Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Nathan Manser

Nathan Manser
Nathan Manser

College of Engineering Dean Audra Morse has selected Nathan Manser, professor of practice from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES), as this week’s featured instructor in the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Manser will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Manser’s broad educational background in mining engineering, environmental engineering and business administration; extensive industry experience; and professional licensure give him the ability to develop courses that are engaging, informative and practical. He actively participates in the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), which enriches his teaching with practical insights. His teaching style is characterized by energy, clarity and practicality. Leveraging his extensive professional network, Manser frequently invites industry professionals, including alumni, to his classes, providing real-world examples and experiences. He encourages his students to network and actively facilitates their connections to the professional community, including the annual SME conference.

Most importantly, Manser has the skills to fully prepare his students for successful careers and professional certifications. Students consistently name Manser as their best teacher, attributing their success to his teaching and mentorship. Former students universally praise him as an outstanding and enthusiastic instructor, emphasizing the lasting impact of his mentorship on their professional and personal development after graduation. One student stated, “Having Dr. Manser as a professor greatly impacted my interest in the mineral industry. Dr. Manser’s professional and personable approach made his courses practical and up-to-date, shedding light on the broad opportunities in the mining and geoscience industries.” Another student added, “I can attribute much of my college success to Dr. Nathan Manser. He was the most memorable and influential academic professional I encountered during my studies at Michigan Tech.”

Manser’s commitment to excellence is further exemplified by his role in mentoring students for one of the most competitive events in the mineral industry field: the highly competitive SME/National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association (NSSGA) Student Design Competition. This dedication is exemplified by the team’s remarkable success. In the 2023-24 competition, Michigan Tech once again advanced to the top six nationally. This prestigious event draws the best and brightest from leading mining universities across the country, and our team’s success places them among this elite group. Manser will accompany the team to the 2024 SME Annual Conference and Expo in Phoenix, Arizona, where they will present their innovative solutions and compete against other top-tier universities. This accomplishment highlights the caliber of our program and underscores the exceptional guidance and mentorship provided by Manser.

Aleksey Smirnov, GMES chair, summed it up: “Dr. Manser makes himself readily available to help students succeed, not only in class, but also outside the classroom, allowing them to grow into successful professionals.”

“Dedicated faculty members like Nathan Manser allow our students to compete at the national level,” Morse added. “And I thank him for giving our students that chance.”

We Need You: Serve as a Judge During Michigan Tech’s 2024 Design Expo

Design Expo at Michigan Tech is now in its 24th year. Save the date: Tuesday, April 16, 2024!

Want to support students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning? Volunteer to serve as a distinguished judge at Michigan Tech’s 2024 Design Expo!

More than 1,000 students in Enterprise, Senior Design, and other Student Project teams will showcase their work and compete for awards at the 2024 Design Expo on Tuesday, April 16 from 10 am to 2 pm. The annual event will be held on campus in two locations: the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, and the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Sign up here to serve as a Judge
at 2024 Design Expo

Who Should Judge?

  • Industry Representatives
  • Community Members
  • Alumni
  • MTU Faculty and Staff
  • Educators
Members of the Open Source Hardware Enterprise team display their projects at Design Expo. Whether a judge or simply a guest, your involvement in Design Expo is greatly valued by our students!

Duties of a Design Expo Judge:

  1. Attend Design Expo for about an hour, sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 16, 2024, to visit assigned teams.
  2. Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge, an online platform prior to the start of Design Expo.
  3. Score 3-5 teams throughout the judging period. 

Prior to the event on April 16, judges will gain access to a digital gallery of student-created project videos to preview online. In-person judging on the day of the event usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

Industry Partners and Sponsors

Design Expo 2024 is generously supported by industry and University sponsorship, including over 100 project and program supporters who make a strategic investment in our educational mission at Michigan Tech. The event is hosted by Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program along with the College of Engineering.

ITC Holdings has served as a Design Expo partner for 12 consecutive years, last year joined by event partners Thompson Surgical Instruments, Aramco, Plexus, OHM Advisors, Altec Inc., and Husky Innovate. For all sponsorship opportunities, contact Len Switzer.

“We thank our industry and government sponsors who have made a strategic investment in our educational mission.”

Nagesh Hatti, Director, The Enterprise Program and Chair, Enterprise Governing Board
Learn all about Design Expo, at

Register Now for Michigan Tech’s 2024 Design Expo

Save the date for Design Expo, coming up on April 16, 2024—on campus at Michigan Tech. Everyone is welcome!

Undergraduate students in any college across campus are encouraged to register for Michigan Tech’s Design Expo, coming up on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

The annual event showcases the breadth and depth of undergraduate innovation at Tech, with more than 100 Enterprise, Senior Design, and Capstone student projects on display. Teams compete for cash awards, and a panel of distinguished judges critique the projects and determine award winners.

This year’s Design Expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in two campus locations, the Van Pelt and Opie Library first floor and the Memorial Union Building Ballroom. A reception and awards ceremony will follow from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. All Design Expo events are free and open to the public.

Student Teams: Register Your Project Now for Design Expo

Registration is open now through March 8. Full information is located on the Design Expo student registration webpage. We encourage teams to register as soon as possible.

Volunteers: Sign Up to Judge at Design Expo

Interested in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning? Consider serving as a Distinguished Judge at this year’s Design Expo! Learn more and sign up here.

Give your Presentation a Boost with Design Expo Workshops

Prepare for Design Expo and other term-end presentations the right way—with peer support, pizza, and help from dedicated Van Pelt and Opie library and university staff!

Learn how to create compelling videos, visuals, and pitches for your projects. All sessions take place in the Library East Reading Room from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (All are welcome to attend these workshops, regardless of participation in Design Expo).

Wednesday, February 21: Explain Your Project to Anybody

Practice talking about your design in a concise, easy-to-understand way. This will help you solidify content for your video and develop a short elevator pitch that you can share at your booth on the day of the Expo. Come prepared to talk about your design and answer a few questions about it!

Thursday, March 7: Posters, Images & Visualizations 

We’ll cover principles you can use to ensure your posters and the images and data you display in them are readable and appealing and run-through tools you can use to design supporting images. The second half of the session will be devoted to questions and open work time. Pick our brains as you think through how to best share your research.

Wednesday, March 20: Video Creating & Editing

We’ll provide basic info on recording, available tools, and tricks to make your production more professional and accessible. The last half of the hour will be devoted to questions and open work time. Handouts and a compilation of resources will be available to take with you!

Thursday, April 4: The Finishing Touches

Refresh on details about how to present your work for the Design Expo and other end-of-year presentations. Get last-minute feedback for a winning project and work on the final details of your project and video to the company! Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Kit Cischke

Kit Cischke
Kit Cischke

College of Engineering Dean Audra Morse has selected Christopher (Kit) Cischke, teaching professor from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), as the first featured instructor in the spring 2024 Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Cischke will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

In a departure from traditional grading systems, Cischke has transformed the educational landscape in EE3173 Hardware/Software System Integration by introducing “specifications grading,” an approach that establishes a clear passing threshold for understanding, eliminating the complexities associated with point-based grading. Students embraced the emphasis on comprehension over point accumulation, leading to positive feedback. One student said, “The grading style was super helpful because it motivated me to find learning objectives whenever I did assignments.” Another commented, “The lecture format, grading style and assignment structure all felt really good to me and helped my success in the class this semester.”

Under Cischke’s guidance, hands-on experiential learning has experienced another innovative improvement. From in-class code examples using simulators and small “Zumo Robots,” to the introduction of advanced-level courses with real-world applications like the multi2sim simulator, he consistently emphasizes the relevance of learned skills in professional settings. A highlight is the launch of a revised Computer Organization course featuring intensive Verilog design assignments, showcasing his dedication to fostering creativity and investigation among students.

Beyond transforming grading methods and reshaping hands-on experiential learning, Cischke has implemented concept maps as a tool to enhance the learning experience. Each class period begins with a reminder of how the day’s material aligns with broader course objectives, reflecting a commitment to refining teaching practices for optimal learning outcomes. Cischke is dedicated to proving the efficacy of concept maps in engineering education. “Professor Cischke is an exemplary role model as an instructor. He’s created an inspiring and dynamic learning environment for students in the electrical, computer and robotics engineering programs,” said Jin Choi, ECE chair.

Participation in a KEEN workshop focusing on the entrepreneurial mindset has added another layer to Cischke’s teaching philosophy. The resulting assignment engaged students in a creative project related to a restaurant’s soda fountain, demonstrating his ability to seamlessly blend innovation, entrepreneurship and technical skills in the classroom.

Cischke’s commitment to fostering inclusive student-teacher relationships is also noteworthy. Encouraging students to locate his office and make a simple human connection at the start of each semester has created a welcoming environment and made students strongly feel a sense of belonging. Collaborative debugging sessions, lively discussions about student projects and markings on his office whiteboard all reflect his open commitment to student success and sense of belonging.

Morse also commended Cischke: “His innovative teaching methods underscore his transformative impact on his student’s experience. His commitment to student-centered learning, hands-on experiences and fostering meaningful connections exemplifies the spirit of excellence in teaching that we want to showcase.”

Engineering Alumni Activity Spring 2024

Megan Kreiger
Megan Kreiger profiled “construction 3D printing pioneer” Megan Kreiger ’09 ’12 (B.S. Mathematics M.S. Materials Science and Engineering). Kreiger is the portfolio manager of additive construction (AC) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s subject matter expert of AC at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center. At Michigan Tech, she focused on distributed manufacturing, recycling, and consolidating literature on ultra-high-performance concrete.

Patricia Tourney
Patricia Tourney

Psychiatric News reported on a visit by Patricia Tourney (B.S. Civil Engineering) and one sister to the APA Library’s Garfield and Helen W. Tourney Rare Books Room. Tourney’s father’s donation of more than 450 books related to the history of psychiatry formed the core of APA’s rare books collection. Patricia and her sister remember their father as a collector—of everything, but especially books: he had more than 10,000 volumes in his collection.

Kevin Tomsovic
Kevin Tomsovic

Clemson News announced Kevin Tomsovic ’82 (B.S. Electrical Engineering) as the new executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute, the Duke Energy Endowed Chair in Smart Grid Technology and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Tomsovic was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and also received numerous awards related to excellence in research, scholarship and creative achievement.

Christopher Mills
Christopher Mills

Florida’s Levy County Board of County Commission put out a press release announcing the appointment of Christopher Mills ’84 (B.S. Civil Engineering) to a two-year term on the county’s planning commission. Mills, who is a Florida Professional Engineer and a Licensed General Contractor, performed both engineering and contracting services in the southwest Florida area in his own practice.

Ethan Norstog
Ethan Norstog

North Dakota’s Grand Forks Herald reported on the announcement of Ethan Norstog ’17 (B.S. Chemical Engineering) as the new factory engineer at American Crystal Sugar Company’s factory in Moorhead, Minnesota. The position involves all aspects of assigned factory capital projects.

Andrew Barnard
Andrew Barnard

Penn State News profiled Andrew Barnard ’02 ’04 (B.S. M.S. Mechanical Engineering), director of the Penn State’s graduate program in acoustics. In 2022, Barnard joined the program as director. He now spends his time mentoring faculty, running a research lab with three students, meeting with first-year cohorts and teaches, alongside administrative duties. This is the only degree-granting graduate program for acoustics in the country.

Rick Slater
Rick Slater

The Portland Beacon reported on the sale of Portland Products, a manufacturer of mechanical assemblies for automotive and heavy truck customers located in Portland, Michigan. One of the new owner-operators is Rick Slater ’03 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering). Slater has experience in small business manufacturing in West Michigan.

Lindsay Sandell
Lindsay Sandell

WLUC TV6 covered a story on medical student Lindsay Sandell ’21 (B.S. Biomedical Engineering) being awarded a Copper Shores Community Health Foundation Tuition Assistance Scholarship at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, UP Region Campus. Scholarships are awarded based on criteria including the medical student’s desire to practice in the Upper Peninsula after residency training.

Ran An
Ran An

Ran An (Ph.D. Chemical Engineering), assistant professor at the Cullen College of Engineering, is the latest recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. His proposal, “Alternating Current Electrophoresis in Spatially Non-Uniform Electric Fields,” was chosen for funding by the NSF. An thanked his Ph.D. advisor Dr. Adrienne Minerick, postdoc mentor Dr. Umut Gurkan, and lab members Yi Yang, Qingrong He, Bowen Xu, and Dr. Cheng Wang.

Andy Horujko
Andy Horujko

The Ludington Daily News posted a story about a celebration of Andy Horujko ’42, a Michigan College of Mines engineering alumnus remembered for walking from Anchorage, Alaska, to the southern tip of South America to bring awareness to “the detriments of automotive emissions.” On March 27 the tales of Andy Horujko will be brought to life through a first-person portrayal by Lake County Historical Society president Bruce Micinski.

Sarah Zarzecki
Sarah Zarzecki

Sarah Zarzecki ’06 (B.S. Civil Engineering) was interviewed on the STEM Professionals Podcast as part of their Women in Engineering Success Stories series. The episode was titled “Exploring Impactful Engineering Roles (Beyond Traditional STEM Careers).” Zarzecki is a transportation engineer currently serving as the Transportation Design Department Manager and Colorado Transportation Leader at Stanley Consultants.

Jennifer Julien
Jennifer Julien

Jennifer Julien ’12 ’15 (B.S. Civil Engineering, M.S. Environmental Engineering) was profiled by DBusiness as one of three new members of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association’s board of directors. She left her engineering career to pursue opportunities in real estate with her husband John. Their latest venture, The Vault Hotel, was the renovation of the historic Houghton National Bank Building. It recently made the Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 15 Hotels in the Midwest.

Shane Bjorge
Shane Bjorge

Midland Daily News announced the promotion of Shane Bjorge ’98 (B.S. civil engineering) to city engineer of Midland. Bjorge previously held project management and engineering roles at Dow and Dow Corning. The city engineer is responsible for the design, construction, and oversight of all civil engineering-related projects for the city as well as compliance of private projects.

Mark Hepokoski
Mark Hepokoski

Industry Today picked up a ThermoAnalytics’ press release about Mark Hepokoski (M.S. Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics) being appointed chief scientist for physiology and comfort. His graduate work at Michigan Tech involved development of a complex model of the human body and applying machine-learning to thermal simulation and test data.

Gary Street
Gary Street

Gary Street ’62, B.S. Chemical Engineering, was interviewed by The Lode during Winter Carnival. Street invented the first all-nighter statue at Michigan Tech in 1961. He wanted to make the 1961 Carnival something special, since it was the 75th anniversary of the university. Today, the one-night statue build is one of Winter Carnival’s proudest traditions.

Mike Boggess
Mike Boggess

School Transportation News reported on Blue Bird Corporation naming Mike Boggess ’91 (B.S. Electrical Engineering) vice president of product development. While vice president of engineering with Proterra, he developed and launched a new EV architecture for transit buses. Before then, Boggess served as Blue Bird’s chief engineer for powertrain, chassis, and electrical systems. Blue Bird Corporation is the leader in electric and low-emission school buses.

Blake Pietila
Blake Pietila

Michigan Tech hockey’s fifth-year goaltender Blake Pietila is a candidate for the 2024 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to college hockey’s top player. Pietila is on the ballot for the fourth straight season and was a Top 10 Finalist in 2023. He graduated in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is pursuing his MBA.

Samuel Kinne
Samuel Kinne

Michigan Tech football senior defensive lineman Samuel Kinne has been named a recipient of the 2023 Fall GLIAC Commissioner’s Award for the first time in his career. Kinne completed his bachelor’s in chemical engineering last spring, holding a 3.82 GPA, and will be completing his MBA this spring. He was a three-time GLIAC Academic Excellence team member and also was named to the CSC Academic All-District team.

Mike Bakk
Mike Bakk

Northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin’s BusinessNorth reported on Minnesota’s Iron Ore Alliance naming Mike Bakk ’01 (BS Mechanical Engineering) as its new co-chair. The alliance’s mission is providing a unified voice for modern iron mining in the state. Bakk first became a U. S. Steel employee in 1997 and is currently the director of operational readiness at Keetac. He has played a critical role in overseeing Keetac’s DR-grade pellet project.

Austin Gongos and Nathan Ackerman
Austin Gongos and Nathan Ackerman

UPWord quoted Austin Gongos ’18 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) and Nathan Ackerman ’18 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) in a story about how they came to found the Hancock-based outdoor gear business Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear. Gongos and Ackerman met when they were both in a fraternity while studying mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. At Michigan Tech, the two had always talked about starting a business but weren’t sure what form it would take. The company grew from the two co-founders to nine additional employees and has reached customers through the company’s website and select retailers.

Renata Putzig
Renata Putzig

Renata Putzig, a 2015 graduate majoring in electrical engineering and audio production and technology, is a project engineer at Smart Monkeys, Inc. Putzig is part of a team of Tech graduates who have worked on the Sphere at Las Vegas. Specializing in audio-visual control design, implementation and support, Smart Monkeys works with a broad range of venues, from museums to theme parks. The technical consulting firm served as a principal design consultant to the Sphere Entertainment team for the Las Vegas attraction’s control system.

Kendra Lachcik
Kendra Lachcik

The Times of Northwest Indiana quoted Kendra Lachcik ’23 (B.S. Environmental Engineering) in a story about the Disney on Ice show “Magic in the Stars,” which features Lachcik skating in the role of Luisa Madrigal from “Encanto.” Lachcik has been skating since she was seven years old. Prior to being cast in Disney on Ice she was working for an engineering consulting firm.

Jeffrey Pruetz
Jeffrey Pruetz

Tech Briefs Magazine gave a preview of the upcoming webinar “Noise, Vibration, and Harshness Priorities for EVs,” which has Jeffrey Pruetz ’07 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) listed as a speaker. Pruetz is a NVH and vehicle integration manager at FEV North America Inc. He is responsible for leading the vehicle integration team including NVH development and testing for battery electric, hybrid, fuel cell, and combustion vehicles in North America.

Timothy Pach
Timothy Pach

The 307th Bomb Wing of the U.S. Air Force mentioned Michigan Tech in a story about three new squadron commanders, including Maj. Timothy Pach ’06 (B.S. Civil Engineering), who took command of the 307th Civil Engineer unit. Pach earned his commission through Michigan Tech’s Air Force ROTC program. His career includes multiple deployments and a stint as an assistant civil engineering professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Katie Ellet
Katie Ellet

GlobeNewswireYahoo! Finance and MarketScreener mentioned Michigan Tech in press releases about the appointment of Katie Ellet ’96 (B.S. Chemical Engineering) to the board of directors for Gevo Inc. Ellet serves as president, Hydrogen Energy and Mobility for North America at Air Liquide. She has held a wide variety of leadership roles in the chemical and energy fields for the last 27 years.

Winter Carnival 2024: Join us at the College of Engineering Alumni Social

students work on large snow statues at night with snowflakes flying
The next Michigan Tech Winter Carnival will take place February 7-10, 2024

Engineering Alumni Social
Saturday, February 10, from 2–4 pm
The Dog House in Houghton

Will you be in town for Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival this year? Join us on Saturday, February 10, from 2–4 pm at the Dog House in downtown Houghton, located at 517 Shelden Avenue. We’ll swap stories, share good food, and learn about opportunities to support our people, programs and places. Hope to see you there!

MTU Undergraduate Student Miranda Meyers Presents at DMC 2023 in Nashville

Michigan Tech ECE student Miranda Meyers

Miranda Meyers, an electrical engineering undergraduate student at Michigan Technological University, recently presented at the 2023 Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC) in Nashville, Tennessee, which took place December 11-14. Her presentation was titled “Embedded Component Circuit Design.”

Meyers has spent the past few years working on campus as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Christopher Middlebrook, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“I am always completely thrilled after a participant comments ‘Your graduate student did a fantastic job presenting her research. How long has she been in grad school?,'” says Middlebrook. “I love the smile on their faces when I tell them ‘thank you, but she is still an undergraduate student.'”

DMC is the nation’s annual forum for enhancing and leveraging the efforts of engineers, managers, technology leaders, scientists, and policy makers across the defense manufacturing industrial base. About 1,000 attendees are primarily government and industry participants, with a smaller complement from academia.

Michigan Tech electrical engineering undergraduate student Miranda Meyers presents at DMC in Nashville, Tennessee, last week.

As an undergraduate researcher, Meyers works to develop, design and manufacture circuit boards using UV laser technology. She uses Altium circuit design software to create unique and specific circuit boards, and analyzes results using MATLAB and Mathematica. She also assists in teaching a PCB manufacturing class.

Meyers is also a member of MINE, the Michigan Tech Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise, a team of students who design, test, and implement robotic technologies for extracting and using local resources, construction, and characterization in extreme environments.

The DMC is jointly conducted by the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel (JDMTP) and coordinated through the event organizer, ARCTOS. The JDMTP, executed under the authorities outlined in title 10 of U.S. Code § 4842 serves to ensure coordination and collaboration across the Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology (DoD ManTech) Program. The service and agency ManTech programs primary purpose is to further the national security objectives outlined in title 10 of U.S. Code § 4841.

Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony December 15, 2023

Army ROTC Fall Commissioning group on stage.

The Air Force and Army ROTC invite you to the Fall 2023 Commissioning Ceremony on Friday (Dec. 15) at 7 p.m. at the Rozsa Center.

This semester, we have one Air Force cadet and eight Army cadets commissioning.

Those commissioning are from the following programs:

Accounting & Data Analytics | Chemistry | Computer Engineering | Electrical Engineering | Materials Science and Engineering | Management | Mechanical Engineering

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

By Air Force and Army ROTC.

Michigan Tech Students Attend IAAPA Expo in Orlando

students wearing expo name badges standing arm in arm, with arcade games in the background
Student members of the Theme Park Engineering Group at Michigan Tech attended the IAAPA Expo in Orlando this past November.

Last month, seven Michigan Tech students left campus in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, November 11th. With travel funding and support from industry leader LAI Games, an award-winning arcade producer, they set off on a 1,500 mile journey to attend the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Mechanical engineering students Jason Rogers, Cameron Whiteside, Katie Morin, Julian Arens, Jackson Arens, and Joaquin Sibug, and Materials Science and Engineering student Aaron Boonstra, spent the full week of November 13th-17th attending educational sessions, networking with industry professionals, and exploring the vast trade show floor.

The trade show floor with lots of exhibitor booths
Hundreds of companies were in attendance at this year’s IAAPA Expo.

All are members of the Theme Park Engineering Group (TPEG) at Michigan Tech, which aims to promote the education and appreciation of the themed entertainment industry on campus. The group looks behind the scenes of the industry, in order to get to know the design, engineering, and technology behind some of the world’s most thrilling attractions. TPEG is advised by Kent Cyr, assistant professor in Michigan Tech’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

Hundreds of companies representing every facet of the themed entertainment industry demonstrated that nearly every discipline of engineering had opportunities within this exciting industry. From material scientists discussing new compounds for roller coaster wheels, to mechanical engineers in awe at state-of-the-art animatronic figures, every member of the Group found something that inspired them.

Industry leader LAI Games sponsored the group and covered the cost of attendance to the Expo. The global company was founded over 60 years ago, and has its headquarters in The Colony, Texas and Singapore. LAI develops, manufactures, and sells coin and card operated prize merchandising games, as well as ticket redemption, video, and novelty games.

“There truly is something for everyone in this industry,” says Cameron Whiteside, fifth-year mechanical engineering student, and Secretary of TPEG at Michigan Tech. “Whether you’re a mechanical engineering student, or a computer science student, business major, theater technology major, artist, journalist, whatever your discipline—there is absolutely a company that utilizes your skills in themed entertainment.”

Four students stand in front of the IAAPA Expo sign at the entrance.
The IAAPA Expo is an exciting event for all students in the themed entertainment industry!

Several members spent the week speaking directly with company representatives and industry professionals, showcasing the unique set of skills and knowledge only Michigan Tech students can demonstrate. Some students even mentioned possible internship and full-time job opportunities.

In addition to the new professional connections made throughout the week, some students were returning to the Expo, having attended the previous year. They were able to reconvene with contacts they’d made at prior events, catching up on their latest projects and developments—both industry professionals and other students from theme park groups at other universities from around the world.

“In a few short years, these people will be our co-workers,” notes Whiteside. “It’s important to maintain connections with everyone you meet at these events, because you’re bound to run into them again at some point.”

TPEG at Michigan Tech thanks LAI Games. “Without their invaluable support, several members of TPEG would have been unable to attend.”

Several recent graduates, including Ryan Briggs (BS Computer Engineering, ’23), are already actively working on some of the most groundbreaking projects in themed entertainment at TAIT, notes Whiteside.

The students were also able to meet with MTU alumni who have found their way into the industry over the years. Some alumni have been leading the industry for decades, like Korey Kiepert (BS ’97, MS ’99, Mechanical Engineering) who went on to co-found The Gravity Group, LLC.

“Our group started out as a few students looking at videos of new attractions on the other side of the world,” he adds. “Now we have alumni of TPEG working alongside the actual designers of those same rides. It’s honestly pretty amazing. I look forward to seeing what current members can do for the industry in the coming years.”

Whiteside will be graduating in December with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Technical Theater.

“TPEG would like to thank LAI Games for sponsoring the group and covering the cost of attendance to the Expo.