Tag: MEEM

Stories about Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Innovators in Industry: Future of Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility

Michigan Tech is excited to launch Innovators in Industry: a project connecting students with MTU alumni who are industry experts, leaders, and influencers.

The initial three-part series kicks off on Monday, October 25 at 7 pm with a session titled, “The Future of Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility.”

Featured alumni for the session will be Sean Kelley ‘86 of the Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., an engineering and environmental sciences consulting firm; Mark Rakoski ‘95, of Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America Inc.; and Birgit Sorgenfrei ’91 of Ford Motor Company.

Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering, will host the first session. Jeremy Bos, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (and also an alum) will serve as co-moderator. Bos earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2000 and a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Optics in 2012. He serves as advisor to Michigan Tech students taking part in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge.

The featured alumni will make short presentations with time for Q&A from the audience. All Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff are invited to join the Zoom session.

During the session Sorgenfrei, Kelley, and Rakoski will discuss the future of autonomous automobiles and their design, and the design of the infrastructure with which those automobiles will need to communicate.

If the three alums could each go back in time, what would they have strived to learn while at Michigan Tech? They’ll share those insights with us, and provide valuable advice for students—those due to graduate soon, and in the next few years.

“Cars are some of the most complicated things out there, more complicated than jets or commercial aircraft. They’re basically really smart computers that move and let people get inside them.”

Sean Kelley

Sean Kelley is senior vice president and principal with the Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., a 370-person engineering and environmental sciences consulting firm with 15 offices in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia. He earned a BS in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech, and an MBA at Eastern Michigan University. He’s a registered Professional Engineer in both Michigan and Ohio.

Sean Kelley (’86 Civil Engineering), Mannik & Smith Group, Inc.

Kelley has led the development of infrastructure for closed-system test facilities to advance smart mobility technology, including three of the most significant facilities in the Midwest: University of Michigan’s Mcity in Ann Arbor; the American Center for Mobility located 30 minutes west of Detroit and the Transportation Research Center located at Honda’s North American test center in Central Ohio.  

He’s a recognized leader in the engineering consulting industry in Michigan. His focus on both the public and private sectors allows him to understand and appreciate the challenges associated with creating and maintaining a well-functioning and sustainable infrastructure to support a high quality of life for everyone. Kelley is often a featured speaker at conferences related to transportation and smart mobility. He has two grown children—Morgan and Aaron—who share his passion for learning and helping to advance humanity and a healthier planet.  

“Today there seems to be a huge disruption in the deeply embedded culture of the automotive industry: in order to get a common platform for smart mobility, there really has to be a lot more sharing and working together.”

Mark Rakoski

Mark Rakoski is VP, Advanced Engineering at Mitsubishi Electric. He joined the company in 1996 as an application engineer, soon after earning his BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech. Over the course of his career, he has served the company in various capacities, including as senior account manager for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and director and executive director for both the FCA and Ford accounts. 

Mark Rakoski (Mechanical Engineering ’95), Mitsubishi Electric

In his current position Rakoski is responsible for leading product development engineering teams for vehicle connectivity, autonomous sharing and electric solutions, and Mobility-as-a-Service—with specific focus on infotainment and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). 

In 2020, Rakoski was appointed to the Mitsubishi Electric Mobility Ventures (MEMO Ventures) Board. MEMO Ventures explores and funds ideas to create new business opportunities for the company’s Automotive Equipment Group (AEG) in the rapidly evolving mobility sector.

Rakoski is also responsible for Silicon Valley new ventures team management, contract negotiations, marketing and global strategic accounts management. He resides in South Lyon, Michigan. 

“The auto industry has been assisting our customers while behind the wheel for years, starting with the introduction of cruise control in 1948. Working in Driver Assist Technology is exciting, as the technologies leading to self-driving vehicles are available to customers now to increase safety and convenience.”

Birgit Sorgenfrei (EE ’91) Ford Motor Company
Birgit Sorgenfrei (Electrical Engineering ’91) Ford Motor Company

Birgit Sorgenfrei is currently a Driver Assist Technology Applications Lead at Ford Motor Company. She was previously Electrical Lead for Lincoln & Ford Programs, as well as a systems manager responsible for Autonomous Vehicle integration and advanced features for electrified vehicles. Her more than 20-year career at Ford includes research on sensors for electrical power assist steering systems, component and system radio design, vehicle planning, hybrid battery software delivery, fuel cell technology development, and the introduction of StartStop Technology to North America. Previously, she worked for General Electric, Johnson Controls Inc., IBM, General Motors, and internationally for Schlumberger Industries in France, the University of Hanover in Germany, and Ford Motor Company in England and Germany. Sorgenfrei earned her BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 1991, graduating summa cum laude. She then earned a MSEE degree from MIT, and later an MBA from the University of Michigan.


Other upcoming sessions of Innovators in Industry include:

Monday, November 1 – The Computing Revolution (hosted by the College of Computing)

Monday, November 8 – Entrepreneurship: Startups & Venture Capital (hosted by the College of Business)

All sessions will begin at 7 p.m. on Zoom.

The series is organized by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Innovators in Industry aims to give students direct access to industry leaders to help shape their paths. Future plans for the Innovators in Industry series include in-person sessions and on-location visits for students to industry hubs.

Then There Were Three: Stratus Nanosatellite Launch for MTU’s Aerospace Enterprise

Michigan Tech’s students designed Auris. It has been selected for launch by the University Nanosatellite Program, sponsored by AFRL.

The Aerospace Enterprise, under the direction of Dr. Brad King, is launching satellites as well as student careers. At the University Nanosatellite Program, sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in August, ten students from the Enterprise team presented their latest satellite application, Auris, to judges from several space-related agencies.

The challenge for the competition was to develop a satellite mission that is relevant to both industry and the military. Students conceived of the idea for Auris, a ‘listening satellite,’ through discussions with Enterprise alumni working in industry and their interest in monitoring communication from other satellites to estimate bandwidth utilization.

Dr. L. Brad King, Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Space Systems), Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

“Ten university teams were in attendance and of the teams, we were among three of the schools to be selected to move forward. We now move on to ‘Phase B’ of the program and have a guaranteed launch opportunity with substantial funding to complete the design and integration of our spacecraft,” says Matthew Sietsema, Chief Engineer for the Aerospace Enterprise.

As a result of this award, the Aerospace Enterprise will soon have three satellites in space. Stratus, a climate monitoring satellite that determines cloud height and cloud top winds, was set for a March 2021 launch date. However, it was delayed due to the pandemic and is planned for launch in 2022. Oculus, an imaging target for ground-based cameras for the Department of Defense, was launched in June 2019.

“The Enterprise has remained on the same trajectory and has been very successful by all measures,” remarks King. “Students do a great job managing themselves and the leadership to replace themselves as they graduate and new members move up. It’s a challenge to juggle more than one satellite, but our students have remained focused and hard working while managing several projects and it’s a testament to their tenacity.”

Creating real-world, hands-on learning opportunities for around 100 students per semester, the Enterprise serves as a stepping stone for many as they launch their careers.

“Our students, even if they aren’t in leadership roles, do well securing positions in the aerospace industry. We tend to perform well because we offer a three-year, long-term program, which allows our students to maintain the situational knowledge required to solve complex problems.”

—Dr. Brad King

Challenging Structure: $15M US-COMP Now in Year Five

Professor Greg Odegard is the John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, Michigan Tech

Leading the charge in developing a new lighter, stronger, tougher polymer composite for human deep space exploration, the Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) institute under the direction of Dr. Greg Odegard has pivoted with agility during their final year of a five-year project. 

The NASA-funded research project brings together academia and industry partners with a range of expertise in molecular modeling,manufacturing, material synthesis, and testing.

“When we began developing these ultra-strong composites, we weren’t sure of the best starting fibers and polymers, but over time we started to realize certain nanotubes and resins consistently outperformed others,” says Odegard. “Through this period of development, we realized what our critical path to maximize performance would be, and decided to focus only on that, rather than explore the full range of possibilities.”

US-COMP PARTNERS

  • Florida A&M University
  • Florida State University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Utah
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Nanocomp Technologies
  • Solvay
  • US Air Force Research Lab

For the past 21 years, scientists around the world have invested time, money, and effort to understand carbon nanotubes. But the islands of knowledge remain isolated in a vast sea of unknown behavior.

“When we started the project, we were confident we were going to put effort into getting the polymers to work well. The last thing we expected was the need to focus so much on the carbon nanotubes—but we’re putting effort there, too, using modeling and experimental methods,” Odegard notes.

The challenge when working with carbon nanotubes is their structure. “Under the most powerful optical microscope you see a certain structure, but when you look under an SEM microscope you see a completely different structure,” Odegard explains. “In order to understand how to build the best composite panel, we have to understand everything at each length scale.” 

The US COMP Institute has created dedicated experiments and computational models for the chosen carbon nanotube material at each length scale. “We can all see the different parts in our sub-groups and then we communicate that to the rest of the team, building a more complete picture from the little pictures at the individual scales,” he says. “We found the hierarchical modeling approach is hard to make work and what works best is a concurrent approach. We each answer questions at our own length scales, feed our findings to manufacturing, and then see how they in turn tweak the processing parameters.”

“We’ve achieved a remarkable workflow and a new model for collaboration.”

—Michigan Tech ME-EM Professor Greg Odegard

Achieving their Year Four goal to understand the internal structure of the carbon nanotube material, the institute has shifted focus to surface behaviors. As part of the project, they are tasked with bringing the carbon nanotube material together with the final selected polymer.

“We are looking at the surface treatment and how to get it to best work with the polymer of choice. We are excited to expand our scope of machine learning methods to better understand the carbon nanotube material. This accelerates our understanding of how processing parameters impact the structure, and how that ultimately impacts the bulk material properties.”

While machine learning has been part of the project scope from the beginning, the computational team is using their collected data to build a series of training sets. “The training sets will allow us to perfect our algorithms, learn from them, and hopefully influence product performance—potentially illuminating patterns we didn’t even see,” Odegard explains.

As the project draws to a close this year, the team continues to analyze their objectives set by NASA, which focus on producing a material that offers triple the strength and stiffness of the current state-of-the-art. As Odegard puts it, “The objectives set on this project are difficult to achieve. We knew that when we started. Regardless of whether we meet the numbers, as a group we have been able to push the envelope way beyond where we started in 2017—expanding the performance in a very short time period. This was made possible through remarkable collaboration across the institute.”

Michigan Tech: Driving Change with $4.5M NextCar II Award

After accomplishing the mission of NEXTCAR I, Mechanical Engineering Professor Jeff Naber and his team are looking to continue shaping the future of connected and autonomous vehicles through participation in NEXTCAR II.

With funding from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E), the team will shift their focus from a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption in light-duty hybrid electric vehicles to a broader application of vehicles with level 4 and 5 of autonomy.

Jeff Naber, the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Energy Systems), Mechanical Engineering—Engineering Mechanics, and
Director of Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center.

Before being awarded inclusion to NEXTCAR II, the team developed and demonstrated their energy reduction technologies on a fleet of eight Gen II Chevy Volts on a 24-mile test loop, showcasing their energy optimization, forecasting, and controls including vehicle-to-vehicle communications, location mapping, and thorough data management.

“We met our goals for energy reduction on the Chevy Volt, which set us up for NEXTCAR II now in partnership with GM on the Bolt electric vehicle (EV) and with Stellantis for an evaluation on the RAM 1500 and the Chrysler plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Pacifica,” says Naber.

Naber and the team will seek to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent in the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica and further apply the savings to the RAM 1500 and the Chevy Bolt, while also considering level 4 and 5 autonomy to gain efficiencies. 

“The impact of this program through our $4.5 million grant is greater because of the diversity in vehicle and propulsion systems technology that can be influenced by our developments,” explains Naber. 

The first challenge the group faces is developing three autonomous vehicles integrated with in-vehicle energy controls to meet their goals. “We have Drs. Jeremy Bos and Darrell Robinette on the team to leverage the work they have done in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge and are bringing in external suppliers to achieve level 4 autonomy functions,” he adds. “With NEXTCAR I, we didn’t have autonomy functions in the picture, so now we have the added instrumentation, intelligence, and all of the vehicle integration that comes along with autonomy.” 

A key component of NEXTCAR II is the conversion and deployment of the NEXTCAR I technologies in these three new vehicles, with further expansions enabled by the higher levels of vehicle automation and autonomy. 

“At the end of the project, we will have all three vehicle systems operating as fully autonomous— with LIDAR, sensors, integrated controls, and actuation of steering, braking, and acceleration.” 

Dr. Jeff Naber

The group will maintain vehicles in multiple locations, both on the Michigan Tech campus and for road testing at the American Center for Mobility (ACM). ACM is a partner in the project, along with Stellantis and GM. The team is lead by Naber, with Co-PIs Drs. Jeremy Bos, Darrell Robinette, Bo Chen, Grant Ovist, and Basha Dudekula along with several graduate students. 

“We will be conducting the baseline testing here and controls development in the labs at the APSRC and then we’ll conduct closed track testing at ACM to implement our defined controls and autonomy specifications,” replies Naber. “There are many teams working on autonomous vehicles, but with NEXTCAR we get the opportunity to combine that with energy reduction objectives.” 

The NEXTCAR team is delivering engineering solutions as they move from abstracted technology to direct implementation within the realities of on-road conditions.

“We are combining theory, simulation, and real-world implementation on three different vehicle platforms that will have a true impact on our roadways. We know the energy to run the computers and the sensors in today and tomorrow’s vehicles will be a significant penalty especially for EVs. Everyone has different solutions, but we get to zero in on it further,” Naber explains.

The NEXTCAR II project is enhanced by the University’s Tech Forward initiative in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, led by Naber. Efforts over the last two years include developing the RAM and simultaneously a Great Lakes Research Center watercraft for the purposes of extending research and education in these areas across campus.

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

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.

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.

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

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

Alumni Help Bring Advanced 3D Metal Printer to Michigan Tech

A look inside Michigan Tech’s new 3D Metal Printer. Direct metal printing is additive manufacturing. It starts with metal powders, added bit by bit.

Thanks to a group of generous mechanical engineering alumni, Michigan Tech has acquired a highly advanced 3D metal printer.

The 3D Systems ProX350, 3D Metal Printer and accessories arrived on campus at the end of March. Installation is taking place now, in a shared facility at Michigan Tech.

The new system can print using 11 unique metals, including bio-grade titanium (for biomedical applications), cobalt and chromium, several types of stainless steel at a resolution of 5 microns.

Faculty and graduate students will have access to the printer for research projects. Undergraduate senior design and Enterprise teams will, too.

Obtaining the new 3D metal printer was made possible by the generosity of seven Michigan Tech alumni.

For starters, ME-EM Department Chair Bill Predebon obtained a 20 percent discount on the $875K system from Scarlett Inc. Owner Jim Scarlett is an ME-EM alumnus.

In addition to Scarlett, six other Michigan Tech alumni donors pitched in. One anonymous donor provided over $600K , and five others made up the difference to meet the full cost of $673K. Those five are: Ron Starr, John Drake, Frank Agusti, Todd Fernstrum, and Victor Swanson.

“This will be a game changer for Michigan Tech,” Predebon says. “It is one of the most accurate metal 3-d printers available. With approximately a 1-ft. cube size billet, which is an impressive size billet, you can make a full-size or scaled-down version of just about anything. Very few universities have a 3D metal printer of this quality and versatility.”

Coming soon: More photos and details on Michigan Tech’s new 3D metal printer.

Autonomy at the End of the Earth

Michigan Tech’s student team, Prometheus Borealis, designs, builds, and tests a fully autonomous vehicle, “Borealis Prime” for the SAE Autodrive Challenge.

Jeremy Bos and Darrell Robinette, mentors and advisors of Michigan Tech’s SAE Autodrive Challenge (and both Michigan Tech alums) share their knowledge on Husky Bites Live, on campus in the Rozsa Center at Alumni Reunion 2021. The session takes place Friday, August 6 at 1:30 pm ET. Everyone in attendance will learn something new, with time after for Q&A. 

Can’t make it in person? Join us remotely. We’ll share a link to join the Zoom webinar on the Alumni Reunion website as the event draws near. Afterwards (weather permitting) you’re invited to join us out on the Walker Lawn. Meet the students of Prometheus Borealis and Robotics Systems Enterprise, get a close look at their autonomous vehicles—and be sure to bring your questions.

It’s a wild ride.

Starting with a Chevy Bolt, Michigan Tech students outfit it with sensors, control systems and computer processors to successfully navigate an urban driving course in automated driving mode. And, test it in blizzard conditions!

It’s also an ambitious project with an equally ambitious goal: Three years of the competition, with increasing levels of autonomy and more difficult challenges in each successive year. 

Michigan Tech’s team is Prometheus Borealis, after Prometheus, the Greek deity responsible for bringing technology to people, and Boreas, the purple-winged god of the north wind.The SAE Autodrive Challenge competition is jointly sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE).

Credit: Photographer Tim Cocciolone and fellow prankster John Marchesi (both Michigan Tech alums).

“The competition focuses on the electrical engineering, computer engineering, robotics engineering, and computer science skills needed to implement the sensors, signal processing and artificial intelligence needed to make the car drive itself,” says team co-advisor, ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos. “Mechanical engineers and a wide range of other disciplines are represented on the teams, as well.”

ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette is the team’s other co-advisor. Robinette worked as an engineer at GM for 9 years before joining Michigan Tech in 2014, with roles in transmission, NVH, electrification and calibration engineering groups. He is a longtime First Robotics Competition mentor, too.

Bos earned his BS at Michigan Tech in 2000, and returned to earn his PhD in 2012, both in Electrical Engineering. Robinette earned a BS in 2004 and a PhD in 2007, both in Mechanical Engineering.

A section of the mapping of Michigan Tech’s campus as seen from the road by Borealis Prime’s Velodyne LiDAR VLP-16 using Intel Internet of Things HW. Mapping done with Iterative Closest Point (ICP).

Student-driven Autonomy

On the student side, the AutoDrive Challenge project is spearheaded by Robotic Systems Enterprise (RSE), also advised by Bos and Robinette. RSE is part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program. “It’s one of the best places on campus to learn robotics,” says Bos. The team’s many 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.

SAE Autodrive Challenge Final Results

Jonathon Beute ’21 served as project lead for the VISSION subteam focused on Borealis Prime as part of the Robotic Systems Enterprise. He graduated in June and now works as an electrical engineer at Williams International in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The four-year challenge wrapped up on June 14 with Michigan Tech’s Prometheus Borealis team earning 3rd place overall, bringing home the second most trophies. Teams from University of Toronto and University of Waterloo earned first and second overall. Read the full results on the SAE Autodrive Challenge website.

Teams from eight North American universities competed:  Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, Kettering University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, North Carolina A&T State University

“We’re going to need a bigger trophy case.”

Dr. Jeremy Bos, Michigan Tech co-advisor, Prometheus Borealis

Next Up: Autodrive Challenge II

Also in June, SAE International and General Motors (GM) announced 10 collegiate teams selected to compete in AutoDrive Challenge II. Michigan Tech was on the list. 

The start of Michigan Tech’s dynamic run at M-City for the 99% Buy Off Ride, part of the SAE International Autodrive Challenge. The team placed third in this event and third overall. See the full results here.

The competition continues the strong collaboration between GM and SAE in STEM education and will build on the groundbreaking success of the first iteration of AutoDrive Challenge. Teams will develop and demonstrate an autonomous vehicle (AV) that can navigate urban driving courses as described by SAE J3016™ Standard Level 4 automation.

The following 10 university teams will participate in AutoDrive Challenge II:

Kettering University, Michigan Technological University, North Carolina A&T State University, The Ohio State University, Penn State University, Texas A&M University

University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Queens University and Virginia Tech.

“At General Motors, we envision a future of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, and we have committed ourselves to leading the way toward this future,” said Dan Nicholson, GM vice president, global electrification, controls, software and electronics and executive sponsor of the competition. 

“The AutoDrive Challenge is a great way to give students the hands-on experience they need to find success,” he adds. “We are very excited to work with these talented students over the course of the competition and know they will make an immediate impact on the automotive industry upon graduation.”

“Michigan Tech’s SAE AutoDrive Challenge team has proven our students innovate to succeed.”

– Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

Dr. Robinette, how did you first get started in engineering? What sparked your interest? 

Sage advice from ME-EM Assistant Professor Darrell Robinette: “Be a doer and a thinker at the same time.”

When I was 5, my dad took me for a tour at his place of work, Detroit Edison’s Belle River Powerplant. It was awe inspiring seeing all the equipment and getting an explanation of how it worked and what it did. Pretty amazing that they hang the boilers from the ceiling, eh? Everything at the plant was just so cool, especially the controls and control room. 

My dad introduced me to all the engineers he worked with, and all of them were MTU grads. They played a part in encouraging me where to go for engineering, even though I was only 5 years old. My dad gave me a Babcock & Wilcox Steam book after the visit. Even though I didn’t understand all the engineering in it at the time, pictures of the power plant equipment, construction, assemblies all caught my interest. 

Also, like most engineers, l played with Legos during childhood. Lots and lots of Legos to build whatever my imagination could create.

Family, home, hobbies?

I go mountain biking whenever I can, also wake surfing, snowboarding, and cross country skiing. My wife, Tara, is an MTU alumna (Pre-Med/Biology ‘07). She is one of the Emergency Room physicians at Portage Health Hospital. We have two daughters: Adelyn, 3, and Amelia, one. I like building, tinkering and fixing (typical mechanical engineer stuff), and trying to be a super dad for my girls.

Dr. Bos, how about you? When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

ECE Assistant Professor Jeremy Bos likes to ask new students: “What are your affinities? Knowing those, I can help point you in the right direction.”

My Dad ran a turn-key industrial automation and robotics business throughout most of my childhood. In fact, I got my first job at age 12 when I was sequestered at home with strep throat. I felt fine, but couldn’t go to school. My Dad put me to work writing programs for what I know now are Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs); the ‘brains’ of most industrial automation systems.

I really liked these new things called ‘personal computers’ and spent quite a bit of time programming them. By the time I was in high school I was teaching classes at the local library on computer building, repair, and this other new thing called ‘The Internet’. 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).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I 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, who bikes or skis with me on the Tech trails nearly every day. When I have time I also like to kayak, and stargaze.

Learn More About Husky Bites

Everyone’s welcome at Dean Janet Callahan’s free interactive Zoom webinar, Husky Bites. Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.
“Feel free to invite a friend,” says Dean Janet Callahan about her Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites. “Everyone is welcome. It’s free, and it’s edifying.”

Launched by Dean Janet Callahan in 2020 near the start of the pandemic, Husky Bites is an interactive Zoom webinar that takes place each fall and spring.

During the semester, every Monday at 6, rach “bite” is a suppertime mini-lecture, presented by a different Michigan Tech faculty member, who weaves in a bit of their own personal journey, and brings a co-host, as well—an alum or a current student who knows a thing or two about the topic at hand.

The Husky Bites weekly Zoom webinar series resumes starting Monday, Sept. 13.

“We’ve had attendees from nine countries, and a great mix of students, alumni, our Michigan Tech community and friends,” says Dean Callahan, who mails out prizes for (near) perfect attendance.

Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Read more:

What’s Next After First

I Saw the Sign (End of the Earth)

Students Choose Fei Long as ME Teacher of the Year

ME Teacher of the Year, Dr. Fei Long, was selected solely by students of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University

Congratulations to Fei Long, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, for winning the Department’s 2021 Mechanical Engineering Teacher of the Year award.

Dr. Long has been with the ME-EM department since 2013, first as a post-doctoral research associate for one year, and then as an instructor. He was hired as a lecturer in 2020. His areas of research expertise include nanomaterials and scanning probe microscopy (SPM). He earned his PhD from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China in 2011, then served as an application scientist for two years in the Nano Surfaces Division, Bruker Co., which manufactures scientific instruments.

The ME Teacher of the Year Award is selected solely by mechanical engineering students and conducted by the Mechanical Engineering Student Advisory Committee (MESAC). It is a two step process, similar to the process employed by the University teaching award. The first stage is the selection of the top three, voted upon by ME students. In the second stage MESAC students go into all the spring classes of the three finalists with a questionnaire, which contains several questions about their teaching, including why they believe they should be the ME teacher of the year.

Long received a certificate and his name is on the ME Teacher of the Year plaque with past winners in the lobby of the R. L. Smith ME-EM Building. The award was announced during the recent 2021 ME-EM Department Order of the Engineering Virtual Ceremony.

Runner ups were ME-EM senior lecturers Jaclyn Johnson and Aneet Narendranath.

Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Academy Inducts Class of 2021

R.L. Smith Building, Michigan Technological University

05/14/2021—Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) held its 2021 ME-EM Academy induction ceremony May 14 via Zoom.

Eleven ME-EM alumni were welcomed into the academy by JS Endowed Department Chair William W. Predebon. 

“This year’s inductees have made a significant impact in their professions,” said Predebon. “They include alumni who have risen to the top levels of major corporations, professional societies and universities, and those who are successful entrepreneurs.”

Portraits and brief biographies of academy members are prominently displayed in the R. L. Smith ME-EM Building to serve as inspiration for future students.

The full ME-EM Academy now includes 88 members — less than 1 percent of all ME-EM alumni. 

“They indeed honor us through their accomplishments,” said Predebon. “It’s a fantastic leadership group.”

The Class of 2021 ME-EM Academy inductees are:

Brett R. Chouinard, BSME 1988
President and Chief Operating Officer — Altair Engineering Inc.

Brett R. Chouinard

As president and chief operating officer of Altair Engineering, Chouinard is responsible for worldwide sales, consulting, and field operations in 25 countries. His team supports users across diverse industries, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, defense, banking, and financial services.  

During his time at Altair, the company has become a market leader in the areas of physics-based simulation, high performance computing, optimization, and machine learning. Chouinard was a senior member of the executive team that executed Altair’s successful IPO in 2017. 

He began his career at General Electric Aircraft Engines as a structural engineer on the GE90 high bypass commercial engine program—at the time, the largest commercial aircraft engine in the world. 

Chouinard is a member of the ME-EM External Advisory Board, and supports STEM education in the community as a trustee of the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum and Leslie Science and Nature Center. 

M. Margaret Cobb, BSME 1983
President — The Cobb Foundation, NW

M. Margaret Cobb

Early in her career after earning her degree at Michigan Tech, Cobb worked as a mechanical engineer in a number of industries: Wisconsin Electric Power and Snohomish County PUD; the Boeing Company, Sundstrand Data Control, then Microsoft and Apple.

During her 20-plus years at Microsoft, Cobb worked on Windows, Xbox, and PC design in a variety of leadership roles. She led a multi-billion-dollar technical sales/engineering team responsible for designing, engineering and producing PCs worldwide, and received Microsoft’s annual Circle of Excellence award for her exceptional work with independent software vendors. 

As a recipient of Michigan Tech’s Board of Control scholarship, Cobb has made it a career mission to give back to the community, serving on the board of directors for numerous organizations including The Epilepsy Foundation Northwest, and Minds Matter Seattle—a non-profit dedicated to helping low-income high school students get into college. 

Cobb and her family established The Cobb Foundation Northwest, dedicated to helping low-income students to ensure all have access to life-changing educational experiences not provided by public schools, including music lessons, book clubs, athletic lessons, robotic workshops, and more.

Juan Dalla Rizza, PE, BSME 1971
President & Principal Engineer — Dalla-Rizza & Associates Consulting Engineers, Inc.

Juan Dalla Rizza

Dalla Rizza was born in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1962, as part of the Catholic Relief Program known as Peter Pan. He grew up in Marquette, Michigan.

After earning his degree at Michigan Tech, Dalla Rizza moved to Miami in order to be closer to family members. He started work for H.J. Ross, a consulting engineering firm. In 1978 he obtained registration as a Professional Engineer. A few years later, he started his own firm.

Dalla Rizza & Associates today is a Miami-based engineering firm serving the commercial construction industry, involved in engineering projects throughout Florida and the Southeast. Projects include The Biltmore Hotel and Convention Center, and The Colonnade Complex (both in Coral Gables), The Freedom Tower in Miami, and The King and Prince Hotel Complex, Phase I, II, III in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Rizza’s firm offers engineering services to large management companies, as well, based on a solid relationship that spans many years. 

Dr. Kimberly L. Foster, BSME 1994
Dean, School of Science & Engineering — Tulane University 

Kimberly L. Foster

Foster was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent her formative years growing up in Houghton, Michigan. While earning her BSME degree at Michigan Tech, she worked as a research assistant in the lab of MSE professor Walt Milligan, and as a tutor in the Mechanics Learning Center, where she realized how much she enjoyed teaching. 

Foster continued her education at Cornell, earning a PhD in Theoretical & Applied Mechanics, becoming fascinated by microelectromechanical systems. From there she headed to UC Santa Barbara, where she became full professor and chair of her department. In 2018 Foster became Dean of the School of Science & Engineering at Tulane University.

Foster is active in her professional community as a member of the Transducer Research Foundation, and fellow of ASME. She holds 12 US patents. She is married to John Foster, a physicist turned serial entrepreneur. Their co-inventions led to the development of Owl Biomedical, an exclusive cell sorting MEMS technology for cell therapy, cancer diagnostics and basic research.

Pamela Rogers Klyn, BSME 1993
Senior Vice President, Global Product Organization — Whirlpool Corporation

Pamela Rogers Klyn

Klyn joined Whirlpool soon after graduating from MIchigan Tech, with advancing roles in engineering, product development, global innovation, and marketing. She now leads all of the Washer, Dryer and Commercial Laundry platforms globally.

As the first female technology director for Whirlpool Corporation, Klyn is passionate about mentoring other women at the company, providing them with the tools, confidence and encouragement to pursue roles at the highest levels of the organization.

Klyn serves on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and as co-leader of the Whirlpool United Way Campaign in support of her local community. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Patrick Industries, a publicly traded company serving the RV, Marine, and Industrial and Manufactured Housing industries.

Klyn earned an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an Executive MBA from Bowling Green State University. She serves as a member of Michigan Tech’s ME-EM External Advisory Board and also serves on Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering External Advisory Board.

Karl E. LaPeer, BSME 1985
Partner — Peninsula Capital Partners, LLC 

Karl E. LaPeer

LaPeer is a partner at Peninsula Capital Partners, LLC, a Detroit-based $1.9 billion private equity firm. In 1995 LaPeer and his partners began with $20 million in capital and they have since invested over $1.5 billion in more than 140 small and mid-sized companies with operations in North America and throughout the world.

LaPeer began his career at Fanuc Robotics serving in engineering and operations roles both in the U.S. and Europe, then earned an MBA from the University of Michigan. He has served on dozens of small business boards of directors, helping these businesses succeed. He is an ordained pastor and evangelist.

LaPeer met his wife, Christine (BSMT, 1985) on their second day of classes at Michigan Tech. Together they were recipients of the 2019 Michigan Tech Humanitarian Award. 

The LaPeer family volunteers around the world. They have opened four orphanages in India, installed water wells and large water purification systems in Peru, Nicaragua, and Ghana, served in medical clinics and provided humanitarian aid in Central and South America, and served as leaders of missions teams large and small. 

Robert S. Messina, BSME 1993
Senior Vice President, Global Product Development and Product Management — JLG Industries, Inc.

Robert S. Messina

At JLG Industries, Oshkosh Corporation’s Access Equipment segment, Messina is responsible for a team of engineers and product strategists in R&D facilities located in North America, Europe, China and India. His team develops world class mobile elevating work platforms, telescopic material handlers and towing and recovery equipment, focused on bringing operators home safely from work each day.  

Messina has served in various leadership roles across Oshkosh, including technology development in electrification, mobility systems, autonomy, active safety and connected products. During his tenure in Oshkosh Defense, he was instrumental in multiple strategic programs.

Messina sponsors STEM-related activities to foster tomorrow’s engineering community. He serves on the Oshkosh Corporation Foundation, the Oshkosh Venture Capital Investment Committee, and the advisory board for Construction Robotics.

Messina started his career at Chrysler soon after graduating from Michigan Tech, with roles in the design, development, and calibration of rear-wheel drive automatic transmissions and torque converters, including launching new production facilities. He earned an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Oakland University.

Douglas L. Parks, BSME 1984
Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing & Supply Chain — General Motors Company

Douglas L. Parks

Parks began his career with GM as a tooling engineer soon upon graduation from Michigan Tech. He earned an MBA from the University of Michigan through the GM Fellowship Program.

Parks has served in numerous positions at GM. As Global Chief Engineer for Electric Cars, he was in charge of the Chevy Volt, among others. He was also Global Vehicle Chief Engineer for GM’s compact vehicles. 

As GM’s Vice President of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs, Parks launched Super Cruise, the industry’s first hands-free driving technology for compatible highways on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. He was the leader of several engineering teams at GM that achieved major milestones in a few years’ time: one was the team for the Cruise AV, a production-intent autonomous vehicle built from the ground up. Without driver controls, it has all the hardware necessary to operate safely on its own. Another team led by Parks produced three self-driving test vehicle generations in approximately 16 months. Yet another developed GM’s all-new electric vehicle architecture, increasing the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s range to 259 miles per gallon with improvements in battery chemistry.

Gordon W. Renn, BSME 1982
President, CEO & Chairman — Fox Converting, Inc. and Accuracy Machine, LLC / Chairman – Loyality, Inc.

Gordon W. Renn

Renn is an entrepreneur who has made a career of pursuing and developing higher risk opportunities. Agile and effective loss control management is one of his key strengths.

He is a multiple small business owner. One of his companies, Fox Converting, Inc. manufactures FDA Class II Medical Devices, certified safe quality food packaging, and antiviral coated paper for consumer products. Another, Accuracy Pharmaceutical Machine, LLC, manufactures ultra clean, ultra-precise tooling for the pharmaceutical industry, to assist the industry to ultimately produce cures beyond conventional treatments. Loyality, Inc. affordably and effectively delivers sophisticated IT solutions typically beyond the budget of small and medium sized businesses. It also assists in large, enterprise company niches.

Renn has served higher education as a board member, donor, advisor, consultant and speaker at Michigan Tech and the University of Wisconsin Platteville. His community leadership is centered on youth organizations, including a Christian shelter serving homeless children and their families, a favorite of Renn’s for over 30 years. 

Renn enjoys time with his family, the great outdoors, a dog that regularly rescues him, and working with great people pursuing excellence. Renn credits his loving parents for guiding him to engineering and Michigan Tech. 

Dr. Sheryl A. Sorby, MSEM 1986, PhD ME-EM 1991

Sheryl A. Sorby

Professor of Engineering Education — University of Cincinnati / President of American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

Sorby graduated from Hastings High School in downstate Michigan, but spent every summer in the Upper Peninsula with her family. Just a few hours away was Michigan Tech, where Sorby earned a BS in Civil Engineering, an MS in Engineering Mechanics, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

Sorby became a longtime faculty member at Michigan Tech: associate dean of engineering for academic programs and founding chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, responsible for the development and delivery of the first-year engineering program, a legacy effort that remains in support of first-year engineering students to this day. 

At the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC, Sorby served as program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education and then became a Fulbright Scholar, conducting research at the Dublin Institute of Technology. 

In 1993 Sorby received her first grant to develop a course for helping engineering students develop their 3-D spatial skills—the abilities to translate 2-D objects to 3-D and to mentally rotate 3-D objects. She has received numerous follow-up grants to further this work, over $13 million. To advance spatial research and training worldwide, Sorby founded the nonprofit Higher Education Services (HES), an educational consulting firm.

Sorby is current President of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). She is a Fellow of ASEE, and also received the Society’s Sharon Keillor award as an outstanding female engineering educator. In 2005 she received the Betty Vetter award for Research on Women in Engineering through the Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network (WEPAN) for her work in improving the 3-D spatial skills of engineering students. She has published more than 150 papers in journals and conference proceedings and is the author of seven textbooks.

Christopher K. Yakes, BSME 1995
Vice President, Global Engineering — Oshkosh Corporation

Christopher K. Yakes

At Oshkosh Corporation, Yakes designs and manufactures products that build, serve and protect communities around the world. 

He is responsible for matrix teams that support the company with wide subject matter expertise in advanced controls, data analytics, telematics, autonomy and active safety, advanced suspensions, powertrains, material and processes, and numerous other advanced efforts, tools and techniques. 

Yakes holds 29 patents related to hybrid systems, autonomous vehicles, vehicle architectures and components. He was part of the Oshkosh team awarded the SAE/Magnus Hendrickson Innovation Award in 2018.

Yakes led the development and capture efforts of various key production and research programs: MRAP All-terrain Vehicles (MATV), Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), various DARPA activities, the Oshkosh® TerraMax™ unmanned ground vehicle system, a variety of Department of Defense and Department of Energy Research and Development programs, and most recently was instrumental in providing strategic direction on the USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle.

Prior to his work at Oshkosh Corporation, he was a component development engineer for various engines and their components at Detroit Diesel Corporation.

Yakes was instrumental in the implementation of the STEM program at Oshkosh, actively involved with mentoring the next generation of engineers and problem solvers within Oshkosh.