Category: Students

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

Study Abroad: Designing Water Systems in Rural Panama

A community woman uses buckets to carry water for her family in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica
A community woman uses buckets to carry water for her family in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro, Panama

In 2014, an I-Design team from Michigan Tech advised by Civil and Environmental Distinguished Professor David Watkins traveled off the grid to rural Panama to partner with the Ngöbe, a group of indigenous people in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro. The team assessed the needs of the community, gathered data on existing water sources, and completed a survey for a new water distribution system. Below is the story of their experience.

But first, what are these Michigan Tech alumni doing now?

  • Kellie Heiden earned her BS in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2015. She is now a Project Engineer at August Mack Environmental, Inc.
  • Tia Scarpelli earned a BS in 2015 and MS in 2016, both in Environmental Engineering. She is now a graduate student at Harvard University.
  • Adam Tuff earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2014. He is now a Construction Inspector at HDR in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Madie Martin earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2015. She is now a Engineer II at Kiewit in Houston, Texas.
  • Logan Anderson earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2015. He is a world traveler and teacher at VIPKid and Rustic Pathways.
Michigan Tech students L to R: Kellie Heiden, Tia Scarpelli, Madie Martin, Logan Anderson, and Adam Tuff
Michigan Tech CEE students L to R: Kellie Heiden, Tia Scarpelli, Madie Martin, Logan Anderson, and Adam Tuff

Grueling journey
“It was very difficult just to make it to the community,” recalls team member Adam Tuff. “To get there we flew into Panama City, took a bus to David District and stayed  there for the night, then in the morning took a bus to Chiriqui Grande, then a small boat. The community is definitely off the grid.”

The rural area is part of the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca, one of the areas set aside by the government for the various indigenous groups of Panama. The Ngöbe people rely on water transportation throughout the community, often by canoe, due to the location of the homes and schools, as well as the rough surrounding terrain.

Quebrada y pozo
“Our project was a little complicated, as we serviced one community with two smaller aqueducts,” explains team member Kellie Heiden. “The first portion of our project came from the newly found quebrada ‘mountain stream’ water source. We utilized this source by designing a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that currently have no water distribution system at all. This  means that they carry buckets to and from a water source a few times a day to get adequate water. The second portion of our project collected water from the pozo ‘spring’ water source. This required the designing of a spring box and a distribute tion line that feeds into a concrete tank. The water collected in the tank will be used to service twelve homes that have a water distribution system only during the wet season.”

The team designed a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that had no water distribution system at all
The team designed a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that had no water distribution system at all

Working closely with community members
“It was difficult to figure out how we could design a simple system that would last,” adds Tuff. “It is not the same as designing a system in America where the people and parts needed to fix problems are readily available.” The team worked closely with the community members to figure out what they would be able to maintain.

Good prep for the Peace Corps
Back on campus, they produced a report in both English and Spanish detailing the design process, technical design components, construction, maintenance, feasibility, recommendations, and impact their project will have on the community.

“Our time in Panama was difficult due to factors like weather—full days of rain—and access limitations. Just getting to the sites was an adventure,” says team member Tia Scarpelli. “But the field experience was very rewarding. The people of Nidori really wanted to know how they could help.”

Adds Scarpelli: “Studying abroad and especially programs like iDesign are very helpful if you’re considering something like the Peace Corps—it will give you a great snapshot of what that sort of experience is like without the full-on commitment.”


Study Abroad: Investigating Myocardial Graft Materials in Hannover

Michigan Tech MSE student Jacob Braykovich studied abroad at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science.
Michigan Tech MSE student Jacob Braykovich studied abroad at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science.

Jacob Braykovich, a materials science and engineering major at Michigan Technological University, had spent two years working in the Michigan Tech Surface Innovations lab, helping to develop biodegradable zinc-based cardiac stents. He had a summer internship at start-up InPore Technologies, working on polymeric water filtration systems. But he wanted to do something different during the last summer before earning his undergraduate degree. 

Braykovich thought about going overseas, and began looking into options. That’s when he discovered the RISE program, or Research Internships in Science and Engineering. The RISE program is for students in the USA, Canada, or UK who want to spend a summer researching science or engineering at German universities. Braykovich applied for and won a scholarship to attend Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany.

Braykovich joined a team of researchers at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science working on myocardial graft materials. Myocardial grafts, both biological and synthetic, are used to help restore damaged myocardium, or heart muscle. Whether from heart attack or disease, damage to the myocardium can result in scar tissue, which can diminish the heart’s ability to contract and pump blood effectively.

“The Liebniz team, led by Hans Jürgen Maier, has developed a biodegradable magnesium alloy scaffold designed to mechanically support a myocardial graft and then gradually lose its function as the graft develops its own strength,” Braykovich explains.

Biodegradable scaffolds are cut with a water jet at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science
Biodegradable scaffolds are cut with a water jet at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science

“The work was similar to my research here at Michigan Tech, so I was able to hit the ground running,” he says. Braykovich worked on perfecting the abrasive water injection jet cutting strategy employed to produce the scaffolds—analyzing design, cutting-edge roughness, and burr generation. “I ultimately determined the optimum pressure, flow rate, abrasive size and material, traverse rate, and orifice diameter of the cutting technique,” he says.

He started each day with coffee and a pastry from a local bakery and headed to work on the train. His tasks at work ranged from cutting samples in the manufacturing facility to using the 3D laser microscope to take images of the cuts, which he then analyzed.

“Through the experience, I found the hierarchy of the education/research system at Liebniz to be much different than what I have known, and with that the expectations were much different. But through making mistakes, I gradually began to understand and appreciate the diverse culture,” he says.

Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science
Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science

Outside the lab each weekend Braykovich traveled solo to a new city or country. Berlin, a short 90-minute train ride from Hannover, was his favorite city. “There are people living in Berlin from almost every country you can possibly imagine, making the cultural dynamic something unlike I have ever experienced,” he says.

“Ultimately, working in a foreign country has allowed me to see past my current horizon onto new ideas and experiences,” adds Braykovich. “It taught me how to take a leap of faith into any unknown situation.”

Jacob Braykovich earned a BS in Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2015. He is now a PD Quality Engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, where he is responsible for delivering quality of all interior functions for future Ford F-150 trucks.


Volunteering Abroad: A Change of Plan in Cartago, Costa Rica

Michigan Tech mechanical engineering student Alexandra Tateosian volunteers in Cartano, Costa Rica through for the non-profit organization UBELONG.
Michigan Tech mechanical engineering student Alexandra Tateosian volunteers in Cartago, Costa Rica through UBELONG, an international non-profit organization.

As a mechanical engineering senior at Michigan Tech, Alexandra Tateosian left campus for Cartago, Costa Rica thinking she would be assisting with the construction planning of a center for disadvantaged youth as a volunteer for the non-profit organization UBELONG. 

Tateosian wanted to spend time abroad before beginning a full-time job at 3M. After tutoring many international friends in English while studying in Australia, she began considering living abroad to teach English or for other volunteering opportunities. Her experiences as an intern for two international companies, Bemis Company and 3M, also sparked her interest in working abroad at a future point in her career.

The day she arrived in Cartago she learned that instead she would be working at a care center for the elderly. “The drastic change in projects was a good lesson in the nature of volunteerism as well as the importance of flexibility and adapting to local needs,” says Tateosian.

“I was able to make the most out of the new experience and learned a lot by approaching it with an open mind.”

While the center is very familiar with having volunteers come to assist staff, Tateosian was the first international volunteer to come with the objective of working on a specific project. “The first step was to identify areas of need,” she says. “We decided to focus on the Taller de Carpinteria (the woodshop).” One portion of her volunteer work she helped assess safety recommendations for the tools and equipment. She also designed woodworking projects to get more of the seniors involved, including building and painting puzzles that are used in other areas of the center as mind exercises.

“One goal was for me to train some of the seniors to be leaders for future projects after I left.” Tateosian worked closely with the staff to coordinate all the details. “It was certainly an amplified lesson in the importance of communication due to the language barriers,” she says.

“Exposing myself to different places and cultures became an important part of my life. I learned about human nature and how people interact similarly and differently and reasons for the differences,” adds Tateosian.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, Costa Rica
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, Costa Rica

Cartago is about a one-hour bus ride from San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, with many restaurants, museums, and other sites. Tateosian climbed to the top of Volcán Poás. She ate dinner each night with her host family and took a rock climbing and mountain biking trip nearby. On a visit to nearby Nicaragua to explore Ometepe Island she happened to meet a fellow Tech student in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program.

Her most memorable experience while living, working and studying abroad? “At the care center we ran an activity with the seniors where they reflected on what amor (love) meant to them. Afterwards, an elderly woman approached me and said ‘este es amor’ (this is love) and gave me a big hug.”

Alexandra Tateosian earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2014. She is now an Advanced Project Engineer at 3M.

Analyzing the Behavior of Light in New Zealand

Mitch Kirby at Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand
Mitch Kirby at Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

The natural beauty and easy access to both snowboarding and surfing first attracted Mitch Kirby to New Zealand—that, and the legendary fly fishing. Kirkby was a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University when he received a Whitaker International Student Fellowship at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

“One of my professors at Michigan Tech, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, told me about the Biophotonics and Biomedical Imaging Research Group at the University of Otago. As I learned more about New Zealand, everything sort of seemed to line up.”

Kirby worked with a group focused on light/tissue interaction. “As light propagates through biological tissue, the light waves exhibit different behavior based on the internal characteristics of the tissue,” Kirby explains. “Ultimately the goal of the project was to gather enough experimental data on the different light-tissue interactions so that down the road it would be possible to use a light-emitting device to make medical diagnostic decisions non-invasively. While the project was in the early stages, most of my time in the lab was spent lining up the different lenses and filters for the experiments with elliptically-polarized light. Later we began writing code on MATLAB and analyzing the behavior of the light.”

Kirby’s everyday life in Dunedin involved getting up very early, completing schoolwork and attending classes. After spending a few hours in the lab, he would finish up for the day around 3 pm. If the waves were good, he would surf. If not, he would explore the countryside. During the weekends, he traveled with a small group of friends to different locations throughout New Zealand. Trips usually involved snowboarding, backpacking, and just general adventuring.

Mitch Kirby crosses the Copeland Valley in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand
Mitch Kirby crosses the Copeland Valley in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

“Spending time overseas definitely opened my eyes to the ability of a college education to take you places,” says Kirby. “Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one,” he adds. “I also enjoyed the excitement of working on a research project that could potentially change the way many medical diagnoses are made. There is a great deal of potential in the continued advancement of biomedical optics. My ultimate goal is to develop new technologies through academic research.”

Working with people in the lab from different backgrounds was a high point for Kirby as well. “Everyone had something unique to bring to the table, particularly because we all came from different countries and cultures.”

Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student Mitch Kirby surfs in New Zealand. "Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one.”
Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student Mitch Kirby surfs in New Zealand. “Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one.”

Once back in Michigan Tech, Kirby returned to the optics lab at Michigan Tech to investigate Optical Coherence Tomography as an undergraduate researcher.

Mitch Kirby earned a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 2016. The same year he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and is now a doctoral student in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.


Detroit Students Introduced to STEM and Environmental Science Careers

Environmental CareersFifteen high school students from Detroit and southeast Michigan are exploring natural resources and engineering majors and possible careers at Michigan Tech this week. This is the fourth year that the program has been conducted in conjunction with Tech’s Summer Youth Program.

The students are investigating drinking water treatment, autonomous vehicles, drones, forest biomaterials, soils, wildlife and more with Michigan Tech scientists from mechanical engineering and electrical engineering along with experts from the Michigan DNR and U.S. Forest Service.

The program is coordinated by the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, with funding from Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, College of Engineering, Admissions, Housing and Residential Life, Great Lakes Research Center and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

By Joan Chadde.

City students learn environmental values during career tour at Tech

HOUGHTON — A group of 13 high school students from Detroit and southeast Michigan spent last week getting a firsthand look at the Copper Country and environmental and engineering programs at Michigan Tech.

Student often come to the program with ideas of careers they are interested in, and many of them aren’t focused on natural resources or ecology, said Lisa Perez from the US Forest Service Urban Connections. However, they typically walk away from the program with new ideas and shifted focus.

Perez and Mike Reed of the Detroit Zoological Society have worked with the students since the program began four years ago.

“It opened their eyes, maybe not to a totally different career path, but it opened their eyes to the fact that they are responsible for the future of the environment,” said Reed.

Read more at the Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.


Vote for the Whiz Kids tonight (Thurs. June 21) by 8:30 pm

The Lake Linden Whiz Kids eCybermission team along with advisors Engineering Fundamentals Senior Lecturer Gretchen Hein & 4th year chemical engineering student Ryan Knoll are in Washington DC this week. They will present their findings about using stamp sand in lightweight concrete. The presentations can be watched live and you can vote for their team for the People’s Choice Award.
 Voting is from 1:30-8pm today. They would love your support. The link is: http://ecyber18.hscampaigns.com/#9thgradeteams
They will be receiving a STEM in Action Grant Award tomorrow to continue their work and will be meeting with the EPA on Monday to discuss their project.  The meeting with the EPA would never have happened without help from Representative Jack Bergman. The team thanks the College of Engineering,  Chemical Engineering and Engineering Fundentals for their support.
Read past stories about the team here.
Lake Linden Whiz Kids
Lake Linden Whiz Kids

Design Expo and Enterprise 2018 Award Winners

Design Expo 2018 showing a person talking to a student at their poster

More than 1000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design showcased their work last Thursday, April 19 at Design Expo. Judges include corporate representatives, community members and Michigan Tech staff and faculty. The College of Engineering and the Pavlis Honors College are pleased to announce the award winners, below. Congratulations and thanks to ALL teams for a very successful Design Expo 2018!

VIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY

First Place Senior Design Award

Performance and Protection Characterization of Plug and Play Solar Systems

Team Members
Lauren Clark, Erik Romanski, Gabe Simmering, and Jason Wesley, Electrical Engineering
Advisor
Sumit Paudyal, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sponsor
Consumers Energy
Project Overview
Our team researched, tested, and evaluated “Plug and Play” solar systems. These systems consist of all-in-one packages of solar panels, inverters, and hardware that are advertised to produce power for homeowners by plugging into any 120V receptacle. We performed market research to determine overall demand and popularity, worked with standards and codes to determine the safety and legality of recommended installations, and tested products to ensure they meet Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards. We provided our findings and recommendations for future policies and actions regarding safe and responsible use to Consumers Energy so they can appropriately plan for the use of “Plug and Play” systems in their service territory.

First Place Enterprise Award

Cin/Optic Communication and Media

Team Leaders
Eric Smith, Audio Engineering and Nathan Shaiyen, Communication, Culture, and Media
Advisor
Erin Smith, Humanities
Sponsors
Michigan Tech Pavlis Honors College and William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning
Background
The Cin/Optic Communication and Media Enterprise enables students to develop skills in video design and production. By balancing the creative and technical aspects of video, the primary goal is to focus on client needs and expectations, while developing artistically engineered products. Capitalizing on team member creativity and technical strengths, Cin/Optic provides an opportunity for those involved to broaden their education in the media industry through real-world business experiences.
Overview
The project goal is to create a promotional video for an addition to NASA’s wildfire response online map platform, RECOVER, that would help wildfire responders plan for potential debris flows. Researchers at Michigan Tech, University of Arkansas, and Idaho State University have developed an addition to the RECOVER platform that will function as a map layer. This map layer indicates potential debris flow areas based on new modeling developed in the geological engineering department. The video will help the team communicate the new debris flow map layer’s usefulness to wildfire response groups so that they may request a debris flow analysis and map layer after future wildfire events.

First Place Design Expo Innovation Awards

Nerve Stimulation through Powered Surgical Instruments: Cerebral Ultrasonic Aspiration

Team Members
Peter Beach, Sterling Korstad, Ana-Lisia Powdhar, Matthew Sampson, and Rachel Stites, Biomedical Engineering
Advisor
Orhan Soykan, Biomedical Engineering
Sponsor
Stryker Instruments
Project Overview
The objectives of our project are to conceptualize, design, prototype, and test a modification of Stryker Instruments’ Sonopet ultrasonic handpiece. Currently, one of the main uses for the handpiece is for the removal of malignant tissues in the brain. During these operations, the surgeon must periodically switch from the handpiece to a nerve monitoring probe that reports the proximity of the operation to the major cranial nerves. Our modification combines the functionality of these two devices, eliminating the need for surgeons to switch instruments mid-surgery, reducing the probability of injury from repeated insertion and removal of the devices.

Design Expo Image Contest

First Place: Formula SAE

Learn more about the awards at the Enterprise Blog, by Design Expo.

First Annual Enterprise Award Winners Announced

The Enterprise Program Office and the Enterprise Student Advisory Board are pleased to announce the first annual Enterprise Award winners. The Enterprise Awards were developed to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of Enterprise students, faculty, staff, and sponsors.

Student Awards:
Outstanding Leadership: Tyler Miller, Supermileage Systems
Rookie Award: Ian Johnson, Advanced Metalworks Enterprise
Innovative Solutions: Rebecca Phipps, Consumer Product Manufacturing
Industry/Sponsor Relations: Team Oshkosh, Blue Marble Security

Faculty/Staff/Sponsor Awards:
Outstanding Enterprise Advisor: Tony Rogers, Consumer Product Manufacturing
Outstanding Sponsor: David Blondheim, Mercury Marine
Behind the Scenes: Jon Lund, Machine Shop Attendant, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Read more at the Enterprise Blog.

Related:

Get the full story, and follow two teams behind the scenes of Expo 2018 in upcoming stories on Michigan Tech News and Unscripted.


Student Leadership Awards Ceremony 2018

Percy Julian Award winners from 2016, 2017 and 2018. Left to right, Neffertia Tyner, Jimmie Cannon, and Logan McMillan
Percy Julian Award winners from 2016, 2017 and 2018. Left to right, Neffertia Tyner, Jimmie Cannon, and Logan McMillan

Outstanding students, staff and a special alumna were honored Friday, April 20, at Michigan Tech’s 24th Annual Student Leadership Awards Ceremony. The event’s keynote speaker, Captain Amanda (Taylor) Nerg ’10, was also the winner of the 2018 Outstanding Young Alumna Award. Captain Nerg earned a bachelor’s in business administration at Michigan Tech and is currently the Chief of Contracting Office at Morón Air Base in Spain, where she supports multiple Air Force, Marine and NATO missions.

Nerg says Tech helped her discover who she wanted to be, “Everything you do and have done at this University has shaped you into who you are today. Aspire to be your best and do your job with integrity and passion,” she says.

The President’s Award for Leadership, perhaps the most prestigious undergraduate award, was presented to Sarah Jo Martens, who is pursuing a degree in Environmental Engineering. Her nominators cited Martens’ numerous accomplishments including serving as President of Blue Key Honor Society, Campus Tour Guide, Orientation Team Leader and co-section Leader of the Huskies Pep Band. Martens has also played an important role in the Michigan Tech Theatre Company, having taken part in seven productions.

Gina Roose was the recipient of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Advancement Award for Service, Hossein Tavakoli received the Exceptional Leadership in Student Governance Award. The Exceptional Enthusiasm as Student Leader Award was presented to Nathan Shaiyen and the Student Employee of the Year was awarded to Madison Olmstead.

The Rising Star of the Year, presented to a first or second year student showing great potential for leadership, was awarded to Gi West. Erica Coscarelli was named Outstanding Future Alumna and Brendan Beecham was named Outstanding Future Alumnus. These awards are presented to a student living the Alumni Board of Director’s motto of “Celebrating Traditions, Creating Connections.”

Other awards handed out included:

  • Exceptional Program of the Year: Undergraduate Student Government’s Snowman Left Behind
  • Most Improved Student Organization: Indian Students’ Association
  • Exceptional Community Service Project: Order of Omega – Fall & Spring Blood Drives
  • Claire M. Donovan Award: Hossein Tavakoli
  • Student Organization of the Year: Mind Trekkers
  • Student Organization Advisor of the Year: Ellen Horsch, Alpha Gamma Delta
  • The Provost’s Award for Scholarship was selected from the Departmental Scholars. This year’s recipient was Dillon Babcock, Departmental Scholar from Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics.

Award recipients who received their awards at previous ceremonies were also recognized Friday. They include:

  • Percy Julian Award: Logan McMillan
  • Exceptional Graduate Student Leader: William Lytle, PhD Student, Social Sciences Department
  • Exceptional Graduate Student Scholar: Haihang Ye, PhD Student, Chemistry
  • Exceptional Graduate Mentor: Chelsea Shelly, Associate Professor, Social Sciences Department and Kathleen E.

By Student Activities.

Related: 

Pavlis Students Recognized at 24th Annual Student Leadership Awards


Four Michigan Tech Teams Take Home Awards from the Central Michigan University New Venture Competition

CMU New Venture Competition people holding a big checkSix undergraduate student teams from Michigan Technological University traveled to Central Michigan University (CMU) to compete in the eighth annual New Venture Competition held Friday, April 13, 2018. The event was co-sponsored by Michigan Tech’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE). Student teams from Michigan Tech and CMU presented business plans and pitches to panels of experienced entrepreneurs. Four of Michigan Tech’s six competing teams, including those with engineering students, took home cash and in-kind awards.

Team Fitstop took first place in the pitch competition and was awarded $1,000. Fitstop founders, Gabe Giddings (computer science) and Jacob Carley (electrical engineering), participated in Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Program in January.

Pavlis Honors College student Kyle Ludwig won the $250 Audience Choice Award in the pitch component of the competition for his startup Looma. In addition, Looma was also awarded $1,500 in legal assistance from Foster Swift.

Michigan Tech’s Hinge was awarded second runner up in the pitch component of the competition and $250. Isaiah Pfund (mechanical engineering), Jack Horrigan (electrical engineering), and Tanner Sheahan (chemical engineering), of Hinge, participated in the Michigan Tech Consumer Products Challenge last January and are working on a self-sanitizing toilet as well as other consumer and industrial product ideas. Horrigan and Pfund were also winners of best elevator pitch at the Bob Mark competition last fall.

Read more at the Pavlis Honors College Blog, by Amy Karagiannakis.


Biomedical Engineering Students Win at Stryker Engineering Challenge

BME StudentsA team of biomedical engineering students from Michigan Tech took first place in the Eighth Annual Stryker Engineering Challenge competition in Kalamazoo, March 22/23, 2018.

Each team member will receive a $1,000 scholarship and an interview for a Summer 2019 Internship with Stryker Corporation, a medical technology company. Each year Stryker invites engineering student teams to its global headquarters to show off their engineering prowess while competing against rival schools.

During overnight competition, teams spent 12 hours planning, designing, prototyping and testing to prepare for a robotics challenge created by Stryker engineers.

This year, six universities competed. In addition to Tech, teams came from Notre Dame, Western Michigan University, Michigan College Alliance, Purdue and Miami of Ohio.

Michigan Tech was the only biomedical engineering team in the competition. All other teams were comprised of mechanical and electrical engineering students. Undergraduates Becky Daniels, Melanie Thomas, Emil Johnson and Nicholas Turowski made up the Michigan Tech team.

 Joe Thompson, associate director, industry engagement in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College traveled with the students and served as mentor. Biomedical Engineering Associate Department Chair and Professor Keat Ghee Ong is the team’s advisor.

Biomedical Engineering Department Chair Sean Kirkpatrick said “Last year was BME’s first year in the Stryker competition and we took second place. This year’s first-place finish shows last year wasn’t a fluke—Michigan Tech BME students are very capable engineering students who can handily solve classical engineering problems.”

Thompson adds, “The event organizers at Stryker made a point of highlighting the professionalism displayed by Michigan Tech team. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and collectively persevere contributed to the team’s success this year.”

Michigan Tech's robot at the 2018 Stryker Engineering Challenge
Michigan Tech’s robot at the Eighth Annual Stryker Engineering Challenge in Kalamazoo, Michigan

The first half of the competition involved picking up small Lego people with the robot and transporting them to the team’s ‘pit stop’. The team was able to deliver a ‘VIP passenger’ to gain extra points, but then their robot arm malfunctioned, sinking them from 1st place to 4th place as a result. The second half of the competition involved an actual race throughout the course. Michigan Tech’s robot had the fastest time.

“It was exciting to see how our ideas came to life, and how prototypes became the actual parts that contributed to our victory,” says Thomas. “It was a constant reminder of why we chose to pursue engineering.”

“The best feelings came whenever a team member was stuck with a particular problem and another team member’s suggestion turned out to be the working solution. During the competition we learned how to work with nearly complete strangers. We adapted once we figured out each other’s strengths,” says Johnson.

“Throughout the challenge we all provided whatever insight we could if we noticed someone struggling with a task, and it was always without judgement,” adds Daniels.

“Every employee at Stryker seemed to love their job,” notes Turowski. “One told about how during his first year at Stryker he was put on a team of ‘vets’ and asked to complete a task that had never before been done. I think that shows how much confidence Stryker has in its employees.”

“You don’t have to know the people you’re working with for a very long time in order to be an effective team. You just need to set your eyes on a collective goal and work to successfully complete it.

– Melanie Thomas

Stryker Corporation, active in more than 100 countries, is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, offering products and services to help improve patient and hospital outcomes.

Michigan Tech BME students Emil Johnson, Nicholas Turowski, Melanie Thomas, and Becky Daniels along with mentor Joe Thompson at the 2018 Stryker Engineering Challenge, where they took first place.
Michigan Tech BME students Emil Johnson, Nicholas Turowski, Melanie Thomas, and Becky Daniels along with mentor Joe Thompson at the 8th Annual Stryker Engineering Challenge, where they took first place.