Tag: MMET

New Funding for MMET Labs

MMET: Learn. Do. Succeed.

MMET Lecturer Kevin Johnson and MMET Department Chair John Irwin teamed up to raise funds to enhance fluid power offerings in the MMET department, with great success.

Amatrol

The two were awarded generous grants from the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) and from the Parker-Hannifin Foundation to develop curriculum and provide hydraulic equipment to support the department’s Parker Motion and Control Laboratory at Michigan Tech.

Amatrol

There are two fluid power courses available for MET and/or Mechatronics students at Michigan Tech. Those are MET4377 – Applied Fluid Power, and MET4378 – Advanced Hydraulics: Electro- hydraulic Components & Systems. “The second course incorporates Industry 4.0 concepts used in automated manufacturing,” notes Irwin.

“There is an emphasis in the MMET department to incorporate Industry 4.0 concepts in the curriculum,” he adds.

MMET’s new Parker-Hannafin hydraulic training equipment

“The MMET department is cooperating with Michigan Tech’s College of Computing to teach MS Mechatronics courses, utilizing the Electrical Engineering Technology (EET ) PLC and Robotics lab. Another example of this synergistic partnership is the delivery of a new Career and Technical Education course in Mechatronics offered by the MMET department for high school juniors and seniors. Implementation of this program included generous start-up funding from the Copper Country Intermediate School system to provide equipment for the high school students—both an Amatrol Skill Boss unit and additional Parker-Hannifin basic and advanced hydraulic training equipment.

The new Amatrol Skill Boss

In addition, the MMET department has invested in additional Amatrol pneumatic training equipment to supplement the current capabilities in power systems.

“The MMET department is clearly the leader on the Michigan Tech campus for fluid power.” 

John Irwin


MMET Fall 2020 Senior Projects at Michigan Tech

Senior Design is thriving in the MMET department at Michigan Tech

“We’re very excited about two sponsored projects that are underway this fall 2020,” says John Irwin, chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech.

“Members of our MMET Industrial Advisory Board from three different companies supported projects, providing two student groups with a scope of work to research solutions, develop alternatives to design and then manufacture prototypes of those solutions. We are very thankful for the support of Kohler, Balluff and Pettibone for the sponsorship of the fall 2020 projects.”

Be sure to check out the student presentation videos for the Balluff/Pettibone project and the Kohler project.

“The MMET Machine Shop remains extremely busy delivering courses that utilize the machine shop facility, generating parts and designs for research projects, machining and fabrication for enterprise projects, and of course the fabrication of MET senior capstone projects,” adds Irwin.

One of the recent additions to the machine shop are two CNC Tormach Lathes with an 8-station turret, and a full enclosure with coolant nozzle.

MET students are using the new equipment to develop a Tailstock redesign as a capstone senior project. The project started last spring. Check out their senior design video for full details

Read about previous MMET senior projects in greater detail here.


New Publications by Michigan Tech MMET Faculty

Dr. Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Senior Lecturer, co-authored a work-in-progress paper “Understanding First-Year Engineering Student Definitions of Engineering Disciplines” and also published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings. Learn more here.

Lecturer Kevin Johnson and John Irwin, Professor/Chair, co-authored two papers published and presented at the ATMAE and IAJC Virtual Joint Conference.

Kevin Johnson

The first paper, “Program Improvement Utilizing the SME CMfgT and NCEES FE Exam Results” and the second “Preparation of MET Students for the NCEES FE Exam – Lessons Learned” both present MET student exit exam results from over the past 10-15 years. Many MET students pass the very rigorous Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam qualifying them in most states to eventually become certified as Professional Engineers. Learn more here.

Dr. Irwin along with Assistant Professor David Labyak authored a paper published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings entitled “FEA Taught the Industry Way.” The paper shared result from a survey they conducted of students and industry. The survey sought input on methods used to teach FEA to develop skills for accurate analysis, physical testing of parts, and reporting results in a format required by industry professionals. Read the ASEE paper here.


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

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

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

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

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

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

George Ochieze

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

Chinmay Kondekar

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

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

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

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


Michigan Tech Receives State-of-the-Art Software from Petroleum Experts Limited

MOVE, a geologic modeling software, provides a full digital environment for best practice structural modeling to reduce risk and uncertainty in geological models.

Petroleum Experts Limited has donated the equivalent of $2,236,604.75 to Michigan Technological University. The donation has come in the form of 10 sets of the MOVE suite of programs to be used for education and academic research at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Petroleum Experts, established in 1990, develops and commercializes petroleum engineering software for the oil industry. Petroleum Experts offers educational licenses to accredited universities that provide geology and/or petroleum engineering related Master and Ph.D. courses.

The state-of-the-art software will be installed in a computer laboratory at GMES, where it will be used in the Structural Geology course (GE3050), required for department undergraduate majors, and in graduate-level courses in structural geology. In addition, the MOVE suite will be utilized in academic non-commercial research on tectonics and structural geology, such as the mapping of the Keweenaw Fault and other complex structural systems in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“The researchers and students at GMES greatly appreciate this generous donation from Petroleum Experts,” says Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.


Michigan Tech Announces New Online Graduate Certificates in Engineering

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Ready to propel your career forward in 2021? Michigan Technological University’s College of Engineering now offers 16 new online graduate certificate programs. Interested in taking a course soon? Spring 2021 instruction begins on Monday, January 11.

“One of our goals at Michigan Tech has been to expand online learning opportunities for engineers, to help them meet new challenges and opportunities with stronger knowledge and skills,” says Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering.

The certificates are offered by four departments within the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, Biomedical Engineering, and Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. Several more engineering departments will join the effort in the near future.

“We have many more certificates in the works,” Callahan says. “We expect to have a total of 30 new online graduate certificates—including more than 90 courses online—by Fall 2021.

Dean Janet Callahan stands in front of the summer gardens on campus at Michigan Tech
Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Students can sign up for a single course without committing to a certificate. “The courses are accessible and flexible to accommodate a busy schedule,” Callahan explains.

“These are the same robust courses taken by our doctorate and masters candidates, taught directly by highly regarded faculty, with outstanding opportunities to create connections,” she adds. “We invite working professionals to join these courses, and bring their own experiences to bear, as well as their challenges as part of the discussion.”

All courses will be taught online—many of them synchronously offered—with regularly-scheduled class meeting times. 

Obtaining certification from Michigan Tech in sought-after industry skills is a great way to accelerate and advance a career in technology, Callahan says. Students take a cluster of three courses to earn a certificate. “It’s a three-step approach for a deeper dive into the subject area that results in a credential.” 

Michigan Tech was founded in 1885. The University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and widely respected by fast-paced industries, including automotive development, infrastructure, manufacturing, and aerospace. The College of Engineering fosters excellence in education and research, with 17 undergraduate and 29 graduate engineering programs across nine departments.


Work full time or live far from campus? You can still learn from the world-class engineering faculty at Michigan Tech.

Michigan Tech faculty are accessible, offering an open door learning experience for students.

“We have a strong, collegial learning community, both online and on campus,” notes Callahan. “We’re also known for tenacity. Our faculty and graduates know how to deliver and confidently lean into any challenge.”

Michigan Tech’s reputation is based on those core strengths, Callahan says. “A certificate credential from Michigan Tech will be respected across many industries, particularly in the manufacturing sectors of the Midwest—and around the world. Michigan Tech engineering alumni are working in leadership positions across the United States and in 88 different countries.”

“Remember those ‘aha’ moments you had, back in your undergrad days, your backpack days, when things suddenly came together? It’s exciting, invigorating and fun to learn something new.”

Dean Janet Callahan, Michigan Tech


“Registration doesn’t take long,” she adds. “We have simplified the graduate application process for working professionals. You can apply online for free.”

Interested in taking a course soon? Spring 2021 instruction begins on Monday, January 11.

Need more time to plan? Consider Fall 2021. Instruction begins on Monday, August 30, 2021.

New! Michigan Tech online graduate engineering certificates and courses, with more to come!

  • Aerodynamics
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • Dynamic Systems
  • Geoinformatics
  • Medical Devices and Technologies
  • Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Quality Engineering
  • Resilient Water Infrastructure
  • Structural Engineering: Advanced Analysis
  • Structural Engineering: Bridge Analysis and Design
  • Structural Engineering: Building Design
  • Structural Engineering: Hazard Analysis
  • Structural Engineering: Timber Building Design
  • Pavement Design & Construction
  • Vehicle Dynamics
  • Water Resources Modeling

Learn about all graduate programs at Michigan Tech, both online and on campus, at mtu.edu/gradschool.


Raymond Shaw: Lake Superior in My Driveway—Lake Effect Snow in the Keweenaw

Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com

Raymond Shaw shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, December 7 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 12/7 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Raymond Shaw, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Director of the Atmospheric Sciences program at Michigan Tech.

Dr. Raymond Shaw is a Distinguished Professor of Physics at Michigan Tech.

During Husky Bites, Prof. Shaw will describe the simple—and some of the not-so-simple—science of lake effect snow, and what makes the Keweenaw an ideal spot for epic snowfalls.

Also joining in, Will Cantrell, associate provost and dean of Michigan Tech’s graduate school. Dean Cantrell is also a professor of physics. His research focuses on atmospheric science, particularly on clouds. 

Lake effect snow bands, as seen from space. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

So how can it be clear and sunny in one place, while 5 miles away it’s snowing cats and dogs? Shaw is ready to explain during Husky Bites. He is a world expert on cloud physics, atmospheric turbulence, and ice nucleation. 

“Snow itself doesn’t just materialize out of thin air,” Shaw says.  “For a snowflake to form, first a particle of dust, a nucleus, is needed. Water molecules attach themselves to this particle and then freeze as they’re carried high in the atmosphere by winds.”

Photo Courtesy Michigan Tech Archives

“Yet, within a few hours, you basically purge the atmosphere of all those particles,” adds Shaw, “So how can it snow for days on end?” 

Clouds are an integral part of the Earth’s environment—providing the water we drink, cleaning the air we breathe, and influencing the climate in which we live. “We want to understand the clouds,” he says.

To study clouds, Shaw and his team of researchers sometimes go inside, using holography and an airplane lab, or by dropping a pendulum-type device from a helicopter. He’s also studied clouds on a mountain top, where the most valuable tool is patience. “It can be very frustrating seeing a cloud hover fifty feet above you, but when it descends and you’re inside the cloud it is definitely worth the wait.”

Luckily, Shaw, Cantrell, and other atmospheric science researchers at Michigan Tech don’t cross their fingers and hope for cooperative weather—the University’s innovative Pi Cloud Chamber allows them to head into the lab and make their own.

“This unique chamber is used for investigating aerosol and cloud processes relevant to weather and climate. To make a cloud, the environment has to have a relative humidity above 100 percent,” Shaw explains. 

Michigan Tech on first day of Career Fair 2013.

“In the lab that’s a tricky thing to achieve because water condenses on any available surface. The MTU Pi cloud chamber gets around that by generating clouds through turbulent mixing,” he says.

“The Pi cloud chamber allows us to study a wide variety of research questions,” adds Shaw, “For example, how do clouds respond to clean versus polluted conditions?” 

And for us, here in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, home of Michigan Tech, it helps answer one of our most vexing questions: “How does Lake Superior end up in my driveway?

“In nature you take what the cloud gives you,” Shaw says. “With the cloud chamber you create the cloud you need.

After earning his PhD at Penn State, Shaw was a postdoc research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. He joined the faculty at Michigan Tech and soon earned a National Science Foundation CAREER award and then a NASA New Investigator Program award. As part of his research he collaborates with NCAR and international scientists at the Institute for Tropospheric Research in Leipzig, Germany, Peking University in Beijing, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self Organization in Göttingen, Germany.

While Shaw finds research personally rewarding, there is ultimately a higher purpose. “Of course, the ultimate hope is that what my students, colleagues and I learn will somehow contribute to humanity, to our collective understanding and to our well being.”

Dr. Raymond Shaw. One of his favorite hobbies: snow biking!

Prof. Shaw, when did you first get into physics? What sparked your interest?

Physics captured my attention because it was possible to solve so many different types of problems with just a few simple truths. Physics is a good subject for someone with a poor memory!

How did you make the leap to atmospheric physics?

I remember earning my weather badge as a cub scout, and really disliking all the memorization of cloud types, like stratocumulus and cirrus. But I was fortunate to grow up around people who were interested in ideas rather than nomenclature, and eventually I became fascinated with what makes ice crystals grow in different shapes. I loved physics as an undergrad, and the ice crystal question was enough of a nudge to search for a graduate program in which I could combine physics with the atmosphere.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

I was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I’ve been living “down south” in the Keweenaw for over 20 years. My family and I love the snow… most of the time. Cross country skiing and snow biking are two of our favorite winter activities. 

Research is inspiring, nature is so profoundly beautiful and subtle, it’s a privilege to spend so much of my time trying to understand bits and pieces of it.

Raymond Shaw

Dean Cantrell is a member and former director of the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences Institute, which promotes research and education in interdisciplinary areas spanning Earth, its ecosystems, and intergalactic space. 

Dr. Will Cantrell is Michigan Tech’s associate provost and also dean of the Graduate School. “I always tell my students, ‘don’t do what I did.'” See the full details below!

As Dean of the Graduate School, Cantrell emphasizes that graduate education at Michigan Tech is a unique combination of the questions “Why?” and “How?” with theory and practice. 

“That’s a powerful combination, and our students are valued by industry and by other academic institutions because of it,” he said.

Dean Cantrell, how did you first get into Physics, and then Atmospheric Science?

When I started my undergraduate studies, I intended to get degrees in Physics and engineering. (I hadn’t decided just what kind of engineer yet.) But I started taking Physics classes first and decided to just do that. When I graduated, I didn’t want to do any of the “traditional” routes like solid state or atomic and molecular, so I branched off into Atmospheric Science.

“I always tell my students, ‘don’t do what I did.’ I was young, single, with no dependents, so I thought, why not go to Alaska? Though, actually, it turned out to be a very good decision—and it really prepped me for Michigan Tech, too (we get a lot of snow here in Houghton each year).

I never had to shovel my roof in Fairbanks, but there were times when it would warm up to -20 degrees F and it actually felt warm. In Fairbanks, if it’s been -40 for a few weeks, and then it goes up to -20—when you go outside, you undo the top button on your coat!”

Dr. Cantrell has always loved teaching and outreach. “Will does not just cover the material, but to tries hard to inspire his students,” said fellow Physics professor, Alex Kostinski. “I am reminded of an old adage: ‘A student’s mind is not a goose to be stuffed, but a torch to be ignited’.”

Hometown and Hobbies?

I grew up on a small farm just outside of Hendersonville Tennessee. I’ve lived in St. Louis Missouri; Fairbanks Alaska; Seattle, Washington; Bloomington Indiana; and Houghton, Michigan. In the summer, I fly fish and occasionally tie some of my own flies.

Read more:

Six Questions with Distinguished Professors Raymond Shaw

Rainmakers: The Turbulent Formation of Cloud Droplets

Shaw Wins Research Award

Why it Snows so Much in the Frozen North

Teamwork: New Graduate school Dean Begins Duties

Watch more:

“The Pi Chamber is so named because it has an inner, working volume of 3.14 m3 (when we select a cylindrical wall boundary, with a diameter of 2 m and a height of 1 m). It also happened to be delivered to MTU on March 14, pi day, but that was a coincidence.”


Pengfei Xue: Severe to Extreme: Modeling Climate Change and Coastal Hazards on the Great Lakes

Great Lakes meteotsunami: These photos of the Ludington North Breakwater on Lake Michigan were taken just 10 minutes apart on Friday, April 13, 2018. Photo by Todd and Brad Reed Photography, featured on MLive.com.

Pengfei Xue shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 30 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/30 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Civil and Environmental Associate Professor Pengfei Xue, Director of the Numerical Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

Associate Professor Pengfei Xue on campus at Michigan Tech

Catch a glimpse of the future during his session, “Severe to Extreme: Modeling Climate Change and Coastal Hazards on the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes are more like inland seas. From the cold depths of Lake Superior fisheries to the shallow algae blooms of Lake Erie, the bodies of water differ greatly from one another. Yet they are all part of one climate system. Together they contain one-fifth of the world’s surface freshwater.

Xue uses mathematical modeling to analyze and predict the short-term and long-term responses of that system to climate stressors. During Husky Bites, he’ll introduce the regional earth-system model he uses to understand and predict how the Great Lakes system responds to weather extremes and coastal hazards. 

Joining in as co-host for Husky Bites is Guy Meadows, who collaborates with Prof. Xue on the work.

We’ll get to see three modeled visualizations of the same storm passing by on Lake Superior. In each scenario, they’ll show and explain what could happen along the coast.

“The Great Lakes exert a strong influence on the physical, ecological, economic, and cultural environment in the region, across the nation, and internationally,” says Xue. “Human activities expose the system to multiple stressors. Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities,” he adds.

“This is a simulation of a numerical tracer released from the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio. It shows how a river plume goes into Lake Erie and mixes with the lake water,” says Dr. Pengfei Xue.


“In my lab, we analyze and predict short-term events. We also project the long-term influence of climate change on the Great Lakes ecosystem. Our goal is to help inform decision-making and management. One of the important concepts in climate change, in addition to knowing the warming trend, is understanding that extreme events become more severe,” Xue says. “That is both a challenge and an important focus in regional climate modeling.”
It takes a supercomputer to run the calculations. Xue uses Superior, the supercomputer housed in the Great Lakes Research Center, to build high-fidelity models and detailed simulations for a region where more than 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for water and other resources. 

“I do the science part, but I also want to apply my findings.”

Pengfei Xue

With his next generation numerical predictive models for the Great Lakes, Xue seeks answers to many “what-if” questions. “How will projected future climate change impact water levels, wave energy, sediment transport and shoreline damage?”

He also looks at short-term, episodic events like algal blooms and weather patterns.

His current research focuses on an Integrated Regional Earth System Model (IRESM, for short) for the Great Lakes region. The model consists of coupled atmosphere, lake, ice, wave, sediment, land surface, and biological components, and includes data assimilation and machine learning techniques. 

The bottom line: Xue seeks to better understand the processes in the Great Lakes and their impact on people.

Guy Meadows is Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. He joined Michigan Tech in June of 2012, to help establish the new GLRC. “This is a unique, amazing place. The future of Great Lakes research is based right here.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have Professor Xue at Michigan Tech and the Great Lakes Research Center,” says Professor Guy Meadows. “He has built very strong bridges both within the University and with our government research partners. Thanks to these partnerships, we have modeling of the Great Lakes running on Superior at a resolution not previously thought possible.

Meadows joined Michigan Tech in June of 2012, to help establish the new GLRC. “This is a unique, amazing place. The future of Great Lakes research is based right here.”

A bit more about Pengfei Xue

Prof. Xue’s modeling research experiences in other regions include Massachusetts Coastal Waters, Gulf of Maine, East China Sea, the Maritime Continent in Southeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf.

Prof. Xue recently joined Argonne National Lab as a joint appointee Scientist in the Environmental Science Division. His joint appointment will expand the already deep capabilities of both institutions. Michigan Tech’s GLRC Director Andrew Barnard agrees. “Dr. Xue’s collaborative work with Argonne will result in cutting-edge science and engineering solutions in predictive hydrodynamics.”

Pengfei Xue arrived at Michigan Tech from MIT in 2013. Note the bare walls. He skipped the ritual of decorating his new office at first, preferring instead to immerse himself in the Great Lakes.

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

I liked math when I was a little kid. I was very much influenced by my father. He was a high-school physics teacher and would often pose math- or physics-related questions to challenge me for fun.  Later when I was in college, I majored in mathematics and became very interested in how to apply math to helping answer some real-life questions. That’s how I got interested in numerical modeling and ended up what I am working on now.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

After finishing my doctoral study at UMASS-Dartmouth and post-doctoral work at MIT, I moved to Tech seven years ago. I live with my wife and two cute kids in Houghton. We enjoy spending time reading and playing together. You may see me up at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex working out or swimming, or out on the trails skiing—to relax and take my mind off work.

Read more:

Environmental Science Division of Argonne National Lab Welcomes Pengfei Xue

Weather the Storm: Improving Great Lakes Modeling

Guy Meadows: Shipwrecks and Underwater Robots

Where Modeling Meets Observations: Improving the Great Lakes Operational Forecast System

Video:

Building a Better Great Lakes Observational System


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marty Lagina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mari Vineyards

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

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

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

Dr. Bill Predebon

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

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

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


Q&A with Gretchen Hein: Outstanding SWE Advisor at Michigan Tech

Could this be a future engineer exploring Dr. Gretchen Hein’s family farm?

In the words of Michigan Tech alumna Erin Murdoch, now an automation engineer at Kendall Electric: “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

Gretchen Hein is the recipient of a major award from the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. During ceremonies held online earlier this month on November 5, 2020, Hein was honored by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with the SWE Outstanding Advisor Award. 

Hein is a senior lecturer in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology and has served as the SWE Academic Advisor at Michigan Tech for the past 21 years. She teaches thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and first-year engineering courses. She joined the faculty after earning her PhD in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Gretchen Hein

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

When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a garbage collector because they let us ride through the neighborhood on the back of the truck. That’s also why I wanted to be a farmer—after haying, we were allowed to ride on top of the hay back to the barn. Later, when watching the Apollo Missions, I wanted to be an astronaut, riding on a spaceship. I said so at school, but it was the 1970’s. I was told by teachers and other adults, not my parents, that girls could not be astronauts. No woman had done that before. Being stubborn, I stuck with wanting to be an astronaut.

In high school, I took all the drafting classes my high school had to offer—mechanical and architectural drafting. I loved them. I wanted to be an architect. I read books on Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and IM Pei. During my senior year, my dad, a mechanical engineer, said I should look into mechanical engineering, so I did. It sounded like fun.

I applied to General Motors Institute (now, Kettering University) and interviewed at Allison Gas Turbine Division. Working in a plant that made helicopter engines felt a little like “astronaut” and “architect” combined. I was sold. I began working there two weeks after my high school graduation. After earning my degree in mechanical engineering, I stayed on as a project engineer until I left for graduate school.

Dr. Gretchen Hein, front and center, surrounded by students, family, colleagues and friends, just after receiving the 2020 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award from the Society of Women Engineers


How did you happen to become a SWE advisor?

I was asked to be the SWE advisor when Dr. Sheryl Sorby became the first chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, in 1999. I was new to teaching and unsure of the time commitment involved, so I talked with my colleague, MaryFran Desrochers, and we decided to be SWE co-advisors. We shared advising until 2005 when MaryFran left to spend more time with her family. She returned to campus when her girls were older and now works for Michigan Tech Career Services.

These days there are three SWE advisors: I am in the College of Engineering; MaryFran is our SWE liaison with Career Services, and Elizabeth Hoy at the Great Lakes Research Center helps us manage SWE finances. Our section counselor is alumna Britta Jost, New Product Introduction Manager at Caterpillar Inc. and member of Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae. I’ve always thought that the section was very strategic in choosing their advisors and counselor. We all work together well.

A cobblestone on campus at Michigan Tech shows the date Michigan Tech’s first SWE section was established on campus: 1976.


What do you know now, that you didn’t know then?

Over the past 20 years, my advising style has evolved and grown. At the beginning, I observed. As I learned what the section valued and where their interests were, I began to make suggestions. That’s how SWE’s annual Cider Pressing tradition began at my farm. Students wanted an event outside, and they wanted to meet my sheep, alpacas, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, bunnies, rats, geckos and bees. Now, it’s the most popular social fall event where over 60 SWE members and friends come, press cider and meet the animals.

Michigan Tech members started to become active nationally in SWE. As I watched them grow, I felt that I needed to join them. I learned, through the students, that we can grow, expand our skills, and contribute, even by “standing in the background.”

Great times! SWE’s Cider Pressing tradition takes place each year at Dr. Hein’s farm. This photo is from 2016.


Have things changed for women engineers since then? If so, how?

One of the reasons I chose Michigan Tech for my doctoral studies was because of the friendliness of the faculty and students. It is still a strong characteristic of Tech. The number of women students, along with faculty, has increased over the past 20 years. There are more opportunities and different areas of study in engineering now. As time has passed, people who were less accepting of differences have left, and those who are interested in diversity and inclusion have become leaders.

The grit and independence of our SWE members haven’t changed. The students are still people who enjoy working, collaborating and learning together.


What is the best part about being an advisor?

The students—hands down! And this includes our graduates. For example, at WE19, I saw Anne Maher (a former SWE section president and member). It was like one of those sappy movies where two people run towards each other. I was so excited to see her and meet her mother. I get the same feeling in the fall when I see our students return to campus. I love to hear how their summer went, where they worked, what they did and what they will be doing at Tech. I always try to attend our fall Ice Cream Social, where we all meet new members. They bring so much excitement to the organization. It’s great to learn where they went to high school and why they came to Tech.

Dr. Hein uses duck feet to help teach thermodynamics.

Your happiest time so far?

My happiest time is reconnecting. Every time I attend a SWE conference, I see so many of our graduates. Frequently, they recall “Duck Day” when I bring a duck into ENG3200, Thermodynamics/Fluid Mechanics. It’s a fun day because students get to pet, hold and see a duck. It’s a learning day because the arteries and veins in the ducks’ legs exchange heat to help regulate the duck’s body temperature.

SWE section members celebrate with Dr. Gretchen Hein at the news of her SWE Outstanding Advisor Award.

What motivates you?

The students make Michigan Tech. They motivate me. Like most people with doctorates, I had taken no classes on how to help others learn. My goal was to create a classroom environment that encouraged learning and discussion. At first, I did not succeed, but I really wanted to be the type of instructor where students came to class, enjoyed the class and learned—probably in that order. I kept talking with the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Michigan Tech. I was one of the first instructors to use online videos and blended learning. My students had told me that they were willing to learn material outside of class if we worked through more problems in class, so I learned how to make my course more efficient, to gain that extra time. I began to tell stories in class about my family, my industrial projects, TED talks—anything that would grab their interest and keep them laughing and thinking. I focused on how the course material could be applied to their careers; I invited former students to come talk about their careers in class. Last but not least, I related how much I struggled with Thermo when I studied it in college.

“Dr. Hein is supportive of her students and does her best to ensure each of us have all the tools and resources to flourish, both academically and professionally. She teaches valuable life skills for navigating the professional world as a female engineer, and serves as an exemplary role model.”

Erin Murdoch ’17

Your advice for future engineers?

For me, this question is personal. My son will be graduating in the spring with a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech.

My advice is this: Find what you enjoy and do it, but realize that there will be times when the job is not exciting or that the challenges seem insurmountable. When visiting companies and during the interview process, see if you can visualize working with the people and in that environment. Each company has its own personality and so do you. You want these to mesh well. Figure out what type of community you’re happy in. It’s much easier to go to work when you like where you’re at. Use your contacts and resources.

I encourage everyone to keep learning and exploring, both at work and personally. The great thing is that sometimes growth in one area results in growth in another.

What do you want others to know about Michigan Tech’s SWE section?

The SWE section at Michigan Tech values outreach. And their commitment to SWE continues long after they graduate. Many are involved in their professional section and at the national level.

Members of the local SWE section are holding a thank you letter-writing campaign to show Dr. Hein appreciation for all of the hard work she has put in to help it succeed, and to congratulate her on her award. Send your letters to us here, at this address.