Category Archives: Education

Engineering Supports SnowBots at Yeti Cup

First Tech Challenge logoThe SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams competed in Kingsford last weekend for the Yeti Cup U.P. FIRST Tech Challenge robotic qualifier competition. All three teams were in the finals and brought home awards from the competition. SnowBots teams are open to area sixth-eighth grade students, and meet at Houghton Middle School.

SnowBots teams are sponsored by: Michigan Department of Education, GS Engineering, Destination Unstoppable, Boundary Labs, ThermoAnalytics, IR Telemetrics, Michigan Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department, Monte Consulting, and Houghton Portage Township Schools. The Kingsford event was sponsored in part by Michigan Technological University College of Computing. The Copper Country was also well represented with 18 community volunteers supporting the event.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.

States bound: SnowBots qualify for state championship

The SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams reached a first-ever milestone at the Pellston regional FIRST Tech Challenge qualifier on Nov 23rd. All three teams, identified by the colors Blue, Red, and Silver, have now qualified to compete at the state championship Dec. 13-14 in Battle Creek. SnowBots Blue and Silver qualified on Nov. 9 and the Red team will be joining them after their great performance in Pellston.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.


Engineering Students at the Health Research Institute Slam

Research Slam event photo of people in the labThe Health Research Institute hosted its first Research Slam Student forum Nov. 8, 2019. The event was divided into three categories: Two-Minute Introduction, Three-Minute Thesis, and Eight-Minute Talks.

Presenters from the Three-Minute Thesis and Eight-Minute Talk categories were judged on comprehension, content, audience engagement and ability to communicate their work and findings clearly.

The winners are:

Three Minute Thesis

Eight Minute Talk

  • 1st – Ariana Tyo, Biomedical Engineering
  • 2nd – Dhavan Sharma, Biomedical Engineering
  • 3rd – Wenkai Jia, Biomedical Engineering

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the presenters for sharing your research with the HRI community. We would also like to give special thanks to our faculty judges: Tatyana Karabencheva-Christova (Chem), Sangyoon Han (BioMed), Samantha Smith (CLS), Jingfeng Jiang (BioMed), Marina Tanasova (Chem), Rupak Rajachar (BioMed), Traci Yu (BioSci), and Shiyue Fang (Chem).


Yooper Lights: Blue Marble Security Enterprise mentors 7th graders on an eCYBERMISSION

The Yooper Lights eCybermission team, L to R: Olivia Shank, Rebecca Lyons, Chloe Daniels, and Jenna Beaudoin

Students attending Lake Linden-Hubbell schools who live within one mile of their school are not eligible to take the school bus. Many walk to school, often in the dark, early morning hours. The same is true for students in another nearby school district, Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw.

A small group of 7th grade students from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank—decided to do something to help improve safety for students who walk to school. Each was highly motivated, for personal reasons.

“I have three younger siblings who walk to school, and they aren’t always aware of their surroundings,” said Daniels.

“My uncle was biking one night and didn’t have a helmet or a reflector and he got hit by a car. He had brain trauma and now has trouble remembering certain things,” said Beaudoin.

“I want to be able to walk safely by myself or with my dogs in the early morning or in the evening when it gets dark,” said Shank.

“We live in a really snowy area, and kids can get hit,” said Lyons.

Helping kids and others walk safely in the dark is their mission, but it was more than that—it is their eCYBERMISSION, a national science competition sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program. Nationwide, students in grades 6-9 work in small teams for over a year to develop a process or product that will benefit their community. Locally, the Lake Linden Middle School eCYBERMISSION team is advised by Michigan Tech Engineering Fundamentals instructor Gretchen Hein, and chemical engineering senior Ryan Knoll.

Because none of them knew anything about circuits, the team contacted Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. Archer introduced the seventh graders to electrical engineering student John Robinault, outreach manager of Blue Marble Security.

Born out of the Michigan Tech Enterprise program, Blue Marble Security is a virtual company comprised undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology.

Twice a week, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank met with Robinault and computer science major Tyler Arthur in the Blue Marble Security lab, located in the EERC building on campus.

The girls modeled the casing of their LED reflector using Siemens NX software, created their circuit using National Instruments Multisim™ software, and modeled their circuitboard using Eagle PCB design software. They had never used the software or soldered. The Blue Marble students demonstrated how to model and solder, but the girls did the work.

Arthur was a brand new member of Blue Marble Security Enterprise when he began working with the girls. “It gave me an opportunity to teach some of the material that I was already familiar with, while also learning new things along the way,” he said. “We worked together to get familiar with CAD modeling, for instance.

In the process, Arthur learned a lot about working with younger students, something he hadn’t ever done. “The fact that the team members are all good friends made for an interesting group dynamic, because was easy for them to distract each other while working on the project.” Even so, the girls persevered. Throughout the fall, the team completed their research and designed their reflector. They took their preliminary design to their 7th grade science classes for feedback. Based on that, they updated the design, completed the circuit board and went back to the school for more feedback, this time visiting both 7th and 10th grade science classes, asking the students to compare their LED reflector to a plain reflector. After receiving more valuable feedback, the team modified their design.

At that point, they began testing their LED reflector—calling it the “Yooper Light”, and themselves, the Yooper Lights.

Outdoor testing was completed on a straight, flat road near their school, over a distance of 170 feet. Pedestrians (students grades 7-9), and drivers (students grades 10-12, plus college students and adults) were asked to report when they could see a person walking and wearing either the plain reflector or the Yooper light LED reflector.

Yooper Lights team tested their LED reflectors at night, with help from volunteers.

Due to weather conditions, only the college students and adults tested outside. The remaining tests were completed inside the school, in a dark hallway lit only by security lights. The Yooper Lights found that everyone could both see the LED reflector and the person wearing it over the entire testing distance.

They decided to conduct another, independent test to see just how far their LED reflector was visible. The maximum visibility was found to be 91.3 meters—over twice the previous testing distance.

Yooper Lights submitted their report to eCYBERMISSION, learning in March that they had made it to the virtual regional competition. Once again, Michigan Tech helped them out. The girls presented to judges at the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning with help from Associate Director Jeff Toorangian.

In late April, Yooper Lights became the first place 7th grade team in Michigan—and a finalist in the North Central Region. In a word: Success! They were going to compete in Washington, DC at the national competition.

During the weeklong event in DC last June, the Yooper Lights team bonded with their eCYBERMISSION mentor, Michigan Tech alumna Sasha Teymorian, now a chemist in the US Army Research Laboratory. Teymorian graduated with her doctorate in Chemistry from Michigan Tech in 2015. Together they enjoyed a bevvy of cool activities, including one called “Houston, We Have a Problem,” that tasked the girls with engineering a solution to the Apollo 13 mission. They worked with radio-controlled cars and conducted ballistics on balloons, and even designed autonomous vehicles at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

While in DC, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank also visited their Congressional representatives. They first met with Representative Jack Bergman, and then with Robert Curis, a staff member in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, sharing just how they used engineering to develop their LED light.

Finally, the Yooper lights presented their project to a team of eCybermission judges. “Although the team did not win the national competition, they gained a great deal from the experience,” said advisor Gretchen Hein.

What’s next for the team? Something they’re calling “Yooper Power”. Collaborating again with students from the Blue Marble Security Enterprise, as well as Michigan Tech student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the girls, now in 8th grade, will develop outreach activity kits for fifth and sixth graders. Their new mission: introduce more young students to the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Yooper Lights team member Olivia Shank models the casing of the LED reflector using Siemens NX software.
Chloe Daniels and Rebecca Lyons learn how to solder, with help from electrical engineering major John Robinault, a member of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise at Michigan Tech.
The team created two sizes and colors of 3D printed cases to test with their LED reflectors.
The Yooper Lights team used the Design Thinking process to develop their Yooper Lights. Design Thinking training is offered on campus through the Pavlis Honors College.
With more help from volunteers, the Yooper Lights team also tested their LED reflectors in a long, dimly lit hallway at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.

 


Eisele, Chaterjee Appointed to State Mining Council

Snehamoy Chatterjee
Snehamoy Chatterjee

Two Michigan Tech faculty members have been appointed to a state panel on mining. On Friday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the members of the new Committee on Michigan’s Mining Future. The formation of the committee was initiated by legislation introduced by State Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette.

Among those appointed by Whitmer were Snehamoy Chatterjee (GMES) and Timothy Eisele (ChE). Chatterjee was chosen to represent current or former research faculty members who hold a master’s or doctorate degree in mining or geology at a university in Michigan. Chatterjee said he’s “Overwhelmed and very excited” to serve on the committee.

Eisele, appointed as the designee of Cambensy, teaches minerals processing and metals extraction at Michigan Tech. He said the establishment of the Committee on Michigan’s Mining Future makes perfect sense. “Michigan is a major mining state, ranking in the top 10 states for mining activity, with an annual value of approximately $2.7 billion. Much of this material is used in-state for construction and industrial purposes, and it takes a prominent place in the economy of the state.”

Timothy C. Eisele
Timothy C. Eisele

Michigan Tech, which was created as a mining school, suspended the mining engineering program in 2004. This summer the major returned to the University with a new multidisciplinary mining engineering degree program. Chatterjee said the committee appointments will help the mining engineering program. “This appointment will not only help me professionally but also it will improve the visibility of our reinstated mining engineering program both to the potential employers and prospective students.

Eisele said it is important the University be represented on the state’s new mining panel. “Michigan Tech has a long history of working with the Michigan mining industry, and many of our students are employed by them. This committee will provide advice to the state legislature to ensure that the industry can not only operate in the state, but also find ways to utilize wastes constructively, and work with universities like Michigan Tech to develop and adopt new technologies that will reduce their environmental impact.”

The committee is charged with evaluating government policies that affect the mining and minerals industry, recommend public policy strategies to enhance the growth of the mining and minerals industry, and advise on the development of partnerships between industries, institutions, environmental groups, funding groups, and state and federal resources.

By Mark Wilcox.


Outreach in Natural Resources and Engineering

Natural Resource and Engineering career activityEighteen high school students from Detroit and across the lower peninsula are spending six days at Michigan Tech from July 22-27, 2019, to explore Natural Resources and Engineering majors and consider attending Michigan Technological University. This is the 5th year that the program has been conducted.

Students will investigate drinking water treatment, autonomous vehicles, forest management, and more, with Michigan Tech faculty from Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Electrical and Computing Engineering (ECE), as well as natural resource agencies, such as the US Forest Service. Students will participate in hands-on engineering explorations and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, from kayaking to mountain biking and hiking at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Some of the engineering-related explorations include:

  • Value of STEM Careers, with Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering
  • Water Use and Cleaning Wastewater, with Joan Chadde, Center for Science and Environmental Outreach (CSEO)
  • Water Treatment and the Flint Water Crisis, with Brian Doughty, CSEO
  • Water Treatment Technologies, with Ryan Kibler, Benjamin Cerrados, Dr. Daisuke Minakata, CEE
  • Demo of acoustic triangulation and underwater autonomous vehicles, with Dr. Andrew Barnard and Miles Penhale, ME-EM
  • Stream Lab and Green Land and Water Management Practices, with Dr. Brian Barkdoll, CEE
  • Tour of Flood Damage in Houghton (and Detroit): Why does flooding occur and how can it be mitigated? with Dr. Alex Mayer, CEE, and Mike Reed, Detroit Zoological Society
  • Self-Driving Vehicles, with Dr. Jeremy P. Bos, ECE

The program is coordinated by Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, with funding from: Michigan Space Grant Consortium, Michigan Tech School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, College of Engineering, Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, Admissions, Housing and Residential Life, Great Lakes Research Center, and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

For more information, contact: Joan Chadde at 906-487-3341/906-369-1121 or jchadde@mtu.edu.


New High School STEM Internship Program at Michigan Tech

Chris Adams working at a bench with Riley Stoppa
Biological sciences graduate student Chris Adams works in the GLRC fisheries lab with STEM intern Riley Stoppa.

A total of 13 high school students from throughout Michigan are participating in a 5-day internship at Michigan Tech July 15-19, 2019. Faculty and their graduate students voluntarily host the students in engaging research activities during the week. The faculty’s department, along with the College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Arts, together provide a $600 scholarship for the student that covers their transportation, lodging and meals.

The interns work with Michigan Tech faculty and graduate students in their research lab or doing field work outside. During the week, students tour the Michigan Tech campus and local area, ‘experience college living’ in a residence hall, and meet students from across Michigan and beyond!

In Dr. Parisa Abadi’s Mechanical Engineering Lab, students will be 3D printing nanomaterials. Dr. Tara Bal in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences (SFRES) will conduct invasive species monitoring and forest health assessments. Dr. Will Cantrell in Atmospheric Physics will have the intern investigating why some clouds rain, while others do not.

Dr. Daniel Dowden in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) has his intern investigating which technologies will allow buildings to sustain minimal damage and be easily repairable after large earthquakes. Four faculty–Drs. Deering, Waite, Oommen, and Gierke in Geological and Mining Sciences and Engineering are providing a broad introduction of mapping geological features, conducting geophysical surveys, and working to construct a 3-D model of a geological feature. Dr. Casey Huckins and graduate student–Chris Adams in Biological Sciences–are monitoring Pilgrim River and measuring the results of a fish survey in the lab. Dr. Daisuke Minakata in CEE and Dr. Paul Doskey in SFRES, along with graduate students, are researching innovative drinking water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Dr. Michael Mullins in the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) has his intern researching ways to remove PFAs contaminants from water. Dr. Rebecca Ong in ChE has her two interns investigating biofuel production from native grasses. Dr. Chelsea Schelly in the Department of Social Sciences and Dr. Robert Handler in the Sustainable Future Institute are measuring food, energy, and water consumption in residential homes and looking for ways to reduce household resource consumption. Dr. Kuilin Zhang and his graduate student Qinjie Lyu in CEE have their intern studying traffic data collection, traffic signal timing, eco-driving, and using traffic simulation software.

The program is coordinated by the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, in partnership with Summer Youth Program who provides logistical support and supervises the students in the residence halls in the evening.

Funding for the program is received from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, the College of Sciences and Arts, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, the Department of Chemical Engineering, the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Great Lakes Research Center, Youth Programs, and an anonymous donor.

The STEM internship program is coordinated by Joan Chadde at Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.


Keys to a Unique Nameplate

I’ve just received an amazing gift. A unique, foundry-casting of my name in brass. The Michigan Technological University foundry is one of the few remaining operational university metallurgical facilities where students can work to create 3D positive prints, stamp them into sand, and then pour (with eye protection, fireproof aprons and face shields, tongs, and gloves) orange-hot molten metal into the sand to create metal castings.

I’m near the end of my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. As background, it’s relevant to note that Michigan Tech was founded in 1885 to support the emerging copper and iron mining activities Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. Founded to train the future mining and metallurgical engineers, Michigan Tech through the years has established an incredibly strong reputation for training “can-do” engineers—many who know a bit about metallurgy! But even I was surprised when presented with a personalized nameplate for my office—cast in the MSE foundry using brass recovered from a cache of old university office keys!

My new nameplate.

The university had accumulated a large number of brass keys from locks that were long-ago decommissioned. Looking for an ultimate way to securely dispose of the keys, the university public safety department approached the foundry team to ask if they could be melted and destroyed using the foundry. “Of course,” they replied. Timing is always important. At about that same time, Materials Science and Engineering Chair Steve Kampe had asked the foundry team to make a nameplate for me. I was just starting my new job as Dean, and happened to have my own credentials as a metallurgical engineer. Over the next several weeks, a pattern was 3D printed and the key brass was compositionally modified to facilitate its use as a casting alloy—and the nameplate came to be.

Sam Dlugoss holds a version of the finished nameplate
Sam Dlugoss

The “Dean nameplate project” was led by Sam Dlugoss, a chemical engineering student hired as a co-op employee in the foundry. I am humbled each time I see it as I unlock my office door with my own brass key. I think about the hands of the graduate students, staff, and faculty that are represented in the keys that ultimately were melted into my nameplate—and how these dedicated and aspiring engineers and scientists carried their keys and opened their labs and offices each day for many years, to do the work that has established the reputation we now carry on at Michigan Tech.

Last week, students in the foundry created more nameplates, this time for our College of Engineering Advisory Board Members. In the photos below, the students are working with iron.

A dip type thermocouple probe is used to measure the temperature of the liquid iron before tapping the furnace.
A dip type thermocouple probe is used to measure the temperature of the liquid iron before tapping the furnace.
As the iron is tapped into the ladle, ferrosilicon inoculant is added to the liquid stream. The inoculant provides nucleation sites for creating the proper iron-graphite microstructure in the solidified gray cast iron metal.
As the metal is tapped into the ladle, ferrosilicon inoculant is added to the liquid stream. The inoculant provides nucleation sites for creating the proper iron-graphite microstructure in the solidified gray cast iron metal.
After tapping into the ladle is complete, some sparks fly as the inoculant reacts with the liquid iron.
After tapping into the ladle is complete, some sparks fly as the inoculant reacts with the liquid iron.
The pouring team fills the molds.
The pouring team fills the molds.
 The pouring basin is kept full so that the molten metal quickly fills the mold cavity.
The pouring basin is kept full so that the molten metal quickly fills the mold cavity.
As the pouring team fills the 3rd mold [middle ground], an MSE staff member [foreground] lifts the mold jacket from the 2nd mold, and will transfer it to the waiting 4th mold [background] prior to it being poured. The jacket supports the green sand mold against the hydraulic pressure of the liquid metal entering the mold.
As the pouring team fills the 3rd mold [middle ground], an MSE staff member [foreground] lifts the mold jacket from the 2nd mold, and will transfer it to the waiting 4th mold [background] prior to it being poured. The jacket supports the green sand mold against the hydraulic pressure of the liquid metal entering the mold.
The metal has solidified but the molds are left to cool for a few minutes before the castings are shaken out.
The metal has solidified but the molds are left to cool for a few minutes before the castings are shaken out.
A mold with a casting inside is transported to the shake-out bin.
A mold with a casting inside is transported to the shake-out bin.
The molds are dumped into the shake-out bin where they disintegrate. Because sand is a good insulator the castings are still very hot after shake-out, as evidenced by the still glowing runner section. A few taps with a hammer loosens the sand. This green sand will be reused to make more molds after it is conditioned and remixed with water.
The molds are dumped into the shake-out bin where they disintegrate. Because sand is a good insulator the castings are still very hot after shake-out, as evidenced by the still glowing runner section. A few taps with a hammer loosens the sand. This green sand will be reused to make more molds after it is conditioned and remixed with water.
Once cool, the nameplates will be separated, then buffed and polished.

Now, if you’re interested in metallurgy, and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Engineering Graduates on What Makes a Husky

Commencement Spring 2019One of more than 1,000 students who walked across the stage during Saturday’s ceremony was student commencement speaker Monica Brechting of Grand Rapids, who is the 12th member of her family to attend Tech.

The mechanical engineering major was active on campus, being part of St. Albert the Great University Parish, playing piccolo in the Huskies Pep Band, was team lead of Robotics System Enterprise and president of Tech’s chapter of Silver Swings, a national community service organization.

Brechting’s speech, “What Makes a Husky?” took fellow graduates through a host of common experiences.

Rebecca Spencer, a mechanical engineering major, got her first exposure to Tech through the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), which brought students up for the Summer Youth Program.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.

View the Photo Gallery


Michigan Tech—at the Intersection of Engineering and Medicine

Undergraduate research in the Biomedical Optics Laboratory at Michgan Tech
Undergraduate research in the Biomedical Optics Laboratory at Michgan Tech

There’s a lot of cutting-edge, health-focused research going on at Michigan Tech, in areas that engage undergraduates in hands-on research. This is because we care deeply about improving the human condition, and we teach this “first-hand.”

If you are interested in medicine, possess a desire to help others, and enjoy creative problem solving, read on. Michigan Tech researchers tackle genetics, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, just to name a few. Still more areas focus on improving health, fitness, clean water, sleep, medical imaging, and more.

In the College of Engineering alone, we have over 30 faculty—in biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, environmental engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering—who engage in health-aligned research, engaging both undergraduates as well as graduate students in research.

Catching Viruses in the Lab
For example, in Chemical Engineering, students in Prof. Caryn Heldt’s lab “catch” viruses by understanding their sticky outer layers. The complex structures making the surface of a virus are small weaves of proteins that impact they way a virus interacts with cells and its environment. A slight change in protein sequence makes this surface slightly water-repelling, or hydrophobic, causing it to stick to other hydrophobic surfaces. Using this knowledge, they are finding new ways to detect and remove viruses before they make people sick, and also reduce cost and development time for new vaccines.

“I’m interested in how water around a virus can be controlled to decrease the cost of making vaccines and other medicines,” says Caryn Heldt. Her team conducts research using parvovirus because it’s small and chemically stable.

Accelerated Healing
In Biomedical Engineering, students in Prof. Rupak Rajachar’s lab are developing a minimally invasive, injectable hydrogel for achilles tendinitis, one of the most common and painful sports injuries. “To cells in the body, a wound must seem as if a bomb has gone off,” he says.  The team’s hydrogel formula allows tendon tissue to recover organization by restoring the initial cues that tendon cells need in order to function. Two commonly prescribed, simple therapies—range of motion exercises and applying cold or heat—boost the effectiveness of the hydrogel. Even a single injection can accelerate healing.

Prof. Rajachar and his team culture tendon cells with a bit of their injectable hydrogel in a petri dish, then watch under a microscope to see just how tendon cells respond over time. “In the presence of the hydrogel, cells of interest (called tenocytes) maintain their tendon cell behavior,” he says.

Human-Centered Monitoring
In Mechanical Engineering, students in Prof. Ye Sun’s Human Centered Monitoring Lab are turning embroidered logos into wearable electronics. Health monitoring devices like FitBit, apps on cell phones, and heart monitors are seemingly everywhere, but what if embroidery on clothing could replace these devices altogether? By using conductive thread and passive electronics‚ tiny semiconductors, resistors and capacitors‚ Prof. Sun and her team do it with stitching—lightweight, flexible, and beautiful embroidery. They’re also building a manufacturing network and cloud-based website for ordering.

Ye Sarah Suns hands are show holding a prototype of a flexible electronic circuit, where the stitches themselves become the circuit.
“I hope flexible, wearable electronics will interest a new generation of engineers by appealing to their artistic sides,” says Dr. Ye Sarah Sun. She is holding a prototype of a flexible electronic circuit, where the stitches themselves become the circuit.

Fighting Cancer with Fruit Flies
And in Biological Sciences, students in Prof. Thomas Werner’s lab perform transgenics, where they insert pieces of foreign DNA into fruit fly embryos, to determine the role genes play in the pigmentation of fruit flies. Biologists use fruit flies to study wing spots, metabolism, and aging. This is important because the same genes and major metabolic pathways in fruit flies affect cancer and other diseases in humans.

five fruit flies with striped bodies are shown. The genes that govern abdominal colors and patterns in fruit flies may provide insight into human cancer genes.
“There are a few hundred toolkit genes that all animals share and they build us as embryos and continue to help us as we develop,” says Prof. Werner. “But the differences in their regulation—when and where and how much they function—brings about the diversity of life.”

Engineers Go to Medical School
In case you are a student who is considering medical school, engineering majors stack up very well in acceptances to medical school, especially when considering research experiences and the associated research publications that our students co-author. In our Department of Biomedical Engineering alone, in 2017-18, BME majors had an 86% acceptance rate to med school.

I Followed My Heart
As a personal anecdote, my first university degree was a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. My curiosity about materials (especially metals) led me to a PhD in Materials Science. This multidisciplinary background led me to start a company with a cardiologist who needed my expertise. He had a vision for an improved angioplasty device to treat restenosis, which is when heart stents become narrow or blocked. Our company was based on my invention, related to applying tiny doses of radiation to a blockage to help in-stent restenosis. In all my career, this two years of work on this angioplasty device—it captured my imagination, my attention, and my heart (no pun intended). This intersection of engineering and medicine—it’s a life-changing experience to get personally engaged.

Now, if you’re interested in health care or working in a research lab, and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Eight Years of Awesome—NSBE Alternative Spring Break in Detroit

Portrait of the Michigan Tech NSBE students who traveled to Detroit
University students from the Michigan Tech NSBE chapter devoted their spring break to inspire, encourage and teach high school and middle school students in Detroit. From L to R: Christiana Strong, Jalen Vaughn, Andrea Smith, Bryce Stallworth, Kylynn Hodges, Stuart Liburd, Rebecca Spencer, Jemel Thompson. Not pictured: Logan Millen

In March, students from the Michigan Tech Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) traveled to the Motor City, visiting middle and high school classrooms as part of the chapter’s 8th Annual NSBE Alternative Spring Break trip in Detroit. Their goal—to engage, inspire, and encourage diverse students to consider careers in STEM—science, technology engineering and math.

Nine Michigan Tech engineering students participated: Christiana Strong (biomedical engineering); Jalen Vaughn (computer engineering); Andrea Smith (chemical engineering and pharmaceutical chemistry); Bryce Stallworth (mechanical engineering); Kylynn Hodges (computer science); Stuart Liburd (mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering); Rebecca Spencer (mechanical engineering); Jemel Thompson (environmental engineering); and Logan Millen (chemical engineering).

During the day, the NSBE students gave classroom presentations at middle and high schools. After school, they conducted Family Engineering events for K-8 students and their families with fun, hands-on activities.

“Having the NSBE Alternative Spring Break program at our school has sparked new conversations in classes and hallways about the reality of attending a university after graduation,” said Matthew Guyton, a robotics, coding, and math teacher at Communication and Media Arts High School, and a graduate of Michigan Tech’s Teacher Education Program (‘07).

“The high school students have a lot of questions specifically about applying to college,” said Stuart Liburd, president of Michigan Tech’s NSBE chapter. “We also share our own experiences as college students. For instance, while living in the Virgin Islands, I realized that I wanted to develop technology that would help people in their everyday life,” he said. “I applied to a lot of schools but settled on Michigan Tech because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. It was located in a place I’d never been, and I heard they got a lot of snow. I had never seen snow before coming to Michigan Tech!”

This was Liburd’s third alternative spring break in Detroit. “I want to make a positive impact,” he adds. “To put it simply, I want to live up to the NSBE motto—’to increase the number of responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.’”

“It was so great to have the NSBE members share their experience with our students. They opened up my students’ vision of possibilities for the future. Particularly in Detroit, engineering is typically discussed in the context of automotive so it was helpful that the broad scope of engineering was presented,” said Nicole Conaway, a science teacher at the Communication and Media Arts High School. “The students’ personal stories were especially important for our students to hear in order for them to see themselves as future engineers. A few weeks after the visit, one of my seniors proudly brought me his letter of acceptance from Michigan Tech—it was so exciting!”

“Each year, the NSBE Alternative Spring Break provides an opportunity for community-building between the Michigan Tech NSBE student chapter, and our school and parents,” said Tracy Ortiz, a middle school science teacher at Clippert Academy. “We appreciate their time and dedication. Families gain an appreciation of the STEM concepts required for engineering careers, and both parents and children engage in collaboration and teamwork to solve engineering challenges. It was awesome to have the NBSE students share their college experiences and have my students come away with the idea that engineering can be a career path for them,” added Ortiz.

“They helped me to see that you can do anything you want with your life,” said Tiara Carey, a student at Communication and Media Arts High School. “When Michigan Tech came to visit CMA, it opened my eyes to just how many different branches of engineering exist,” said fellow student Caleb Bailey.

“The students from Michigan Tech helped me understand more about myself by playing a game with all of us,” adds CMA high school student, Kayleon Anderson-Jordan. “They showed us how important it is to listen and to be very specific. They had us follow directions and understand how one small thing can mess up a larger goal, so be careful with planning.”

“NSBE Alternative Spring Break provides an opportunity for our students to see people who look like them, studying for careers that they, too, can attain,” said Kwesi Matthews, a science teacher at Ben Carson High School. “Even if they don’t go into engineering or a STEM field, we have introduced them to a group of college students who are accessible to them, and like themselves.”

“I’d like to personally thank our Michigan Tech NSBE members for taking time in their spring break and investing it to help inspire, and encourage diverse students to consider STEM-intensive careers,” remarked Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean of Engineering at Michigan Tech. “When our middle and high school students hear directly from college students about the different majors in STEM, and about how they chose those majors, it’s inspirational.”

Additional comments from the students at Communication and Media Arts High School include:

“I learned about many kinds of engineering that I didn’t know existed until the Michigan Tech visit.”
Jada Williams

“They helped me understand how important and critical proper teamwork is—without good communication, errors can potentially result.”
Angel McLaurin

“I learned that there are more kinds of technology than I thought, such as the technology in the fashion industry associated with making jeans.”
Alexandria Johnson

“They expanded my knowledge of career choices in engineering and even in the field of engineering education. Engineering is one of my potential career choices, so it’s reassuring to know that colleges welcome all future engineers in every aspect.”
Davion Stinson

General Motors funded their effort, along with the Office of Admissions and College of Engineering at Michigan Tech, in partnership with Detroit Public Schools Community District. The effort was coordinated by the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach.