A dendrite in an as-cast Zn-Ag alloy. Micrograph by Ehsan Mostaed, post-doctoral research associate.


Have you ever put one of your own golf clubs under a high-powered microscope? Would you ever allow a student, a Michigan Tech alum, or even a community member to do something like that?

Sure. Bring one in. We’ll chop it up and take a good look at it.

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

I grew up in Williamston, outside of East Lansing, downstate Michigan. My dad had degrees in agricultural and mechanical engineering, so life on Trailmark Farm was pretty much a hands-on engineering operation. For as long as I can remember, getting an engineering degree was pretty much a given for me—I just didn’t know where it would be from. My two older brothers went to Michigan Tech for engineering and really liked it, so Tech became the obvious destination for me, too. My individuality was manifested by my choice to pursue metallurgical engineering, which has close ties to chemistry and the sciences, my favorite subjects in high school. Perhaps I was also influenced by all the fracture surfaces I created during my time growing up on the farm.

Family and Hobbies?

All four siblings in my family (two brothers, a sister, and me) went to Tech. From those original four, there have been eight additional Huskies from the Kampe clan—three spouses including Associate Provost Jean Kampe; our son, Frank (BS Marketing); a niece and nephew, and two first cousins.

I enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and especially tending to the chores on the small farm up near Quincy Mine in Hancock where Jean and I live— growing flowers and harvesting the fruit. In winter, I follow the Huskies, both hockey and basketball. I also skate twice a week in (faculty-rich) hockey gatherings.

And yes, I enjoy golfing but have been denied this passion for the past few years due to a prolonged shoulder injury.

Read more

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Joe Foster: Through the Looking Glass! Geospatial Wizardry

Joe Foster shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 13 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What if you had a high-tech job, but spent your work day outside, enjoying nature and fresh air each day? If you like computing, and the great outdoors, you need to learn more about what it takes to become a geospatial engineer.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech. He teaches courses in the elements of land surveying. He has served as a Principal for successful Land Surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects. “I’m also an old Michigan Tech alum, with a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, and a second Bachelor’s degree in Surveying, both from Michigan Tech,” he notes.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Studying geospatial engineering is both an adventure and a learning experience, says Foster. A lot of learning⁠—and geospatial wizardry⁠—takes place outdoors, in the field.

“Surveyors are experts at measuring,” Foster explains. “A myriad of equipment have been used over the years to accomplish the task, tools of the trade, so to speak. Over time, Surveying has evolved to become more, known now as Geospatial Engineering.”

Surveyors, now known as Geospatial Engineers, measure the physical features of the Earth with great precision and accuracy, calculating the position, elevation, and property lines of parcels of land. They verify and establish land boundaries and are key players in the design and layout of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, cell phone towers, pipelines, and wind farms.

And they are in demand. “There is an ongoing need for Surveyors,” says Foster. “Jobs are open and can’t be filled fast enough. We have a great need for those with an interest and aptitude for the profession.”

All land-based engineering projects begin with surveying to locate structures on the ground,” says Foster. Numerous industries rely on the geospatial data and products that geospatial engineers provide. With advances in technology, the need is increasing, too⁠—from architectural firms, engineering firms, government agencies, real estate agencies, mining companies and others.

Geospatial engineering students at Michigan Tech use satellite technology GPS and GIS to determine locations and boundaries.

Out in the field, Geospatial Engineers peer “through the looking glass” using numerous tools. “Robotic total stations, GPS receivers, scanners, LiDAR, and UAVs only scratch the surface of what is available in the toolbox,” says Foster.

Three theodolites on campus at Michigan Tech

Advances in GPS technology have led to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mapping, as well as geospatial data capture and visualization technologies. Geospatial engineers also use virtual reality integration, Structure from Motion (a technique which utilizes a series of 2-dimensional images to reconstruct the 3-dimensional structure of a scene or object, similar to LiDAR), and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (drones). At Michigan Tech, students learn to use these tools, too.

Geospatial engineering students choose from two concentrations, says Foster. “Professional Surveying prepares students to become state-licensed professional surveyors. Students learn to locate accurate real property boundaries, conduct data capture of the natural/man-made objects on the Earth’s surface⁠—and conduct digital mapping for use in design or planning.” 

Geospatial engineers use drones, too.

The second concentration is Geoinformatics. “Students learn to manage large volumes of digital geo-information that can be stored, manipulated, visualized, analyzed, and shared,” he adds. “Students use more Geographic Information Science (GIS) tools, remote sensing, big data acquisition, and cloud computing.”

Do you love math + computing+ the great outdoors? Geospatial engineering combines all those things.

Once you’re working as a geospatial engineer, you could end up using both concentrations. “Land surveying and geographic information systems (GIS) are complementary tools,” he says.

Foster is excited about the growth of opportunities in the profession. During his own career, Foster worked as a principal for successful land surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects, including boundary, county remonumentation, and cadastral (USDA-FS) retracement surveys; topographic, site planning, and flood plain surveys; mine surveys (surface and underground); plats and subdivisions; and both conventional and GPS control surveys. He’s managed contracts with the USDA-Forest Service, mining companies in Northern Minnesota, the State of Michigan, and more. 

Foster is also a member of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS). At Michigan Tech, he’s advisor to the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (DHSC). Last year the group continued their tradition with the annual General Land Office (GLO) Workshop. Sponsored by DHSC and conducted by Pat Leemon, PS, retired U.S. Forest Surveyor from the Ottawa National Forest, it is a search/perpetuation of an original GLO corner. “That’s a once in a lifetime experience for a Surveyor,” says Foster.

Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County. Getting there will take you on the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. The peak is the highest point in Michigan.

When did you first get into surveying? What sparked your interest?

I first got interested in Surveying while studying forestry at Michigan Tech.  Surveying was one of the courses in the program. That’s where I learned there could be an entire profession centered on surveying alone.  I was hooked.  It incorporated everything I had come to enjoy about forestry; working outside, using sophisticated equipment, drafting, and actually putting all the math I had learned to practical use. After earning my first bachelor’s degree in Forestry, I decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in Surveying and to pursue that as my career.  

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born and raised in Michigan and have worked in the forest product industry and surveying profession for over 25 years. Work has taken me to just about every corner of Northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Copper Country. I came to know my wife, Kate at Fall Camp at Alberta, at Michigan Tech’s Ford Forestry Center. We made our home in the Keweenaw, where we both have strong family ties.

Lake Superior is our first love, and one that we share. Here’s a little known fact….Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area in the entire United States, with 541 square miles of land and 5,425 square miles of water. Nearly 90 percent of Keweenaw County is under the surface of Lake Superior!


Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and Dean

Embarking soon on your college career? Or, still pondering embarking? Then this is for you. A free, interactive Zoom short course , “Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean,” starts this Tuesday (July 7).

“We’ve added an extra chair, so now it is technically “Tips and Tricks from Four Chairs and a Dean,” says Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. “We’ve created this short course for future college students. Both precollege students, and anyone who might be still be just considering going to college,” Callahan. “We want to give students leg up, and so we’re going to show all the tips and tricks we wish someone had shown us, back when we were starting out. That includes helpful strategies to use with your science and engineering coursework, as well as physics, chemistry, and math.”

The first Tips and Tricks session began on Tuesday, July 7 via Zoom at 6pm EST. If you missed it, no problem. Feel free to join the group during any point along the way. Catch recordings at mtu.edu/huskybites if you happen to miss one.

Each session will run for about 20 minutes, plus time for Q&A each Tuesday in July. The next is July 14, then July 21, and July 28. You can register here.

The series kicked off with Dean Janet Callahan and Brett Hamlin, interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals (July 7 – Tips and Tricks from Three, no, Four Chairs and a Dean).

Next up is John Gierke, past chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (July 14 – Reverse Engineering: How Faculty Prepare Exam Problems).

Then comes Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (July 21 – Tips for the TI-89).

Last but not least is Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (July 28 – Two Triangles Don’t Make a Right).

“Even some middle school students, eighth grade and up, will find it helpful and useful,” adds Callahan. “Absolutely everyone is welcome. After each session, we’ll devote time to Q&A, too. I really hope you can join us, and please invite a friend!”

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