Category: Outreach

Marty Lagina: Say YES to the Quest: Reflections, Energy and Adventure!

“Something interesting and different happened on that island, and we still aren’t sure what,” says Marty Lagina. Pictured above: Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931. Format: glass plate negative.

Marty Lagina shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 23  at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“Engineering school teaches you how things work, and also to know what you don’t know,” says Marty Lagina.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/23 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Marty Lagina, CEO of Heritage Sustainable Energy, winemaker, and creator and star of the long-running reality TV show, Curse of Oak Island.

Joining in as Dean Callahan’s co-host will be Bill Predebon, the JS Endowed Department Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech.

Lagina is one of Dr. Predebon’s former students—as an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, Lagina worked as his research assistant.

“If there’s ever been a human being, who if you cut him he bleeds Michigan Tech, that’s Bill Predebon,” says Lagina. 

Throughout his life, Lagina says his engineering education has given him the confidence to try new things.

“I was thinking of going to law school, and my father told me: ‘You would make a better lawyer if you knew how things worked.’ So I went to Michigan Tech to study engineering and I liked it. And it prepared me very well for what turned out to be a very multifaceted career.”

“When something interesting comes along, and it looks like fun, and it’s legal and ethical (even better if it’s good for society) and you might make some money—do it!”

Marty Lagina

Lagina graduated from Michigan Tech with his mechanical engineering degree in 1977, then took a job as a petroleum engineer for Amoco. A few years later, while attending law school at the University of Michigan, he worked as an independent petroleum engineer consultant, hired by various Michigan corporations to explore wells. “I was a law student, putting together oil deals, working out of a tiny room the size of a small walk-in closet,” he recalls.

“Our first 14 lost money, then we finally hit a decent well. It put us in business.” His partner in that first energy consulting business: Craig Tester, another Michigan Tech mechanical engineering graduate. They were college roommates.

A photo of Marty Lagina, from the Michigan Tech archives.

Once Lagina earned his JD, the two founded Terra Energy to pioneer the exploration and development of the Antrim shale natural gas resources of Michigan, which they did—successfully developing over $3 billion of oil and natural gas resources.

When he turned 40, Lagina decided to change course. He formed Heritage Sustainable Energy, a renewable energy provider. Heritage has successfully developed a series of wind and solar projects in Michigan, installing enough capacity to power the equivalent of 57,000 average Michigan homes every year.

Heritage operates a total of 139.2 megawatts (MW) of installed renewable energy capacity, with hundreds of MW in its project pipeline, along with a commitment to help reduce Michigan’s dependence on conventional energy sources.

Heritage Sustainable Energy’s Garden Solar Project is the first utility scale solar project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Garden Wind Farm, above, located north of the Village of Garden, will have 34 wind turbines by the end of this year.

In 2006, Lagina started doing some unnatural exploring to solve a 200–500 year old mystery. Featured on the History Channel, Lagina, his family and friends attempt to solve the “Curse of Oak Island,” based on the legend of a Nova Scotia island. 

“I’m the skeptic,” says Lagina. “My brother, Rick, is the optimist, but I’m the engineer who needs more proof.”

Part National Treasure, part Indiana Jones, the five-segment series follows their exploits as they attempt to—literally—get to the bottom of the ‘money pit’ on the island that has given up some clues, booby traps, bizarre hints and puzzle pieces. Theories of what is buried range from treasures from Solomon’s temple, the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, or pirates.

First, they had to spend millions to purchase a controlling interest in the North Atlantic island. “And everything is difficult,” Lagina says. “It’s been dug at for 200-plus years, so you need to figure out if you are discovering something from the original works or not.”

Tester, an expert on drilling, resistivity, and more, also appears on The Curse of Oak Island.

Born in Kingsford on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marty has spent nearly all his life living in Michigan. His background is in engineering and the energy business, but with family ties to one of Italy’s premier winegrowing areas, a passion for wine is in his blood.

He founded Mari Vineyards in 1999 (the same year he was inducted into Michigan Tech’s ME-EM Academy). His goal: to make world-class red wines in northern Michigan but with a nod to the Italian style of his ancestors. The winery’s namesake is Lagina’s Grandma Mari, an Italian immigrant who settled in the Iron Mountain area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lagina is said to have fond memories of her creating wine in the basement of her home.

Marty’s Italian grandma, Teresa Mari, made wine her own wine at home. Her still—and her photo, above—are both on display at Mari Vineyards winery.

Mari Vineyards is situated on 60 acres in Traverse City. The winery is 100 percent carbon neutral and built from UP dolomite stone, dug from the bases of wind turbines. Lagina has unique growing methods, too—something he plans to share during his session of Husky Bites. As for the wine? “It’s good!” he says.

Mari Vineyards

“Winemaking is an art, but it’s also highly technical,” he adds. “My education at Michigan Tech is what gives me the confidence for innovation.”

Dr. Predebon, what do you do in your spare time?

“I’ve been at Michigan Tech since 1975. That’s 45 years this fall. I just finished 22 years as department chair. My work has absorbed my life, by choice. I have a real passion for our program. We do a good job of preparing engineers, with a heavy emphasis on hands-on education. 

Dr. Bill Predebon

“I have always enjoyed teaching, so the way I look at my role is to nurture the growth of my faculty and staff, right along with our students. I want to help them all reach their potential.

“That said, exercise is a big part of my life, too. I try to exercise every day. I mainly run on a treadmill and lift weights. My wife is an artist and a potter, and together we organically garden. Turns out you can grow anything here in the UP. My wife is very good; I just help. We have a peach tree, we have grown watermelon, we’ve grown cantaloupes, we’ve grown potatoes, her passion is pumpkins so we grow these large pumpkins—150 pounds.”

Dr. Predebon joined the faculty at Michigan Tech in 1975. He earned the Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984, and became chair of the university’s largest department, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, six years later.

Bill Endres: Pivoting During the Pandemic: From Covid to Codes

Bill Endres shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 16 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Patient’s eye view of a bag valve mask. Michigan Tech engineering students, led by ME-EM Associate Professor Bill Endres, developed a device to help caregivers improve patient outcomes.

What are you doing for supper tomorrow night, Monday 11/16 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Prof. Bill Endres, along with recent engineering graduates Haley Edie and Ethan Twardy, and current student Theo Wachowski.

As the pandemic unfolded last spring, a group Michigan Tech engineering students pivoted from disappointment at a study abroad trip being cut short, to developing, prototyping and testing an electro-mechanical ventilator—one that is affordable, rugged, compact, and able to be rapidly manufactured and deployed. Their device automatically actuates a bag valve mask (BVM) to serve as a ventilator substitute, to improve patient outcomes.

Haley Edie, Theo Wachowski, Andy Sleder and Ethan Twardy were all studying abroad at Fachhochschule Kiel in Germany at the start of the pandemic, when Michigan Tech asked them to return home.

A bag valve mask is a hand-held, hand-operated device commonly used by EMTs and in emergency rooms and critical care settings to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately.

Prof. Bill Endres, the team’s advisor, reconfigured their 30-week senior capstone experience into a 12-week accelerated operation. Engineering students (now all recent graduates) Drew Scharlow, Andy Sleder, John Winkler, and Andrew Marogi worked on the project, as well. 

Dr. Bill Endres is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. He is also director of the department’s Senior Capstone Design program.

Some of the team extended their efforts over the summer through Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site program, offered through the Pavlis Honors College. 

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, fosters entrepreneurship among university researchers, leading to successful commercialization of technology. Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Program uses the same methods and principles to encourage technical entrepreneurship.

Endres and his students felt they had a potentially marketable product, and gave it a name, CoVent. They learned how to think about commercialization and transitioning their device into the marketplace. They interviewed paramedics, EMTs, doctors, nurses, combat medics, and more.

Use of a BVM to ventilate a patient is frequently called ‘bagging’ the patient. In medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, when the patient’s breathing is insufficient or has ceased completely, a bag valve mask (BVM) saves lives by force-feeding air or oxygen into the lungs. BVMs are regularly used by first responders and medical professionals, frequently with compressions, instead of mouth-to-mouth ventilation.

Activated by hand, BVMs are challenging to sustain for longer periods of time. Particularly in rural areas, transport can take 40 minutes or more, and then bagging often continues in the ER. Some pediatric codes can last even longer, two hours or more.

Recent graduate Haley Edie is now in Boston working for Autodesk. In her spare time, she volunteers for FIRST Robotics.

During Husky Bites we’ll meet Haley Edie, who graduated last spring 2020 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She is now a research engineer at Autodesk in Boston, Massachusetts, focused on generative design, robotics and additive manufacturing. 

“One of the biggest hurdles we faced as a team, was that we were all very geographically distributed,” says Edie. “We also had to find a way to build a hard prototype of our device when none of us had all the pieces for it.”

Ethan Twardy was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He’s also into drumming, cross country running, and theatre acting.

We’ll also meet Ethan Twardy, who earned his BS in Computer Engineering in Spring 2020. He is now a software engineer at Plexus Corp. in Neenah, Wisconsin. “From the place a patient is discovered, to the ambulance, to the ER—what is needed: something that can work between each of those worlds and kind of seamlessly transition between them. We’ve learned that our device needs to be interfaced with other breathing circuits, things like filters, pressure sensors, pressure taps, all these kinds of breathing circuit components” he adds.

Is the team ready to go forward with commercialization? “I guess the biggest change from the start to now is confidence,” adds Twardy. “Not only in talking about what we’ve learned and about the product, but also in understanding the customer.” 

Theo Wachowski: “Taking part in FIRST robotics team throughout middle school and high school cemented my love for design and fabrication,” he says.

Last but not least we’ll meet Theo Wachowski, set to graduate in December 2020 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He is currently working as a new product development intern at Boston Whaler in Edgewater, Florida. 

Wachowski agrees. “We’re getting great feedback. I know this can definitely help people. It’s really a team effort and the team decision in the end.”

Prof. Bill Endres is director of the senior design program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. “Putting my own startup experience to practice and to the test, I’ve developed the program to run a lot like a business,” he says.

Prof. Endres has personally advised more than 80 capstone teams over the past 15 years or so, as director he has overseen more than 350 projects/teams. Most are mechanical engineering teams, but plenty, like the CoVent team, are multidisciplinary teams, made up of students majoring in various engineering disciplines.

I have a passion for designing processes, physical devices, software tools, and even business models–from system-level to detail-level, discovering interconnections and intra-connections. I guess that makes me a geek.

Prof. Bill Endres

At Michigan Tech, teams of highly dedicated, senior-level students in all the engineering departments address practical, open-ended design challenges in their last course before graduating. Many of the projects are sponsored by industry and community organizations, even individuals. (Our College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has sponsored several senior design team projects over the past few years, too.)

Prof. Endres, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I’ve long had an interest in how things worked, mainly physical/mechanical devices.  I also liked biology, so I originally intended on pursuing bioengineering. That field was pretty new back in 1984. It  wasn’t even in the College of Engineering at U of Illinois at that time.  Plus, my older sister, who had a BS in Biology, said I’d have to get a PhD to do anything with it. No way was I gonna get a PhD!  So, I pursued mechanical engineering…eventually getting a PhD…thinking, “no way will I ever go be a professor!” 

Prof. Endres’s daughter, Jess, is an ER Technician at Carle Foundation Hospital in Illinois. “She was our first subject matter expert (SME) who joined a Zoom call just 6 hours after the idea surfaced for the project.”

Hometown and Hobbies?

I grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, about 5 miles from O’Hare airport. As for my hobbies, I have a passion for designing processes, physical devices, software tools, and even business models–from system-level to detail-level, discovering interconnections and intra-connections. I guess that makes me a geek (and that’s a good word in my book, literally). In 1996 I set out to build a technology company focused on machining simulation software. With changes in life and profession, that effort was chalked up as a learning experience and set aside. Later I turned my entrepreneurial eye toward the cutting-tool industry. I founded Endres Machining Innovations, LLC (EMI) in 2005. Through R&D programs and commercialization partnerships, EMI has developed and delivered innovative tooling products–enabling substantial productivity improvements. 

Hamburg, Germany, and its Fernmeldeturmone, or radio broadcasting tower. Photo by Haley Edie.

Haley, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I really got into engineering when I was introduced to FIRST Robotics at my high school. I fell in love with working to solve a problem, working with my hands and the field of robotics in general. I still mentor and volunteer with FIRST to this day. I was born and raised in the small town of Almont in lower Michigan. I now work for Autodesk in Boston, Massachusetts as a Research Engineer. In my free time I love to read (sci-fi and fantasy!!), bake, hike, swing dance and volunteer at FIRST robotics competitions. 

Theo, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

My father was a carpenter, so from a young age I always had the opportunity to build things and design projects. Having the ability to take an idea and make it reality has always brought me joy in my hobbies and classwork. I had the opportunity to participate in a FIRST Robotics team throughout middle school and high school, which cemented my love for design and fabrication. I grew up in Kalamazoo, raised by two loving parents along with one older brother. My brother graduated from Michigan Tech in 2017 with a BSME and is now working in Holland, Michigan. I love the outdoors and anything to do out in the Keweenaw, I race sailboats with Michigan Tech, and sail out on Lake Michigan in the summer. And I’m an avid rock climber who loves to climb, either here at the SDC or out at Silver Mountain.


David Shonnard: Waste Plastics are Taking Over the World—the Solution is Circular

Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard, shown here at Gratiot River State Park, a remote beach in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

David Shonnard shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 9 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard founded Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/9 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard, longtime director and founder of Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute. Last week he won Michigan Tech’s 2020 Research Award.

During Husky Bites, Shonnard promises to shed some light and some hope on waste plastics—the role they play in our society and economy and their harm to the environment, especially the oceans and its biodiversity.

He’ll also take us on a walk down a remote Lake Superior beach to hunt for waste plastics, show us what he and his students found, where they found it, and what that means.

Felix Adom, one of Prof. Shonnard’s graduate students will join in, too. Dr. Adom grew up in Ghana, attending Kwame Nkrumah’ University of Science and Technology in Kumasi for his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2012, and then worked as a post-doc researcher and energy analyst at Argonne National Lab. He then joined Shell as greenhouse gas intensity assessment technologist, and is now carbon strategy analyst at Shell.

Felix Adom earned his PhD in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech in 2012.

Shonnard founded and is fully devoted to Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute, which brings together undergraduate students, graduate students, scientists and engineers from multiple disciplines in research and education projects. SFI members—more than 100 on campus—address technical, economic, and social issues related to the sustainable use of the Earth’s limited resources.

During his time at Michigan Tech, Adom was a member of SFI. On one project, he worked with a team of students in Shonnard’s hydrolysis lab to analyze a waste product of the wet mill corn ethanol industry—a thick, caramel-colored syrup. Ethanol production from corn creates an abundance of corn byproducts—seven pounds for every one gallon of ethanol according to some estimates. The syrup came by way of Working Bugs LLC, a green chemical manufacturer based in East Lansing, Michigan. Adom and the team identified the chemical make-up of the syrup and helped determine its value as a possible feedstock. They also discovered ways to convert the syrup, a waste stream, into a sugar- and amino acid-rich fermentation medium for other biofuels.

Today Adom is based in Richmond, Texas, not far from Houston. He is a carbon strategy analyst for Shell. “When I joined this team in 2016, it was a small group of 5 people. Today our team has 40 people and it is heavily funded.”

“Ever since Felix graduated, I have proudly watched from a distance the terrific trajectory of his career,” says Shonnard. He’s now helping a major oil company to develop their strategies to be more sustainable. I am really happy to see that.”

Some of the waste plastics collected at Gratiot River Beach.

The beach study, performed by chemical engineering undergraduates Mahlon Bare and Jacob Zuhlke, focused on identifying and quantifying macroplastic particles discovered on a beach along Lake Superior on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan within Gratiot River County Park. The park receives little foot traffic and is located in a remote part of the Peninsula. Searching five 100-foot sites spaced 1000 feet apart, the team gathered any visible surface plastic. They also processed sand dug from one-ft. deep holes. Researchers took samples of recovered plastic pieces and analyzed their composition using a micropyrolysis process and gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GC/MS) system. No microplastics were discovered in the sand.

“Technology enables a circular flow of recycling. Right now, waste plastics are a cost, but they could be of value if we can convert them back into other, reusable forms. If they have value, then they’re less likely to get thrown out.”

David Shonnard, Chemical Engineering Professor and the Richard and Bonnie Robbins Chair in Sustainable Use of Materials at Michigan Technological University

Prof. Shonnard, how did you become focused on sustainability as a chemical engineer? 

“During my PhD at UC Davis, my advisor allowed me to take courses and conduct research outside of the traditional discipline of chemical engineering, so I could apply my skills to environmental problems. Once at Michigan Tech, our culture of collaboration across campus stimulated my research into areas of sustainable bioenergy and more recently into waste plastic recycling.”

What are the most important things all engineers should know about sustainability?

“Engineers, in my experience, often think a problem can be solved using the skills we possess. Unfortunately, this is not true when it comes to sustainability. Engineers need to collaborate outside their fields of expertise, with environmental scientists, economists, social scientists, and others to address these challenges.”

Characterizing the waste plastics in Dr. Shonnard’s lab at Michigan Tech.

When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

As a young man searching for my career direction, among other things I restored old classic Porsche automobiles.  This sparked my interest in engineering and to gain a deeper understanding about how the parts of the vehicle worked.  My freshman year included chemistry, which I loved, and when combined with my interests in math I decided on chemical engineering, and have been super happy ever since.    

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

My wife, Gisela, is originally from Germany and before that Brazil, so international travel is in our DNA.  With Gisela and my two children (now grown and into their careers), we traveled a lot to Germany and Europe more broadly to visit relatives.  My only sabbatical was in Germany at a global chemical company headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany (can you guess the company?).  My sustainability research included collaborations in Central and S. America (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina). 


Mary Raber: Solving Wicked Problems

Mary Raber shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 2 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/2 at 6? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Mary Raber, Chief Doing Officer of IDEAhub, Michigan Tech’s collaborative working group for educational innovation. Joining in will be Brad Turner, one of Mary’s former students, who earned his BS in Software Engineering 2017. He started his career at Handshake SF and recently joined Blackfynn Philly.

In this Husky “bite” you will be introduced to how Michigan Tech is using design thinking to reimagine education for the 21st century, and how Brad has used the process in his work after graduation.

Mary Raber

A professor of practice, Raber serves as assistant dean for academic programs in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College. She’s also co-director of Husky Innovate (Michigan Tech’s resource hub for innovation & entrepreneurship). A design-thinking and innovation enthusiast, Raber loves to help others embrace the tools and mindsets of innovation to effect positive change. 

While earning his software engineering degree at Michigan Tech, Brad Turner joined the Pavlis Honors College. He worked as student coordinator for the Innovation Program within the PHC Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, and that’s when he met Raber. “Mary became my mentor,” he said.

Brad Turner

Nowadays, Turner is a product designer, one who recently made the switch from building tools that help college students find jobs, to designing software that improves the treatment of neurological diseases. 

During Husky Bites, Raber and Turner will introduce the design thinking process, developed at the Stanford d.school. 

“Design thinking is a tool to help you reframe life’s challenges into opportunities,” says Raber. “It’s a process widely used to solve messy, wicked problems,” she explains. “At its core is the human…those whose lives we are trying to improve in some way.  The process fosters mindsets and skills that enables anyone, young and old, to tackle ambiguous problems.”

Design Thinking: Emphathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test

After a 14-year career in the automotive industry, Raber first joined Michigan Tech to lead the implementation and growth of the highly distinctive undergraduate Enterprise Program. She helped found the Pavlis Honors College, where she now facilitates learning in leadership, human-centered design, and lean start-up. 

Raber was honored with Michigan Tech’s Faculty Distinguished Service Award in 2018. “Through Mary’s exceptional dedication and efforts, opportunities and resources for innovation and entrepreneurship on our campus have grown substantially,” said Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College.

Over the years Raber has co-founded several start-ups (“some of which have been successful, and some that haven’t fared as well,” she says). She’s currently pursuing a PhD at Michigan Tech with a focus on engineering education, and working on developing another start-up to help bring her passion for innovative teaching and learning to others. 

“Design thinking is a tool to help you reframe life’s challenges into opportunities.”

Mary Raber

Raber has cultivated a strong relationship with the Stanford d.school, opening up additional avenues for student exploration and education. Through this collaboration, Michigan Tech has a highly active group of University Innovation Fellows (UIF).

“Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to make a positive impact on the world,” Raber explains. “They attend training at Stanford’s d.school, where they can meet students from across the country engaged in change-making on their own campuses.” Michigan Tech’s UIFs engage with incoming first-year students during orientation week, exposing them early on to powerful entrepreneurial tools and resources.

Turner was a University Innovation Fellow during his years at Michigan Tech. He worked closely with Raber to develop and launch Michigan Tech’s first-ever makerspace, The Alley, located on campus in the Memorial Union Building. He facilitated design thinking classes, and developed a visual language for Alley.

Some of Michigan Tech’s Innovation Fellows exploring the Google campus in Mountain View, CA during a UIF meetup. Brad is second from the left. Looks like fun!

“I went through the (UIF) training with the Stanford d.school during my second year at Tech,” Turner recalls. “It was an 8-week online course where we learned about design thinking. “When I started working on more initiatives related to UIF, I found myself continually looking to Mary for advice, guidance, and support on those initiatives. By the time I graduated, Mary and I worked on a variety of projects together and presented our work together on campus and at national conferences.”

A group of student volunteers helped build tables for Michigan Tech’s Alley Makerspace when it launched.

In 2014 Turner took an internship at Handshake, a company founded 2014 by three engineering students at Michigan Tech to give students access to a larger number of potential employers, no matter their location. Turner worked in the company’s first small office in Houghton, then moved with them to San Francisco for a second internship. Upon graduation he joined the company, helping grow its design system and processes as the Handshake team grew from 35 to over 200 employees.

As Handshake’s lead designer on a variety of projects, Turner collaborated with project managers to dig into challenges and articulate compelling problem statements. He conducted user research and user testing, and partnered with engineers to deliver high quality, accessible experiences.

Turner recently moved from Handshake to Blackfynn, a company that seeks to transform the treatment of neurological disease—including Parkinson’s disease, which affects nearly one million people in the US—with data-driven, next-generation therapeutics.

Raber was honored with Michigan Tech’s Faculty Distinguished Service Award in 2018.

Mary, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I enjoyed math, science and design in high school, so engineering seemed like a logical next step. My concentration was in biomechanics and I was hooked on the connections between health and engineering with my first internship at UMich hospitals where I tested hypodermic needles on cadavers. I was very fortunate to get my first job after graduation at Chrysler Motors working with an all female engineering team to design the sensing and diagnostics systems for the first mass-produced airbag systems. It’s led me to fascinating careers in automotive electronics and now engineering education.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

I have lived in Michigan all my life, moving back and forth from lower Michigan to the UP several times. I’m easing into the empty nester life while my son lives nearby and attends Michigan Tech, and occasionally brings his laundry home. I love to travel and have had the opportunity to visit many wonderful places around the world.  In my spare time I enjoy hiking, gardening, skiing, and creating through hobbies like baking, knitting, and quilting.  

Brad, How did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

After watching too much Grey’s Anatomy in high school, I was sure that I wanted to be a surgeon when I grew up. I was also interested in technology, so instead of thinking about going to med school, I decided to study biomedical engineering to blend my interests in medicine and technology. (My interest in biomed only lasted a year before I discovered design thinking and decided to switch to software engineering).

Brad made the move to Philly after running the Philadelphia Marathon last year.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I grew up in Bay City, Michigan. My older brother was studying mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech and I really enjoyed Houghton when I came to visit him. After spending a weekend on campus with the Leading Scholars program during my senior year of high school, I knew it was the right place for me. I’ve spent the past 4 years in San Francisco and recently (during the pandemic) found a new home with my partner in Philadelphia. Outside of work you’ll normally find me running along the Schuylkill River, trying out a new recipe in my kitchen, or virtually volunteering to help get out the vote this November.


Paul Bergstrom: Nanoscaled Epic Fails!

A cell of eight SET (single electron transistor) devices at room temperature. Paul Bergstrom, an electrical engineering professor at Michigan Tech, created the first operating SET of any kind accomplished with focused ion beam technology, the second demonstration of room temperature SET behavior in the US, and sixth in the world.

Paul Bergstrom shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 26 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Doing anything for supper this Monday night at 6? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Professor Paul Bergstrom for “Nanoscale Epic Fails!” Joining in will be one of Bergstrom’s former students, Tom Wallner, now an R&D engineer at PsiQuantum.

At Michigan Tech, ECE Prof. Bergstrom and his team of student researchers develop nanoelectronic devices.  The effort takes them down some (seemingly) impossible pathways. 

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” It’s one of Prof. Paul Bergstrom’s favorite lines from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.

“Nanoscaled materials and devices that leverage quantum—or nearly quantum—scales enable extraordinary behavioral changes that can be very useful in sensing and electronics,” he says.

“Conducting research in this area constantly demonstrates that what we think we know is not always everything we need to know about how atoms and molecules interact. One experimental failure leads to understanding for the next. It’s a life lesson under the microscope.

“With the scientific method, we have an idea. We know where we want to go. We create a path to get there. Depending on our results, we decide whether or not we’re on the right path,” he explains.

Working in the nanoscale, it’s all about the size of things, he says. Bergstrom and his team use focused ion beam (FIB) systems to fabricate electrical devices at the nanoscale, using elemental gallium. He’ll explain the process in detail during his session on Husky Bites.

“We can see down to the 10s of hundreds of atoms and molecules, and see quantum mechanical effects that take place,” he says. “Many nanodevices exhibit quantum mechanical electronic behavior at subzero temperatures. There are lots of blind alleys we need to map out in order to understand where to go next with our research.”

“Experimental failure is not final. There can be success through failure, even epic failure.”

Paul Bergstrom

Bergstrom and his team had a goal: make a single electron transistor (SET) operable at room temperature. And they did: Theirs was the first operating SET of any kind accomplished with focused ion beam technology, the second demonstration of room temperature SET behavior in the US, and sixth in the world.

Room-temperature SETs could someday open up whole new aspects of the electronics industry, says Bergstrom. “Moving to nanoscaled electronic devices such as SETs that rely on quantum behavior will allow us to eliminate leakage current. The SET may also allow technology its continued migration toward high levels of integration—from hundreds of millions of transistors to hundreds of billions of transistors ultimately—so that cost per device will continue to drop at its historic rate, or even faster.”

Bergstrom’s effort goes beyond the SET. “We hope to find ways to create devices ultimately that will not transfer current when they do logic. That is the ‘Holy Grail’ for nanoelectronics. And we are taking that challenge seriously.”

He also takes it in stride. “In research, past failures define the starting place. Current failures define impossible pathways. We know our starting point and our end point. We just don’t know the path in between.” And that’s okay, even good, he says.

Jin and Tom during their college days at Michigan Tech. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. Did they first meet in the lab? We’ll try to find out during Husky Bites.

Michigan Tech alum Tom Wallner graduated from Michigan Tech with a BS in 2002 and an MS in ‘04, both in electrical engineering. “From my undergrad work and throughout my career I’ve built things,” he says. “I’ve always been especially interested in building small things.” That fascination has led Wallner to some amazing places and workplaces. He also found the love of his life at Michigan Tech, Jin Zheng-Wallner.

After graduation, Wallner spent time at Sandia National Labs, and then joined IBM doing microelectronics R&D, including time spent in South Korea for IBM, working with Samsung. After nearly a decade Wallner moved to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, “a company formed out of a bunch of fabs.” (AKA chip fabricators). Then one day Wallner’s career path took a fortuitous turn. “Some old IBM buddies knocked on my door, some very good friends. They said, ‘Hey Tom, do you want to try this photonics stuff?”

“It turns out testing photonics devices is a wide open field,” he says. “Not many people have a background and skill set in that area. I thought to myself, well, I know a little about photonics, I’ll just go figure it out.” Wallner went to work at SUNY Polytechnic Institute as an integrated photonic test engineer. 

Recently Wallner joined PsiQuantum, a startup based in Silicon Valley. “Our mission is to build the world’s first useful quantum computer. We’re taking a photonic path to that, which is different than most quantum computing,” he says.

As a student at Michigan Tech, Wallner worked on a team that developed an unmanned vehicle. “It looked like a bumblebee—300 pounds of unmanned robotics, with cameras on it. We navigated it on a course we set up out on the Michigan Tech golf course.”

Wallner was a management advisor in Douglas Houghton Hall (DHH) and president of Michigan Tech’s IEEE chapter for 4 years. “I was in charge of the building.  If a hallway light went out, or a door got jammed, OR the one time there was a water line break and a whole floor flooded–that was my responsibility,” he recalls.

“Tom not only renovated the IEEE student lab—he even secured industry sponsorship to cover the costs,” says Bergstrom. The Kimberly Clarke plaque still hangs outside the door of Room 809 in the EERC.”

“Tom also started building the MFF for me, and he developed the tool set for our room temperature SET research,” notes Bergstrom. Today the Microfabrication Shared Facility (MFF) at Michigan Tech provides resources for micro- and nano-scaled research and development of solid state electronics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), lab-on-a-chip, and microsystems materials and devices, serving researchers across campus and across the country.

Prof. Bergstrom, when did you first get into engineering? 

I knew I wanted to be, specifically, an electrical engineer by the time I was 16. I am the son of an analytical chemist who trained chemical technicians for industry. When donated tools would come into his teaching laboratory, I would come in and either fix them or disassemble them and recycle the components that could be processed. A passion for high-end audio also led me to analog amplifier design and speaker assembly. My desire to learn about the coupled electromechanical physics and engineering in audio as a young teenager sparked my interest in electronics and microelectromechanical systems—and launched my career at the micro- and nanoscale.

An “Ent” from Lord of the Rings.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities of Minnesota with family roots in northwestern Wisconsin. After formative years in Minnesota came graduate school in Michigan, semiconductor research with Motorola, Inc. in Arizona, and the last 20 years in the Keweenaw as faculty. I have too many hobbies and acquired skills outside of my profession, but they mostly revolve around musical enjoyment and performance, or enjoying and utilizing the northern forest and timber, or both. My wife calls me an “ent” (one of those mythical tree creatures who move and talk in the Lord of the Rings).

ECE Alumnus Tom Wallner ’02 04 is now an R&D Engineer at PsiQuantum

Tom, how did you find engineering? 

I started getting interested way back in grade school when I learned that you can make electromagnets with a lantern battery, a nail, and some wire. Later, in high school, my part time job was at a family owned electronics shop. I loved working with customers to help solve their problems. This was back in the day of mobile phones being “bag phones” and then I saw the transition to smaller phones. I remember being blown away by the Motorola Startac flip phone. When I graduated high school, I wanted to take the next step and learn more about how such cool devices work and how they are made.

Hobbies and Interests?

I was born and raised in Ashland, Wisconsin. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. I enjoy playing trombone, hunting, fishing, woodworking, and language learning. I met my wife,  Jin, at Michigan Tech. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, advised by Dr. Bergstrom. Our two sons, now aged 10 and 12, know all the technical jargon and acronyms. They talk about “SOP” (Standard Operating Procedure) while doing the dishes, and BKM (Best Known Method) while putting them away! 


Tim Havens: Warm and Fuzzy Machine Learning

A test vehicle to collect data for explosive hazards detection. Havens has spent the past 12-plus years developing new, improved methods to find explosive hazards, working with the US Army.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night at 6? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Associate Professor Tim Havens, director of the Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems and associate dean for research in the College of Computing. Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“Nearly everyone has heard the term ‘Deep Learning’ at this point, whether to describe the latest artificial intelligence feat like AlphaGo, autonomous cars, facial recognition, or numerous other latest-and-greatest gadgets and gizmos,” says Havens. “But what is Deep Learning? How does it work? What can it really do—and how are Michigan Tech students advancing the state-of-the-art?”

Professor Tim Havens is a Michigan Tech alum. He earned his BS and MS in electrical engineering in 1999 and 2000.

In this session of Husky Bites, Prof. Havens will talk about everyday uses of machine learning—including the machine learning research going on in his lab: explosive hazards detection, under-ice acoustics detection and classification, social network analysis, connected vehicle distributed sensing, and other stuff.

Joining in will be one of Havens’ former students, Hanieh Deilamsalehy, who earned her PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. She’s now a machine learning researcher at Adobe. Dr. Deilamsalehy graduated from Michigan Tech in 2017 and headed to Palo Alto to work for Ford as an autonomous vehicle researcher. She left the Bay Area for Seattle to take a job at Microsoft, first as a software engineer, and then as a machine learning scientist. In April she accepted a new machine learning position at Adobe, “in the middle of the pandemic!”

Havens is a Michigan Tech alum, too. He earned his BS in ‘99 and MS in Electrical Engineering in ‘00, then went to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, where he worked on simulation and modeling of the Airborne Laser System, among other defense-related projects. From there it was the University of Missouri for a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering, researching machine learning in ontologies and relational data.

Nowadays, Havens is the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Computing. In addition to serving as director of Michigan Tech’s ICC, he also heads up the ICC Center for Data Sciences and runs his own PRIME Lab, too (short for Pattern Recognition and Intelligent Machines Engineering).

“An important goal for many mobile platforms—terrestrial, aquatic, or airborne—is reliable, accurate, and on-time sensing of the world around them.”

Tim Havens

Havens has spent the past 12 years developing methods to find explosive hazards, working with the US Army and a research team in his lab. According to a United Nations report, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in armed conflict in Afghanistan in 2019, with improvised explosive devices used in 42 percent of the casualties. Havens is working to help reduce the numbers.

“Our algorithms detect and locate explosive hazards using two different systems: a vehicle-mounted multi-band ground-penetrating radar system and a handheld multimodal sensor system,” Havens explains. “Each of these systems employs multiple sensors, including different frequencies of ground penetrating radar, magnetometers and visible-spectrum cameras. We’ve created methods of integrating the sensor information to automatically find the explosive hazards.” 

As a PhD student at Michigan Tech, Deilamsalehy worked alongside Havens as a research assistant in the ECE department’s Intelligent Robotics Lab (IRLab). “My research was focused on sensor fusion, machine learning and computer vision, fusing the data from IMU, LiDAR, and a vision camera for 3D localization and mapping purposes,” she says. “I used data from a sensor platform in the IRLab, mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), to evaluate my proposed fusion algorithm.”

Havens is also co-advisor to students in the SENSE (Strategic Education through Naval Systems Experience) Enterprise team at Michigan Tech, along with ME-EM Professor Andrew Barnard. Students in SENSE design, build, and test engineering systems in all domains: space, air, land, sea, and undersea. Like all Enterprise teams, SENSE is open to students in any major. 

You’d never know it looking at this hat, but Dr. Havens is a cat person with two “fur children.” He is also musical, playing the bass and the trumpet.

Prof. Havens, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I first became an engineer at Michigan Tech in the late 90s. What really sparked my interest in what-I-do-now was my introductory signal processing courses. The material in these courses was the first stuff that really ‘spoke’ to me. I have always been a serious musician and the mathematics of waves and filters was so intuitive because of my music knowledge. I loved that this field of study joined together the two things that I really loved: music and math. And I’ve always been a computer geek. I was doing programming work in high school to make extra money; so that side of me has always led me to want to solve problems with computers.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I grew up in Traverse City, Michigan, and came to Tech as a student in the late 90s. I’ve always wanted to come back to the Copper Country; so, it’s great that I was able to return to the institution that gave me the jump start in my career. I live (and currently work from home) in Hancock with my partner, Dr. Stephanie Carpenter (an author and MTU professor), and our two fur children, Rick Slade, the cutest ginger in the entire world, and Jaco, the smartest cat in the entire world. I have a grown son, Sage, who enjoys a fast-paced life in Traverse City. Steph and I enjoy exploring the greater Keweenaw and long discussions about reality television, and I enjoy playing music with all the local talent, fishing (though catching is a challenge), and gradually working through the lumber pile in my garage.

Hanieh earned her MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech. Before that, she earned an MS in Medical Radiation Engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology – Tehran Polytechnic, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from K.N. Toosi University of Technology (KNTU).

Dr. Deilamsalehy, how did you find engineering? What sparked your interest?

I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. I have always been into robotics. I was a member of our robotics team in high school and that led me to engineering. I decided to apply to Michigan Tech sort of by chance when a friend of mine told me about it. I looked at the programs in the ECE department, and felt they aligned with my interests. Then soon after I first learned about Michigan Tech, I found out that one of my undergraduate classmates went there. I talked to him, and he also encouraged me to apply. And that’s how I was able to join Michigan Tech for my PhD program. My degree is in electrical engineering but my focus at Michigan Tech involved computer science and designing Machine Learning solutions.

Hanging out above the clouds is one of Dr. Hanieh Deilamsalehy’s favorite pastimes. Since moving to Seattle she has hiked and climbed Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams and other peaks in the Pacific Northwest.

Hobbies and Interests?

I now live in Seattle, famous for outdoor activities—kind of like the UP, but without the cold—so I do lots of mountaineering, biking, rock climbing, and in the winter, skiing. I learned how to ski at Michigan Tech, up on Mont Ripley. It’s steep, and it’s cold! Once you learn skiing on Ripley, you’re good. You can ski just about anywhere.


“It’s Working!” — Copper Country Intermediate School District and Michigan Tech Launch a New CTE Program in Mechatronics

Michigan Tech recently launched a year-long Career and Technical Education (CTE) program for high school juniors or seniors in the area of Mechatronics. The new CTE Mechatronics program is offered through a partnership between Michigan Tech and the Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD).

Mechatronics uses electromechanical systems, typically automated for the design of products and processes. Industry 4.0—sometimes called the “fourth industrial revolution”—applies various aspects of mechatronics to manufacturing enterprises. Topics in the CTE Mechatronics program include; automation, computer integrated manufacturing, high speed manufacturing, embedded systems design and controls, industrial robotics, pneumatics, hydraulics, and computer-aided design.

“Students in the program will find careers in smart manufacturing fields, or they can find a pathway at Michigan Tech into undergraduate or graduate degrees in Engineering Technology, Engineering, or Mechatronics.” says John Irwin, chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Teaming up to deliver the instruction are faculty in the Mechatronics, Electrical and Robotics Engineering Technology (MERET) program in the College of Computing, and faculty in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET) Department in the College of Engineering.

There are 10 students enrolled this fall 2020 from the local area school districts of Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, and L’Anse. CTE Director Shawn Kolbus expects the program to only increase in popularity. “Local business owners approached us last year wanting to get more students from the area interested in Mechatronics, CADD and Engineering,” he says. “The result was the Mechatronics program which encompasses standards from each area.”

George Ochieze

The course is taught by two mechatronics professionals who possess both industry and teaching experience. One of those instructors is George Ochieze, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Mechatronics and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Even in difficult times during the pandemic, these young scholars show overwhelming potential to conquer the mechatronics field—a glimpse into a welcoming future in engineering,” says Ochieze.

Chinmay Kondekar

The second instructor, Chinmay Kondekar, will earn an MS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2021. “Teaching for local schools is an opportunity for me to give back to people in the community who welcomed me as an international student,” says Kondekar. “I hope to create a strong interest in robotics and automation in my students. People with these skills will be the future of manufacturing and will have plenty of opportunities.”

Program enrollment is closed for 2020, but will be available again starting in fall 2021. This spring there will be the opportunity for area sophomore and junior students to visit Michigan Tech to tour the labs and meet the instructors. Both the Applied Computing and MMET department labs used at Michigan Tech are equipped with state-of-the-art electronics and mechanical systems partially provided through generous startup funding from the CCISD.

For more information please contact Shawn Kolbus, Director, Career and Technical Education, Copper Country Intermediate School District (906) 250-5353.

Michigan Tech faculty administering the CTE program include Prof. John Irwin, Chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, or Prof. Alex Sergeyev in the College of Computing.


Erik Herbert: Holy Grail! Energy Storage on the Nanoscale

Ever wondered what a materials science engineer sees on their computer screen on any given day? Here’s what Dr. Erik Herbert and his team are focused on.

Erik Herbert shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar tonight, Monday, October 12 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Tonight’s Husky Bites delves directly into our phones, laptops and tablets, on how to make them cleaner, safer, faster, and more environmentally friendly. It’s about materials, and how engineers focus on understanding, improving inventing materials to solve big problems.

MSE Assistant Professor Erik Herbert

Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Prof. Erik Herbert is focused on the lithium metal inside the batteries that power our devices. Lithium is an extremely reactive metal, which makes it prone to misbehavior. But it is also very good at storing energy. 

Optical microscope image showing residual hardness impressions in a high purity, vapor deposited, polycrystalline lithium thin film. The indents are approximately 1 micron deep and spaced by 35 microns in the plane of the surface (1 micron is a millionth of a meter). Among the key takeaways are the straight edges connecting the 3 corners of each impression and the lack of any discernible slip steps or terraces surrounding the periphery of the contact. Now, if you’re wondering what this means, be sure to catch Dr. Herbert’s session on Husky Bites.

“We want our devices to charge as quickly as possible, and so battery manufacturers face twin pressures: Make batteries that charge very quickly, passing a charge between the cathode and anode as fast as possible, and make the batteries reliable despite being charged repeatedly,” he says. 

On campus at Michigan Tech, Dr. Herbert and his research team explore how lithium reacts to pressure by drilling down into lithium’s smallest and arguably most befuddling attributes. Using a diamond-tipped probe, they deform thin film lithium samples under the microscope to study the behavior on the nanoscale.

“Lithium doesn’t behave as expected during battery operation,” says Herbert.  Mounting pressure occurs during the charging and discharging of a battery, resulting in microscopic fingers of lithium called dendrites. These dendrites fill pre-existing microscopic flaws—grooves, pores and scratches—at the interface between the lithium anode and the solid electrolyte separator.

During continued cycling, these dendrites can force their way into, and eventually through, the solid electrolyte layer that physically separates the anode and cathode. Once a dendrite reaches the cathode, the device short circuits and fails, sometimes catastrophically, with heat, fire and explosions.

Pictured: High-purity indium, which is a mechanical surrogate to lithium. It can be used to make electrical components and low melting alloys. “Note the scale marker,” says Herbert. “That distance is 5 millionths of a meter. The image was taken in a scanning electron microscope and shows the residual hardness impression from a 550 nm deep indent. The key noteworthy feature is the extensive pile-up around the edges of the contact, which suggests a deformation mechanism that conserves volume.”

Improving our understanding of this fundamental issue will directly enable the development of a stable interface that promotes safe, long-term and high-rate cycling performance.

“Everybody is just looking at the energy storage components of the battery,” says Herbert. “Very few research groups are interested in understanding the mechanical elements. But low and behold, we’re discovering that the mechanical properties of lithium itself may be the key piece of the puzzle.”

Dr. Iver Anderson is a senior metallurgist at Ames Lab, an inventor, and a Michigan Tech alumnus.

Iver Anderson, PhD will be Dean Callahan’s co-host during the session. Dr. Anderson is a Michigan Tech alum and senior metallurgical engineer at Ames Lab, a US Department of Energy National Lab. A few years ago, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, for inventing a successful lead-free solder alloy, a revolutionary alternative to traditional tin/lead solder used for joining less fusible metals such as electric wires or other metal parts, and in circuit boards.

As a result, nearly 20,000 tons of lead are no longer released into the environment worldwide. Low-wage recyclers in third-world countries are no longer exposed to large concentrations of this toxic material, and much less lead leaches from landfills into drinking water supplies. 

“There is no safe lead level,” says Anderson. “Science exists to solve problems, but I believe the questions have to be relevant. The motivation is especially strong to solve a problem when somebody says it is not possible to solve it,” he adds. “It makes me feel warm inside to have solved one problem that will help us going on into the future.”

Anderson earned his BS in Metallurgical Engineering in 1975 from Michigan Tech. “It laid the foundation of my network of classmates and professors, which I have continued to expand,” he said.

Anderson went on to earn his MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing his studies in 1982, he joined the Metallurgy Branch of the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

With a desire to return to the Midwest, he took a position at Ames Lab in 1987 and has spent the balance of his research career there and at Iowa State.

“I hope our work has a significant impact on the direction people take trying to develop next-gen storage devices.”

Erik Herbert

Professor Herbert, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

The factors that got me interesting engineering revolved around my hobbies. First it was through BMX bikes and the changes I noticed in riding frames made from aluminum rather than steel. Next it was rock climbing, and realizing that the hardware had to be tailor made and selected to accommodate the type of rock or the type or feature within the rock. Here’s a few examples: Brass is the optimal choice for crack systems with small quartz crystals. Steel is the better choice for smoothly tapered constrictions. Steel pins need sufficient ductility to take on the physical shape of a seam or crack. Aluminum cam lobes need to be sufficiently soft to “bite” the rock, but robust enough to survive repeated impact loads. Then of course there is the rope—what an interesting marvel—the rope has to be capable of dissipating the energy of a fall so the shock isn’t transferred to the climber. Clearly, there is a lot of interesting materials science and engineering going on here.

Hometown, hobbies?

I am originally from Boston, but was raised primarily in East Tennessee. Since 2015, my wife Martha and I have lived in Houghton with our three youngest children. Since then, all but one have taken off on their own. When I’m not working, we enjoy visiting family, riding mountain bikes, learning to snowboard, and watching a good movie.

Dr. Iver Anderson’s invention of lead free solder was 15 years (at least) in the making.

Dr. Anderson, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. Right out my back door was a 40 acre wood that all the kids played in. The world is a beautiful place, especially nature. That was the kind of impression I grew up with. My father was observant and very particular, for instance, about furniture and cabinetry. He taught me how to look for quality, the mark of a craftsman, how to sense a thousandth of an inch. I carry that with me today.


Orhan Soykan: How to Become a Prolific Inventor

Orhan Soykan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 5 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Join Dean Janet Callahan for supper along with Orhan Soykan, a prolific inventor and professor of practice in biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech with more than 100 patents to his name. Joining in will be one of Dr. Soykan’s former students, Tim Kolesar, MD, who earned his biomedical engineering degree at Michigan Tech in 2019 after first completing med school. He’s now a Development Quality Engineer at Abbott.

Who can be an inventor? “Anyone,” says Orhan Soykan. And he should know. Soykan has 37 issued U.S. patents and 66 pending U.S. patents. 

Soykan specializes in implantable devices, biosensors, and molecular medicine. He is the co-founder of two start-ups and has been a consultant to more than 20 firms.

Prolific inventor, scholar, alumnus, electrical engineer, and Professor of Practice, Dr. Orhan Soykan ’86 helped establish Michigan Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He has long been associated with Michigan Tech, first as a master’s student in electrical engineering (he graduated in 1986), then as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Then, seven years ago, after working 20 years at biomedical device powerhouse Medtronic and several more at startup YouGene, Soykan rejoined the University in a more formal way, as a professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He teaches a biomedical instrumentation lab and courses on medical devices, medical imaging, and numerical physics. He also mentors senior design teams of undergraduate students who work on projects for industry clients, the final big design project of their senior year.

Soykan commutes between homes and jobs in Houghton and Minneapolis in a single engine plane. He maintains a research lab in each home, too.

Michigan Tech BME alum, Tim Kolesar ‘19 was one of his students. “Dr. Soykan was my senior design team advisor,” says Kolesar. “Our team (three biomedical engineers and one electrical engineer) all worked together on a project for Stryker, investigating the thermal side effects of a surgical device used in brain surgery.”

Michigan Tech biomedical engineering alumnus Tim Kolesar, MD.

Before coming to Michigan Tech, Kolesar earned a BS in Human Biology from Michigan State University, and then a Doctorate of Medicine from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, in the Carribean. He also volunteered as a medical practitioner for the Himalyan Health Exchange, providing health care for underserved populations within remote regions along the Indo-Tibetan borderlands.

After graduating from Michigan Tech, Kolesar landed his dream job at Abbott, a multinational medical devices and health care company with headquarters in Abbott Park, Illinois, He works on cardiovascular devices for Abbott, including aortic and mitral heart valve replacements. At the moment he’s lead engineer on two projects, involved in device submission to the FDA in the US, and the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in the European Union.

Kolesar underscores the importance of time spent in the lab. During his time at Tech, he worked as an undergraduate researcher in the labs of biomedical engineering professors Dr. Rupak Rajachar and Dr. Jeremy Goldman, working on tissue engineering for injury repair in joints, and bioabsorbable stents for the heart. “These two opportunities played a large role in confirming my decision to pursue a career in biomedical engineering,” he says. “I believe the lab experience I gained at Michigan Tech played a pivotal role in securing my current role at Abbott.”

How do inventors get their ideas?

“I believe necessity is the mother of all invention. You must truly understand the problem and the boundaries the solution will have,” says Soykan. “After that, it is absolutely necessary to study scientific and engineering principles relevant to the problemAmong all his inventions, Dr. Soykan says he is most proud of those at the intersection of engineering and biology. His favorite: A method of isolating a small portion of a patient’s own heart muscle and converting it into a sensor to monitor levels of an antiarrhythmic heart medication.they will eventually become the tools for the development of the solution. And finally, you must look at work done by others, by reviewing technical literature and patent publications,” he adds.

“Now you are ready to tackle the problem by thinking as creatively as you can. This can be anywhere—outside when running or skiing, driving in traffic—make a list of the solutions you think of and discuss them with your colleagues and experts in the field. Finally, the ones that seem to pass the test, try them in the lab.”

Dr. Soykan, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. I became interested in science and technology through my high school physics teacher. Eventually I began to build some electronic circuits as a hobbyist, which eventually turned into a profession.  I cannot forget about the contributions of Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series. (And yes, I am old enough to remember watching the original episodes each week on TV as a young boy!

What is your favorite out of all your inventions?

Among all my inventions, I am most proud of a method of isolating a small portion of a patient’s own heart muscle and converting it into a sensor to monitor levels of an antiarrhythmic heart medication.

Dr. Orhan Soykan makes the commute between Houghton and Minneapolis at least twice a week.

Hometown, hobbies?

I earned my BS from Middle East Technical University, my MS from Michigan Tech and my PhD from Case Western Reserve University, all in electrical engineering. I worked for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Maryland, and Medtronic in Minneapolis and Tokyo, before becoming a part-time consultant to the medical device industry and a part time faculty member at Michigan Tech. I actually maintain two residences, one in Houghton, and the other in the Twin Cities. I’ve got labs in both homes. I commute weekly between the two locations with my single engine Mooney.  When I am not working or flying, I’m usually busy training for my annual marathon, or cross country skiing at Tech trails. 

Kewee and Birch

Dr. Kolesar, When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Whether I knew it or not, engineering has always been a part of me. My love for Physiology pushed me towards the world of medicine. However, during my third year of medical school, I had the pleasure of working with an orthopedic surgeon, and mechanical engineer, in Atlanta, Georgia. The experience truly opened my eyes to the realm of biomedical engineering, and sparked a fascination with the possibilities. This eventually led me back to Michigan Tech upon completion of my medical degree. 

Hometown, hobbies?

My wife, Jenn and I were both raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We now reside in the Minneapolis area. During my time at Michigan Tech we loved being able to return to the Upper Peninsula. The Keweenaw quickly became our second home, especially Copper Harbor. We spend our free time biking, nordic and downhill skiing, camping, hiking, running, and exploring the outdoors with our two dogs Kewee (short for Keweenaw) and Birch Bark.

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In a Heartbeat


Michigan Tech SWE Chapter Makes It Their Mission to Give Back

child looks in wonder as a play-doh circuit lights up a small led light
Who knew! Play Doh can be used to complete a circuit!

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Michigan Tech make it their mission to give back to the community and to spark youth interest in STEM-related fields.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to grow and make new connections, both as an organization on campus and as a member of the community,” says Michigan Tech SWE section president and mechanical engineering major Katie Pioch. “We love getting kids excited about STEM.”

The team gathered for a photo in Fall 2019. This fall gatherings have been mostly virtual for the Michigan Tech section.

This past year, Michigan Tech SWE students helped high school students at Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools form the first-ever SWENext Club. They also mentored two eCYBERMISSION teams, sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program.

SWENext enables girls ages 13 and up to become a part of the SWE engineering community as a student through age 18. SWENexters have access to programming and resources designed to develop leadership skills and self-confidence to succeed in a career in engineering and technology.  Although the program focuses on girls, all students are encouraged to get involved. 

Students in the Michigan Tech SWE section worked closely with a team of 8th graders from Lake Linden Hubbell schools–Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank–to develop three hands-on electrical engineering outreach activity kits for SWENext-age students and elementary students, too. The girls worked on the activity kits in conjunction with the eCYBERMISSION Competition sponsored by the US Army Educational Outreach Program, earning an Honorable Mention award for their efforts.

The activities: Play-Doh Circuits for upper elementary students, and Paper Circuits and Bouncy Bots for middle school students. 

Play-Doh and Paper Circuits teach how parallel and series circuits work. Bouncy Bots involves a simple series circuit where a coin vibration motor—the kind used in cell phones and video game controllers—is connected to two 1.5 V batteries and adhered to a 4 oz medicine cup. When the circuit is operational, the device “bounces” across a surface.

Together with Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering SWE students shared the activity kits with more than 400 students: regional Upper Michigan and Northern Wisconsin Girl Scouts; 5th-grade students at Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK) schools; 4th-grade students at Hancock Elementary; and 5th-grade students at Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools. 

SWE students mentored Lake Linden-Hubbell eCYBERMISSION 6th grade team, SCubed (Super Superior Scientists). The team recycled school lunch food waste as a food source for pigs, earning an Honorable Mention in the eCYBERMISSION competition.

The Michigan Tech SWE section prepared two grant proposals, one for the SWE-Detroit Professional Section and the other for the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), working closely with Michigan Tech’s ECE department. Both proposals were funded, enabling the students to create more activity kits and take them out into the local community.

The funding also allowed for the purchase of soldering tools, electronics components, and other supplies that will now be used to introduce an entire pipeline of students to electrical engineering topics.

High school students create heart rate monitor circuit boards, and also help mentor middle school students through the process of completing holiday tree boards. From there, high school and middle school students will be shown the Bouncy Bot activity; they will lead that activity for their school district’s elementary students. 

“Both SWE and ECE are excited for this “trickle-down” mentoring program,” says Liz Fujita, academic advisor and outreach specialist for Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Due to the pandemic, SWE members cannot go to area schools. Fujita plans to resume school outreach once the pandemic ends.

Michigan Tech’s SWE Section developed a video describing their year-long outreach projects for SWE’s national FY20 WOW! Innovation Challenge. A portion of the video was created by high school junior Jenna Beaudoin, founding member of the Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools SWENext Club. For their exceptional outreach efforts, SWE awarded Michigan Tech second place in the challenge.

Gretchen Hein, senior lecturer in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology is Michigan Tech’s SWE faculty advisor. “We really encourage our SWE section members to develop professionally and personally,” she says. Students work especially hard on their annual Evening with Industry event, which takes place each fall during Michigan Tech Career Fair.” The event, held just a few weeks ago, was virtual. Sponsors included Nucor, Marathon Oil, John Deere, Amway, Milwaukee Tool, Corteva and CWC Textron.

Gretchen Hein, MMET senior lecturer and Michigan Tech’s SWE section advisor

Hein and a group of ten Michigan Tech SWE section members traveled to the annual WE19 Conference in Anaheim, California, the world’s largest conference for women in engineering and technology. They attended professional development sessions, participated in the SWE Career Fair, and networked with other student sections and professional members. 

While there, Romana Carden, a major in engineering management, participated in the SWE Future Leaders (SWEFL) program. Carden also attended the day-long SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI) with Mackenzie Brunet, a fellow engineering management major. Both programs are led by female engineers working in industry and academia, to help college students gain leadership skills. Zoe Wahr, a civil engineering major, received a scholarship in recognition of her academic, university, and SWE accomplishments. And Hein was recognized at WE19 for her 20-plus years of service with the SWE Engaged Advocate Award, which honors individuals who have contributed to the advancement or acceptance of women in engineering.

“We have a strong and sustainable SWE chapter at Michigan Tech, and Dr. Hein’s work as the college of engineering chapter advisor has played a key role in this,” says Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “I am truly grateful to every person who has contributed to SWE—past, present and future.”

“In the coming year, SWE students plant to expand their outreach,” she adds. “We’d love to have more Michigan Tech students join the section and explore what SWE and the SWE members have to offer.” 

Next month, in early November, the section will participate in the WE20 Conference in New Orleans, virtually.

Interested in learning more about the SWE section at Michigan Tech? Join their email list at swe-l@mtu.edu, or follow the section on Facebook and Instagram, @michigantechswe.