Tag: CEE

John Gierke: Drilling Wells in the Keweenaw—Needles in a (Geologic) Haystack

Community water wells in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula tap places ancient glaciers carved and filled. Pictured above: Interpolated bedrock depth map. Warm colors indicate progressively deeper bedrock (red being the deepest). Credit: John Gierke, Michigan Tech

John Gierke shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, September 20 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Michigan Tech Professor John Gierke is also alumnus. He earned both a BS and MS in Civil Engineering, and a PhD in Environmental Engineering, all at Michigan Tech.

What are you doing for supper tonight, Monday 9/20 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and John Gierke, Professor of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech. “The water we drink comes from geologically unique places,” he says. As a hydrogeologist, Gierke uses his expertise in teaching and research, and in places around the globe, most recently, El Salvador. Also on his own blueberry farm located about 20 minutes from campus.

“I was attracted to environmental engineering because of my interest in protecting human and environmental health, says Michigan Tech Professor Eric Seagren. “The use of a broad range of sciences within environmental engineering appealed to me, too.”

Joining in will be fellow colleague and friend, Eric Seagren, a professor of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering who specializes in finding new, sustainable ways to clean up environmental pollution, including contaminated groundwater.

As a hydrogeologist, Gierke studies the “spaces” in rocks and sedimentary deposits where water is present. Although groundwater is everywhere, Keweenaw geology makes accessing it truly challenging.

“Drilling productive wells in the Keweenaw is like finding needles in (geologic) haystack,” he says. “Groundwater supplies for many communities are in ancient bedrock valleys that were carved by glaciers and later backfilled with sands, gravels, and, sometimes, boulders left by the melting glaciers in their retreat. In the Midwest, groundwater exists almost everywhere, but in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, the close proximity of ancient bedrock makes drilling trickier.”

During Husky Bites, Prof. Gierke will show us the inside of some especially interesting aquifers and wells—how they are found and developed, and why some rock formations yield water, and others don’t yield very much.

“Community water wells in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula tap places ancient glaciers carved and filled.”

Prof. John Gierke

“Imagine a 400′ deep glacial tunnel scour back, filled with sands, gravels, silts and clays and capable of yielding 400-some gallons per minute,” says Gierke. “Wells located just outside that ‘trough’ are stuck in bedrock, only capable of giving up hardly 20 gpm, only enough for a single household.”

“The replenishment rate of groundwater in the Copper Country, like much of the northern Midwest, is sufficient that groundwater exists almost everywhere,” adds Gierke. “The challenge in terrains like the Keweenaw, where bedrock is often near the surface, is not whether groundwater exists at depth, but rather where the geology is sufficiently porous and/or fractured to allow water wells to produce at rates sufficient for communities.”

This photo from Prof. Seagren’s lab shows the release of a blue dye, simulating the release of an amendment from a well.

For Prof. Seagrean, at Michigan Tech his major research focus is the bioremediation of contaminated groundwater, especially contaminants like petroleum products and chlorinated solvents. He studies the release of remedial amendments, such as oxygen, added to stimulate the biodegradation of contaminants.

“An amendment is added to a well, and then just released into the natural flow of groundwater without pumping,” he explains. Much of this work involves the use of lab-scale model aquifers. Seagren believes it can be very effective, affordable, and safe way to solve the problem. According to the USGS, more than one in five (22 percent) groundwater samples contain at least one contaminant at a concentration of potential concern for human health.

Seagren also develops and tests low-impact, bio-geoengineering practices to stabilize mine tailings and mitigate toxic dust emissions. “These approaches mimic and maximize the benefits of natural processes, with less impact on the environment than conventional technologies,” he says. They may also be less expensive.” 

Seagren and his research team zeroed in on a natural process, microbially-induced calcium carbonate precipitation —an ubiquitous process that plays an important cementation role in natural systems, including soils, sediments, and minerals.

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

“Here I am on Bering Glacier in 2007, unfurling a Michigan Tech flag (that’s one of the University’s former logos).” Dr. Gierke is standing next to Dr. Josh Richardson (left), now a Geophysicist at Chevron. Josh earned all his degrees at Michigan Tech: a BS in Geophysics ’07, an MS in Glacier Seismology and Geophysics ’10, and a PhD in Volcano and Glacier Seismology, Geophysics ’13

I began studying engineering at Lake Superior State College (then, now University) in the fall of 1980, in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. In those days their engineering program was called: General Engineering Transfer, which was structured well to transfer from the old “Soo Tech” to “Houghton Tech,” terms that some old timers still used back then, nostalgically. I transferred to Michigan Tech for the fall of 1982 to study civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering, which was aligned with my love of water (having grown up on the St. Mary’s River).

Despite my love of lakes, streams, and rivers, my technical interests evolved into an understanding of how groundwater moves in geological formations. I used my environmental engineering background to develop treatment systems to clean up polluted soils and aquifers. That became my area of research for the graduate degrees that followed, and the basis for my faculty position and career at Michigan Tech, in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (those sciences are Geology and Geophysics). My area of specialty now is Hydrogeology.

Prof. Gierke and his grandson went fishing together on the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste. Marie.

Hometown?

I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where I fished weekly, sometimes daily, on the St. Mary’s River. Sault Ste. Marie is bordered by the St. Mary’s River on the north and east. In the spring, summer and fall, I fished from shore or a canoe or small boat. In the winter, I speared fish from a shack just a few minutes from my home or traveled to fish through the ice in some of the bays. I was a fervent bird hunter (grouse and woodcock) in the lowlands of the Eastern UP, waterfowl in the abundant wetlands, and bear and deer (unsuccessfully until later in life). 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Prof. Gierke designed and built the solar-powered drip irrigation system at the Gierke Blueberry Farm in Chassell, Michigan.
“We had a bumper crop this year,” says Prof. Gierke. “Despite the heat and drought, the irrigation system worked!”

I live on a blueberry farm about 20 minutes from campus in Chassell, Michigan. It’s open to the public in August for U-Pick. For the farm, I used my technical expertise to design, install, and operate a drip irrigation system that draws water from the underlying Jacobsville Sandstone aquifer. 

How do you know your co-host? 

Eric Seagren and I have been disciplinary colleagues for over 2 decades. Our expertise overlaps in terms of how pollutants move through groundwater. 

“Me cooking while camping with my family on Isle Royale two summers ago,” says Prof. Seagren.

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

I was attracted to environmental engineering because of my interest in protecting human and environmental health. The use of a broad range of sciences within environmental engineering also appealed to me. Growing up we had a family friend who was a civil engineer, and my Dad had a cousin who was an electrical engineer. My Dad himself had wanted to be an engineer, but he had gone to a one-room country school and a small-town high school, and when he got to college they told him he did not have an adequate background in math and science to pursue engineering, something we would never tell a student today! 

“This microphoto is from my work on the biomodification of the engineering properties of soil. It shows a calcium carbonate crust formed via bacterial activities.” Prof. Seagren will explain more of what can be seen here during Husky Bites.

Anyway, that might have influenced me some, but more importantly was my interest in protecting the environment. I had always spent a lot of time outdoors, either at my grandparents’ farm, or hunting and fishing with my Dad and friends and camping in Scouts. I took an environmental studies class in high school and that’s where I first learned about environmental engineering.

Hometown, family?

 I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Currently I live in Hancock, with my family, which includes my wife Jennifer Becker, who is also a faculty member at Michigan Tech, and my two teenage children, Ingrid and Birk. We have a cat named Rudy.

Any mentors in your life who made a difference?

Back when I was in college, most people got an undergraduate degree in civil engineering and then pursued a graduate degree in environmental engineering, and that is the path I took. While I was doing my undergraduate work at the University of Nebraska there was a young professor named Dr. Mohamed Dahab who really influenced me and took an interest in me and my career path to this day. He was a great mentor and example for me, and that’s contributed to how I try to mentor students, too.

Dr. Seagren’s ’53 Chevy.

Any hobbies? 

In my spare time I like to garden, do home repairs, hike, fish, boat, run, and Nordic ski. I’m also fixing up a ‘53 Chevy pick-up from my grandpa’s farm. We used to use the truck to haul grain from the farm to the elevator in town. It’s a nice shade of blue. Next summer we hope to fill the back with blueberries from John’s farm and enter it into a local parade.

Read more:

How the Rocks Connect Us

Keweenaw Geoheritage: Glaciers

Field Trip to Alaska (Bering Glacier)


New for 9th and 10th Graders This Fall: the Husky Bites Challenge

We Challenge You, 9th and 10th graders.
Hey 9th and 10th Graders: Don’t Paws for a Minute! Sign up for the Husky Bites Challenge by Monday, Sept. 20.

Do you know a 9th or 10th grader up for a challenge? Here’s one they can take this fall! Sign up by Monday, Sept. 20.

At Michigan Tech, the College of Engineering and Center for Educational Outreach have teamed up to offer a free, six-week, virtual design challenge for 9th and 10th graders. Students will hear from leaders in the field of sustainability design and engineering via Husky Bites, a free 20 minute(or so) interactive Zoom webinar hosted by College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. They’ll be mentored by current Michigan Tech students and work as a team to put forward a design proposal for a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED-certified school. Registration for the Husky Bites challenge is free, with great prizes, and students are welcome to register individually or as a team.

LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings with some very cool features.

Registration for this virtual challenge is free, and students are welcome to register individually or as a team. The deadline is Monday, September 20, but may be extended.


Joe Shawhan: Hockey in the Copper Country

Coach Joe Shawhan stands with arms folded with ice rink in the background.
Joe Shawhan, Michigan Tech Men’s Hockey Head Coach

Michigan Tech Hockey Coach Joe Shawhan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, September 13 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Head shot of John Scott wearing his gold MTU hockey jersey.
NHL MVP and former Michigan Tech hockey player John Scott ’10 (Mechanical Engineering). If you haven’t already, check out his podcast, Dropping the Gloves.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 9/13 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Joe Shawhan, Head Coach of Men’s Hockey at Michigan Tech.

Yup, it’s time to talk hockey. Join in while two Michigan Tech hockey legends shoot the breeze. Serving as co-host along with Dean Janet Callahan during this session of Husky Bites is NHL All-Star MVP John Scott, a Michigan Tech alum. Scott graduated with his BS in Mechanical Engineering 2010.

Coach Joe Shawhan grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan—aka Hockey Town, USA, training site for the Detroit Red Wings. Back then hockey was a neighborhood sport and every kid in Shawhan’s class got in on the game. During Husky Bites, he’ll share stories about how he first arrived in Houghton and his relationship with former Head Coach John MacInnes—and what it was like coaching against John Scott in Junior Hockey as a member of the Chicago Freeze.

Coach Shawhan points with his arm extended over the heads of his hockey players at the sidelines during a hockey game.
“The best chance a team has of success is with individuals who expect it and work hard toward it. Every day. All the time,” says Coach Joe Shawhan.

“John and I have never really spent much personal time together outside of the odd interview or Podcast,” notes Shawhan. “I coached against John while he was in Junior hockey and was intrigued by his presence in college hockey. I have respected his humble nature and greatly appreciate his willingness to remember his alma mater.”

Before coming to Tech, Shawhan spent six seasons at Northern Michigan University. He was a volunteer assistant in 2007-08, the director of hockey operations in 2009-10, and an assistant coach for four seasons.

Coach Shawhan holds a tiny Husky pup in his arms.
It’s fun to follow Coach Shawhan on Twitter. Here’s one: “Found our newest Husky recruit at the FSU Ice Arena.”

As the head coach and general manager of the Soo Indians from 1995-2005, Shawhan compiled a 474-162-43 record to become the winningest coach in the history of the North American Hockey League.

Here at Michigan Tech, for 2020-21 season, Shawhan led the Men’s Hockey team went 17-12-1, ninth in the country in wins. The Huskies ranked fourth in the nation in penalty kill (90 percent) and were seventh in scoring defense (2.1).

What about 2021-22? During Husky Bites, Coach Shawhan plans to share the roster—and his hopes for the coming season.

After Coach Shawhan’s presentation on Husky Bites, attendees can ask take part in the Q&A. In fact, Coach Shawhan and John Scott are both ready to answer your questions.

John, what do you want to ask Coach Shawhan during Husky Bites?

First of all, character. What type of individuals do you look for? Next, how do you recruit players to Michigan Tech? How did Covid change things last year? Why are you excited for this year? What are the challenges? And what’s important in order to have a successful team?

Laura Shawhan up on Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley.

Coach Shawhan: How did you first get interested in hockey? What sparked your interest?

My interest in hockey developed because of my environment. Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, all my friends played on my same team.

Hometown, family?

My hometown is Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. I am married to my high school sweetheart Laura and we have 3 children: Mia (AJ) Rosenberg, Jordan and Rachel.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My hobbies outside of hockey include fishing, spending time with family and friends, playing guitar and tinkering. I also like to build things.

“The strength of Michigan Tech hockey is the character of the players sitting in the stalls.”

Coach Joe Shawhan


Jeremy Bos: Annual First-Year Engineering Lecture at Michigan Tech

ECE ProfessorJeremy Bos (right) and ME-EM Professor Darrell Robinette (left) at the Michigan Tech Rozsa Center in August. Today Bos will be back on stage at the Rozsa with Prometheus Borealis to deliver the annual First-year Engineering Lecture to incoming students.

“We have a tradition at Michigan Tech of having a first-year lecture that helps students see how their technological education can help make a difference in the world,” says Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. This year, 1,010 first year engineering students will be in attendance, the largest incoming class since 1982.

Jeremy Bos, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering will deliver that lecture today, Thursday, September 9 at 6 pm.

Bos is also an alum. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2000, then returned to earn his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Optics in 2012. On campus he teaches a range of robotics courses, and serves as advisor and manager of several student groups. One of those is the Robotics Systems Enterprise (RSE). “Imagine an industry-driven team of students, seeking to seamlessly integrate exceptional knowledge in electronics, robotics, and programming to solve real world engineering problems,” he says.

ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos

RSE’s projects come in many shapes and sizes, from designing a vision system for work with a robotic arm, to an automatic power management system for weather buoys. Clients include Ford Motor Company and Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. “We use more than just the skills and talents of computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering majors in RSE,” adds Bos. “All majors are welcome, just like in any Enterprise.”

Enterprise at Michigan Tech is when students work in teams on real projects, with real clients, in an environment that’s more like a business than a classroom. With coaching and guidance from faculty mentors, 25 Enterprise teams on campus work to invent products, provide services, and pioneer solutions.

Bos also serves as advisor to students taking part in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge. It all started four years ago, back when Michigan Tech was selected along with seven other universities to participate in the collegiate competition hosted by GM. Each was tasked with designing, building and testing a fully autonomous vehicle. 

The Michigan Tech team started with a Chevy Bolt, outfitting it with sensors, control systems and computer processors so that it could successfully navigate an urban driving course in automated driving mode. They named their vehicle “Prometheus Borealis” after Prometheus, the Greek deity responsible for bringing technology to people, and Boreas, the purple-winged god of the north wind.

The entire team is made up of 40 students and two faculty advisors: Bos and co-advisor Darrell Robinette, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. Their impressive expertise in autonomous vehicles and vehicular networks—and industrial automation and controls—combines for exceptional student mentoring.

The four-year challenge wrapped up this summer on June 14, with Michigan Tech earning 3rd place overall and bringing home the second-most trophies. Soon after, SAE International and General Motors (GM) announced the 10 collegiate teams selected to compete in the next competition, AutoDrive Challenge II. Michigan Tech was on the list.

“My own contribution to this effort is called ‘Autonomy at the End of the Earth,’ says Bos. “My research focuses on the operation of autonomous vehicles in hazardous weather. Specifically, the ice and snow we encounter on a daily basis between November and April.”

“I ended up in engineering because I like to build things (even if only on a computer) and I like to solve problems (generally with computers and math).”

Dr. Jeremy Bos

More about Dr. Jeremy Bos, in his own words:

“I was born in Santa Clara, California just as Silicon Valley was starting to be a thing. I grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan where I graduated high school and moved to Michigan Tech for my undergraduate degree. I liked it so much I came back twice. The second time was from Maui, Hawaii, where I worked for the US Air Force Research Lab. I now live in Houghton with my wife, and fellow alumna, Jessica (STC ’00). We have a boisterous dog Rigel, named after a star in the constellation Orion, that bikes or skis with me on the Tech trails nearly every day. When I have time I bike, ski, hike, kayak, and stargaze. I have even tried my hand at astrophotography at Michigan Tech’s AMJOCH Observatory. (A telescope, hopefully, soon to be another robot).”

Advice for First Year Engineering Students, from Dean Janet Callahan:

“You are part of a community. It’s all about connecting, and reconnecting. I’d like to encourage you to join a student organization or club. The friendships you form in college are important. The people you meet end up being part of your lifelong community. So, be hands-on. Be sure to make time to do extra things, besides studying…but also make sure you go to class and do all your homework, because you will learn by doing.”

“This year, due to the pandemic, in-person attendance is limited. Attend via Zoom using this direct link. No registration required. Visit mtu.edu/ef for more information.”


Michigan Tech Part of $15M Great Lakes Innovation Hub

In an effort to nurture a regional innovation ecosystem and move more discoveries from the research lab to the real world, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a Great Lakes Innovation Corps Hub and Michigan Technological University plays a key role.
 
The 11-university Hub is led by the University of Michigan (U-M), and it’s one of five Hubs across the country announced Aug. 26 as NSF continues to evolve the I-Corps program. Launched in 2011, the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, trains scientists and engineers to carry their promising ideas and technologies beyond the university and into the marketplace to benefit society.
 
In addition to Michigan Tech and U-M, the Great Lakes Hub includes Purdue University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Toledo, the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Akron, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Impact of I-Corps

Each university in the Great Lakes Hub already has a successful I-Corps program. Michigan Tech has been part of the NSF I-Corps Site program since 2015. Over the past five years, Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site has helped introduce the entrepreneurial mindset to over 300 researchers, faculty, staff and students, and helped teams assess the commercial potential of nearly 150 technologies.

Mary Raber is Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech

The Great Lakes I-Corps Hub aims to connect people at a large scale to increase the “effective density” of the Midwest’s innovation ecosystem. Mary Raber, Michigan Tech I-Corps principal investigator and chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, said Michigan Tech researchers will be able to engage with the other members of the Hub and benefit from the extensive resources available throughout the Great Lakes region.
 
“Being invited to join the Great Lakes Hub is reflective of the success of Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site program and the number of teams that have been selected to attend the National I-Corps program,” said Raber.
 
Other members of the Michigan Tech I-Corps team include Lisa Casper (Pavlis Honors College), Jim Baker (Office of the Vice President for Research), Michael Morley and Nate Yenor (Office of Innovation and Commercialization), and Jonathan Leinonen (College of Business).
 

“Michigan Tech is an integral part of the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub.”

Dr. Mary Raber


“The Great Lakes region is home to many of the world’s leading research institutions, and many of our nation’s critical industries. Our goal with this I-Corps Hub is to leverage this intellectual depth to create a lasting economic impact on the region,” said Alec D. Gallimore, the U-M Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor of aerospace engineering.
 
“We’ll do this by creating new businesses, by keeping our existing companies globally competitive and on the leading edge of technology, and by developing talent that not only has technical and cultural expertise, but also an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said.
 
The new Great Lakes Hub has set a goal of training 2,350 teams in the next five years and sending an additional 220 teams to a more in-depth National NSF I-Corps program.
 
In this way, I-Corps is helping to fill what Jonathan Fay, executive director of the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship, calls the “widening gap” between the cutting-edge research being done at universities and the development work of industry to turn research into societal benefit and economic gain.

Read the full story on Michigan Tech News.


Auris Wins! Michigan Tech is Launching Into Space—with Ears

The team’s spacecraft, Auris, is a small satellite, a 12U cubesat. Its size in centimeters is just 20 x 20 x 30; its mass is 20 kg (about 44 pounds). Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Tech has done it again.

Earlier this month, 10 Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise team members, all undergraduates, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico August 13-15 for the culminating event of the University Nanosatellite Program, a three-year design competition funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory – AFRL.

The Michigan Tech team won, along with teams from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M. The three will now move to Phase B of the program, where they have AFRL funding for a multi-year development program to bring the spacecraft to flight maturity—and a guaranteed launch opportunity from the US Department of Defense. No launch date is set yet, but could happen as soon as 2024.

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Technological University will have three working satellites. One of the team’s satellites (Oculus) is now in orbit; their second small satellite (Stratus) is due to launch in March 2023. Now, Auris will be the third to launch.

“It’s hard to say, but a conservative estimate is that at least 250 students have worked on the Auris mission since its inception, says Michigan Tech electrical and computer engineering student Matthew Sietsema, the team’s chief engineer and student lead.

These undergraduate students in Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise traveled to New Mexico for the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program Flight Selection Review. Back Row (Left to Right): Jonathan Joseph, Thomas Ziegler, Nolan Pickett, Matthew Carey, Kyle Bruursema. Front Row (Left to Right): Emi Colman, Samantha Zerbel, Zoe Knoper, Rachel Mellin, Matthew Sietsema

Lyon (Brad) King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professor of Space Systems in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. As the founder and faculty advisor of the University’s Aerospace Enterprise, King empowers undergraduate students to design, build, and fly spacecraft. 

Professor Lyon Brad King

“Michigan Tech’s winning spacecraft is called Auris, which is Latin for ‘the ear,’ King explains. “Auris will fly in low-Earth orbit and will point its antenna ‘up’ to higher geostationary Earth orbit.” (Geostationary satellites are located 22,237 miles above the earth’s surface.)

“The spacecraft will listen to the signals broadcast from communications satellites as it flies through their transmission beams, and be able to map the spatial extent and shape of the transmission beams,” adds King. “Auris will also determine the location of the transmitting satellite.”

Auris signal trace. Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

This is the second time the Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise student team has won the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program competition. The first time, in 2011, Michigan Tech was the sole winner with Oculus-ASR, which was launched from Cape Canaveral on a Space-X Falcon Heavy in June 2019. Oculus-ASR now serves as an imaging calibration target for ground-based observatories tasked with characterizing spacecraft. 

In 2020 NASA slated Michigan Tech’’s second student-built satellite, Stratus, for a deployment from the International Space Station (ISS). That launch is expected in 2023. Stratus is a pathfinder mission funded by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Program and the CubeSat Launch Initiative. The Stratus vehicle is a three-axis-stabilized thermal infrared telescope that will be used to image atmospheric clouds.

“I am so incredibly proud of our Aerospace Enterprise team.” 

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

At the University Satellite Program’s recent Flight Selection Review event in Albuquerque, a total of ten university student teams competed for the chance to advance their satellite design project to the next phase and launch: Missouri S&T, Minnesota, SUNY Buffalo, Texas A&M, Saint Louis, Western Michigan, Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan Tech, Auburn, and UT Austin.

Judges from Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), United States Space Force (USSF), Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Space Dynamics Lab, Missile Defense Agency, and NASA were present to evaluate the missions.

The MTU students staffed a booth, briefed their mission to the judges and other schools, and performed technical demonstrations for the judges.

“Michigan Tech will soon have no less than 3 student-designed and built satellites in outer space—it’s amazing.”

Bill Predebon, Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program, with more than 25 teams working on projects and products with researchers and companies, provided the overarching framework for the Aerospace Enterprise. 

Like all Enterprise teams at Michigan Tech, Aerospace Enterprise is open to students in any major. “It’s important for students to learn how to work in an interdisciplinary group,” says King. “In the workplace, they will never be on a team where every member has the same expertise. To design, build, manage and operate a satellite requires mechanical, electrical, computer science, physics, materials, everything— it really crosses a lot of boundaries and prepares them for a career.”

Last, but not least: “Aerospace Enterprise has a leadership and management hierarchy that is self-sustaining,” says King. “Current leaders are constantly working to mentor their successors so we have continuity from year-to-year.”

Matthew Sietsema ’22

Q&A with Matthew Sietsema, Chief Engineer and Student Lead, Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise Team

Matthew Sietsema is an aspiring Space Systems Engineer working toward a Michigan Tech double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. He’ll be graduating next December 2022. As Chief Engineer of the Aerospace Enterprise team’s two spacecraft programs, Auris and Stratus, Sietsema serves as the technical lead of 100+ undergraduate students. He’s head of all assembly, integration, and testing activities, requirements management and verification for the two satellites. “The dual purpose of the Auris mission,” he explains, “is both Space Domain Awareness (SDA), and Space Visualization.”

Q: How does it feel for Auris to win the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program along with the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M?

A: It feels incredibly gratifying and I’m extremely proud of our team and our mission! Auris has been in the works for more than five years at this point, and to be able to finally close the loop and push forward to the next phase is an electrifying prospect. My congratulations also go out to both UMinn and Texas A&M—the motivations behind each of our missions are very similar, so it’s validating to see the fundamental concepts of our mission being lauded all around.

Q: It sounds like Phase B is about building the actual Auris satellite. What all goes into that?

A: In part, yes. Phase A was about designing and building the prototype version of the spacecraft, known as the Engineering Model (EM). One of the primary focuses of Phase B, among many other things, is to construct the final spacecraft meant to go to space⁠—the Flight Model (FM). We must first finish our build-up of the prototype, taking care to ensure that all of the individual components are working together properly and that the design itself is sound. From there, we move into building the FM spacecraft. This involves four distinct phases of build-up, or ‘integration stages’. The first is Component-Level Testing, where we ensure that each of the individual parts and circuit boards function as intended. Second is Subsystem-Level Testing, where we group components with similar jobs together and ensure that they can communicate with each other and correctly interoperate. Next is System-Level Testing, where we combine each of the discrete subsystems and make sure that the entire spacecraft works as designed. Last is Behavioral Testing, where we do an end-to-end verification of the function of the spacecraft and essentially ‘pretend’ to operate it like we would in space. The idea is to simulate and/or test everything that the spacecraft can possibly do, to make sure there are no unintended behaviors or nasty surprises once it gets on orbit.”

Q: Is it challenging for the team to manage several ongoing satellite missions?

A: At the moment, we only directly manage two missions: Auris and Stratus. Stratus is still under development, for another two years. Management of the Oculus mission was handed off to the Air Force when we delivered the satellite. But yes, the sentiment remains: it is incredibly challenging to manage a single spaceflight mission, let alone two at the same time. We have a strong core of leaders in our team, and do our best to foster an environment of learning and self-motivation. Our group is structured very closely to actual aerospace companies, so we rely on the tools of the industry and the experience of our members to catalyze progress and keep both missions on track.

Read More

Brad King: Space, Satellites, and Students

And Then There Were Two: MTU’s Next Student-built Satellite, Set to Launch

Michigan Tech’s Pipeline to Space

Winning Satellite to be Launched into Orbit


Husky Bites: Join Us for Supper This Fall!

Craving some brain food? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guests each Monday at 6 p.m. ET this for a 30-minute interactive Zoom webinar from the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University, followed by Q&A. Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity). All are welcome. Get the full scoop and register⁠—it’s free⁠—at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Upcoming special guests: a hockey coach, numerous engineering faculty, a social scientist and an astronomer. Each has volunteered to present a mini lecture for Husky Bites. They’ll weave in a bit of their own personal journey to their chosen field, too. Also invited to join in during the session—their colleagues, former students and/or current students.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with a ‘quiz’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll), about every five minutes. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. We are hoping entire families will enjoy it,” she adds.

Dean Callahan first launched Husky Bites June 2020, after the the first few months of the pandemic. Since then, she has hosted attendees from Michigan Tech’s campus community, across the US, and even attendees from various countries around the world. “There’s something of interest for all ages,” she adds. “A lot of folks turn it on in the background, and listen or watch while preparing, eating or cleaning up after supper,” she says.

Those who join Husky Bites via Zoom can take part in the session Q&A, one of the best features of Husky Bites. But there are a few ways to consume the webinar. Catch the livestream on the College of Engineering Facebook page. Or, if you happen to miss a session, watch any past session on Zoom or youtube. (Scroll down to find the links on mtu.edu/huskybites)

Husky Bites Fall 2021 kicks off on Monday, September 13 with “Hockey in the Copper Country,” a session featuring Joe Shawhan, head coach of the Michigan Tech hockey team. He’ll be joined by John Scott, NHL All-Star MVP and Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alum (ME ‘10). You can read all about it here.

What else is on the menu for Fall 2021? Here are some of the topics: Drilling Wells in the Keweenaw; the Lift Bridge; Engineers Without Borders Australia; NetZero (how do we get there); tiny house design (for cold climates); engineering holistic solutions; a GoPro tour of the MTU Sustainability Demonstration House; new lightweight materials for manned Mars missions, what’s next for NEXTCAR, and NASA’s best space images.

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

Want to see the full schedule? Just go to mtu.edu/huskybites. You can register from there, too.

Last but not least (and well worth noting): Dean Callahan awards some really great prizes for attendance. High school students who attend at least five session qualify for a nifty swag bag.


Summer Youth Program and Women in Engineering

Madelyn Hachenski in front of UO Lab.
Madelyn Hachenski is interviewed in front of the Unit Operations Lab, an educational facility managed by the Department of Chemical Engineering.

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Since 1972, Michigan Tech University has held its Summer Youth Program, giving kids finishing sixth to eleventh grade an opportunity to take courses, ranging from Engineering to Computer Science.

“We have classes on everything,” said Jannah Tumey, the Assistant Director of MTU’s Center for Educational Outreach, “from Aviation to Forensic Science to Michigan Species of Concern and other ecology-type classes and Chemistry.”

Read more and watch the video at WLUC TV6, by Matt Price.


ACMAL: New Remote Teaching and Research Capabilities

The Applied Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL) is a shared facility located in the Minerals and Materials building on Michigan Tech’s campus. ACMAL has a wide range of electron microscope and x-ray analysis instruments available to the Michigan Tech community and guest researchers.

Over the past year, several ACMAL labs have been equipped with new software and cameras for improved remote teaching and research! These new remote capabilities allow for live/recorded demonstrations to be shared with large classes or for research clients and to view live data collection. 

Below are descriptions of these instruments and laboratories affected:

FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM)

The STEM is Michigan Tech’s newest electron microscope addition that has atomic resolution imaging capabilities. The instrument has the following capabilities and modes: conventional TEM mode, scanning TEM mode, electron energy loss spectroscopy, energy filter TEM, high angle annular dark field, ChemiSTEM, Super-X Energy Dispersive X-Ray, and nanometer scale tomography. 

New remote capabilities include:

  • Zoom screen-share from both the TEM laboratory web camera and instrument control monitors
  • Huskycast (Panopto) recording of lab space, TEM lab camera, and instrument control monitors

Learn more about the STEM: ACMAL – FEI 200kV Titan Themis STEM

Contact Elizabeth Miller (eafraki@mtu.edu) for more information.

FEI Philips XL 40 Environmental Scanning Microscope (ESEM)

The ESEM can be used to image a wide range of material types at a microscale including hydrated, contaminated, organic, or inorganic samples. This microscope itself has several modes and features that make it a flexible instrument for any research needs: SE/BSE imaging, thin window EDAX EDS, electron backscatter diffraction, high and low vacuum modes, and hot or cold stage options.

New remote capabilities include:

  • New laboratory web camera
  • Zoom screen-share abilities from both the microscope control and AzTEC analysis computers
  • Remote technical assistance with Raritan DKX4-101 KVM-over-IP
  • Remote operation with Raritan DKX4-101 KVM-over-IP

Learn more about the ESEM: ACMAL – FEI Philips XL 40 ESEM

Contact Elizabeth Miller (eafraki@mtu.edu) for more information.

X-Ray Facilities: Scintag XDS2000 Powder Diffractometer and Scintag XDS-2000 PTS

ACMAL’s X-ray facilities (XRF) has instruments capable of performing x-ray diffraction (XRD) analyses on both powder and solid samples. Sample data such as present phases, lattice parameter, percent crystallinity, and texture analysis can all be found using MTU’s Scintag XDS2000 Powder Diffractometer and Scintag XDS-2000 PTS XRD instruments. These instruments have the following features to expand the types of samples that can be analyzed: zero background sample holder, custom powder sample holders, custom irregular shaped solid holder, custom liquid holder, ICDD-JCPDS database, and Anton-Paar high temperature stage.

New remote capabilities include:

  • New cameras installed in both the instrument lab and sample preparation lab.
  • Huskycast (Panopto) recording for both cameras and lab computer monitors.
  • Zoom sharing available in both labs and computer monitors.

Learn more about X-ray facilities: ACMAL – X-Ray Facilities

Contact Dr. Edward Laitila (ealaitil@mtu.edu) for more information.


Tech Students Take Home the Prizes

screen shot of certificate during the Zoom ceremony for NASA's Watts on the Moon Challenge
A Michigan Tech was a Grand Prize Winner of NASAs Watts on the Moon Challenge!

ME-EM Assistant Professor Paul van Susante’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab won $100K as a Grand Prize Winner of the NASA Watts on the Moon Challenge. Sixty teams submitted original design concepts aimed at meeting future needs for robust and flexible technologies to power human and robotic outposts on the Moon. Read more here

SAE Autodrive Challenge. NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge. US Department of Energy Solar Desalination Prize. And more. In this past challenging year—Michigan Tech students and faculty excelled. 

ME-EM Assistant Professor Sajjad Bigham and students in his Energy-X Lab were among eight teams (out of 162) selected as semi-finalists in the US Department of Energy Solar Desalination Prize. Their team, “Solar Desalt: Sorption-Based ZLD Technology” will receive $350K in funding to advance their research using solar-thermal energy to purify water with very high salt content, in the competition’s three-year, second phase. The team integrates standard multiple-effect desalination system (MED) technology with a high temperature desorption process and a low-temperature crystallization process in order to achieve zero liquid discharge (ZLD). Read more here.

Students and advisor stand in the lab around a small table displaying their crystal award plaque.
NASA’s Artemis Award, in Planet Surface Technology Development Lab. Congratulations!

Prof. Van Susante’s Planet Surface Technology Development Lab took home another top honor, the Artemis Award, in NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. Their design, a rover called “T-REX” (short for Tethered permanently shadowed Region EXplorer) deploys a lightweight, superconducting cable to keep other lunar rovers powered and provide wireless communication as they operate in the extreme environments of the moon’s frigid, lightless craters. Read more here.

The winning team! Left to right, MMET students Andrew Ward, Jake Lehmann, John Kurburski, and Alexander Provoast

Michigan Tech students in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology were declared the Overall Champions of the 2021 National Fluid Fluid Power Association Vehicle Challenge, a national competition hosted by Norgren, a world leader in motion control and fluid technology based in Littleton, Colorado. The contest, dubbed “Hydraulics Meets the Bicycle,” combines human-powered vehicles along with fluid power and consists of three races—sprint, endurance, and efficiency. Senior Lecturer David Wanless advised the team, and MMET Lecturer Kevin Johnson contributed to their understanding of pneumatic and hydraulic circuits in his fluid power class. Read more here.

Two Michigan Tech teams, part of the student-run Built World Enterprise, captured First and Second place at the Airport Cooperative Research Program’s University Design Competition, a contest hosted by the National Academy of Sciences/Transportation Research Board. The teams are advised by CEGE Department Chair Prof. Audra Morse. Read more here.

Michigan Tech’s Wave Tank, located in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Students in the SENSE Enterprise team at Michigan Tech, advised by Great Lakes Research Center Director Prof. Andrew Barnard, ECE Associate Professor Tim Havens, along with another team of students advised by ME-EM Professor Gordon Parker, were all selected to compete in the US Department of Energy’s 2022 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition. The students will use the Michigan Tech Wave Tank for this work. Read more here.

Michigan Tech’s SAE Autodrive Challenge team will soon need a bigger display case!

The four-year SAE Autodrive Challenge wrapped up on June 14 with Michigan Tech’s Prometheus Borealis team bringing home the second most trophies and earning 3rd place overall. Teams from University of Toronto and University of Waterloo earned first and second overall, making Michigan Tech’s team first among all the US contenders. ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos and ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette serve as advisors to the team. Next Up: SAE International and General Motors (GM) announced 10 collegiate teams selected to compete in AutoDrive Challenge II. Michigan Tech was on the list. Read more here.

Know of any more Michigan Tech student awards or engineering competitions? Email engineering@mtu.edu. We want to help share the good news!