Category Archives: Students

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

Finding a Research Mentor Workshop for Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate ResearchAre you interested in conducting research? Are you unsure how to locate a faculty member to work with? Join this interactive discussion featuring practical advice and tips for finding and approaching a faculty member for a research position.

In addition, learn about paid research internship opportunities at Michigan Tech and beyond. The one-hour workshop will be offered from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 10, 2019) in Fisher 133 and from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 in Fisher 133.

By Pavlis Honors College.


Outreach in Natural Resources and Engineering

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

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

Some of the engineering-related explorations include:

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

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

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


New High School STEM Internship Program at Michigan Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Keys to a Unique Nameplate

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

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

My new nameplate.

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

Sam Dlugoss holds a version of the finished nameplate
Sam Dlugoss

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

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

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

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

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Engineering Study Abroad: Joshua Turner, ’20, Cergy, France

Growing up, Joshua Turner lived in four different states in the US, and visited over thirty of them. He loved traveling, but the only time he’d ever left the country was at nine months old, on a family trip to Canada. He longed to travel abroad, but finances and time always seemed to get in the way. Until he did a little more research. Turns out, it was entirely doable. Turner is now living his dream in Cergy, France, studying electrical engineering at ENSEA.

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I enjoy exploring outside—either going to the beach or hiking. I grew up in Houghton, near the Michigan Tech campus. I enjoy snowboarding in the winter, but it’s about the only thing I like about snow. I’m a member of the Ski and Snowboarding Club, and the Triangle Fraternity.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
As an electrical engineering student, I always assumed it wouldn’t be possible to take any of the classes I needed while studying abroad. A few friends of mine had traveled abroad, though, and I realized I should try to actually talk with someone, just to find out if it could be possible for me, or not. So I met with Judy Donahue, my ECE academic advisor. Judy recommended I take a look at the French American Exchange (FAME) program at ENSEA,École Nationale Supérieure de l’Electronique et de ses Applications, in Cergy, France. She said I only needed to move around a couple of classes.

The cost was the next biggest concern of mine. I saved most of my money from an internship last summer, and from my on-campus job during the school year. I found out that I only needed to pay my Michigan Tech tuition for the program. All my financial aid and scholarships still applied. The only real extra cost was for the visa and the flight. I set up a budget once I got to France to make sure I’d be able to travel without worrying about running out of money.

Small group of students and faculty at Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France
Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France

What is your academic experience like in Cergy, France?
ENSEA is one of the highest ranked engineering schools in France. It is focused solely on electrical engineering, with fewer than 1,000 full-time students. There are 14 American students in the FAME program. Classes are taught in English by the French professors. My largest engineering class had seven students and my smallest had four students. One class was spent entirely in the lab with both American and French students working together—a very cool experience.

Classes at ENSEA don’t have a set schedule. Each week can be completely different than the next. We check the schedule online regularly. Classes are at fairly consistent times, but it’s not uncommon to have a Monday class, for example, get moved to Wednesday or Thursday. This is sometimes beneficial. If a few of us want to travel over the weekend, we can ask the professor to move a Friday class to another day, earlier in the week.

Why did you choose France?
I was willing to go anywhere that would work with my degree program. Somewhere in Europe was my top choice. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would still choose France. It’s been such an amazing experience and the culture here is so unique and full of history.

Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris with glass pyramid in view
Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris

What is it like living in Cergy?
Cergy is a suburb of Paris, host to six universities. Almost everyone here is either a student or commutes to Paris for work. Luckily, there is a train in Cergy that can get to the center of Paris in about 40 minutes. I purchased a monthly train pass which includes unlimited access to trains, buses, and metros within the entire Île-de-France region. I go into Paris a few times a week. I started off seeing the big tourist attractions. Then I started visiting less popular parts of Paris, places most tourists don’t have time to see. There are apps which make public transportation really easy to navigate.

In Cergy I stay at the housing provided by the university—an actual apartment. The bedrooms are rather large, and the kitchens are very tiny. It’s a 15 minute walk to ENSEA and a 20 minute walk to the train station. The parks and walking paths can actually be enjoyed in winter, since, unlike Houghton, they’re not covered by 15 ft of snow! We play soccer or basketball at one of the parks after class. Usually some French children will ask to join us—which is always super fun. I found two grocery stores, and shop with no difficulty finding what I was looking for. I’ve become accustomed to having baguettes (which cost less than 1 euro each) as a daily part of my diet.

Joshua Turner and two fellow ECEA students at the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary
At the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary

Have you visited any other cities and countries?
I spend a lot of time experiencing all the different cultures of Europe. Every six weeks of classes are followed by a two-week vacation, so I have four total weeks of vacation. Some of the other students and I planned trips together. We have become really experienced at traveling. On the first break, I visited the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, England, and Scotland. Then on my second break, I went to the south of France to Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, and Monaco. After that, I went to Italy and visited Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Milan. I also took a few weekend trips to Brussels, Strasbourg, and Mont-Saint-Michel. All in all, I will have visited over a dozen countries during this semester—way more than I used to think I’d visit in my entire life!

What is the most challenging part of the experience?
I am used to aiming for A’s and B’s and consider anything less to be disappointing. In France, the grading scale is from 0 to 20. Anything above a 10 is good. Almost no one gets a 20 and if you get a 16 it’s really impressive. Getting used to the grading scale was probably the most difficult academic adjustment for me at first, but after finding out you don’t need a 20—and that understanding the concepts is more important than the grade—it became easier to deal with.

The language barrier is, of course, a big challenge. I barely knew any French when I arrived. Luckily, all students at ENSEA learn English and some are very good at it. Now, near the end of the semester, I am to the point where I can usually get by while in Paris speaking only French. It is a very fulfilling feeling.

Joshua Turner and 3 other students at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

What are your plans for this summer?
Finals end the last week of May. Once those finish I will travel for a week to the UK and Spain before flying back to America. I then have about three weeks to relax at home before flying off to an internship/co-op with Nissan. I return to Michigan Tech in the spring of 2020, just two semesters left before graduation.


Engineering Study Abroad: Ryan Schrader ’20, Christchurch, New Zealand

Ryan Schrader stands atop Roys Peak, located between the town of Wanaka and Glendhu Bay on the South Island of New Zealand.


Ryan Schrader, a third year mechanical engineering student at Michigan Tech, ventured all the way to Christchurch, New Zealand to gain independence from his “comfortable bubble”. He’s there now, taking classes at the University of Canterbury. Schrader’s goal is to gain a new, multicultural lens—one he can share with others once he returns. He also wants to prepare himself for a future job traveling the globe. 
Read on to learn more about his adventure thus far!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I fill up my time with studying, sports, hiking, and hanging with friends. I’m currently involved with the the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Tennis Club, Circle K (a community service organization). Although I am a mechanical engineer, I am also a member of Society of Environmental Engineers (SEEn). I love fall season in the Keweenaw. I also love the massive amounts of snow, but winter lasts a while. I figured I wouldn’t miss too much by traveling abroad.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
I inherited an adventurous and explorative spirit from my parents. I first started looking at study abroad during my second year at Michigan Tech, but planned it for my third year, when my classes worked out well. I got very interested when I began hearing others share their own study abroad experiences.

What was your academic experience like in Christchurch, New Zealand?
The campus at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch is beautiful and I love it here. I’ve gotten some very clear and helpful lecturers, along with a few that are a bit more challenging. I enjoy meeting new classmates in my classes. The friendly lifestyle is rubbing off on me.

Ryan Schrader stands near the lake in Wanaka New Zealand. Behind him a leafy tree grows right up out of the lake.
“That Wanaka Tree” in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Why did you choose New Zealand?
I chose New Zealand after A LOT of research over places to go. It’s an adventurous island nation that speaks English! There were so many choices, but looking back on it, I really feel like I made the right choice. I also figured if I was going to be very far away from home, I might as well get far away as possible! A lot of encouragement came from fellow Michigan Tech students Jake Voss, and also Brady Severt whose photo on Roys Peak Track in Wanaka, New Zealand was used on the cover of University of Canterbury Study Abroad brochure.

What was it like living in Christchurch?
Christchurch is a big city of around 400,000 people, but I live west of the city in a smaller area. I can get some of the big city feel if I go downtown but can easily travel around New Zealand and get a small town feel in many places.

Ryan Schrader at the side of a winding mountain road, pointing at the mountain range in the background. His hand is curved and appears to touch the tip of the mountain.
Journey to Mt. Cook, New Zealand

What was the best part of the experience?
Optimistically speaking, I believe my best experience might not have happened yet, since I’m still abroad! So far, though, my favorite experience has been a trip through Fjiordland, with its vast amount of wildlife and breathtaking views!

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
Okay, I’ll just admit it—my greatest challenge is finding a balance between my study time, and goofing off time! My goal is to make most out of the free time I have in order to pack in as much exposure to this diverse country as I possibly can!

Did you visit any other cities and countries?
I’ve traveled over to Oz (Australia) and it was really special. I’m planning on going to the Cook Islands, as well. In New Zealand, I’ve traveled well around the South Island and made a mark along the North Island.

What are your plans for this summer?
I’m not quite sure yet! I don’t get back until June 24th. I am adamantly looking for a position in Michigan—either around Ludington, Houghton or Detroit—that will help me with finances. I’m planning to graduate next spring. From there I’ll try to find a design role with my mechanical engineering degree.

 


Engineering Study Abroad: Kendall Welling ’20, València, Spain

Michigan Tech Civil Engineering student Kendall Witting, in Spain
Michigan Tech Civil Engineering student Kendall Welling, in Spain

Kendall Welling just completed her third year of civil engineering studies with a spectacular semester abroad at La Universidad Politècnica de València (UPV) in Valencia, Spain. She enrolled in a program offered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC): “Valencia: Spanish Language, Culture, and STEM”.

Welling shares her experience, below—and encourages other STEM students to give Study Abroad a try!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
At Michigan Tech, I’ve been an orientation team leader for incoming students and an ExSEL peer mentor through the Michigan Tech Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success.  I’m also a member of the tennis club!

In addition to my civil engineering studies I am pursuing two minors—one in Spanish and another in Global Community Development Partnerships (IMGC). My IMGC minor is paired with my participation in the Peace Corps Prep program offered through Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College. I’m also involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB).  I aspire to become an EWB professional mentor once I gain more civil engineering experience.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
In a word: Spanish. I sought an opportunity to practice my Spanish language skills while coming to know a new place and new people by means of a second language.

What was your academic experience like at the La Universidad Politècnica de València?
Great! I was able to take thermodynamics and professional communication courses at UPV, both which counted toward my civil engineering degree requirements. I found them to be similar to courses I have taken at Michigan Tech, but with a greater emphasis on the derivation of equations.

The study abroad program at La Universidad Politècnica de València caters to STEM students, offering more STEM courses than many other study abroad programs and destinations. If you are a STEM student looking to study abroad, I encourage you to investigate thoroughly, though. I did have to plan ahead to allow for my semester abroad without adding extra time to my college career.

I also took a Spanish language course, as well a windsurfing course and a dance course to fulfill some of my co-curricular course requirements at Michigan Tech. All these courses were taught in Spanish, by native speakers.

Las Fallas “ninot” on display in Valencia, Spain

What was it like living in València?
Valencia is far larger than Houghton and my hometown, combined. It’s the third largest city in Spain. But I loved it! Valencia has a well established public transportation system, so getting around the city wasn’t too difficult. And Valencia is located on the Mediterranean Sea, so you are never far from the beach. There is also a nice balance of new and old architecture between the modern City of Arts and Sciences, and the older city center.

Studying in Valencia during a spring semester also allowed me to experience Las Fallas, an amazing festival that takes over the city. I would encourage other students looking to study abroad to research their ideal host city’s popular celebrations. Be sure to study there during the corresponding semester, if at all possible.

Kendall Welling (left) with her host family--a mother and teenage daughter--in Valencia, Spain
Kendall Welling (right) with her host family in Valencia, Spain

What was the best part of the experience?
The Spanish! I have always enjoyed learning Spanish and I love meeting new people, so combining the two by living in a place where the majority of the people spoke Spanish was a wonderful experience. I met many new friends throughout my travels! I chose to do a homestay, so I lived with a Spanish family. It was a wonderful experience getting to know my host family, and I look forward to returning to Valencia to visit them someday.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
Planning my study abroad experience was probably the most complex part of all. But don’t let it deter you. I’m actually looking to go abroad again next year, which means I’ll essentially be starting over with the planning process myself!

I studied abroad through University Studies Abroad Consortium. The USAC study abroad office in Spain was extremely helpful and always able to point me in the right direction, so that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my time once I got there.

Kendall Welling walking with a dog down a street in Slovakia
Exploring in Slovakia
Ruins of a buiding in Grenada, showing an open doorway
Hiking in Grenada, Spain

Did you visit any other cities and countries?
I explored Spain, including Madrid, Cuenca, Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Barcelona, and Alicante. Within Europe, I also visited Italy, Morocco, France, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria!

What are your plans for this summer?
I’ll be interning with Owen Ames Kimball, a construction company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, working as an assistant superintendent. Then, at the end of the summer, I will be traveling to Panama to participate in i-Design, the International Senior Design program of Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


Engineering Study Abroad: Amber Kauppila ’19, Vaasa, Finland

Michigan Tech Environmental Engineering student Amber Kauppila in Vaasa, Finland stands at the shore of Bothnia Bay in Vaasa, Finland
Michigan Tech Environmental Engineering student Amber Kauppila, in Finland

As an engineer-to-be, Amber Kauppila wanted to learn how to work effectively in a diverse setting, and how to persevere in isolating and challenging circumstances. She enrolled in European Project Semester (EPS) for the spring of 2019 in Vaasa, Finland, attending Novia University of Applied Sciences. She shares her experience, below, in hopes of inspiring others to give Study Abroad a try!

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I love to do anything outdoors—running, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, snowboarding, fishing, and camping. I also enjoy doing yoga, reading, and playing the guitar.

Never stop learning, and go home at the end of the day with a sense of purpose—those are my professional goals. Create a positive environmental change to the planet, and the world we live in—that is my dream. In fact, I chose environmental engineering because I believe it will enable me to make the most positive difference to the environment.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
A part of me always wanted to travel the world, whether it was through a study abroad program or after graduation sometime, some way. How I ended up deciding on the European Project Semester (EPS) program was a magically unplanned, twist of events.

I found out about the EPS program from my CEE academic advisor at Michigan Tech, Julie Ross. I had met with her to discuss possible options about my upcoming graduation. I transferred to Michigan Tech my sophomore year. Consequently I had a few gaps in my flowchart. I wouldn’t have enough classes in my schedule to be a full-time student for my last three semesters. I was considering either pursuing the accelerated master’s program at Michigan Tech, or possibly studying abroad. As Julie and I were weighing my options, I told her of my interest in sustainable waste management and green energy. I also told her of my inner longing to travel. It had always been a dream of mine to go to Finland. My great grandparents were 100 percent Finnish and immigrated from Finland to the US through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. A huge part of my nationality and heritage is predominantly Finnish. Julie told me about the EPS program in Finland, and everything just seemed to fall into place.

I learned that EPS projects at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, in particular, are focused on renewable energy, energy saving, sustainability, and clean technology. Even better, enrollment in EPS would fulfill my required senior design credit, as well as my project elective credits, all required in order to graduate! In that moment, it seemed too crazy how everything was working out so smoothly. It was really meant to be. Leaving the meeting that day, I was determined I would go to Finland for the EPS program.

Not only would this program educate and teach me new technical, social, and cross-cultural skills relevant to my engineering field, I’d get to study for four months abroad and finish out my education in my great grandparents’ native country!

Amber Kauppila and the Floating Solar Panel Park design team at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Vaasa, Finland. One student holds a small solar panel.
Amber Kauppila (second from left) and the Floating Solar Panel Park design team at Novia University of Applied Sciences in Vaasa, Finland

What was your academic experience like in Vaasa, Finland?
I really liked the structure of the EPS program. For the first few weeks, it focused on short courses (Team Building, Project Management, English and Cross-Cultural Communication, Swedish, and Ecodesign and Circular Economy). I found all the faculty very passionate about their subjects. I really enjoyed the energy they had in class. My favorite course was Ecodesign and Circular Economy taught by a guest professor, Karine van Doorsselaer, from the University of Antwerp. Her course was unique and inspiring to me as a young engineer. Professor Doorsselaer’s course has touched me so much, in fact, I have reached out to the chair of my own Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Michigan Tech, in hopes that this course, or a related course, could become part of the curriculum.

The main content of the EPS semester, however, is a project performed as part of a multinational, multidisciplinary team of five students. Our team set out to determine and verify the feasibility of floating solar panel technology in Finland. We designed and built a floating solar panel  prototype that was tested in different locations in Vaasa, Finland. We estimated the yearly power output and efficiency of the panels in regard to interested parties, such as energy companies and other countries with low solar energy potential. We built upon these concepts throughout the semester with research, simulation, and testing. We wrote midterm and final reports detailing all work, results, conclusions, and future work, presenting to fellow EPS students, supervisors, and teachers.

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) gathers international exchange students and Finns in Vaasa, Finland. Shown here on the snowy beach.
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) gathers international exchange students and Finns in Vaasa, Finland

Why did you choose Vaasa, Finland?
If I was to ever do a study abroad, I always told myself I would choose Finland. Plus, I knew it would be one of the best ways I would ever get to truly explore the country, learn the culture, and get to know the Finnish people and their values, other than by permanently moving there.

What was it like living in Vaasa?
Vaasa is a bigger city with a population of about 67,000 people. However, the city does not appear to be quite that large, as it is very spread out. Vaasa is right on the Bothnia Bay which made for great sunsets (though nothing compares to Lake Superior). Another unique fact about Vaasa, is that the city is very bilingual with 70 percent of people speaking Finnish and 30 percent Swedish. For this reason, the EPS program incorporates a “Survival Swedish” course into the curriculum.

I lived in an apartment with an exchange student from France who was studying at a different university in Vaasa. The location of the apartment was great—only a 30-minute walk to the city center and the university. Each apartment unit also had a sauna for resident use, which was definitely my favorite part about the place! In addition, the apartment complex was occupied mostly by other exchange students making it very easy to meet new people and make new friends.

The Finnish winter season was not as great as I had hoped. Finland is very flat, so it’s not a big surprise that there aren’t many ski hills. It was disappointing not to be able to snowboard or do any of the winter sports that I love. It was also hard to obtain a gym membership once I arrived without a Finnish bank account, so my physical activities were limited in the beginning of my studies. The months of late March through May were my favorite because it was warmer and there was more ability to do things outside, and some fun events everyone was able to attend.

Green and pale purple northern lights in the night sky in Finland
Northern Lights in Finland

Finland also experiences a natural phenomenon what is called the midnight sun—24/7 hours of sunlight for over 2 months in the summertime—which I was able to begin to experience before leaving. When I had left Finland, night never got fully dark and the sun didn’t set until after 10:30 PM. I still don’t understand how the Finns are able to get any sleep!

One of my favorite places to go, and will be the most missed, was a coffee shop in the heart of Vaasa called Sweet Vaasa. I am not much of a sweet person, but I will miss their coffee, salmon wraps, and delicious cakes!

Amber does a yoga sign in front of a large blue lettered sign reading PORTO in Porto, Portugal
In Porto, Portugal

What was the best part of the experience?
My favorite part of my study abroad was all the wonderful opportunities to travel! The EPS program is set up to enable students to travel as long as they work hard and complete all work expected of them. In addition I joined the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) association of Vaasa that hosts various events and adventure trips to bring exchange students and the Finns closer together. ESN gave me many valuable memories, new friends, and experiences, an important part of an exchange student’s experience in Finland.

Lastly, thanks to Europe and its amazing transportation system I was able to travel cheap and easily. For my first time in Europe, I am very pleased that I have gotten to explore most of Finland, and have traveled to Portugal, Estonia, Norway, Budapest, and Sweden!

What was the most challenging part of the experience?
The initial culture shock was challenging. For me specifically, my start in Finland was very rocky. My flight to Finland got pushed back three days later than planned when the polar vortex hitting the Midwest, so my rescheduled flight arrived just one night before the first day of class. The flight ended up being a disaster. After a 15-hour layover in the Stockholm airport I finally arrived at Vaasa, Finland at 1 AM with all my luggage lost.

On the bright side, I was still able to attend my first lecture at 8 AM wearing the same sweater I had worn for 3 days and would continue to wear for 2 more additional days! It’s now all just a funny memory.

Did you visit any other cities in Finland?
Coming to Finland I had an obligation to myself to travel and trek across as much of Finland’s countryside as I could. The Finnish cities I made it to include Tampere, Porvoo, Inari, the Lapland region, Saariselkä, Kajaani, Oulu, Kvarken archipelago, Helsinki, and Turku. I made a special trip to Kajaani as it is my hometown, Marquette’s sister city. It was pretty neat to be able to say I have been there and meet people from the region! Getting to travel was truly the best way to learn the Finnish culture, values and the people.

What are your plans for this summer?
The EPS semester at Novia University of Applied Sciences was my last and final semester—all I needed to complete my degree in environmental engineering. I have a a full-time position now, as an environmental engineer with The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc. I start this summer out of their Hancock, Michigan office. I am very excited to have accepted a position right in the UP, and thrilled to start my future career as an Environmental Engineer!


INCE-USA Beranek Medals

Leo Beranek MedalAndrew Barnard (ME-EM) presented students with the Leo Beranek Student Medal for Excellence in the Study of Noise Control through The Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA (INCE-USA). Barnard is the Vice President – Student Activities and Education for INCE-USA.

Sunit Girdhar (ME) won the graduate pewter medal for his work on IIC test method improvement and Josh Langlois (EE) won the undergraduate gold medal for his work on real-time signal processing for CNT speakers.

INCE-USA allows universities to award the INCE-USA Beranek Medal for Excellence in Noise Control Engineering. Congratulations to Sunit and Josh for their excellent research in Noise Control Engineering over the past year.

By Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.


Engineering Graduates on What Makes a Husky

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

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

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

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

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.

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