Category: Students

These are posts that feed into the COE Student Stories page.

Michigan Tech Wins ASME/IEEE Heat Sink Design Challenge

Michigan Tech’s Heat Sink team. Undergraduate students are Gracie Brownlow and Kelsey Brinks. Graduate students are Behzad Ahmadi, Masoud Ahmadi, and Behnam Ahmadi.

A student team from Michigan Tech has been awarded first place in the ASME/K16 and IEEE/EPS Student Design Challenge: Expanding the Possibilities of Heat Sink Design Using Additive Manufacturing.

The competition called upon student teams K-16 to expand the possibilities of heat sink design using additive manufacturing. The four finalist teams are Michigan Tech, Purdue University, University of Arkansas, and Berlin Institute of Technology.

Advanced heat sink designs offering augmented cooling capabilities are required for effective thermal management of high-power electronic chips. Future heat sink designs should not only offer an effective heat transfer but also be compact and cost-effective. 

Composed of Michigan Tech graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, the team was first selected as a semi-finalist in March. Now, as a finalist, one member of the team will defend their heat sink design in front of industry leaders in the form of an oral presentation, Behzad Ahmadi. That will take place during the IEEE ITherm 2022 Conference coming up in San Diego from May 31 – June 3, 2022.

Michigan Tech’s Energy-X team heat sink designs: expanding the possibilities of heat sink design using additive manufacturing.

Undergraduate students are Gracie Brownlow and Kelsey Brinks. Graduate students are Behzad Ahmadi, Masoud Ahmadi, and Behnam Ahmadi. Assistant Professor Sajjad Bigham is the team advisor. He is the director of the Energy-X Lab (Energy eXploration Laboratory) at Michigan Tech.

For the competition, all teams were asked to design, build, and validate an aluminum heat sink made with additive manufacturing techniques made available by GE Additive. Next, teams prepared a white paper that justified their designs.

The Michigan Tech team was among selected to print their heat sink with GE Additive machines. It was then sent for testing, which then helped determine the finalists, due to their top designs.

Michigan Space Grant Consortium Awardees for 2022-2023

Michigan Space Grant Consortium NASA

The University of Michigan – Michigan Space Grant Consortium has announced grant recipients. Michigan Tech faculty and staff researchers receiving grants are:

Faculty Led Fellowships for Undergraduates

Brendan Harville for “Seismic Amplitude based Lahar Tracking for Real-Time Hazard Assessment.”

Sierra Williams for “Understanding the Controls of Solute Transport by Streamflow Using Concentration-Discharge Relationship in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

Graduate Fellowships

Espree Essig for “Analyzing the effects of heavy metals on vegetation hyperspectral reflectance properties in the Mid-Continent Rift, USA.”

Caleb Kaminski for “Investigation of Ground-Penetrating Radar Interactions with Basaltic Substrate for Future Lunar Missions.”

Katherine Langfield for “Structural Characteristics of the Keweenaw and Hancock Faults in the Midcontinent Rift System and Possible Relationship to the Grenville Mountain Belt.”

Tyler LeMahieu for “Assessing Flood Resilience in Constructed Streambeds: Flume Comparison of Design Methodologies.”

Paola Rivera Gonzalez for “Impacts of La Canícula (“Dog Days of Summer”) on agriculture and food security in Salvadoran communities in the Central American Dry Corridor.”

Erican Santiago for “Perchlorate Detection Using a Graphene Oxide-Based Biosensor.”

Kyle Schwiebert for “LES-C Turbulence Models and their Applications in Aerodynamic Phenomena.”

HONES Awards

Paul van Susante for “Lunabotics Competition Robot.”

Research Seed Grants

Xinyu Ye for “Analyzing the effects of potential climate and land-use changes on hydrologic processes of Maumee River Watershed using a Coupled Atmosphere-Lake-Land Modeling System.”

Pre-College Educational Programs

Jannah Tumey for “Tomorrow’s Talent Series: Exploring Aerospace & Earth System Careers through Virtual Job-Shadowing.”

Michigan Tech Represented at Midwest Growth Capital Symposium

SuPyRec logo.
ZiTechnologies logo with statement Clean Energy Pellets from Non-Recyclable Plastic-Paper.


Jim Baker (VPR) presented “Supporting Tech Companies from Pre-Launch to Investment” at the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium, held virtually and hosted by the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The symposium also was attended by two Michigan Tech startup companies, SuPyRec and ZiTechnologies. Company representatives presented to prospective investors and hosted virtual booths throughout the event.

SuPyRec is led by David Shonnard (ChE) and is commercializing plastics recycling technology developed in his lab. ZiTechnologies is led by PhD graduate Stas Zinchik and is commercializing clean energy technology based on research conducted in Ezra Bar Ziv’s lab (ME-EM).

Both companies are leveraging support resources available within Michigan Tech’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization through Nate Yenor, director of technology business incubation, in close collaboration with MTEC SmartZone, the Michigan Small Business Development Center and Husky Innovate.

By Jim Baker, Vice President for Research Office.

The symposium took place May 17 and 18, 2022.

Michigan Tech Teams Win at CMU’s 10th Annual New Venture Challenge

Congratulations to these Michigan Tech New Venture Challenge 2022 Award Winners! L to R: Husky Innovate Program Manager Lisa Casper, students Jordan Craven, Bayle Golden, Ali Dabas, Rourke Sylvain, Jakob Christiansen, and Husky Innovate Co-Director Jim Baker

Central Michigan University (CMU) and Michigan Tech collaborate each year to offer Michigan Tech students a chance to compete in CMU’s New Venture Challenge (NVC). This showcase event provides an opportunity for students at both universities to present their businesses and network with prospective investors, mentors and partners. Student participants at NVC compete for a total of $60,000 in prizes and in-kind services.

On Friday (April 22), four Michigan Tech student teams pitched their ideas and businesses in person at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. Michigan Tech Husky Innovate co-director Jim Baker and program manager Lisa Casper attended the event to support teams, as well as strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship connections.

Michigan Tech engineering management student Bayle Golden presents her pitch for her new wearable child safety device, SafeRow, at the CMU New Venture Challenge.
Michigan Tech construction management student Jakob Christiansen delivers his two-minute pitch for his new supply chain e-commerce platform, ProBoard.

Students had an opportunity to compete in either the two-minute pitch competition or the seven-minute business model competition. There was also a gallery competition, where teams had tables with individual displays and took questions from attendees.

The competition took place out of town during the last hectic week of spring semester at Michigan Tech. But in the end, all their hard work paid off: Michigan Tech teams brought home $21K in prizes for their ideas.

“Congratulations to our Husky Innovate student teams—your ideas have the potential to change the world.”

Lisa Casper, Husky Innovate Program Manager

Michigan Tech’s New Venture Challenge award winners:

Two-Minute Pitch Competition

  • Jakob Christiansen (construction management) won first place and received $4,000. Christiansen pitched “ProBoard,” an e-commerce platform to solve issues in the construction material supply chain.

Seven-Minute Pitch Competition

  • Bayle Golden (engineering management) won first place in the Social Mission category and received $10,000. Golden pitched “SafeRow,” an innovative wearable device designed to keep children safe when every second counts.
  • Rourke Sylvain and Ali Dabas (both biomedical engineering) won second place in the High Tech High Growth category, receiving $5,000. Their pitch was “imi (integrated molecular innovations),” an electrochemical biosensor for T4 detection.
  • Jordan Craven (management information systems, minoring in computer science) won third place in the High Tech High Growth category and received $2,000. Craven pitched “Tall and Small Designs,” a technology company that provides software as a service to retailers who sell clothes online.

“The results speak to the tireless efforts of our students—and the impact of the programs provided by Husky Innovate and its partners.”

Jim Baker, Husky Innovate Co-Director
Michigan Tech biomedical engineering students Ali Dabas and Rourke Sylvain discuss their electrochemical biosensor start-up, “imi”

In preparing for the New Venture Challenge, Michigan Tech students participated in a number of Husky Innovate workshops and review sessions. They also benefited from resources and expertise available within MTEC SmartZone, the local state-funded technology business incubator, and the Upper Peninsula Regional Small Business Development Center, which is hosted by Michigan Tech’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization in collaboration with the College of Business.

“Thanks go out to our distributed team of mentors and our sponsors at Michigan Tech, including the Pavlis Honors College, Office of Innovation and Commercialization, College of Business, College of Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Civil Engineering,” said Casper. “We also thank Central Michigan University, and especially Julie Messing, director of the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship, for the collaboration and congenial hospitality.”

Michigan Tech management information systems student Jordan Craven pitched “Tall and Small Designs,” a new kind of software for retailers who sell clothes online

Student Awards Announced for Michigan Tech’s 2022 Design Expo

More than 1,000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design showcased their hard work last Thursday at Michigan Tech’s 22nd Annual Design Expo event. As we’ve come to expect, the judging for Design Expo is often VERY CLOSE. This year we had several ties. 

Teams competed for cash awards totaling nearly $4,000. Judges for the event included corporate representatives, community members and Michigan Tech staff and faculty.

The Enterprise Program and College of Engineering are proud to announce the award winners. Check them out here, or visit the Design Expo website, at mtu.edu/expo, where you can view videos and project info submitted by all the teams who took part. Congratulations and a huge thanks to everyone for a very successful Design Expo!

ENTERPRISE AWARDS (Based on video submissions)

First Place (2-way tie)
CinOptic Communication/Media
Team Leaders: Matthew Brisson, Communication, Culture, and Media; Julianna Humecke, Scientific and Technical Communication
Advisor Erin Smith, Humanities
Sponsors: Isle Royale National Park, NSF CAREER Grant
Video

Velovations
Team Leaders: Jorge Povich and Eamon McClintock, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor Steve Lehmann, Biomedical Engineering
Sponsors: Cleveland Cliffs, Senger Innovations, Enterprise Program
Video

Second Place (2-way tie)
Aerospace Enterprise
Team Leaders: Nolan Pickett and Kyle Bruursema, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor: L. Brad King, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Sponsors: Auris: Air Force Research Laboratory, Stratus: NASA
Video

Supermileage Systems Enterprise
Team Leaders: Luis Hernandez, Mechanical Engineering and Olivia Zinser, Electrical Engineering
Advisor: Rick Berkey, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology
Sponsors: General Motors, Aramco Americas, A&D Technology, Dana Inc., SAE International, Halla Mechatronics, Meritor, Oshkosh Corporation, Ford Motor Company, John Deere, Caterpillar, Henkel, BRP Inc., RapidHarness, Wetherington Law Firm, Danaher, Watermark, Top Flight Automotive, Shipley Energy, TEAMTECH, Gamma Technologies, Velocity USA, Enterprise Manufacturing Initiative funded by General Motors
Video

Third Place: 
Clean Snowmobile Challenge
Team Leaders: Katy Pioch and Daniel Prada, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor: Jason Blough and Scott Miers, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Sponsors: GM (General Motors), Aramco, A&D, Dana, Milwaukee Tool, Caterpillar, Meritor, Oshkosh, Ford, John Deere, BRP (Ski-Doo), Kohler, Mahle, Yamaha, Castle, Gamma Technologies, Quincy Compressor, Shipley Energy, Top Flight Automotive, Superior Graphics
Video

Honorable Mention: 
Formula SAE
Team Leaders: John Herr and Luke Quilliams, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor: James DeClerck, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Sponsors: General Motors, Aramco Americas, A&D Technology, Dana Inc., SAE International, Yamaha, Halla Mechatronics, Meritor, Oshkosh Corporation, Ford Motor Company, John Deere, Caterpillar, Henkel, BRP Inc., RapidHarness, Wetherington Law Firm, Danaher, Watermark, Top Flight Automotive, Shipley Energy, Superior Graphics, TEAMTECH, Gamma Technologies, Enterprise Manufacturing Initiative funded by General Motors
Video

SENIOR DESIGN AWARDS (Based on video submissions)

First Place
IoMT Device Security
Team Members: Jacson Ott, Stu Kernstock, Trevor Hornsby, and Matthew Chau, Cybersecurity
Advisor:Guy Hembroff, Applied Computing
Sponsor: Dept. of Applied Computing
Video

Second Place
MR Compatible Transseptal Needle with Integrated System for Confirming Left Atrial Access
Team Members: Lydia Ragel Wilson, Natalie Reid, Jared Martini, Braxton Blackwell, and Aydin Frost, Biomedical Engineering
Advisor: Hoda Hatoum and Jeremy Goldman, Biomedical Engineering
Sponsor: Imricor
Video

Third Place
Britten Water Filtration System
Team Members: Nika Orman and Nick Hoffebeck, Electrical Engineering, Matt Zambon, Kyle Clow, Luke Schloemp, and Gabby Sgambati, Mechanical Engineering, and Evan McKenzie, Computer Engineering
Advisor: Tony Pinar, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor: BoxPop powered by Britten, Inc.
Video

Honorable Mention 1
Locomotive Pinion Cutter Feed System
Team Members: Seth Jensen-Younk, Sam Barwick, Matt Krause, Nick Sand, and Stephen Mleko, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor: Cameron Hadden, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Sponsor: Dr. Pasi Lautala, Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering
Video

Honorable Mention 2
Rapid Corrosion Screening of Engineered Structural Fastener Coating Systems for Treated Lumber
Team Members: Sophie Mehl, Isabelle Hemmila, and Kendal Kroes, Materials Science and Engineering and Luke Owens, Mechanical Engineering
Advisor: Paul Sanders, Materials Science and Engineering
Sponsor: Altenloh, Brinck & Company US, Inc
Video

Honorable Mention 3
Cycle Time Improvements in Medical Device Manufacturing – Laser Welding
Team Members: Abigail Martin, Hannah Loughlin, Zachary Alesch, and Megan Cotter, Biomedical Engineering
Advisors: Jeremy Goldman and Chunxiu (Traci) Yu, Biomedical Engineering
Sponsor: Boston Scientific (BSC)
Video

Honorable Mention 4
Stromberg Carlson Electric Tongue Jack Redesign Phase 2 Application Development
Team Members: Dustin Duclos, Sean Parker, and Shane O’Brien, Computer Engineering
Advisors: Trever Hassell and Mark Sloat, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor: Stromberg Carlson
Video

DESIGN EXPO IMAGE CONTEST (Based on image submitted by the team)

First Place: 
Aerospace Enterprise — “Physical Model of Auris Spacecraft.”

Physical Model of Auris Spacecraft. Photo credit: Aerospace Enterprise

Second Place: 
Blizzard Baja Enterprise — “Blizzard Baja Competition Vehicle.” Photo credit: Andrew Erickson

Blizzard Baja Competition Vehicle. Photo credit: Andrew Erickson

Third Place
Dollar Bay School SOAR — “A member of the SOAR team troubleshoots one of the service grade ROVs.”

A member of the SOAR team troubleshoots one of the service grade ROVs. Photo credit: Dollar Bay Soar High School Enterprise

DESIGN EXPO INNOVATION AWARDS (Based on application)

First Place
Lydia Ragel Wilson, MR Compatible Transseptal Needle with Integrated System for Confirming Left Atrial Access, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Sponsor: Imricor

Second Place
Veronika Orman, Britten Water Filtration System, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor: Britten, Inc.

Third Place
Jerod Warren, HACK Cybersecurity Kit, Department of Applied Computing 

DESIGN EXPO AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD (Based on receiving most text-in voting during Design Expo)

Enterprise
Consumer Product Manufacturing
Video

Senior Design
Britten Water Filtration System
Video

ENTERPRISE STUDENT AWARDS

Rookie Award: Brian Geiger, CFO, Multiplanetary Innovation Enterprise (MINE)

Innovative Solutions: Pete LaMantia, ITOxygen

Outstanding Enterprise Leadership: Brooke Bates, Consumer Product Manufacturing

ENTERPRISE FACULTY/STAFF AWARDS

Behind the Scenes Award: Tania Demonte Gonzalez, PhD Student Researcher, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. 

Outstanding Enterprise Advisor: Tony Rogers, Associate Professor and Faculty Advisor, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Department of Chemical Engineering

Michigan Tech SWE Section travels to Wisconsin for ‘Spring Forward’ Professional Day

Michigan Tech SWE section members and alumnae gather for a photo at Spring Forward 2022.

Nine student members of Michigan Tech’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and their advisor, Gretchen Hein (MMET), recently attended Spring Forward, a professional development day in Kohler, Wisconsin, hosted by the SWE-Wisconsin.

Laura Kohler, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Stewardship and Sustainability at Kohler Company gave the keynote address. She spoke about her career path, the importance of diversity, and leadership. 

Michigan Tech SWE Section members toured the Kohler Design Center after attending SWE-Wisconsin Spring Forward 2022

Mechanical Engineering alumna Jackie (Burtka) Yosick ‘14 also works at Kohler. She was on hand to discuss her work with engines and generators.

“We were also pleasantly surprised to meet Helene Cornils, director of the Advanced Development Kitchen and Bath Group at Kohler and the parent of a current Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student,” said Hein.

Two former Michigan Tech SWE Section presidents, Katie Buchalski ’19 and Andrea (Walvatne) Falasco ’12 were also present at the event. Buchlaski is an environmental engineering alumna now working at Ruekert-Mielke, where she designs municipal road and utility projects with a focus on modeling the stormwater runoff from individual sites to city-wide studies. Falasco, a mechanical engineering alumna, is lead mechanical engineer at Kimberly Clark, where she designs new equipment to make products that include Kleenex, Huggies, and Kotex. 

Numerous Michigan Tech students won SWE awards at the event, as well. One of those was biomedical engineering major Kathleen Heusser, who won a first place scholarship from the GE Women’s Network.

“Receiving the first-place 2022 GE Women’s Network Scholarship was an incredible honor,” said Heusser. “In addition to the tuition assistance it provides, the scholarship affirms my confidence in the value of my resume, my education, and my professional references, as well as my scholarship essay on what being an engineer means to me,” she explains. “The last paragraph in my essay shares how my work as an engineer will be motivated by my love of others in order to work hard–creating solutions to the problem of an individual, a company, or a society.

Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student, Kathleen Heusser, receives the GE Women’s Network Scholarship

Another highlight of the day: Michigan Tech’s SWE section received the SWE-Wisconsin President’s Choice Award.

After the conference, each Michigan Tech student in attendance reflected on their participation and what they learned:

Aerith Cruz, Management Information Systems: “It was a great opportunity for Michigan Tech SWE members to bond and connect with one another. Being able to travel as a section and experience professional development together is a fulfilling experience. We are able to share learning opportunities and build long-lasting connections with one another. It is also incredibly fun getting to know each other while exploring the area.”

Kathryn Krieger, Environmental Engineering: “It was inspiring to hear the paths of various women, and the impacts they have made. I really enjoyed hearing about modern, female-centered design that benefits women in impactful ways–rather than the stereotypical ‘pink and shrink’ method.”

Natalie Hodge, Electrical and Computer Engineering (dual major): “Laura Kohler shared this quote in her presentation, attributed to Cassie Ho: ‘Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s like comparing the sun and the moon. The sun and the moon shine at their own time.’” 

Katherine Baker, Chemical Engineering: “I especially enjoyed attending the session, ‘Navigating Early Stage Careers: The First 10 Years’. It had a great panel that gave a ton of advice on how to advance as an engineer in the workplace.”

Maci Dostaler, Biomedical Engineering: “Women are necessary when it comes to inclusive design, which was covered during one of the sessions, ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling’”.

Alli Hummel, Civil Engineering: “Laura Kohler talked about the importance of making time for your personal life and how that is necessary to succeed at work. She is a great example of a woman who succeeds in prioritizing both work and family life.”

Lucy Straubel, Biomedical Engineering: “I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was great to hear all the advice everyone else could give me. And making friends and memories was a bonus, too.”

Amanda West, Mechanical Engineering: “One of the things I liked most about the conference was keynote speaker Laura Kohler’s speech, where she mentioned the importance of having and maintaining relationships with your mentors, an important part in developing your career and professional skills.”

Kathleen Heusser, Biomedical Engineering: “In one session called Navigating Early Stage Careers: The First 10 Years, Tess Cain of DSM, among others, gave insightful tips about saying ‘no’ to a project or demand from management that’s just not feasible. She pointed out that how others accept your ‘no’ depends a lot on how you say it. You should use a response that includes ‘I can’t/Here’s why/Here’s what I would need to make this work’ in order to go in a doable direction with the project. And another inspiring quote, overheard during the Nonlinear Careers and the Versatility of Engineering Degrees panel, was that ‘100 percent of candidates are not 100 percent qualified.’ Raquel Reif of Kohler, in particular, stressed that already having expertise in a job field is not a necessary prerequisite to apply for the job you want.”

Tom Werner: Butterflies, Moths, and Fruit Flies in the Keweenaw

Butterly or moth? Find out during Husky Bites!

Thomas Werner shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, April 4 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Dr. Thomas Werner

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 4/4 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Biological Sciences Associate Professor Thomas Werner. Joining in will be one of his former students, alumna Tessa Steenwinkel.

Tessa Steenwinkel

Steenwinkel earned her BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and her MS in Biology/Biological Sciences, all at Michigan Tech. She works now as an Educational Assistant at Madison Country Day School near Madison, Wisconsin, and she will start a PhD program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, this fall.

During Husky Bites, they will share the most beautiful butterflies, moths, and fruit fly species of the Keweenaw Peninsula. And we’ll learn much more about their Encyclopedia of North American Drosophilids. Be sure to bring your questions!

Dr. Werner started studying insects as a childhood hobby, at age 10, when a beautiful butterfly flew in the window of his family’s 9th floor apartment in Erfurt, in East Germany. Many years later, his interest in insects is still strong, as he leads a fruit fly research lab at Michigan Tech. 

Werner’s research bridges the miniscule and the massive in an effort to better understand the mechanisms behind several unique features of fruit flies, such as the developmental genetics of color pattern formation as well as those of mushroom toxin resistance, among several other questions. Some of their research questions aim to provide insight into human cancer development.

For being so small, fruit flies have had a large impact on genetic research, thanks in great part to Dr. Tom Werner at Michigan Tech.

Werner also teaches courses on general immunology, introduction to genomics, developmental biology, and he used to teach genetics and with a genetic techniques lab. He’s been bestowed with the state-wide Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award 2021 and won Michigan Technological University’s Distinguished Teaching Award twice (both in the non-tenured and the tenured categories).

Callout quote:

“Werner is the epitome of the scholar-teacher. His enthusiasm in the classroom is remarkable, as is his devotion to mentoring more than 100 undergraduate researchers,” says David Hemmer, dean, College of Sciences and Arts.

“Thinking about the long winters here, I would call teaching a powerful antidepressant.”

Dr. Thomas Werner

Steenwinkel started at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2017 by joining the Pavlis Honors College. She majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Biological Sciences with a minor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Originally from the Netherlands, Steenwinkel has lived in the United States since she was 12 years old.

“On Michigan Tech’s annual Preview Day in March 2017, Tessa visited my lab at Michigan Tech as a high school student,” Werner recalls. “I offered her a job on the spot, because I felt that she would become the best student I have ever mentored. And I was correct about that: As my undergraduate research assistant and master’s student, she has published two books and 10 papers with me, while she won 8 university-wide and national awards!”

Tessa at work in the Werner Lab

“When I walked into the lab, I knew that this could be the place for me,” adds Steenwinkel. “After getting started at Tech, I immediately reconnected with Dr. Werner and essentially started working in the lab the next day. I worked there for over four years, working alongside grad students, leading my own project, and managing the lab even when Dr. Werner went on sabbatical in Singapore. I was always so grateful to have Dr. Werner as a mentor.”  

During her first year, Steenwinkel went from assisting in Werner’s research lab to becoming a co-author on his book, Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast, with John Jaenike, a professor of biology at the University of Rochester. The three later published a second book together “Drosophilids of the Southeast”, published under the umbrella name “The Encyclopedia of North American Drosophilids.” Both books welcome researchers, teachers, and young students alike into the amazing world of flies and the diversity of their potential use in research.  

The Encyclopedia of North American Drosopholids, Vol 1: covers the Midwest and Northeast.
The trio’s second book covers the Drosophilids of the Southeast.

The books also include a significant outreach component that speaks to young children about science and nature in the form of a bedtime story about fruit flies written by Steenwinkel. Open-access books, they can be downloaded for free here and here.

While at Michigan Tech, Steenswinkel became the first recipient of the Soyring Foundation Scholarship. John Soyring, Tech alumnus and Pavlis Honors College External Advisory Board member, established the scholarship for Pavlis Honors students expressing interest in research and innovation related to water quality management, renewable energy, or solutions to prevent and cure cancer. 

Prof. Werner, what sparked your interest in biology, fruit flies and genetics?

I am a biologist by heart. It all started in former East Germany when a butterfly entered my bedroom on the ninth floor in the middle of the city. On that July morning in 1981, I started collecting butterflies as a 10-year-old boy. This moment defined my life, and today I am associate professor of genetics and developmental biology.

Family?

I have a wife Megan, a daughter Natalia (10), and two sons: Oliver (7) and Oscar (5).

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

As a hobby, I collect and rear butterflies and moths. I like camping (and collecting fruit flies on these trips for my next field guides). I also have a dog named Frosty, who also likes camping.

Tessa, what sparked your interest in science?

My brother with Down Syndrome first got me interested in biology. From there, I started to learn about genetics, development, and diversity. This is what brought me to Michigan Tech and to start working in Dr. Werner’s lab, where he was using fruit flies to model human cancer. When I started working there, he had just published his first book on fruit flies, and I was immediately fascinated by the beauty and diversity of these small bugs. 

Hometown, family?

I’m originally from the Netherlands. I grew up there with my parents and two younger brothers. In 2012, we moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before moving to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2014. In 2017, I decided to start college at Michigan Tech, where I obtained my undergraduate and master’s degrees.

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

When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy running outside and teaching ski lessons to the local kids. When you live in Houghton, you have to make the best out of it. I’m currently getting ready to start my PhD. I currently have two very enthusiastic turtles. 

Engineering Study Abroad: Cosmo Trikes

While traveling abroad during the pandemic may seem difficult to some, others navigate this landscape with relative ease. Especially if you’ve got the attitude of Cosmo Trikes, an electrical engineering student at Michigan Tech. Challenges and adversity are no stranger to Trikes, but when presented the opportunity to study abroad nothing could have stopped him!

Cosmo Holding a Husky Flag
Cosmo Trikes

A Bit About Cosmo Trikes

In a Michigan Tech “Humans of Tech” interview last year, Trikes describes himself like this: “A lot of people say I bring a good energy to places. I’m excited about life and I love to help. I want to make things better, to learn as much as I can. I try to be remembered and get involved anywhere I go.” His mindset of sticking to his values–even in times of uncertainty–and his moral character both speak volumes for the person he is.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?

When I first visited Michigan Tech as a prospective student, I went to a study abroad info session, probably at the encouragement of my mother who did a study abroad in Zimbabwe as an undergrad. Before I started college, I had already traveled to Iceland, Africa, the Bahamas, and across the US. So I knew I wanted to continue traveling. I also knew that it was a rare opportunity to travel abroad for three months in the way you can while studying abroad. Being immersed in a college environment, taking a light course load, traveling around wherever and whenever. It can’t be done at any other time in your life.

“It’s easy to be optimistic and positive when things are going well. But when things go awry, when we encounter obstacles, only then is when we truly have an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of our virtues.”

Cosmo Trikes
Cosmo in Front of Curtin University
In Perth at Curtin University

Where did you study and live?

I attended Curtin University, an Australian public research university located in Bentley, Perth, in Western Australia. I lived in a flat neighborhood. A flat is basically an apartment. The neighborhood was a gated community, with a front desk building, and common areas where everyone could get together. Each building was three stories tall, and each level was a flat that housed six people. It was great to be surrounded by a community like that! Nearby there was a little mall with a market and a few other shops. I think I might have loved that the most. It was convenient to simply walk over and get groceries, especially since I didn’t have a car.

Why did you choose Australia? 

Since my second year started, I had a plan. I would go to a career fair, get a co-op, work for the summer and fall, and instead of coming back to MTU in the winter, I would study abroad and then return for the following school year. Even though I got injured, I still followed through with my plan. I never considered where I would go until the time came to choose. I wanted somewhere warm, of course, and somewhere accessible. Turns out Australia was the place to go. And even though Australia doesn’t have an equivalent to the American Disabilities Act (ADA) that the US has, it was actually more accessible than Michigan Tech, which made my time with friends and exploring a lot of fun!

What was your academic experience like in Australia? 

Cosmo and Other Study Abroad Students in their living space.
With his flatmates and friends in Bentley

Academically speaking, I learned a lot but at the same time I didn’t. A few weeks after I arrived in Australia the COVID-19 lockdown first began. I had hardly started my courses when they were switched to online. We all got called back to Michigan Tech. 

First, Curtin University is enormous, in terms of both campus and student body size. The entire university and facilities were so modern, with automatic doors throughout and so many cool things integrated into the campus that I spent many days just exploring. Even before the pandemic, the lectures were already being recorded with a camera in the back of the class. As a result, my transition to remote learning was not as hard, but in regard to the missing out on the labs–the lack of a learning environment, and enduring the isolation–it was a struggle. The experience shrunk from thousands of students for me to meet and interact with, to pretty much just me. I took engineering classes, and they went well. The teaching style in Australia was very different and I liked it a lot. I didn’t learn as much as I would have back at Tech, but that also wasn’t my only focus. While there, exploring and traveling were also in the forefront of my mind!

Cosmo Skydiving.
Skydiving in Australia!

What was the best part of the experience?

Well I made a lot of friends, explored as much as I could, and read a lot, but I think what I came away with the most was a lot of personal growth. With the short time we isolated, I had a lot of time for introspection. I started my blog during that time, and every Sunday I would write a multiple page summary of the past week with a lot of detail. I sent it out to a select few people as a weekly email to keep them updated on what I did and how I felt. 

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

Definitely the most challenging part of any traveling or just anything in general is using a wheelchair. Although the campus was really accessible, there were a lot of hills and many things I couldn’t do, like going sand surfing, for example. Luckily I had my friends to help out a bit, so I still did a lot, regardless.

Did you visit any other cities or countries?

Perth, Australia is one of the most remote locations in the world. While there, I was maybe going to travel to Bali or somewhere similar, but then COVID struck. Perth does have other cities nearby, such as Fremantle and some others, but I visited Rottnest Island off the nearby coast where I went skydiving! It was a small island with a lot of great views, and a ton of fun wierd little animals called quokkas.

Cosmo with a quokka.
Cosmo with a quokka.

When will you graduate, and what are your plans for the future?

I will graduate at the end of April 2022. After that I’ll be going to Colorado to work as a software engineer for Oracle. I found that job through Disability:IN, when I joined one of their programs.

Engineering Study Abroad: Estefanio Kesto

“Being present and living in the now” is the motto Estefanio Kesto lives by, and his goals are ever changing, expanding, and adapting as life takes him in new directions.

A bit about Estefanio Kesto

Estafanio on a boat with the Norweigan flag hanging above him.
On a boat in the fjords of Norway

Estefanio Kesto is an electrical engineering student at Michigan Tech with a focus on Photonics—the study of light detection, manipulation, and generation. He’s involved in SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, as well as performing experimental research under the guidance of Professor Miguel Levy in the Department of Physics. Kesto is also involved in Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society and Eta Kappa Nu, the honor society of IEEE. He describes himself as an outdoorsman and an avid cyclist, as well. “If you approach me with any activities that involve the outdoors, then you can count me in!”

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?

Many engineering students don’t seem to take the opportunity to study abroad. This is generally due to the misconception among them that transferring the course credits can be very involved and difficult. Additionally, many students are intimidated by the financial aspects. I also hesitated due to both of these things, which postponed my own study abroad endeavor. I eventually attended a meeting hosted by Vienna Leonarduzzi, then Michigan Tech’s study abroad coordinator. She discussed many options to overcome these obstacles.

The process of studying abroad looks hefty from the outside, but once you get more involved, you quickly learn that there are not only many options for engineering coursework to transfer into your degree program, but also options for merit and need-based scholarships to alleviate the potential financial burden.

How did you end up funding your trip?

In my case, I was privileged to be supported by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman scholarship gives underrepresented individuals higher priority when it comes to financial support. As it turns out, engineering students are considered to be underrepresented when it comes to studying abroad! Use this fact to your advantage when writing scholarship essays for funding. Additionally, there may be university-wide study abroad scholarships available to relieve some of the financial burden. In any case, be sure to discuss your funding options with the study abroad coordinator at Michigan Tech before jumping to conclusions. For me, it was the Gilman program that truly enabled me to study abroad. I even discovered post-study abroad incentives that come with being a Gilman alum! 

Estafanio Kesto standing near a chalkboard with many digits of Pi.
Estefanio Kesto, next to digits of Pi in the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), in the Skolkovo District of Moscow

I also discovered that the process of transferring courses taken abroad is significantly easier when done earlier in your degree program. So, my recommendation would be to study abroad as early in your degree program as possible! Studying abroad, say, as a freshman or sophomore, gives you more options in choosing your host country, too. This is because general education, free electives, and lower-level engineering courses are much easier to be replaced with study abroad courses, compared to senior level classes.

This was not the case for me, though. I first began to search for study abroad programs that would satisfy course requirements in the final year of my undergraduate studies. As a result, it quickly became discouraging—until Vienna informed me that courses offered through the European Project Semester (EPS) program can be used to satisfy the engineering senior design requirements for my electrical engineering degree. So, if you find yourself in my shoes, find a European Project Semester program in a host country of your liking and jump on it!

Where did you study and live?

I lived in the town of Vaasa, which is on the southwest coast of Finland, located on the Gulf of Bothnia. Vaasa was not what I was expecting. It turned out to be one of the largest Swedish speaking towns in Finland (the second language in Finland is Swedish). Only 6 percent of the Finnish population speaks Swedish, but 50 percent of the people in Vaasa speak Swedish. This caught me off guard, as I was expecting a full Finnish-speaking town.  

Why did you choose Finland?

There is a strong Finnish heritage presence in the Keweenaw, where Michigan Tech is located. It inspired me to want to better understand who the Finnish people are, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to do that than fully immersing yourself in the culture of their home country, Finland!

Estafanio next to Novia University logo.
At the University of Novia

What was your academic experience like in Finland?

European Project Semester (EPS) is a collaborative learning program for undergraduate students studying any of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There are 19 host institutions across 13 countries that make up this program today. It’s project-based, with projects often sponsored by companies in industry. This gives students the opportunity to apply their theoretical studies in the real working world. 

Students work in multinational, interdisciplinary teams of three to six students. At the beginning of the semester, EPS presents the engineering projects, and students choose their preferences. My project relied heavily on the internet of things (IoT), automation, and other aspects of software/mechanical/electrical engineering.

The main objective of my collaborative project was to develop an IoT platform to facilitate the integration of different-branded smart devices in an automated living environment for disabled or elderly individuals, all within one intuitive user-interface. For example, products coming from Samsung, LG, Nest, and other electronic brands all have their own app. Our task was to integrate them all into one user-friendly app to control this automated living environment. It turns out the IoT could easily realize this problem. In addition to successfully creating an intuitive user-interface, my team and I further innovated the automated living environment by taking devices which were not considered ‘smart’ devices (i.e., had no connectivity capability) and turned them into ‘smart’ devices with the help of an ESP32 which is a microcontroller with Wi-Fi capabilities.

The experience was absolutely phenomenal. The university I attended, Yrkeshögskolan Novia (Novia University of Applied Sciences), and the faculty who guided my team, went above and beyond in providing my team with the resources and guidance to accomplish the task at hand. Additionally, working in a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary team of engineers allowed me to better understand how different cultures approach academia, work, and day-to-day life.

Estafanio with his housemates.
With housemates in Yrkeshögskolan Novia, Finland

What was the best part of the experience?

Living in a housing accommodation full of exchange students from all over the world! This did have its pros and cons, though. The biggest pro was the gaining of mutual cultural understanding from a diverse cohort of exchange students. The biggest con was that there was only one Finnish student, and I had been searching for native Finnish students to ‘adopt’ me into their cultural traditions. The ‘adoption’ was quite difficult considering I wasn’t able to socialize with Finnish students in my everyday life.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

If you think it’s dark and cold here in the Keweenaw, you’re mistaken, because Finland beats the Keweenaw in that respect. The cold wasn’t so challenging, but the lack of winter daylight, at least in comparison to the Keweenaw, was the most challenging thing for me. The sun would start to rise around 10am and set by 4pm. I found it tough to cope. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around how Finland has consecutively been rated the happiest country in the world in spite of the lack of daylight they receive.

Did you visit any other cities or countries?

When you study abroad, you shouldn’t stay in your college town for the entire duration of your studies. This would make it very difficult to gain sufficient mutual understanding of your host culture. Luckily, my international coordinator at Yrkeshögskolan Novia encouraged exchange students to travel with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) as much as possible. ESN subsidizes travels for exchange students around the EU, which makes the cost of traveling significantly cheaper than traveling on your own. I visited Oulu, Tampere, Turku, and Helsinki which are all cities within Finland. Outside of Finland I visited Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and France. Additionally, Professor Levy organized an opportunity for me to visit the Russian Quantum Center in the Skolkovo district of Moscow, where I was able to meet some of our collaborators and observe their experimental techniques.

When will you graduate, and what are your plans for the future?

Estafanio in front of St. Basil's Cathedral
In front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

Life changes, and you must be present in the now to adapt. Being present, and in the moment, allows you to adjust your professional goals accordingly. A strict, long-term professional goal that isn’t malleable can quickly deteriorate, due to challenges life throws at you. In turn, not meeting that goal within your perceived and specified timeframe can result in self-discouragement. 

The motto that best describes and dictates where I find myself in life is ‘being present and living in the now.’ In other words, I don’t have a strict long-term goal in regard to where I want to be in my professional life at any certain time. My professional goals change and will change in proportion to what’s happening now.

I do have an idea of where I want to be. I’d like to be working as a professor, instructing the next generation of scientists and engineers—or I’d like to work as a research scientist, making contributions that impact our society even more broadly. This is by no means a strict goal that I’m holding over my head. 

As for my post-baccalaureate plans, I’ve been admitted into a doctoral program in the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics, where I will be continuing my research studies within the optical sciences.

Volunteer to Judge at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo 2022

Save the date! Design Expo 2022 will be held in person this spring, on Thursday, April 21, from 10 am to 2 pm at the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library on campus at Michigan Tech. Want to serve as a judge? Please visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page to register to judge by Friday, April 8, 2022.

Just how well do students involved in Michigan Tech’s Enterprise, Senior Design, and Capstone Design address design challenges? You be the judge—volunteer at Design Expo 2022!

Now’s the time to consider serving as a distinguished judge at Design Expo, coming up on Thursday, April 21, 2022 from 10 am to 2 pm at the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library. The event will take place in person this year.

“We welcome judges from various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds to serve as judge,” says Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator at Michigan Tech.

Hosted by the Enterprise Program and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech. More than 1,000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design teams showcase their work and compete for awards, allowing students to gain valuable experience and direct exposure to industry-relevant problems.

In-person judging at the Opie Library on the day of the event usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

This year, prior to the event on April 21, judges will gain access to a digital gallery of student-created videos, in order to preview the videos prior to judging.

“Whether a judge or simply a guest, your involvement in Design Expo is greatly valued by our student teams and makes an important contribution to their education.”

Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Enterprise Program Office, Michigan Tech

Design Expo 2022 is generously supported by industry and University sponsorship, with Thompson Surgical as Executive Partner, and ITC Holdings as Directing Partner for the eleventh consecutive year. Additional partners include Globalization Partners, Property Management Inc., Winning by Design, Plexus, Husky Innovate, Altec. Inc., and OHM. These nine partners, along with more than a hundred project and program supporters, have made a strategic investment in our educational mission at Michigan Tech.

Sign Me Up!

Please visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page for more information and to register to judge by Friday, April 8, 2022.

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

  1. Attend Design Expo for about an hour, sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 21, 2022, to visit assigned teams.
  2. Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge, an online platform, between April 18 and April 21, 2022, prior to the start of Design Expo.

Each judge will be assigned 3-5 teams to score throughout the judging period. 

Judges will then evaluate and score their same assigned teams during the in-person Design Expo event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at the Opie Library on campus.

Who should judge?

  • Faculty and staff 
  • Community members
  • Alumni interested in seeing the accomplishments of today’s undergraduate students
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project
  • Anyone with interest in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning

Questions? 

Feel free to contact Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator from Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program Office, at bctucker@mtu.edu.