Category: Students

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

SAE Winter Baja Invitational: Driving Innovation from the Ground Up

Michigan Tech is the home of the Winter Baja Invitational, which recently brought 22 universities and 45 student-built off-road vehicles to campus on January 28, 2023.

Winter Baja is one of the most exciting invitational events in the SAE Collegiate Design Series. It also serves as a frozen dress rehearsal for the official SAE International Baja competitions, which take place each spring and summer in different locations across the country. Student engineers design and build their vehicles from scratch around an SAE-designated engine.

Blizzard Baja, a student-led team, part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program, organizes this event annually—on top of designing and building a new vehicle for entrance into one or more of the national SAE Baja events. 

This year, Winter Baja was held on Saturday, January 28, 2023, near the Student Development Complex at Michigan Technological University. It attracted 45 off-road vehicles from 22 universities, which raced around a one-mile snow/ice circuit course.

The day started with the pickled egg slalom race. This event requires drivers to reach the end of the course, hop out of their vehicle and eat a pickled egg. Then a new driver must jump in the vehicle and drive it back to the starting line. Next was the hill climb race, where vehicles drive as high as possible up the snow bank. 

Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team hosts the SAE Winter Baja Competition every year, and takes part in the competition, as well.

Finally, the main event—the endurance race—started at 10:30 AM as cars gridded up at the starting line. TV6 News reporter Tristan Hendrick covered the event: Michigan Tech hosted annual Baja race to give students work experience.

University of Iowa’s Iowa Baja came in first, with 55 laps around the course. Results of the endurance race are available here: https://winterbaja.enterprise.mtu.edu/downloads/WinterBaja2023FinalLapResults.pdf

Congratulations to The Iowa Baja, University of Iowa, which took first place in the endurance race, completing 55 laps around the course in 3:39:02.
Virginia Tech’s Baja Valkyrie took second, completing 51 laps in 3:39:27.

The Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team is advised by Kevin Johnson, assistant teach professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Steven Ma, professor of practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Michigan Tech computer engineering student Rithik Sawant served as this year’s Winter Baja Coordinator. “The 42nd annual Winter Baja Race this year was one of the largest we have ever held,” he said.

“Winter Baja is the ultimate test for your vehicle—we don’t skimp on the difficulty of the track and size of the jumps.”

Rithik Sawant

Michigan Tech’s Baja team has a long history of success in SAE competitions since the 1970s. Students use modern engineering and manufacturing processes to enhance vehicle performance by focusing on reduction of vehicle mass, maximization of drivetrain efficiency, improvement of driver visibility and comfort, and optimization of off-road vehicle handling and maneuverability.

The 2023 SAE Winter Baja Competition events took place around the clock on January 28 at Michigan Tech.

The Winter Baja Invitational pays tribute to the roots of the Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series and began at Michigan Tech in 1981. Michigan Tech professors emeritus Bill Shapton and Larry Evers created the event to provide students with hands-on engineering experience. One of the first baja races led students through beaver dams and sand pits, from the abandoned Keweenaw town of Mandan up to Copper Harbor. It evolved into a global engineering series with annual official SAE collegiate Baja racing events taking place in North America, South Africa, Brazil, and South Korea.

The starting lineup for the endurance race.
MTU Blizzard Baja’s test vehicle, Hornet, competed with a new front suspension system for research and development.

SAE Winter Baja 2023 Event Sponsors

Special thanks to all SAE Winter Baja event sponsors: McLaren Engineering, Milwaukee Tool, TeamTech, Daimler Truck, Kohler, Caterpillar, Pratt Miller, Ford, Professional Fabricating, Extreme Canopy, and locally, Diamond House International, LevelUp, Keweenaw Petroleum Service, Houghton Powersports, Houghton Fire Department, and Superior Search and Rescue.

Winter Baja photography by: Andrew Erickson, Mackenzie Johnson, and Peter LaMantia.

Joe Foster: Geospatial Imagery

AFTER: A 3d-printed Winter Carnival snow statue created by Michigan Tech students, one that never has to melt!

Joe Foster will share his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar Monday, 2/6 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.

Joe Foster

What are you doing for supper this Monday 2/6 at 6ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Joe Foster, Professor of Practice in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be four of his geospatial engineering students—Brayden Brincks, Wes Hyslop, Case Vander Heide, and Jacob Wysko. They’re all three members and leaders of the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (aka DHSC of NSPS).

During Husky Bites they’ll share details of their unique new endeavor at Michigan Tech’s annual Winter Carnival (coming up soon, February 8-13, 2023.) 

One of the most thrilling things featured at Winter Carnival are the larger-than-life snow statues built by a Michigan Tech students—spectacular, elaborate displays of snow and ice. When Winter Carnival comes to a close the statues eventually melt. While there are lots of photos to remember them by—now there’s something much more tangible.

BEFORE: Winter Carnival 2022’s winning snow statue, by Phi Kappa Tau. Look familiar? Scroll back up to compare.

Recently, Foster and his students have found a way to take the love of Winter Carnival one step further using LIDAR (Light Imaging Detecting and Radar) to scan the snow statues, with help from Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, plus top-of-the-line equipment and support from Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing.

“LIDAR data collected from this endeavor, literally millions of points, enables us to 3D-print an entire snow creation as a trophy, given to each of the prize-winning snow sculpture student teams,” Foster explains. 

During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through the process and show us the amazing results.

Joe Foster snapped this photo of his geospatial engineering students during Winter Carnival last year.

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

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

Hometown?
I was born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan, but spent a fair amount of time in the U.P. over the years visiting. I have strong family ties to the U.P. I came to Michigan Tech after graduating from Mona Shores High School in the fall of 1982. I’m glad to be back in the Copper Country.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend time outdoors enjoying what the Copper Country has to offer.  And I always have my “sidekick” Deirdre (5 year old hound mix rescue) with me.

Brayden Bricks hangs out with Chief on a suspension bridge he built himself using recycled materials.

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

As with most students in high school, I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation. However, I was decent in mathematics and enjoyed both indoor and outdoor work. While the field of geospatial engineering is often unadvertised, with a little research I found it to contain a wide range of career opportunities, a very strong future outlook, and a dense concentration of “good” people—people you are willing and want to spend your entire career working with. Michigan Tech was the second closest school I found (11.5 hours from home compared to Eastern Tennessee’s 11.25 hour drive).

Michigan Tech was the first (and only) university I visited in high school. When I met Prof. Foster during my trip I knew Michigan Tech—and the rest of the very welcoming Houghton community—was a perfect fit.

Hometown and family?
I grew up on a farm outside of Maryville, Missouri, a small college town about the same size as Houghton, near the Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas state borders in the heartland of the country. I have one younger sister who will be graduating high school this year. And yes, it does snow, but only 15″ a year on average. 

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
In the winter I enjoy downhill and cross country skiing, and when the snow is not on the ground you can probably find me “gravel cycling.” I also have two pets back home, Tater a small toy poodle, and Chief, a large black lab. In addition to the community at DHSC I can often be found hanging with friends from Saint AL’s, a student parish here at Tech.

“I first met Professor Foster while visiting Michigan Tech. Since then, he has been a supportive teacher, and a great advisor.”

Brayden Bricks
Photo of the Arvon Range, by Wes Hyslop
Wes Hyslop, on a recent trip to Colorado.

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

I kind of stumbled into Land Surveying/Geospatial Engineering as a major, like a lot of students do. I came to Tech after a gap semester after high school. One of the classes I ended up taking was Intro to Surveying. From there I just kind of fell in love with the profession and everything that goes into it. The technology, ability to have my office be the great outdoors, and the history behind it all heavily sparked my interest.

Hometown, family?
I was born in Laurium, Michigan, but have lived in Houghton for the last 18 years. My father is a lecturer in the Department of Forestry and head of the MGIS program (that’s Master of Geographic Information Science) at Michigan Tech. My mother runs her own small business, and I have three brothers.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy basketball, hiking, fishing, and hunting, and doing basically anything outdoors in my free time. I have two dogs—a Viszla and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever Mix, as well as a cat.

Jacob Wysko has loved computer software ever since he was five years old, and these days he also enjoys flying drones.

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

Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a keen interest in mapmaking and cartography. I liked to make detailed maps of the house and property that I grew up in. Finding out that there is a degree and career based around making detailed and accurate surveys really sparked my interest. 

I initially started out in Computer Science, thinking I wanted a job that utilized technology, but after learning of the Geospatial Engineering program, I discovered that I could combine both of these aspects—technology and mapping—into a career. It’s been a wonderful experience being able to use and learn the latest technology that surveyors and geoinformaticists use to map the world.

Hometown, family?
I lived in Haslett, Michigan until about the age of 12, then moved to Okemos, Michigan. I attended and graduated from Haslett Public Schools. My dad is an electrician for the Enbridge pipeline station in Mackinaw City, and my mom owns a local healthcare business in the Greater Lansing area.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a strong computer background. My mom always tells the story of how when I was age five or six, my granddad got me a cheap, hand-me-down Windows XP computer that had no internet access. I would play on that computer and look through all the settings and learn all the features of each program. Because of that, my primary hobby today is software development. I find it thrilling to slave and ponder over a problem that I could make a computer solve—I love spending hours crafting and perfecting code to make some sort of software. Besides that, I also enjoy flying drones, playing bass guitar, and practicing stenography.

Tau Beta Pi Honor Society at Michigan Tech Initiates 13 New Members

Congratulations to our Fall 2022 Tau Beta Pi Initiates! (Not pictured here: Yifan Zhang and Nathan Machiorlatti.)

The College of Engineering inducted 11 students and two eminent engineers into the Michigan Tech chapter of Tau Beta Pi at the end of the Fall 2022 semester.

Tau Beta Pi is a nationally recognized engineering honor society and is the only one that recognizes all engineering professions. Students who join are the top 1/8th of their junior class, top 1/5th of their senior class, or the top 1/5th of graduate students who have completed 50% of their coursework. The society celebrates those who have distinguished scholarship and exemplary character, and members strive to maintain integrity and excellence in engineering.

Fall 2022 Initiates

Undergraduate Students:

Brodey Bevins, Civil Engineering
David Bradbury, Biomedical Engineering
Erin Ganschow, Environmental Engineering
Heather Goetz, Mechanical Engineering
Madison Ide, Biomedical Engineering
Samuel Kuipers, Civil Engineering
Michael Loucks, Mechanical Engineering

Graduate Students:

Anna Li Holey, MS Environmental Engineering
Nathan Machiorlatti, MS Civil Engineering
North Yates, PhD Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Yifan Zhang, MS Environmental Engineering

Eminent Engineers

Dr. Jin Choi, Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Jason Blough, Interim Chair and Distinguished Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Engineering Ambassadors and SWE Host Engineering Day on MLK Day 2023

MLK Day of Service graphic.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Engineering Ambassadors (EA) hosted an Engineering Day at Barkell Elementary in Hancock, Michigan. Students from SWE, EA, Tau Beta Pi and Circle K “made it a day on, not a day off” through introducing kindergarten through fifth grade students to engineering.

Kindergarten and first grade students learned about buoyancy and stability through designing a constructing a foil boat to hold a load. Second and third grade students learned about potential and kinetic energy as they designed and constructed roller coasters for marbles. The fourth and fifth graders were introduced to series circuits as they constructed a BouncyBot.

We thank the Tech students for volunteering and the Barkell Elementary students for their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

By Jaclyn Johnson, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and Gretchen Hein, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Sliding into the Future of Mont Ripley

A Michigan Tech student takes the ultimate study break: snowboarding at Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley
Nick wearing his blue Mt Ripley Shirt
Nick Sirdenis, General Manager, Mont Ripley

Nick Sirdenis, General Manager of Mont Ripley, Michigan Tech’s very own ski area, plus Dan Dalquist, and Josie Stalmack generously shared their knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar hosted by Dean Janet Callahan. Here’s the link to watch a recording of their session on YouTube. Get the full scoop, and see a listing of all the (60+) recorded sessions at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper Monday night 1/23 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Nick Sirdenis, general manager Mont Ripley Ski Area at Michigan Tech. Joining will be Dan Dalquist, ski instructor supervisor for the Ski & Snowboard School, as well as Josie Stalmack, senior in biomedical engineering and student president of the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol. They’ll share plans to some future plans for Mont Ripley, including an updated and larger chalet, a true beginner run from top to bottom, and more parking.

Dan skiing
Dan Dalquist, Mont Ripley Ski School Supervisor

Mont Ripley welcomes all snow enthusiasts. The ski area is owned by Michigan Tech and sits in the middle of Houghton and Hancock, just a mile from campus. Mont Ripley is a star attraction of the scenic Keweenaw Peninsula, home to the most snow in the Midwest. Although Mont Ripley has a great learning area, it is mostly well known for its challenging terrain, from urban backcountry glades to terrain parks with more than thirty features—including jumps and slides. During Husky Bites, Sirdenis will talk about some new features at Mont Ripley currently in planning stages, plus one now in the works.

Two people on a chair lift
Josie Stalmack studies biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech. Here she is with her dad, also an MTU alum, patrolling together on the Husky Ski Lift at Mont Ripley.

Sirdenis graduated in 1979 from the Ski Area Management program at Gogebic Community College. He managed Blackjack Ski Area from 1981-2000 and lived in Ironwood Michigan. He was hired as a consultant in 1998 to design the snowmaking system and to oversee the construction, and then was hired as the general manager of Mt. Ripley. Originally from Detroit, Sirdenis and his wife Julie have 3 children and his entire family enjoys skiing.

Dan Dalquist is a Houghton High School and Michigan Tech alum and started skiing at Mont Ripley in the 1966-67 season, and joined the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol in January 1971. He became a professional ski instructor in 2001. For Dan, skiing at Mont Ripley was, and still is, a family event. His children learned to ski at 2 years old and they both still ski. All 4 of his grandchildren also ski. Dan graduated from Michigan Tech with a BSBA in Marketing Management in 1976.

“Nick and I have known each other since he first started at MTU,” says Dalquist. “And Josie is a fellow ski patroller who I’ve been privileged to work with. As a matter of fact, Josie’s dad is an MTU grad. He came to Tech as a patroller, and I was on the Michigan Tech Ski Patrol at that time, too, so I helped introduce Thad to Mont Ripley.”

An uphill view of the chair lift on Mont Ripley
An especially gorgeous day on Mont Ripley at Michigan Tech

An Ann Arbor native, Josie Stalmack learned to ski as soon as she could walk and picked up snowboarding when she was about 7 years old. Skiing and snowboarding have always been a part of her life, as her dad is a member of the National Ski Patrol. What really drew her to Michigan Tech was Mont Ripley and the fact that she could get certified and join the ski patrol.

“Nick and I have known each other since he started at MTU,” says Dan. “Josie is a fellow ski patroller I have been privileged to work with. Her dad is a MTU grad, too. I trained him to become a ski patroller when he was at Tech!”

“I met both Nick and Dan by joining the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol. Both have such a loving passion for skiing and Mont Ripley. I am just happy to be a part of such a wonderful ski hill.”

Josie Stalmack
Josie does a happy jump in front of the Mount Rainier lodge sign
Josie took a recent trip to another Mont, this one in Washington state: Mount Rainier

Nick, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Skiing, fishing, motorcycle riding. We always have dogs and birds, right now Ziggy the whippet and Sylvia the Pug and Yani the canary. I love doing construction. You’ll usually find sawdust in my pocket.

Dan, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I list cross country skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing as my winter hobbies. I also bicycle: mountain bike and road bike, plus boating, fishing, and reading.

Josie, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am the youngest of four, with two older brothers and an older sister. I am also blessed with a wonderful brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew. Lastly, I am engaged to be married, so I am also gaining a whole other family!

Any hobbies?
Outside of skiing and snowboarding, I really enjoy weightlifting, hiking and backpacking, reading, baking, and spending time with friends and family.

Ski patrol stand at Mont Ripley and talk.
Members of Mont Ripley Ski Patrol
lights on Mont Ripley twinkle in the distance
View of Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley Ski Area from across Portage Canal

Click here to make a donation to the Mt. Ripley Expansion Fund

Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony December 17

Spring 2019 commencement ceremony with cadets on stage.

The Air Force and Army ROTC invite you to the Fall 2022 Commissioning Ceremony on Saturday (Dec. 17) at 7:30 a.m. at the Rozsa Center.

This semester we have three Air Force cadets and five Army cadets commissioning.

Those commissioning are from the following programs:

Civil Engineering | Environmental Engineering | Mathematics | Mechanical Engineering

We will also be streaming the ceremony if you prefer to watch it live on YouTube.

SWE Section Establishes Endowed Scholarship

Congratulations to Michigan Tech’s SWE Section as they announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship!

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech is excited to announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship.

“The scholarship is in honor of our alumnae and alumni who have been part of our section since 1976,” says SWE advisor, Associate Teaching Professor Gretchen Hein.

“Eight years ago, in 2014, we hosted the SWE Region H Conference,” Hein explains. “With the funds received from SWE, we began saving with the goal of establishing an endowed scholarship. At long last, we have met our goal and will begin awarding an annual $1,000 endowed scholarship in 2026 to an active SWE section member.”

The new scholarship is in addition to the current section scholarships being awarded annually, notes Hein.

Michigan Tech SWE logo with gear

“As the President of SWE at Michigan Tech, I am excited that our section can provide an additional scholarship opportunity for our members,” said Aerith Cruz, a third year Management Information Systems student. “Our mission is threefold: ‘to stimulate women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.’ The establishment of our endowed scholarship demonstrates our dedication to support the future of SWE at Michigan Tech.”

Details regarding the scholarship application process will be announced in 2026. The process will mirror SWE’s current scholarship application where students complete a short essay, have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, and provide a copy of their resume and a letter of recommendation.

Adds Hein: “Members of Michigan Tech’s SWE section greatly appreciate the guidance and assistance received from Jim Desrochers, director for corporate relations at Michigan Tech, and also Michigan Tech SWE advisor Elizabeth Hoy, director of business and program development at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. And we thank the University and our current and alumni members for their support!”

Would you like to support the SWE Endowed Scholarship?

Donations are welcome! Contribute via check or credit card. Visit mtu.edu/givenow for online donations or to find the mail-in form.

Key points:

  1. Gift Type is “Make a one time gift”
  2. Enter your gift amount
  3. Gift Designation: Select “Other” and enter “SWE Endowed Scholarship #5471″

SWE Congratulates Our Graduating Seniors and Scholarship Recipients

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech congratulates our graduating seniors: Sophie Stewart and Audrey Levanen (mechanical engineering) and Kiira Hadden (biomedical engineering). We look forward to hearing from them as alumnae!

The section awarded two scholarships to active upper-division students. We are so proud of the accomplishments of Natalie Hodges (dual major: electrical and computer engineering) and Alli Hummel (civil engineering).

We will be awarding two scholarships in the spring to first- and second-year active members and will be posting the application information during the spring semester.

By Gretchen Hein, Advisor, Society of Women Engineers.

Five Times in a Row: Michigan Tech Students Earn First Place in ASM Undergraduate Design Competition–Again!

Michigan Tech’ 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, just one of several tools used by MSE students at Michigan Tech.

Many engineers remember the excitement of applying their classroom knowledge to their capstone senior design project while also being a bit overwhelmed about how to actually do it. 

Paul Sanders, Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech

Back in 2010, this challenge was recognized in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) by Michigan Tech Professor Mark Plichta, an innovator in project-based engineering education, and Northwestern University Professor Greg Olson, a leader in the relatively new field of computational materials engineering. 

The two selected then Assistant Professor Paul Sanders, (who had a Michigan Tech BS and a Northwestern PhD and materials design experience at Ford Motor Company) to implement their vision for MSE capstone senior design. This vision involved using computational materials engineering—a tool that, at the time, was only taught in graduate school. Sanders (somewhat unknowingly) accepted the challenge, and through a sometimes bumpy, continuous improvement process developed the current curriculum in MSE at Michigan Tech.

“Michigan Tech undergrads, with their application mindset, hands-on, problem-solving skills, and openness to mentorship, provided the ideal culture for this endeavor.”

Paul Sanders

One condition of Olson, who provided the computational engineering software tool Thermo-Calc, was that Michigan Tech compete in the ASM Undergraduate Design Competition, an event that started in 2008 with Northwestern University winning first place. The Michigan Tech strategy was to utilize traditional hypothesis-based inquiry through application of engineering statistics coupled with design of experiments (DOEs) in both the modeling and laboratory environment. Eventually a methods course was developed for spring of the junior year that included a semester-long project to demonstrate the tools, followed by two semesters of the capstone senior design course. Prof. Sanders led this coursework and scoped projects to fit the Michigan Tech methodology. Long-term industry sponsors Eck Industries, ArcelorMittal, and Waupaca Foundry were critical to implementing the vision by providing industry-relevant projects that would allow students to use the toolset taught in the curriculum.

Michigan Tech first entered the ASM Design Competition in 2012 earning second place (Northwestern was first). Michigan Tech’s first five entries earned second place three times and third place twice. Starting in 2018, Michigan Tech started winning…and continued winning…for 5 years in a row. This is a credit not only to the student work on these projects, but also to the methodology and support of industry sponsors. As Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech states, “We’re very proud of our world-class senior design students’ experience. Where else do teams win first place five years in a row, for alloy design, in an era where it isn’t about randomly mixing elements, but rather, about predictive modeling based on known materials parameters? These projects⁠—centered on fundamentally interesting questions, are coupled with faculty and industry expertise. No wonder we’re the go-to place for materials engineers!”

Dr. Julio G. Maldonado, ASM Foundation, presents the award to Michigan Tech seniors Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak (2nd from left) Jacob Longstreth, (3rd from left) Jake Klotz (right). Team member Nick Hopp was unable to attend the conference and awards ceremony.

The student team that completed the “five-peat” in 2022 designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions that can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. This student team was unique in that there was only one MSE student on the team, Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak, and three mechanical engineering students, Nick Hopp, Jake Klotz, and Jacob Longstreth. Even though the team graduated in spring of 2022, three of the four team members accepted their award at ASM International’s IMAT Conference in New Orleans on September 12, 2022. 

“The success of the MSE senior design program is due not only to current students embracing the time-consuming process of project engineering, but also our loyal alumni who provide the projects that continuously improve our process.”

Paul Sanders

Cerium is the most abundant (and lowest cost) rare earth element, and Ce is known to improve the properties of aluminum. Given that rare earths are often mined together and that the demand is higher for heavier rare earths, there is excess cerium. The project sponsor David Weiss, vice president of research and development at Eck Industries, collaborates on research teams who identify beneficial uses and markets for cerium in order to improve the economics of mining rare earth. Weiss suggested applying Ce to Al extrusion for Eck’s customer, Eaton Corporation.

Extrusion is the process of forming long, two-dimensional cross-sections by forcing hot metal through a die. The students were tasked with modeling the extrusion of Al-Mg-Ce alloys to predict the necessary extrusion force and resultant flow rate. The team used a DOE-based strategy to develop a deformation model for the alloy using elevated-temperature compression testing coupled with MATLAB data analysis. Material model parameters were then entered into the commercial extrusion modeling software Inspire Extrude from Altair to calculate the extrusion force and flow rate. These predictions were tested in Michigan Tech laboratories by permanent mold casting the custom Al-Mg-Ce alloys followed by extrusion on a 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, donated by Alcoa. To better understand the project, please see the students’ excellent four-minute video .

No small feat: Michigan Tech engineering students designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions. These alloys can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. Pictured above, extruding one of the alloys.

“My decision to return to Michigan Tech as an MSE faculty member was motivated in large part by the type of students Michigan Tech attracts,” reflects Sanders, now the Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “They are smart, hardworking, and willing to learn.”

NASA, Artemis and Beyond: Inside Michigan Tech’s Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise (MINE)

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

Paul van Susante, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering—Engineering Mechanics talks about MINE, the Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise team at Michigan Tech, along with 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 Huskyworks 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

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Mine Video for Michigan Tech 2022 Design Expo

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? Flow Dynamics in Arrhythmias

Dr. Hatoum and PhD student Brennan Vogl test heart valves for overall performance and energetics, turbulence generated, sinus hemodynamics (aortic and pulmonic), as well as ventricular, atrial, pulmonic, and aortic flows.

Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Hoda Hatoum talks about her cardiovascular research along with PhD student Brennan Vogl, one of the first students to join her Biofluids Lab in the fall of 2020.

Dr. Hoda Hatoum

“One thing we can do in the lab is to study just how AFib ablation impacts the heart’s left atrial flow, says Hatoum.

Atrial fibrillation, when the heart beats in an irregular way, affects up to 6 million individuals in the US, a number expected to double by 2030. More than 454,000 hospitalizations with AFib as the primary diagnosis happen each year. Current treatment guidelines recommend antiarrhythmic drugs as initial therapy, but their efficacy is limited and comes with the risk of serious adverse effects. Another option, catheter ablation, electrically isolates the pulmonary veins—the most frequent site of AFib triggers—with more success and an excellent safety profile.

Brennan Vogl
An actual human heart is about the size of your fist, shaped like an upside down pear. Every cell in your body gets blood from your heart (except for your corneas).

“Our research seeks to better understand flow dynamics of the heart during arrhythmia, complex structural heart biomechanics, prosthetic heart valve engineering, and the structure-function relationships of the heart in both health and disease,” Hatoum says.

Why hearts? “It all started with my doctoral program,” Hatoum recalls. “I had the opportunity to work closely with clinicians, to attend their structural heart meetings, and to plan with them the appropriate therapy to be administered for patients. Every patient is very different, which makes the problem exciting and challenging at the same time.”

Hatoum earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Beirut and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Ohio State University (OSU). She was awarded an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship, and completed her postdoctoral training at the Ohio State University and at Georgia Institute of Technology before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech.

“One of my goals is to evaluate and provide answers to clinicians so they know what therapy suits their patients best.”

Hoda Hatoum

Now, working in her own Biofluids Lab at Michigan Tech, Hatoum integrates principles of fluid mechanics, design and manufacturing, and clinical expertise with collaborators nationwide (including Mayo Clinic, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Piedmont Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital Vancouver)–all to find solutions for cardiovascular flow problems. 

Play Biomedical Engineering Biofluids Lab Aortic Valve Models video
Preview image for Biomedical Engineering Biofluids Lab Aortic Valve Models video

Biomedical Engineering Biofluids Lab Aortic Valve Models

These aortic valves open and close based via the contraction of a pump, controlled by a LabView program. See more during Husky Bites!

In her lab, Hatoum designed and built a pulse duplicator system—a heart simulator—that emulates the left heart side of a cardiovascular system. She also uses a particle image velocimetry system that allows her to characterize the flow field in vessels and organs.

Hatoum and her team of students use these devices to develop patient-specific cardiovascular models, conducting in vitro tests to assess the performance and flow characteristics of different heart valves. “We use idealized heart chambers or patient-specific ones. We test multiple commercially available prosthetic heart valves—and our in-house made valves, too.”

From the Biofluids Lab website: a wide array of current commercial bioprosthetic transcatheter mitral valves.

Hatoum’s team also designs their own heart valve devices.

“Currently, transcatheter heart valves are made of biological materials, including pig or cow valves, that are prone to degeneration. This can lead to compromised valve performance, and ultimately necessitate another valve replacement.”

To solve this problem, Hatoum collaborates with material science experts from different universities in the US and around the world to utilize novel biomaterials that are biocompatible, durable and suitable for cardiovascular applications. 

Which area of research pulls Dr. Hatoum’s heartstrings the most? “Transcatheter aortic heart valves,” she says. (Look closely at this photo to see the closed leaflets of an aortic valve.)

“With the rise of minimally-invasive surgeries, the clinical field is moving towards transcatheter approaches to replace heart valves, rather than open heart surgery,” she explains. “With the challenges that come with TAVs, and with the low-risk population targeted, I believe this is an urgent field to look into, so we can minimize as much as possible any adverse outcomes, improve valve designs and promote longevity of the device.”

The treatment of congenital heart defects in children is another strong focus for Hatoum, who devises alternatives for highly-invasive surgeries for pulmonary atresia and Kawasaki disease. She collaborates with multiple institutions to acquire patient data, then, using experimental and computational fluid dynamics, she examines the different scenarios of various surgical design approaches.

“One very important goal is to develop predictive models that will help clinicians anticipate adverse outcomes,” she says.

“In some centers in the US and the world, the heart team won’t operate without engineers modeling for them—to visualize the problem, design a solution better, improve therapeutic outcomes, and avoid as much as possible any adverse outcomes.”

Hoda Hatoum
Dr. Hoda Hatoum grew up in Lebanon. She’s a big fan of road trips.

Brennan Vogl was the first student to begin working with Hatoum in the lab when she arrived at Michigan Tech in 2020. “It is a great pleasure to work with Brennan,” says Hatoum. “He is very responsible and focused. He handles multiple projects, both experimental and computational, and excels in all aspects of them. I am proud of the tremendous improvement he keeps showing, and his constant motivation to do even better.”

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

As a high-school student, I got the chance to go on a school trip to several universities and I was fascinated by the projects that mechanical engineering students did. That was what determined my major and what sparked my interest.

Hometown, family?

I was raised in Kab Elias, Bekaa, Lebanon. It’s about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The majority of my family still lives there.

‘My niece took this image from the balcony of our house in Lebanon, located in Kab Elias. It shows the broad landscape and the mountains, and the Lebanese coffee cup that’s basically iconic.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to watch TV, read stories (thrillers) and go on road trips.

The sun temple in the Haidara ruins near Dr. Hatoum’s hometown of Kab Elias in Lebanon are believed to date back to the Roman era.
Snow on the ground in Kab Elias.

How can a student request to join your Biofluids lab?

I currently work with two PhD students and two undergraduates. Usually, an email with interest in the research that I do is sufficient. Our lab employs both mechanical engineering students and biomedical engineering students because of our focus on mechanics. When a student first joins our lab, they do not have any idea about any of the problems we are working on. As they get exposed to to them, they add their own valuable perspective.

The student experience is an amazing one, and one that is rewarding.

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

I first got into engineering when I participated in Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Program (SYP). At SYP I got to explore all of the different engineering fields and participate in various projects for each field. Having this hands-on experience really sparked my interest in engineering.

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. My family now lives in Florida, so I get to escape the Upper Peninsula cold and visit them in the warm Florida weather.

Brennan loves to ski in Houghton’s plentiful powder, but he’s an even bigger fan of warm, sunny weather.
Poppy is on the left and Milo is on the right.

Pets? Hobbies?

I enjoy skiing, and I have two Boston Terriers—Milo and Poppy. They live with my parents in Florida. I don’t think they would be able to handle the cold here in Houghton, as much as I would enjoy them living with me.