Category: Outreach

NSBE Students Reach Out to Detroit Schools

Six members of Michigan Tech’s student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Pre-College Initiative (PCI) reached a total of 1,500 students during their 8th Annual Alternative Spring Break in Detroit March 9-11, 2020. Our students spent their spring break visiting six middle and high schools in Detroit to encourage students to consider college and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career.

During the school day, the Michigan Tech students made classroom presentations to middle and high school students encouraging them to continue their education after high school, consider going to college or community college, and choose a STEM career path. After the school day ended, the NSBE students conducted K-8 Family Engineering events at two K-8 schools for students and their families, and at a Boys & Girls Club in Highland Park.

Participating students included:

The schools visited included:

  • Osborn High School
  • Detroit Arts HS
  • Mackenzie Middle School
  • University Prep Math & Science Middle School
  • University Prep Academy of the Arts Middle School
  • Neinas Academy Middle School

The NSBE students made a special stop at the Fauver-Martin Boys & Girls Club on the afternoon of March 10 to put on a hands-on engineering event for 30 K-12 students from across the city. This event was organized by Mike Reed from the Detroit Zoological Society, who also invited Michael Vaughn, the first president of MTU’s NSBE student chapter in 1995.

The goal of the NSBE classroom presentations and Family Engineering events are to engage, inspire, and encourage diverse students to learn about and consider careers in engineering and science through hands-on activities and providing ‘hometown’ role models (most of the participating NSBE students are from the Detroit area). These programs are designed to address our country’s need for an increased number and greater diversity of students skilled in STEM (math, science, technology, and engineering). 

This MTU NSBE chapter’s outreach effort is funded by General Motors and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and coordinated by Joan Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach. High school students at these schools are also encouraged to apply to participate in a 5-day High School Summer STEM Internship at Michigan Tech from July 13-17, 2020 that is specifically targeting underrepresented students. Each participating student will be supported by a $700 scholarship. The Detroit high school students are also informed of scholarships available to attend MTU’s Summer Youth Programs.

For more information about the MTU-NSBE student chapter’s Alternative Spring Break, contact NSBE student chapter President, Bryce Stallworth or Chadde.

By Joan Chadde.


Online Science and Engineering Fair

Boy Watching Video

In a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade, organizers of the Western U.P. Science and Engineering Fair are turning a disappointing situation into a new and exciting endeavor. 

The 22nd edition of the fair, which was to have been held Wednesday (March 18) in the Memorial Union Building, did not take place as planned. More than 125 students from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties in grades four through eight were registered for the event. Due to directives to not gather in large groups and to maintain social distancing, the science and engineering fair didn’t take place. But that’s not to say it was cancelled. 

Emily Gochis, director of the Western UP MiSTEM Network and, in turn, the director of the Western U.P. Science Fair, said organizers have moved the fair to an online platform. 

“We wanted to offer this alternative method because we know how hard our students, parents and teachers have worked to develop and complete projects,” Gochis said. 

Under the new format, students as individuals or in pairs may use their assigned project numbers to submit a recorded project interview, photographs of the display board and a digital copy of the written report. The project numbers were provided to the students last week.

Gochis feels many of the students are up to this new challenge. “We are asking our students to be creative problem solvers and felt that we could do the same for them by developing a new submission process using out-of-the-box thinking and available technology in an authentic way.”

Gochis recognizes that not all students will have access to their projects or the needed technology with schools closed. “For that reason, projects can be submitted up to two weeks after K-12 classes resume,” she added. 

Students can submit projects by uploading photos, documents and a recording to a Google Drive folder identified by their assigned project number. “If needed, students can use FlipGrid, a free video capturing platform to record and submit their project interviews, up to five minutes in length,” Gochis said. 

In the face of a prolonged school closure, many parents are scrambling to find homeschooling options for their children. Gochis says participating in the science and engineering fair can certainly be of help.

“Science and Engineering Fair projects are one of the many ways for students to keep learning at home during school closures. A comprehensive student guide that includes a series of worksheets to help students and parents conduct a science investigation is located on the Western MiSTEM Network’s webpage.

Gochis said she realizes this new process isn’t ideal but she wanted to provide a mechanism for as many registered students to submit their projects as possible and felt this was better than canceling completely. 

“We have never tried this before and appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this for the first time.”

Students and parents can receive a step-by-step online submission guide or direct any questions to Gochis via email. 

By Mark Wilcox.


Hello from Michigan Tech, and Parasailing on a Snowboard?

Are you, or someone you know, thinking about where you will choose to attend college? If so, I want to share my perspective, as I’m still fairly “new” to Michigan Tech (this is my second year here). I also have the perspective of having spent time at three different universities. Maybe it will help you make your decision.

First, the East Coast, where I attended the University of Connecticut (and the mascot there is also a Husky). My parents were only willing to pay for in-state tuition—that narrowed the choice pretty quickly for me! So I went to “UConn” and had a great education, majoring in chemical engineering, and then metallurgy/materials science for my master’s and PhD degrees (I didn’t set out to get those other degrees, but that is another story). UConn is in Storrs, Connecticut, about a 40 minute drive from the capital city of Hartford. So I would call it a rural campus. Because it wasn’t “too far” to get home, many students went home on weekends—so it didn’t have a strong sense of community. You can drive from one end of CT to the other in 2 hours or so.

After UConn, my first job was as a professor at Georgia Tech, which is in downtown Atlanta, Georgia—an urban campus in the deep South. The Atlanta metropolitan area has 5.6 million people, a vastly different experience from UConn. A great education, but, in a very big city—which comes with traffic, smog, high-priced housing, crime and safety concerns. What I really liked about Georgia Tech: it is a technologically-focused university, like Michigan Tech. I stayed 12 years at Georgia Tech, and then headed West!

Following that, I spent 14 years at Boise State University, in Idaho in various leadership roles at the university. BSU is located in downtown Boise, but the population of Boise is only about a quarter million. So a very safe campus, where the College of Engineering enrolls about 15% of BSU students. A good education for students, but nowhere near the reputation in engineering of Georgia Tech or Michigan Tech.

Now here in Midwest, in the UP, at Michigan Tech, where I serve as dean of engineering, I offer you these perspectives: It’s a strength to attend a university that is technologically focused, if your focus is engineering or related fields. This university has a very strong sense of community and belongingness. Maybe that’s because of the technological focus. And maybe it’s because it’s a long drive “home” for many. It’s beautiful here. It’s safe. And it’s fun—we’re still enjoying the snow statues, broomball, and more from our Winter Carnival. Just yesterday, in fact, I enjoyed an interesting view across the waterway, of a student and their dog, attempting to harness the wind to snowboard horizontally, pulled by the wind. Alas, the coefficient of friction was too high, or the wind was not blowing strongly enough, but they did give it a good try! And the dog was very excited about the whole operation. As was I.

I have never seen anything like this anywhere else across my years. Michigan Tech is full of interesting, engaged, curious, fun, and adventurous people.

Now, if you, or someone you know, want to know more, be sure to email me, callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Judges Needed for Design Expo 2020

You are invited to be a judge for the 2020 Design Expo on Thursday, April 16. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of Design Expo! The Expo highlights hands-on projects from more than 1000 students on Enterprise and Senior Design teams.

Although special expertise is appreciated, judges are not required to be technological specialists or engineers. If you like engaging with students and learning more about the exciting projects they are working on, please consider judging.

Who should judge?

  • Community members
  • Michigan Tech faculty and staff
  • Alumni interested in seeing what today’s students are accomplishing as undergrads
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project

Design Expo is co-hosted by the College of Engineering and the Pavlis Honors College. If you would like to serve as a judge at this year’s Design Expo, register as soon as possible to let us know you’re coming. 

By Pavlis Honors College.


Engineering Supports SnowBots at Yeti Cup

First Tech Challenge logoThe SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams competed in Kingsford last weekend for the Yeti Cup U.P. FIRST Tech Challenge robotic qualifier competition. All three teams were in the finals and brought home awards from the competition. SnowBots teams are open to area sixth-eighth grade students, and meet at Houghton Middle School.

SnowBots teams are sponsored by: Michigan Department of Education, GS Engineering, Destination Unstoppable, Boundary Labs, ThermoAnalytics, IR Telemetrics, Michigan Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department, Monte Consulting, and Houghton Portage Township Schools. The Kingsford event was sponsored in part by Michigan Technological University College of Computing. The Copper Country was also well represented with 18 community volunteers supporting the event.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.

States bound: SnowBots qualify for state championship

The SnowBots Middle School Robotics teams reached a first-ever milestone at the Pellston regional FIRST Tech Challenge qualifier on Nov 23rd. All three teams, identified by the colors Blue, Red, and Silver, have now qualified to compete at the state championship Dec. 13-14 in Battle Creek. SnowBots Blue and Silver qualified on Nov. 9 and the Red team will be joining them after their great performance in Pellston.

Read more at the Mining Gazette.


Some Attributes of Huskies

Here is a picture of Echo, after recovering from her poisoning, at the cabin.

At Michigan Tech, our mascot is the Husky. I have a lot of fun with this, because Echo, one of our two family dogs, is a Husky. So I have learned a lot about this breed of dog from our Echo.

I want to call out five basic attributes that I associate with Huskies.

First of all, Huskies are very clever dogs. For example, Echo knows the name of many of her toys. Her favorite toys make noises—right now, the special favorite is a stuffed Woody Woodpecker—who makes the most ridiculous noise. So I can ask Echo, “Where’s, ‘whoo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha,’ and she knows exactly what toy to bring me.

Also, Huskies are very careful dogs—most of the time. Echo is really careful to sniff each treat I offer her, before eating it. Even though she knows it’s the same dog biscuit that she had yesterday, well—she has to sniff it every time. Which is why I was so surprised when one night earlier this year, as I was staying one night at what was soon to become our family cabin (out near Point Abbaye, Michigan), I heard her crunching on something. I went to investigate—and I couldn’t believe it. She was eating rat poison which I didn’t realize was there. It had been left in a hidden corner on the kitchen floor! Luckily, it was the kind of rat poison that has an antidote (massive doses of vitamin K).

And—Huskies are VERY VOCAL and musical dogs. I believe Echo speaks entire sentences. She can clearly communicate when she is hungry, when she wants to go out, if she is bored, if something is wrong, and more. And if we begin to howl (as much as any human can), she gets downright musical, joining in and sometimes harmonizing.

Finally, Huskies are incredibly playful dogs. Echo can play catch with herself. She tosses her toys up in the air, and then pounces on them as they come down. She plays dueling stick with our other dog, they run in tandem, each with their mouths on the stick as they bound down the trail, like a harnessed team of horses with a bit in their mouth. And more. Not really a fetching dog, Echo tends to set up more elaborate play-games.

Our mascot, Blizzard, with the Michigan Tech Husky Pep Band.

That brings me to Husky Nation, Michigan Technological University—a place where you can be clever, careful, vocal, musical and playful!

Now, if you’re interested in becoming a Michigan Tech Husky, or know someone who might be interested, and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech

Echo’s hairy paws

Echo is very clever. She “nose” a lot!

Echo runs with a big smile on her face!

Last but not least, our very own Husky statue here on campus at Michigan Tech.


Pre-Schoolers Learn to Engineer

85 parents and their PreK children from the Miigiziinsag Little Eagles Pre-School, KBIC pre-primary , KBIC early headstart, and BHK pre-school attended the first Family Engineering Fun Night held November 13th, 2019, at KBOCC. A pizza dinner was available at 5:30 pm with hands-on engineering activities from 6:00-7:00 pm. The event was conducted by Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, with help from Michigan Tech students with the Chemical Engineering Honors Society Omega Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society student chapters, and funding from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium and the “For the Wisdom of the Children Grant from the American Indian College Fund.”

Man works at table with two children and another adult looking on.
Matt Friiswall and his children Iziah and Isabel work on designing a scoop to remove trash from the “pond”.

Adults work with students at a table in a crowded event.
Michigan Tech student Hailey Mikolitis (right) assists pre-school students Jarron Colbert and Treyson Tapani, who are testing the strength of two different arch designs.

Three people arrange items on trays at a table.
All the right tools set up.

One adult is showing another a foil project at a table.
Michigan Tech volunteer training.


Girls Scouts Learn How to “Think Like an Engineer” at Michigan Tech

Girl Scouts gathered at Michigan Tech this week, to learn about electrical engineering from members of Michigan Tech’s student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

Saturday afternoon, nearly 90 Girl Scouts learned what it means to be an engineer. It came through trying and failing. Then trying again and failing. Then eventually, trying and succeeding. “Seeing that look on their face when they finally get something to work, that’s the most rewarding part of it — to see them say, ‘Yes, I did this. I can do it even though it was hard to do,’” said Zoe Wahr, outreach director for Michigan Tech’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, which organized the event.  Read more about the event in the Daily Mining Gazette.

The Girl Scouts, from kindergartners through 10th grade, arrived at Michigan Tech from across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. The event, called “Think like an engineer” encouraged attendees to think about careers in science, engineering, technology and math. Read more at TV6 Upper Michigan Source.

The scouts first enjoyed brunch at Michigan Tech’s Wadsworth Residence Hall before breaking out into activity groups by age. Kindergarten (Daisies); 2-3 grade (Brownies); 4-5 grade (Juniors); and 6-10 grade (Cadettes and Seniors). The younger groups made paper circuits,  “squishy” circuits made out of dough, and mini wiggling “bots.” Older students visited Blue Marble Security Enterprise headquarters in the EERC building, where they learned to solder holiday-themed LED circuit boards.

At the end of the activities, all of the students gathered for a Q&A panel of SWE members. The scouts also developed a”Take-Action Plan” based on all they learned in their workshops.

“We’re excited to be a partner and to share the fields of electrical and computer engineering with these bright young people,” said Liz Fujita, ECE academic advisor and outreach specialist, who helped coordinate the event.

“The vast majority were from out of the area – only 14 girls are from Houghton County,” said SWE faculty advisor Gretchen Hein, a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. “The furthest away is Green Bay, Wisconsin.”


Integrity Matters.

Five on a Treasure Island, by English author Enid Blyton, the first book in The Famous Five series.

Integrity matters. 

I learned about integrity from my parents, and from my teachers. I do remember a young-age incident, around first or second grade. My older sister and I broke into a locked room in our rented house (Olinbury House in Sussex, England) which held a treasure of books that we wanted to read. We knew we should not enter that room. However, we could see through the keyhole more books, in the very same enchanting series we loved. This was around 1968. Books still ruled the day—and we were already spending 100 percent of our allowance on books to read. So that was the temptation, more books. 

In the scullery, we noticed a set of keys that we tried against this locked room. In the bathtub, while reading this book, as my mother could not tear me away from it, somehow the truth came out.  Later that evening, I was punished a multiple factor more than I would have been, because of not being truthful about where I had “found” the book. My poor older sister was punished even more than me, “as she should have known better.” She was 9, and I was 7. 

I strongly remember another incident, in sixth grade. We were a set of students at different levels, all “learning” math (without actual instruction). I had fallen behind, and so I faked my homework, copying the answers from the back of the book. Mercifully, I was caught by the teacher, checking my work. I found this incident profoundly disturbing, and I remember feeling ashamed of myself. It was then, about age 11, that I fully realized it was my own decision what sort of integrity I would possess, across my life. In that moment, I believe, my character was set.

Fast forward. Throughout this past year, I’ve been in frequent correspondence with one of our engineering alumni. He lives in California and regularly sends me clippings from the LA Times concerning the admissions scandals at USC. While I do understand parents being concerned about their child’s education, I do not understand how a parent would compromise not only their own, but also their child’s integrity, out of a desire to have them be admitted to a university on a basis other than their own merit.

At Michigan Tech—of course, as you know—no one can earn a degree except through their own work. With this comes character. Along with character comes  confidence, courage, and conviction in the knowledge that with enough time and resourcesyou can do pretty much anything.

The picture below is from our Department of Mechanical Engineering’s senior dinner, where soon-to-be-graduates make an obligation to themselves to uphold the standards of the engineering profession, known as The Order of The Engineer.

Order of the Engineer ceremony, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University.

That evening, in my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Tech, I participated as well:

“As an Engineer, I, Janet Callahan, pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect; and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth’s precious wealth. As an Engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give my utmost.”

Now, if you’re interested in taking this oath (if you haven’t already) and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Yooper Lights: Blue Marble Security Enterprise mentors 7th graders on an eCYBERMISSION

The Yooper Lights eCybermission team, L to R: Olivia Shank, Rebecca Lyons, Chloe Daniels, and Jenna Beaudoin

Students attending Lake Linden-Hubbell schools who live within one mile of their school are not eligible to take the school bus. Many walk to school, often in the dark, early morning hours. The same is true for students in another nearby school district, Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw.

A small group of 7th grade students from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank—decided to do something to help improve safety for students who walk to school. Each was highly motivated, for personal reasons.

“I have three younger siblings who walk to school, and they aren’t always aware of their surroundings,” said Daniels.

“My uncle was biking one night and didn’t have a helmet or a reflector and he got hit by a car. He had brain trauma and now has trouble remembering certain things,” said Beaudoin.

“I want to be able to walk safely by myself or with my dogs in the early morning or in the evening when it gets dark,” said Shank.

“We live in a really snowy area, and kids can get hit,” said Lyons.

Helping kids and others walk safely in the dark is their mission, but it was more than that—it is their eCYBERMISSION, a national science competition sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program. Nationwide, students in grades 6-9 work in small teams for over a year to develop a process or product that will benefit their community. Locally, the Lake Linden Middle School eCYBERMISSION team is advised by Michigan Tech Engineering Fundamentals instructor Gretchen Hein, and chemical engineering senior Ryan Knoll.

Because none of them knew anything about circuits, the team contacted Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. Archer introduced the seventh graders to electrical engineering student John Robinault, outreach manager of Blue Marble Security.

Born out of the Michigan Tech Enterprise program, Blue Marble Security is a virtual company comprised undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology.

Twice a week, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank met with Robinault and computer science major Tyler Arthur in the Blue Marble Security lab, located in the EERC building on campus.

The girls modeled the casing of their LED reflector using Siemens NX software, created their circuit using National Instruments Multisim™ software, and modeled their circuitboard using Eagle PCB design software. They had never used the software or soldered. The Blue Marble students demonstrated how to model and solder, but the girls did the work.

Arthur was a brand new member of Blue Marble Security Enterprise when he began working with the girls. “It gave me an opportunity to teach some of the material that I was already familiar with, while also learning new things along the way,” he said. “We worked together to get familiar with CAD modeling, for instance.

In the process, Arthur learned a lot about working with younger students, something he hadn’t ever done. “The fact that the team members are all good friends made for an interesting group dynamic, because was easy for them to distract each other while working on the project.” Even so, the girls persevered. Throughout the fall, the team completed their research and designed their reflector. They took their preliminary design to their 7th grade science classes for feedback. Based on that, they updated the design, completed the circuit board and went back to the school for more feedback, this time visiting both 7th and 10th grade science classes, asking the students to compare their LED reflector to a plain reflector. After receiving more valuable feedback, the team modified their design.

At that point, they began testing their LED reflector—calling it the “Yooper Light”, and themselves, the Yooper Lights.

Outdoor testing was completed on a straight, flat road near their school, over a distance of 170 feet. Pedestrians (students grades 7-9), and drivers (students grades 10-12, plus college students and adults) were asked to report when they could see a person walking and wearing either the plain reflector or the Yooper light LED reflector.

Yooper Lights team tested their LED reflectors at night, with help from volunteers.

Due to weather conditions, only the college students and adults tested outside. The remaining tests were completed inside the school, in a dark hallway lit only by security lights. The Yooper Lights found that everyone could both see the LED reflector and the person wearing it over the entire testing distance.

They decided to conduct another, independent test to see just how far their LED reflector was visible. The maximum visibility was found to be 91.3 meters—over twice the previous testing distance.

Yooper Lights submitted their report to eCYBERMISSION, learning in March that they had made it to the virtual regional competition. Once again, Michigan Tech helped them out. The girls presented to judges at the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning with help from Associate Director Jeff Toorangian.

In late April, Yooper Lights became the first place 7th grade team in Michigan—and a finalist in the North Central Region. In a word: Success! They were going to compete in Washington, DC at the national competition.

During the weeklong event in DC last June, the Yooper Lights team bonded with their eCYBERMISSION mentor, Michigan Tech alumna Sasha Teymorian, now a chemist in the US Army Research Laboratory. Teymorian graduated with her doctorate in Chemistry from Michigan Tech in 2015. Together they enjoyed a bevvy of cool activities, including one called “Houston, We Have a Problem,” that tasked the girls with engineering a solution to the Apollo 13 mission. They worked with radio-controlled cars and conducted ballistics on balloons, and even designed autonomous vehicles at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

While in DC, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank also visited their Congressional representatives. They first met with Representative Jack Bergman, and then with Robert Curis, a staff member in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, sharing just how they used engineering to develop their LED light.

Finally, the Yooper lights presented their project to a team of eCybermission judges. “Although the team did not win the national competition, they gained a great deal from the experience,” said advisor Gretchen Hein.

What’s next for the team? Something they’re calling “Yooper Power”. Collaborating again with students from the Blue Marble Security Enterprise, as well as Michigan Tech student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the girls, now in 8th grade, will develop outreach activity kits for fifth and sixth graders. Their new mission: introduce more young students to the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Yooper Lights team member Olivia Shank models the casing of the LED reflector using Siemens NX software.

Chloe Daniels and Rebecca Lyons learn how to solder, with help from electrical engineering major John Robinault, a member of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise at Michigan Tech.

The team created two sizes and colors of 3D printed cases to test with their LED reflectors.

The Yooper Lights team used the Design Thinking process to develop their Yooper Lights. Design Thinking training is offered on campus through the Pavlis Honors College.

With more help from volunteers, the Yooper Lights team also tested their LED reflectors in a long, dimly lit hallway at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.