Category: News

Paul van Susante: Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise (MINE)

Dr. Paul van Susante’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) at Michigan Tech, home of the Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber. It’s about as close to moon conditions as one can get on Earth!

Paul van Susante shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/3 at 6 pm. 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.

Paul van Susante

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 10/3 at 6 pm ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Paul van Susante, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering—Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be several of his current Michigan Tech students, all members of MINE, the Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise: electrical engineering majors Brenda Wilson and Gabe Allis; and mechanical engineering major Parker Bradshaw.

Wilson, Allis and Bradshaw—along with about 50 other student members of the MINE team—design, test, and implement robotic technologies for extracting (and using) local resources in extreme environments. That includes Lunar and Martian surfaces, and flooded subterranean environments here on Earth. Prof. van Susante helped launch the team, and serves as MINE’s faculty advisor.

The award-winning Enterprise Program at Michigan Tech involves students—of any major—working in teams on real projects, with real clients. Michigan Tech currently has 23 different Enterprise teams on campus, working to pioneer solutions, invent products, and provide services.

“As an engineer, I’m an optimist. We can invent things that allow us to do things that now seem impossible.”

Paul van Susante
Students in the Huskyworks Lab at Michigan Tech work on the T-REX rover (Tethered permanently-shadowed Region Explorer). The T-REX lays down lightweight, superconducting cable connected to a lander, and it won NASA’s top prize—the Artemis Award.

MINE team members build and test robotic vehicles and technologies for clients in government and the private sector. They tackle construction and materials characterization, too. It all happens in van Susante’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) at Michigan Tech, a place where science fiction becomes reality via prototyping, building, testing—and increasing the technology readiness and level of tech being developed for NASA missions. The PSTDL is also known as Huskyworks.

Prior to coming to Michigan Tech, Prof. van Susante earned his PhD and taught at the Colorado School of Mines, and also served as a NASA Faculty Fellow. He has been involved in research projects collaborating with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, TransAstra, DARPA, NASA Kennedy Space Center, JPL, Bechtel, Caterpillar, and many others.

Prof. van Susante created the PSTDL’s Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber himself, using his new faculty startup funding. It’s a vacuum-sealed room, partially filled with a simulated lunar dust that can be cooled to minus 196 degrees Celsius and heated to 150 degrees Celsius—essentially, a simulated moon environment. In the chamber, researchers can test surface exploration systems (i.e., rovers) in a box containing up to 3,000 pounds of regolith simulant. It’s about as close to moon conditions as one can get on Earth.

Students in the PSTDL move a testbox into position for testing in the Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber.

The NASA Artemis program aims to send astronauts back to the moon by 2025 and establish a permanent human presence. Building the necessary infrastructure to complete this task potentially requires an abundance of resources because of the high cost of launching supplies from Earth. 

“An unavoidable obstacle of space travel is what NASA calls the ‘Space Gear Ratio’, where in order to send one package into space, you need nearly 450 times that package’s mass in expensive rocket fuel to send it into space,” notes van Susante. “In order to establish a long-term presence on other planets and moons, we need to be able to effectively acquire the resources around us, known as in-situ-resource utilization, or ISRU.”

“NASA has several inter-university competitions that align with their goals for their up-and-coming Artemis Missions,” adds van Susante. 

Huskyworks and MINE have numerous Artemis irons in the fire, plus other research projects, too. We’ll learn a lot more about them during Husky Bites.

LUNABOTICS

A peek at the integrated system of MINE’s Lunabotics rover.
Six members of the Michigan Tech Astro-Huskies (plus Dr. van Susante) at NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, during the 2021-22 Lunabotics competition

Electrical engineering undergraduate student Brenda Wilson serves as the hardware sub-team lead of the Astro-Huskies, a group of 25 students within MINE who work on an autonomous mining rover as part of NASA’s Lunabotics competition. It’s held every year in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center with 50 teams in attendance from universities across the nation. This is the Astro-Huskies’ third year participating in the competition, coming up in May 2023. 

This year the Astro-Huskies are designing, building, testing, and competing with an autonomous excavation rover. The rover must traverse around obstacles such as mounds, craters, rocks; excavate ice to be used for the production of rocket fuel, then return to the collection point. By demonstrating their rover, each team in the competition contributes ideas to NASA’s future missions to operate on and start producing consumables on the lunar surface. 

DIVER

Mechanical engineering undergraduate student Gabe Allis is manager of the MINE team’s DIVER project (Deep Investigation Vehicle for Energy Resources). The team is focused on building an untethered ROV capable of descending down into the Quincy mine to map the flooded tunnels and collect water samples. The team supports ongoing research at Michigan Tech that aims to convert flooded mine shafts into giant batteries, or Pumped Underground Storage for Hydropower (PUSH) facilities.

What it looks like beneath the Quincy Mine in Hancock, Michigan. Illustration courtesy of Michigan Tech’s Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.

“Before a mine can be converted into a PUSH facility it must be inspected, and most mines are far deeper than can be explored by a conventional diver,”Allis explains.

“This is where we come in, with a robust, deep-diving robot that’s designed for an environment more unforgiving than the expanse of outer space, and that includes enormous external pressure, no communication, and no recovery if something goes wrong,” he says.  

“Differences in water temperature at different depths cause currents that can pull our robot in changing directions,” adds Allis. “No GPS means that our robot may have to localize from its environment, which means more computing power, and more space, weight, energy consumption, and cooling requirements. These are the sort of problems that our team needs to tackle.”

TRENCHER

During Husky Bites, Bradshaw will tell us about the team’s Trencher project, which aims to provide proof-of-concept for extracting the lunar surface using a bucket ladder-style excavator. “Bucket ladders offer a continuous method of excavation that can transport a large amount of material with minimal electricity, an important consideration for operations on the moon,” Bradshaw says. “With bucket ladders NASA will be able to extract icy regolith to create rocket fuel on the moon and have a reliable method to shape the lunar surface.” Unlike soil, regolith is inorganic material that has weathered away from the bedrock or rock layer beneath.

Parker Bradshaw, also a mechanical engineering student, is both a member of MINE and member of van Susante’s lab, where he works as an undergraduate researcher. “Dr. van Susante is my boss, PI, and Enterprise advisor. I first worked with him on a MINE project last year, then got hired by his lab (the PSTDL) to do research over the summer.”

Bradshaw is preparing a research paper detailing data the team has gathered while excavating in the lab’s Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber, with a goal of sharing what was learned by publishing their results in an academic journal.

The PSTDL’s field-rover HOPLITE gets ready for field-test last winter.

“An unavoidable obstacle of space travel is what NASA calls the ‘Space Gear Ratio’, where in order to send one package into orbit around Earth, you need nearly 10 times that package’s mass in expensive rocket fuel to send it into space, and even more for further destinations,” van Susante explains. “So in order to establish a long-term presence on other planets and moons, we need to be able to effectively acquire the resources around us, known as in-situ-resource utilization, or ISRU.”

In the world-class Huskyworks lab (and in the field) van Susante and his team work on a wide variety of projects:

Paul van Susante served as a mining judge during the 2018 Regolith Mining Competition at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

NASA Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR)—a “Percussive Hot Cone Penetrometer and Ground Penetrating Radar for Geotechnical and Volatiles Mapping.”

NASA Breakthrough Innovative and Game Changing (BIG) Idea Challenge 2020—a “Tethered permanently shaded Region EXplorer (T-REX)” delivers power and communication into a PSR, (also known as a Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer).

NASA Watts on the Moon Centennial Challenge—providing power to a water extraction plant PSR located 3 kilometers from the power plant. Michigan Tech is one of seven teams that advanced to Phase 2, Level 2 of the challenge.

NASA ESI Early Stage Innovation—obtaining water from rock gypsum on Mars.

NASA Break the Ice—the latest centennial challenge from NASA, to develop technologies aiding in the sustained presence on the Moon.

NASA NextSTEP BAA ISRU, track 3—”RedWater: Extraction of Water from Mars’ Ice Deposits” (subcontract from principal investigator Honeybee Robotics).

NASA GCD MRE—Providing a regolith feeder and transportation system for the MRE reactor

HOPLITE—a modular robotic system that enables the field testing of ISRU technologies.

Dr. van Susante met his wife, Kate, in Colorado.

Dr. van Susante, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Helping people and making the world a better place with technology and the dream of space exploration. My interest came from sci-fi books and movies and seeing what people can accomplish when they work together.

Hometown and Hobbies?

I grew up in The Netherlands and got my MS in Civil Engineering from TU-Delft before coming to the USA to continue grad school. I met my wife in Colorado and have one 8 year old son. The rest of my family is still in The Netherlands. Now I live in Houghton, Michigan, not too far from campus. I love downhill and x-country skiing, reading (mostly sci-fi/fantasy), computer and board games, and photography.

Dr. van Susante has been a huge help—not just with the technical work, but with the project management side of things. We’ve found it to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as a team this past year.

Brenda Wilson

Brenda, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

My dad, who is a packaging engineer, would explain to me how different machines work and how different things are made. My interest in electrical engineering began with the realization that power is the backbone to today’s society. Nearly everything we use runs on electricity. I wanted to be able to understand the large complex system that we depend so heavily upon. Also, because I have a passion for the great outdoors, I want to take my degree in a direction where I can help push the power industry towards green energy and more efficient systems.

Hometown, family?

My hometown is Naperville, Illinois. I have one younger brother starting his first year at Illinois State in general business. My Dad is a retired packaging engineer with a degree from Michigan State, and my mom is an accountant with a masters degree from the University of Chicago.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am an extremely active person and try to spend as much time as I can outside camping and on the trails. I also spend a good chunk of my time running along the portage waterfront, swing dancing, and just recently picked up mountain biking.

I got involved in the DIVER project in MINE, and have enjoyed working with Dr. van Susante. He’s a no nonsense kind of guy. He tells you what you need to improve on, and then helps you get there.

Gabe Allis
Gabe Allis

Gabe, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I first became interested in engineering when my great-uncle gave me a college text-book of his on engineering: Electric Circuits and Machines, by Eugene Lister. I must have been at most 13. To my own surprise, I began reading it and found it interesting. Ever since then I’ve been looking for ways to learn more.

Hometown, family?

I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the oldest of nine. First in my family to go to Tech, and probably not the last. 

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to play guitar, read fiction, mountain bike, explore nature, and hang out/worship at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church.

“Doing both Enterprise work and research under Dr. van Susante has been a very valuable experience. I expect to continue working in his orbit through the rest of my undergrad degree.”

Parker Bradshaw
Parker Bradshaw

Parker, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I was first introduced to engineering by my dad, who manufactured scientific equipment for the University of Michigan Psychology department. Hanging around in his machine shop at a young age made me really want to work with my hands. What I do as a member of MINE is actually very similar to what my dad did at the U of M. I create research equipment that we use to obtain the data we need for our research, just for me it’s space applications (instead of rodent brains).

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Ann Arbor Michigan, and both of my parents work for the University of Michigan Psychology department. My dad is now retired.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a variety of things to keep me busy when school isn’t too overbearing. I go to the Copper Country Community Art Center Clay Co-Op as often as I can to throw pottery on the wheel. I also enjoy watercolor painting animals in a scientific illustration style. Over the summer I was working on my V22 style RC plane project.

Michigan Tech MINE team photo (taken last year). The constraints of the pandemic complicated some of their efforts, yet brought out the best in all of them.

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To the Moon—and Beyond

Watch

Mine Video for Michigan Tech 2022 Design Expo

SWE, Aerospace Enterprise Represent MTU at Women in Aviation Day

Women in Aviation Day banner with image of Amelia Earhart.

On September 17, 2022, eight students from the Aerospace Enterprise and Society of Women Engineers represented Michigan Tech at the first annual Women in Aviation Day in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Participating students were:

From Aerospace: Heather Goetz, Seth Quayle and Nolan Pickett (mechanical engineering); and Zoe Knoper (cybersecurity).

From SWE: Sophie Stewart and Katherine Rauscher (mechanical engineering); Kathryn Krieger (environmental engineering); and Cailyn Koerber (engineering management).

This event was hosted by the Learn Build Fly organization, which does incredible volunteer work in engaging their community in aviation. As summarized by Wausau’s WSAW-TV News Channel 7, “The event aimed to get more women involved in recreational and professional aviation. Children had the chance to participate in ‘Young Eagle Flights’ by going for airplane rides, while other aviation organizations gave information about their programs.”

Visitors to the event had the opportunity to see a 3D model of the newest Aerospace Enterprise satellite design and learn how these students were designing and building satellites to go into space, while the SWE team worked with visitors on an outreach activity, Paper Circuits.

Participants’ comments included:

Nolan Pickett: “Our Enterprise was given the opportunity to not only celebrate the women in our program, but also promote STEM to the next generation of college students — and fly in a WWII era B-25!”

Kathryn Krieger: “I loved being able to see so many young girls getting excited about STEM. It was really inspiring to see the many ways kids are getting involved with aviation and other STEM disciplines from such a young age.”

Both SWE and the Aerospace Enterprise teams enjoyed volunteering at Women in Aviation, learning more about the history of aviation and meeting with folks interested in aviation careers. This was a unique outreach opportunity and they appreciated the support they received from Admissions and the College of Engineering.

By Gretchen Hein, SWE Advisor.

Beyond Measure: Nucor Metrology Center at MTU Hosts Donor Appreciation Event

“We want to see our students use their hands for physical engineering, and that happens in measurement,” said Rachel Store, Michigan Tech research engineer and head of the Nucor Metrology Center. The new center is located on campus in the RL Smith Building. Photo credit: Matt Monte

09/20/2022

Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) officially opened the Nucor Metrology Center on Tuesday, Sept. 20, with a donor appreciation event recognizing Nucor Corporation for its generous support of the Center.

University and department officials also recognized Milwaukee Tool and Nexteer for their equipment donations to the Center.

“We thank Nucor for their very generous donation of $100,000 to establish the Nucor Metrology Center in the ME-EM department here at MTU,” said Jason Blough, interim department chair. “We would also like to thank Milwaukee Tool, Nexteer and Richard Crosby for their assistance in enhancing the capabilities of the facility. Industry support has always allowed us to offer outstanding experiences to our students and to grow our research portfolio and capacity in ways that would not otherwise be possible.”

“Huskies are ready to tackle the next problem and help create the future with innovative solutions.”

Kate Amar-Fox, melt shop metallurgist, Nucor

“Nucor is excited to be a part of expanding the on-hand and lab experiences with the funds for the metrology lab,” said Kate Amar-Fox, melt shop metallurgist at Nucor. “We believe that powerful partnerships create powerful results and are looking forward to these partnerships for years to come.”

The Nucor Metrology Center provides students with the resources to make highly accurate measurements for their project components, advancing the Michigan Tech College of Engineering’s objective to provide world-class undergraduate and graduate education to support a diverse workforce and societal needs. 

“We want to see our students use their hands for physical engineering, and that happens in measurement,” said Rachel Store, Michigan Tech research engineer and head of the Nucor Metrology Center. “The students will take data to document their product performance, all while better understanding their product quality through metrics.”

The lab features both traditional and leading-edge, industry-standard equipment, including calipers, micrometers, a flexible arm coordinate-measurement machine (CMM), optical microscope, microhardness testers, tachometers, strobometers, and infrared and thermal scanners.

“Nucor’s donation allowed us to purchase a Leica DVM6 motorized digital microscope and a Hexagon Metrology absolute measurement arm, giving us the ability to do high-quality metrology measurements for part inspection,” said Blough. “We are already using this technology in one of our research programs and in one of our undergraduate courses.”

Store says the Center gives students exposure to the equipment they will see in industry when they graduate. “We know familiarity and fluency strengthen their hands-on, intensive experience,” she said. “Confidence is built on reality.”

Pasi Lautala: Railroads—Back to the Future

The US rail network comprises nearly 140,000 miles of track—and more than 200,000 highway-rail grade crossings. Photo credit: Eric Peterson.

Pasi Lautala shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 9/26 at 6 pm. 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.

Dr. Pasi Lautala

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 9/26 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Pasi Lautala, associate professor of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Lautala directs Michigan Tech’s innovative Rail Transportation Program (RTP), preparing students to thrive and succeed in the rail industry—something he has done for the past 15 years.

Joining in will be Michigan Tech alumnus Eric Peterson, retired assistant chief engineer of public projects at CSX Transportation, who helped establish and grow the RTP at Michigan Tech.

During Husky Bites the two will share the secrets behind the energy efficiency of rail, and guide us from past railroads to what they are today. They’ll also discuss how railroads are securing a future in the era of rapid technology development. 

“Rail is considered more energy efficient. In many ways it is a more sustainable transportation mode compared to highway and air transport, says Lautala. “However, in order for rail transportation to keep up with the other modes of transportation, it must keep developing alongside them—and with an equal amount of passion. In the US, some of those challenges (but also opportunities) include long asset lives, non-flexible structures, and private ownership.”

Pat and Eric Peterson

Before moving to the US from Finland, Lautala worked for several summers with the Finnish Railway system. After graduating from Michigan Tech with his MS in Civil Engineering, he worked for five years as a railroad and highway engineering consultant in Chicago, before returning to Michigan Tech for his PhD in Rail Transportation and Engineering Education.

Michigan Tech’s Railroad Engineering Activity Club, aka REAC, is “for students interested in establishing contacts with, learning about, getting involved with, and a hair’s breadth away from being obsessed with the railroad and transportation industries in the United States of America and beyond.” Lautala and Peterson are honorary members.

“I first met Eric as a young consultant,” Lautala recalls. “He was one of the managers for our client, CSX Transportation. Once I returned to campus as a doctoral student, I learned Eric was a former classmate of my PhD advisor. Eric became an influential force and tireless supporter of our efforts to start the Rail Transportation Program. He still teaches some signals and communications lectures for us.”

“My wife, Pat, and I supported the startup of the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program with Pasi as the leader,” adds Peterson. “At the time, we were hiring engineers at CSX for all types of jobs, including field supervisors—people comfortable working both in the field and in the office. The rest of the rail industry was hiring, too.” 

“The railroad industry is still hungry for young people with interest and education in rail transportation,” says Lautala. When he first came to Michigan Tech from Finland in 1996 to earn an MS in Civil Engineering, Lautala brought the railroad bug with him. The son of a locomotive engineer, Lautala grew up in a culture that embraced rail transportation as a sustainable public transit alternative, as well as an efficient way to move freight.

While the US has the most extensive and efficient freight rail system in the world, the development of railroads had been on the back burner for decades, while the rest of the world kept moving forward, he observes. 

In 2007 Lautala established the RTP at Michigan Tech in order to advance rail education to a wide range of students, with integrated coursework, for both undergraduate and graduate students, and a minor in rail transportation. CN, Canadian National Railway Company, quickly came on board as a major sponsor of the program. The RTP also collaborates closely with many industry companies, associations and alumni. Their involvement provides professional networking, education, field trips, conferences, and guest speakers for Michigan Tech students involved in the Railroad Engineering and Activities Club (REAC), the first student chapter ever established by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA).

“Students can also take part in hands-on rail industry-sponsored research projects across disciplines. Some topic areas include grade crossing and trespasser safety, materials research on railway equipment, locomotive emissions, the impact of climate change on railroads, and more,” says Lautala. Learning by doing is a central component of RTP’s approach to rail education.

Rail companies actively work with RTP to fill openings with Michigan Tech RTP students, whether for for full time jobs, internships or co-ops. And the RTP Experience wouldn’t be complete without the Railroad Night, an over 15 year tradition at Michigan Tech.

“Rail just makes sense, and it’s something this country needs.”

Pasi Lautala
Michigan Tech RTP students conduct field work

Lautala initially founded RTP’s innovative Summer in Finland program, which integrated an international component to rail education. It was an intensive five-week program, a collaboration among Michigan Tech, the Tampere University of Technology, and the North American and Finnish railroad industry. “That program created sufficient interest from the students and industry to officially launch the Rail Transportation Program,” Lautala says.

Outside Michigan Tech, Lautala serves as chair of National Academies’ Research Transportation Board Rail Group. “There are so many research possibilities—everything from infrastructure, with automated track-monitoring systems and recycled materials in railroad ties, to energy efficient equipment and operations,” he says.

Team Lautala!

Lautala’s own engineering research currently involves connected and autonomous vehicle communications at grade crossings, with fellow Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Associate Professor Kuilin Zhang. The two are working to develop safe and efficient driving and routing strategies for autonomous vehicles at railroad grade crossings. Reduced energy consumption, emissions, and potential time delays are some of their goals. Their research is supported with two separate grants from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Dr. Lautala, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Prof. Lautala likes to fish, hunt, and play the accordian.

Probably my early summer internships, first at a rail construction site, and then with Finnish Railways.

Hometown?

Kangasala, Finland. I have split my life evenly between Finland and the US, twenty-five years each. I recently spent a year in Finland with my wife and two rascals (children): Olavi (10) and Ansel (8).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Hobbies, you name it…..soccer (including coaching), hockey, golf, and many other sports. Three accordions and an equal number of bands. I’ve done some acting, too (though that’s been pretty quiet recently).

A rail adventure!

Eric, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I saw the Mackinac Bridge while it was under construction. A few years later when our subdivision was expanded, I spent the summer watching the grading contractor.  

Boating is another hobby. We have a 17’ boat for water skiing and a 20’ sailboat we use each summer for a few weeks on Crystal Lake near Frankfort, Michigan, when our family vacations together.

One of your most memorable accomplishments?

Training as a locomotive engineer.

Hometown?

I was born in Detroit and moved to Bloomfield Township when I was in the 4th grade. I am an only child. I married Patricia Paoli in 1970.

Eric and Pat thus far have three married adult children, and nine grandchildren.

What do you like to do in your spare time

My dad exposed me to both model railroading and real railroads. My primary hobby is model railroading in O Scale 2 rail, which is 1/48 scale. My work was all in the railroad industry.

Read more:

See Tracks? Think Train!

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Operation Lifesaver are partnering together to raise rail safety awareness. Most Americans today know the dangers associated with drunk driving, distracted driving or texting while crossing the street, But many are unaware of the risks they are taking around railroad tracks.

Husky Bites: Join Us for Supper This Fall!

Husky dog with plaid shirt and glasses sitting at a table with a bowl of dog bones
What are you doing for supper each Monday night at 6 pm ET this fall? Join us for some brain food, via Zoom or Facebook Live. Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Craving some brain food? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guests each Monday at 6 p.m. ET this for a 20-minute (or so) interactive Zoom webinar, with plenty of time after for Q&A. Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity). All are welcome. Get the full scoop and register⁠—it’s free⁠—at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Guests include Michigan Tech faculty members, who share a mini lecture and weave in a bit of their own personal journey to their chosen field. Also invited to join in during the session—their colleagues, mentors, former students, or current students.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with a ‘quiz’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll), about every five minutes. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. Some entire families enjoy it,” she adds.

Those who join Husky Bites via Zoom can take part in the session Q&A, one of the best parts of Husky Bites. But there are a few ways to “consume” the webinar. Catch the livestream on the College of Engineering Facebook page. Or, if you happen to miss a session, watch any past session on Zoom or youtube. (Scroll down to find the links on mtu.edu/huskybites).

On Monday (September 26), we’ll launch the season with “Railroads—Back to the Future, with Dr. Pasi Lautala, alumnus, director of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program, and associate professor of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering. Prof. Lautala will be joined by Eric Peterson ’70, ’71, retired former assistant chief engineer of public projects at CSX—and one of Michigan Tech’s greatest supporters and advocates of railroad activities and education.

About Husky Bites

Dean Callahan first launched Husky Bites June 2020, after the the first few months of the pandemic. Since then, she has hosted attendees from Michigan Tech’s campus community, across the US, and even attendees from various countries around the world. “There’s something of interest for all ages,” she adds. “A lot of folks turn it on in the background, and listen or watch while preparing, eating or cleaning up after supper,” she says. Dean Callahan awards some really great prizes for attendance. Also, high school students qualify for a nifty swag bag.

Get the Full Scoop

Want to see full schedule details? Just go to mtu.edu/huskybites. You can register from there, too. Husky Bites is presented by the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2022

Chaitanya Bhat
Chaitanya Bhat

Congratulations to Chaitanya Bhat for being named a recipient of the 2022 Rising Star Award of the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA). Bhat graduated in 2020 with a PhD in Civil Engineering focused on developing life cycle information models. He was advised by Amlan Mukherjee. He currently works as a sustainability engineer at the Asphalt Institute. Chait played a key role in developing 2022 ACLCA’s Product Category Rule guidance toolkit that was majorly funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The toolkit is meant to be used consistently by all program operators and inform state department of transportations on the quality of EPDs for public procurement.

Rebecca Farre
Rebecca Farre

The Huron Daily Tribune covered a visit by Google security engineer and Michigan Tech alum Rebecca Farre ’14 (computer engineering) to Harbor Beach Schools in Harbor Beach, Michigan. Farre answered computer science students’ questions and told them why she went into computer engineering, what her job entails and how she navigates being a woman in a male-dominated job

Dana Myers
Dana Myers

Design World Online mentioned Michigan Tech in a Q&A with alum Dana Myers ’07 (BS, mechanical engineering), who is currently a global product manager specializing in building product portfolio strategies. She develops and deploys new products, as well as educating sales teams on how to best communicate and deliver the value-add to customers for the products she supports.

Melissa Baumann
Melissa Baumann

Ohio Northern University News mentioned Michigan Tech in a story about Intel’s decision to build a large semiconductor manufacturing campus near Columbus, Ohio. The story highlighted ONU President Melissa Baumann’s engineering background. Baumann earned a BS in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from MTU in 1983.

Kealy Smith and Alyssa Smith
Kealy Smith and Alyssa Smith

GineersNow mentioned Michigan Tech in a feature story on the Smiths and Youngs, a family containing four generations of engineers — all graduates of MTU. The family’s latest graduates were Kealy Smith ’15 (BS, electrical and computer engineering) and Alyssa Smith ’14 ’15 (BS, MS, civil engineering). It all started with their great grandfather attending the Michigan College of Mines. Paul Edgar Young graduated with a degree in mining engineering.

Jeff Leismer
Jeff Leismer

MKE Startup News ran a story on VibeTech, a company started by Michigan Tech alum Jeff Leismer, whose VibeSit machine helps astronauts combat the physical effects of space travel and immobile patients build muscle. Leismer became interested in creating tools to overcome the atrophy-related bone and muscle loss incurred by astronauts in space when when he was a biomedical engineering student at Michigan Tech. Through his work he discovered there were many parallels between astronauts and those whose physical limitations make it a struggle to stand and walk independently. He observed the same atrophy-related issues in both populations.

Debra Larson
Debra Larson

Michigan Tech was mentioned in a Mining Journal story on alumna Debra Larson, who is a presidential candidate for Northern Michigan University. Larson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from MTU. “I’m very much interested in following the science,” Larson said.

Juliana Strieter
Juliana Strieter

DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service) published a feature story on the Sept. 1 promotion of Michigan Tech alumna Juliana Strieter ’96 (BS, civil engineering) to the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy. As an officer, Capt. Strieter’s tours include deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as Charlie Company commander and assistant training officer with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR. In 2014, she had the distinction of being the first permanent party stationed at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania, and was on the forefront of the establishment of the Navy’s first new installation in over 20 years. She later served as the Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization analyst to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations and oversaw all aspects from programming through execution of sustainment and recapitalization across the Navy’s $305 billion shore enterprise.

Arick Davis
Arick Davis

Rapid Growth mentioned Michigan Tech in a story featuring Grand Rapids startup Last Mile Café, an online coffee business co-owned by Arick Davis ’16 (electrical engineering). Since its inception, Last Mile Café has donated more than 10% of revenue to charitable organizations that work for environmental justice, clean drinking water, criminal justice reform or youth-at-risk.

Kueber Watkins and Middlebrook Selected for 2022 CTL Instructional Awards

Melanie Kueber Watkins
Melanie Kueber Watkins

The Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) congratulates the 2022 Deans’ Teaching Showcase members who have been selected to receive 2022 CTL Instructional Awards. Mark your calendars for the following fall semester events, where instructors will discuss the work that led to their nominations. After each presentation they will receive formal recognition and $600 in additional compensation.

CTL Instructional Award Series Schedule:

  • Sept. 29 — Innovative or Out-of-Class Teaching: Kristin Brzeski (CFRES) and Melanie Kueber Watkins (CEGE)
  • Oct. 13 — Large Class Teaching: Loredana Valenzano-Slough (Chemistry)
  • Nov. 8 — Curriculum Development or Assessment: Chris Middlebrook (ECE) and Josue Reynoso (CoB)
Christopher Middlebrook
Christopher Middlebrook

All events will take place from 3:45–4:45 p.m. Detailed presentation titles, topics and registration links for the events will be announced later.

The CTL would also like to thank previous instructional award recipients who were instrumental in the selection process.

We’re looking for nominations for the upcoming (2023) Deans’ Teaching Showcase during spring semester. Please consider suggesting (to your dean or chair) instructors whom you’ve seen make exceptional contributions in curriculum development, assessment, innovative or out-of-class teaching, or large class teaching.

By the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.


The Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning will recognize Kristin Brzeski (CFRES) and Melanie Kueber Watkins (CEGE) as co-recipients of the CTL Instructional Award for Innovative or Out of Class Teaching on Sept. 29 at 3:45 p.m.

Watkins’ award presentation is titled “Collaborative Classroom Cloud Computing.”

From the abstract:

“Dr. Watkins will highlight her use of project-based learning to enhance student computing skills and job preparedness. Her approach involved integrating new concepts and skills into courses for 2D hydraulic modeling with lidar data, including Linux scripting.”

Pamela Rogers Klyn to Deliver First Year Engineering Series Lecture at Michigan Tech

Pam Klyn ’93 is Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation

Pamela Rogers Klyn, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation, will deliver the First-Year Engineering Series Lecture to more than 1,000 Michigan Tech’s incoming engineering majors on Monday, September 26 at 6 pm on campus at the Rozsa Center Auditorium.

The title of Klyn’s lecture: “Effort Creates Opportunities.”

“The First-Year Engineering Series Lecture provides an exciting opportunity for our students to learn how they can use their new technological education to positively impact the world, by hearing from some of the nation’s most innovative engineering leaders,” says Mary Raber, chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. “We look forward to learning more about Pam’s engineering journey as our students begin creating their own.”

“Pam’s dedication to continuous learning and developing others as a part of her own career journey are important keys to her own success and the success of many others. Her words of wisdom will be especially helpful to our new students,” adds Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering.

Klyn grew up in Auburn, Michigan and joined Whirlpool soon after graduating in 1993 with a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech.

“I chose engineering because it provided a strong foundation of problem-solving skills for whatever it was I would choose to explore in the future,” Klyn says. “I originally thought I would pursue medical school. Instead I decided to enter the professional world.”

“The engineering education I received at MTU was a strong stepping stone to my career success at Whirlpool Corporation.”

Pam Klyn ’93, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation

Klyn has held advancing roles in engineering, product development, global innovation, and marketing at Whirlpool. Its vision: “Be the best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home.” World-class Manufacturing, IoT (Internet of Things), environmental and social responsibility, leading-edge design, craftsmanship, and digital technologies all drive innovation at Whirlpool.

Whirlpool reported approximately $19 billion in annual sales in 2020, with 78,000 employees and 57 manufacturing and technology research centers. Its iconic brand portfolio includes Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Consul, Brastemp, Amana, Bauknecht, JennAir, Indesit and Yummly. The company had 472 patents awarded in 2020 alone. (Klyn was named on one that same year).

The Whirlpool Corp. site in Cassinetta, northern Italy, reached its zero waste to landfill goal a year ahead of schedule, and reduced its carbon emissions by 38 percent in just four years. Whirlpool is aiming for carbon neutrality at all of its 54 sites around the world by 2030. Photo credit: Whirlpool Corporation.

After her first year at Whirlpool, Klyn earned a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Michigan. Later she earned an executive MBA from Bowling Green State University.

Klyn is now a member of the Executive Leadership team at Whirlpool, and reports directly to the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, Marc Bitzer. 

“Pam has been an outstanding leader at Whirlpool. She brings not only a strong technical understanding of the products and the types of purposeful innovation that exceed our customer’s expectations, but also a commitment to bettering the communities around her,” Bitzer said.

Klyn describes herself as hardworking and focused—while being grateful for the support she was given throughout her youth and early in her career. “This has fueled my strong desire to give back and leave things better than I found them in everything I do,” she says.

Klyn has excelled in a number of business and engineering leadership roles at the company. She lived in Milan, Italy as vice president, products and brands for Whirlpool EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), then led all washer, dryer and commercial laundry platforms globally as senior vice president of global product organization. Klyn was accountable for developing the product plans and long-term strategy to drive profitable growth in all regions.

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal profiled Klyn in an article, “Finding Their Way to the Fast Track, Rising Stars to Senior Managers,” about the initiatives that saved her company $854 million. “Be confident in your approach,” states Klyn in the WSJ article. “Look your senior leaders in the eye and say, ‘Here’s my plan, and here’s why it will work.’”

As the first female technology director for Whirlpool, Klyn has made it a point to serve as mentor to a number of individuals, seeking to provide tools and guidance for emerging female leaders. “I want to support their career growth and to give them the confidence to pursue roles at the highest levels of the organization,” she says.

She was elected to the Michigan Tech Presidential Council of Alumnae in 2012. Last year she was welcomed into the Michigan Tech Academy of the Department Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Academy. Selection into the Academy recognizes excellence and leadership in engineering and civic affairs. 

Klyn also serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board as part of her ongoing connection to Michigan Tech. 

Closer to home in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Klyn is a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs Board of Directors. She has served as the co-lead of the Whirlpool United Way Campaign for multiple years in support of her community. She’s also a trustee on the Whirlpool Foundation Board. Klyn is also a member of the Board of Directors for Patrick Industries, a $5 billion-plus publicly traded company. 

In her spare time, Klyn is an avid runner (24 marathons and counting) and a devoted landscaper. She lives with her husband, Steve, near Lake Michigan. She has two step-children, Parker and Cara.

Read more:

Providing the best leadership: Pam Klyn takes on new communications role at Whirlpool

Aurenice Oliveira Named ELATES Fellow

Aurenice Oliveira wearing gear and using a laptop on the Portage Lift Bridge.
Aurenice Oliveira, PhD, ELATES Fellow ’22-’23, Drexel University Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science

Associate Professor Aurenice Oliveira (ECE) has been selected for the Class of 2022-23 of Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) fellowship program.

Aurenice Oliveira is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, and also serves the University as a vice president for research faculty fellow.

ELATES is a national leadership development program designed to promote women in academic STEM fields, and faculty allies of all genders, into institutional leadership roles. Oliveira is also a recipient of the first ASEE ELATES fellow scholarship covering program costs and travel expenses. 

The ELATES Class of 2022-23 Fellows comprise a prestigious cohort of 30 faculty members from over 25 institutions of higher education across the U.S. and Canada. Fellows include experts in engineering, mathematics and science, all of whom have significant administrative experience on top of their scholarly accomplishments. Oliveira was nominated by Dean Janet Callahan (COE) and former interim Chair Glen Archer (ECE) for this intensive yearlong program, which includes personal and leadership development work as well as series of on-site work in the Philadelphia area.

“I am excited to participate in a program focused on training an amazing group of women to become leaders in academic STEM fields.”

Aurenice Oliveira

“I am excited to participate in a program focused on training an amazing group of women to become leaders in academic STEM fields,” said Oliveira. “I would like to be able to bridge people and ideas as well as to tap into our strengths to create and encourage growth in my department and at Michigan Tech.”

Oliveira’s research interests focus on hybrid communications and networking, including connected and autonomous vehicles communications.  She is currently the IEEE chair for Northeastern Wisconsin Region 4 and recently served as the chair of the NSF ADVANCE Advocates and Allies Advisory Board (A3B) and as equity (DEIS) advisor for Michigan Tech faculty and chairs search teams. She is faculty advisor for two Michigan Tech student organizations on campus, as well, the IEEE student chapter and Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Honor Society.

Oliveira will be also serving as a Michigan Tech Vice President for Research Faculty Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year in the areas of research development and research integrity.

Facilitated by leaders in the fields of STEM research and leadership development, the ELATES curriculum is focused on increasing Fellows’ personal and professional leadership effectiveness, from the ability to lead and manage change initiatives within institutions, to the use of strategic finance and resource management to enhance organizational missions. Pairing online instruction and discussion with intensive, in-person seminar sessions, the program encourages Fellows to apply what they’ve learned at their home institutions. Ultimately, it aims to create a network of exceptional faculty who bring broad organizational perspectives and deep personal capacity to the institutions and societies they serve.

Learn more online at ELATES at Drexel.

By Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Middlebrook Honored with Department of Defense Award

Christopher Middlebrook, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech, earned a DOD award recognizing his efforts to educate the next generation of the electronics manufacturing workforce.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Christopher Middlebrook was honored with an award from the Department of Defense for his efforts to educate the electronics manufacturing workforce’s next generation. His award was presented by Adele Radcliff, Director of the Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program. He received the award on Wednesday, August 17, during the Future Electronics Workforce Summit held at Michigan Tech.

Last March, Prof. Middlebrook was selected for the Michigan Tech Dean’s Teaching Showcase, selected for growing his work with printed circuit board (PCB) design into something extraordinary. He recognized a training need for electronic design engineers and put all the pieces in place to address a national security problem and offer employment opportunities for Michigan Tech students.

Middlebrook’s involvement with the Institute for Printed Circuits (IPC), a trade association founded to standardize assembly and production of electronic equipment, led to an IPC student chapter being formed the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. His hard work was also instrumental in establishing the new Plexus Innovation Lab, an electronics makerspace, in Michigan Tech’s Electrical Energy Resources Center.

Middlebrook is a member of the IEEE, OSA, and SPIE. He was also an electrical engineer with the Electro-optics Division, NAVSEA Crane, where he served as a research test and development engineer. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech, an MS in Optical Engineering at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, and a PhD in Optics at the University of Central Florida. He joined Michigan Tech as an assistant professor in 2007.

Middlebrook’s research interests include visible and infrared imaging systems, integrated photonic devices, optical remote-sensing system design, and optical beam projection through atmospheric turbulence. His facilities on campus include include a 700-square-foot optical research and testing lab, as well as a 500-square-foot teaching optical lab. He also serves as the faculty advisor for the Optics and Photonics Society at Michigan Tech.

Read more about the Future Electronics Workforce Summit news coverage:

Future Electronics Workforce Summit held at MTU’s Rozsa Center, by Colin Jackson, WLUC-TV

MTU hosts summit on future electronics workforce, by Garett Neese, Daily Mining Gazette