Tag: MSE

Materials Science and Engineering

Karl (’85 BSME) and Christine LaPeer (’85 BSMT) to Receive Humanitarian Award

Karl and Christine LaPeer, photo taken at the son's recent wedding standing in front of a waterfall
Karl and Chris LaPeer

Karl and Christine (Blood) LaPeer practice their humanitarian efforts at Michigan Tech, funding seven, four-year scholarships—and also around the world. The LaPeers are both 1985 Michigan Tech graduates, Karl with a BSME degree, and Christine with a BSMT degree. Michigan Tech’s Alumni Association will present them with the University’s Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Alumni Reunion on August 2.

The Michigan Tech Humanitarian Award is presented to those alumni and friends who, through their outstanding involvement and dedication, have made a significant contribution of volunteer leadership or service which has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

During his time at Tech, Karl vividly remembers the second day of classes as his most memorable, saying “I met my future bride (now wife of 32 years) on the second day of classes in a calculus class. I would have to say that was the best thing that ever happened to me at Michigan Tech.”

After graduation, Karl joined Fanuc Robotics to design industrial robots for the automotive industry. He returned to his studies, in business this time, at the University of Michigan where he became a Henry Ford Scholar, graduated first in his class, and earned his MBA in 1993. After a few years working in the business world, Karl helped start Peninsula Capital Partners, an investment company, where he works to this day. His diverse background in engineering and business allows him to assess both the financial and operational aspects of an investment opportunity. He is a licensed professional engineer, speaks fluent German, and is a member of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, a global association of investment professionals. He is also an active member in his church and frequently serves as a lay minister.

Over the course of the last decade Karl and Chris have helped fund one of the largest mission movements in history, and funded ministries ranging from Christian bands to missionaries and evangelists.

Between 2013 and 2014, the LaPeers and their children, working through the Angel House initiative, funded the building of three Angel House Orphanages (25 children each) and two freshwater wells in India. Angel House is a focused rescue initiative for abandoned orphans and trafficking victims throughout India and Southeast Asia. In May 2013 Karl, Chris, and their daughter, Elayna, dedicated an orphanage. In December 2013 their daughter, Heather, dedicated an orphanage and village well; in December of 2014 their son, Nate, dedicated another orphanage and village well.

The LaPeers served as part of the 1Nation1Day (1N1D) 2015 mission outreach in the Dominican Republic as part of a team of over 2,000 foreign aid workers providing pairs of shoes to children, distributing meals, training business leaders, and providing clean water. During this time Chris also worked in medical clinics around the country treating patients for free, while Karl and their daughter Elayna led the campaign’s University Forum program where 5,600 university students were empowered in 38 forums led by 33 business leaders from around the world.

In Nicaragua in 2017 (1N1D) Karl and Chris were part of a team of 2,800 foreign aid workers in which 8,941 people were treated for free at eight medical clinics, 270,000 meals were distributed, 438 small homes were built, 1,220 business leaders were trained, 16,000 people were provided with clean water, over 100,000 primary school students were given hope in school assemblies, 6,111 women were empowered at conferences, and 3,600 attended pastor conferences. Karl and Chris also headed the 1Nation1Day team in the department (state) of Boaco.

Most recently, the LaPeers traveled to Peru for 1N1D Un Solo Peru 2019, joining the team in Tarapoto, in the Amazon Region of Peru. They co-led the state, working with the 150 foreign missionaries. Chris ran a medical clinic with over 30 medical professionals that treated, at no cost, nearly 1,500 patients in five days. Karl gave lectures at universities, spoke at leadership and business conferences, churches, press conferences, and also gave media interviews.

Their son, Nate (25), daughter-in-law Elizabeth (25), and two daughters, Heather (29) and Elayna (12) also made the trip. “They spent the week in the schools, helping kids understand that they are special and uniquely designed to make a difference in the world by a personal God,” says Karl. “Along with our coworkers, we helped fund two clean-water projects, as well—one in Tarapoto and one in Cusco—that are now providing clean, safe water to people who have never had a drink of safe water in their lives.”

Their goal now, as a family, says Karl, is to “dig deeper to reach more people with a message of hope, purpose, and eternitynot just on foreign mission trips, but each day where we live and work,” says Karl.

The LaPeers are already planning future trips. First, a return trip to India to visit the four orphanages and two water projects they dedicated five years ago. Next summer a trip to Los Angeles, California to join with 20,000 missionaries from around the world. “We’re also being tugged back to Tarapoto, in Peru, to do some follow-up work with business leaders, university students, and churches—and there is an invitation to visit both Cambodia and Pakistan with organizations we know.” Adds Karl: “We can’t see how we can do it all, but we’ll see.”


College of Engineering Welcomes New Faculty Staff, Students, and Alumni

The Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology maintains a machine shop with comprehensive facilities available to Michigan Tech students. The shop also offers machining and fabrication services for the university research community. Students and a faculty member examine a large drill in the machine shop.
The Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech, recently joined College of Engineering. MMET maintains a machine shop with comprehensive facilities available to Michigan Tech students. The shop also offers machining and fabrication services for the university research community.

As of July 1, the College of Engineering welcomes the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and advisory board members associated with the degree programs of Surveying Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Construction Management, and Integrated Geospatial Technology.

The surveying engineering and integrated geospatial technology programs join the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). The construction management program will be jointly administered by the School of Business and Economics and CEE.

The mechanical engineering technology (MET) program will be housed in a new department in the College of Engineering, which will be named the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET).

Dean of the College of Engineering Janet Callahan has appointed Materials Science and Engineering Professor Walt Milligan to serve as interim chair effective July 1. Professor John Irwin will continue to support the MET program as associate chair. The MMET main office will be in the former School of Technology office (on the fourth floor of the EERC). Staff members Pam Washuleski and Danise Jarvey will continue in their roles as Office Assistant and Director of Academic Services, respectively.

In addition to advising for MMET, Danise will take on a college-level role in support of study abroad for undergraduate majors in the College of Engineering, working to identify, promote, and support study abroad programs that fit seamlessly into students’ plans of study.


Outstanding Alumni and Friends to be Recognized at Alumni Reunion Dinner August 2019

Reunion DinnerEngineering alumni will be among those recognized at the Alumni Reunion Awards Dinner on campus August 2, 2019.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Distinguished in their careers before the age of 35; achieved a position or some distinction noteworthy for one so recently graduated

Outstanding Service

Significant contributions to the success of the Board of Directors and/or the University

Distinguished Alumni

Outstanding contributions in both their careers and to Michigan Tech

Humanitarian Award

Volunteer leadership or service that has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on or bring honor to their Alma Mater


Lift Bridge Wins Award, Snags Trailer⁠—Built to Last 

Portage Lake Lift Bridge is a double-deck, vertical lift bridge, the only one of its type in Michigan. Here shown with a blue sky and summer day in the background.
The monumental Portage Lake Lift Bridge—a double-deck, vertical lift bridge—is the only one of its type in Michigan.

The Portage Lake Bridge, or more commonly known as the Lift Bridge, was designated in May, 2019 as an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Michigan State Historic Civil Engineering Landmark of the Year. Built in 1959, the bridge provides a key role in connecting the Keweenaw’s local industries to the nation, and uses a first-of-its-kind intermediate lift span position. It also was an early example of accelerated bridge construction. 

The Lift Bridge is a double-deck vertical lift bridge⁠—the only one of its type in Michigan and uncommon nationwide. While the lower deck was originally used by trains; these days, snowmobiles roar through the lower deck in winter. This riveted steel bridge was built to support the Keweenaw’s copper mining and logging industries and to serve the nation’s need for copper and timber. So you might say, it’s built to carry heavy loads!

the Caterpillar motor in the boat Janet was in
One of two Caterpillar engines on Don’s boat.

I was invited one recent Friday to meet one of our civil engineering alumni from the class of ‘66, Donald R. Anderson. He was docked in Hancock, just east of the Lift Bridge, traveling with his son, up from Grand Haven. They were in town waiting for the extended family, to arrive and spend a few weeks together on the boat as they worked their way through the Apostle Islands area. We were chatting, taking a look at the engines, and enjoying some local cider when BAM! A very loud boom sounded from the Lift Bridge. We all turned to watch as a tandem trailer loaded with trailers pulled to a halt. Over the next hour, inspections of the rig, and bridge seemed to happen while we looked up from below with high-tech binoculars and speculated about the impact. We figured that being in tandem, one of the trailers rocked up just as the truck pulled through and snagged that edge a bit. The truck eventually pulled down and around and took time to do a safety check just behind the marina.

A section of the lift bridge is shown with a tandem trailer loaded with trailers inside
A tandem trailer loaded with trailers comes to a halt on the Lift Bridge

On my way home, pedaling across the bridge I stopped and took a few images. You can see how there is a bit of battered metal at the leading edge on the Houghton side. No easy way to tell what marks are new or old from down on the ground (and I am a metallurgist). My assessment⁠—that bridge was built to last. I bet it will still be in use for its 100th anniversary. They build things to last up here in the Keweenaw. And remember your metallurgy: steel can plastically deform and even strengthen as a result of the increased number of dislocations.

underside of Portage Lake Lift Bridge
Lift Bridge wear and tear 

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University, working with two recent civil engineering masters of science graduates Emma Beachy and Michael Prast, submitted the application of Lift Bridge for Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Award at both the state and national levels. While Lift Bridge has now won the state ASCE Landmark of the Year award, the jury’s still out on the national level award. You can read more about the Lift Bridge here.

Thank you Tess, Emma and Michael, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, for the 300 pages of historical content that supported the nomination.

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Center for Structural Durability at Michigan Tech

Mining Engineering: The Best of Both Worlds

Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.
Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.

After a 15-year break, Mining Engineering officially returns to Michigan Tech, with BS, MS, and PhD degree programs and cutting-edge research. Learn more online

Julie Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Michigan Tech in 2002. She knew early on that mining would enable her to work globally, but also return home someday to northern Minnesota and have a good career there, too. Turns out, she was right.

What fostered your own path to studying and working in mining?
Mining Engineering kind of landed in my lap. I knew I wanted to be an engineer of some type and that I wanted to work outdoors. Civil Engineering seemed like the most likely choice, but then I met Murray Gillis, a mining engineering instructor at Michigan Tech. Murray was at a local college fair and he sparked my curiosity, not just in Michigan Tech, but also in Mining Engineering. My campus visit, and spending the summer after high school working in a mine, sealed the deal!

Describe some challenges that you face in your work.
The biggest challenge is the general misunderstanding of the mining industry. Many people do not understand the amount of care that goes into extracting minerals for the conveniences and protections we as a society have come to expect. Mining considers the full lifecycle of the land, careful consideration of the environmental conditions prior to mining, efficient extraction of the minerals of interest, and thoughtful reclamation with the next generation of land use in mind. I have always thought a big part of my job is to ensure the general public understands the efforts taken in developing a mine.

What has changed the most in mining engineering over the course of your career?
The continuous evolution of technology in mine planning has been fun to watch. Operations are now utilizing drone technology and laser scanning to manage pit operations, blast efficiency, ore grading, and more. I had the opportunity to work with engineers early in my career who had the large map tables and boxes of colored pencils. Fast forward now to laser scanners, drones, remote equipment monitoring, and more!

What changes do you expect to see in the future of mining?
I expect to see the way we work in mining to evolve, and look to more flexible work arrangements that will bring in a more diverse workforce. The days where you must be at your 1950’s steel desk working from 6 am to 6 pm will evolve into the ability to work remotely. It will allow for a different type of operational accessibility while providing for better balance in life.

What is your most surprising experience as a mining engineer to date?
When I started down the journey to become a mining engineer, I envisioned working my way through an operation in a very technical role. Through the years, I found that my degree has allowed me to reinvent myself many times over.

I started my career with Caterpillar in a marketing position. It was completely unexpected, but Cat was looking for someone who could understand the equipment, understand the mining industry, and effectively communicate with clients. What a great job! I went on to enjoy many roles at Cleveland Cliffs iron mining operations, where I learned to be an engineer, manage operation crews in the pit, and had the great learning experience of working at a greenfield operation in Canada (with a language barrier!). When I decided to leave Cliffs, I discovered the contacts I had made, along with understanding of mining operations, positioned me well for a career in consulting. My time with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. working in business development for mining and heavy industry taught me how to assemble a team to help solve problem and deliver a successful project.  Then came my current role, with St. Louis County—a brand new position created to ensure that the vast mineral wealth held within the county was protected. The chance to define the job and lay out the mining and mineral strategy for the county was too good to pass up. St. Louis County holds world class iron, copper and nickel deposits, to name a few, and has a long mining history of over 130 years. As Mineral Development Specialist, I work closely with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and local mining and exploration companies and communities, to ensure we are responsibly moving mining forward for the benefit of the region and the Tax Forfeited Land Trust.

Why do you think it was important to reinstate the mining engineering degree program at Michigan Tech?
Michigan Tech was founded as a mining engineering school and the demand that was created in 1858 still holds true today. Michigan Tech is positioned strategically near two large mining districts with growing interest in mineral development. The need for qualified mining professionals to move these project forward is great. The alumni network is willing to support these students through their education to ensure they have the best start possible.

Why should a student enter the field of mining engineering now?
The need for skilled mining engineers that love our region and want to stay, work and raise a family is strong, while the nationwide and global demand continues to grow. Mining in not for the faint of heart, but if you can weather the storm it’s a fulfilling career with many ways to leverage a mining engineering degree.

What are the greatest rewards and challenges mining engineers face now, and will face in the future?
Mining engineers should be proud to know that they are part of the fabric that maintains our quality of life, helps to grow our food, provides the materials for our ever-expanding tech advances, and keeps our families safe. This role in our modern life is not well-understood, but it’s a very important role. The future has great potential to continue to move our industry into next levels of efficiency, safe production, beneficial reuse of waste streams—and maybe mining the moon! The stars are the limit!

What’s next in your career?
I look forward to continuing to explore the opportunity to manage the land for mineral development, while planning for beneficial reuse of the land and the residuals. The ability to make an impact in my backyard is exciting and I look forward to evolving the role and myself over the years.


Free Scientific Excursions at the Chassell Strawberry Festival on July 13

Michigan Tech Research Vessel Agassiz on Portage Canal in Houghton MI with children and adults aboard.
Michigan Tech Research Vessel Agassiz

How do scientists investigate the health of the Great Lakes? Why not come find out? Go on a free scientific excursion on the Agassiz, the Michigan Tech research vessel, in conjunction with the annual Strawberry Festival in Chassell Michigan, 12:30-6 pm, Saturday, July 13, departing at the Chassell Marina.

The public is invited to reserve a space by using this link or call the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach at: (906) 487-3341, or go to the Center’s webpage.  The public is also welcome to come to the Chassell Marina dock on Saturday from 12:30 to 5 pm, to get on the excursion list. Spaces go quickly. Each excursion has room for 18 participants. Half of the available spaces will be saved for onsite participants.

On each scientific excursion, Dr. Cory McDonald, a Michigan Tech scientist in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the Great Lakes Research Center, will show how data is collected on water clarity, temperature, and turbidity and explain what that tells us about the health of Lake Superior and Chassell Bay. Dr. McDonald will explain the link between land uses and the health of the Great Lakes.

Space is limited to 18 persons per excursion (children must be at least 7 years of age and accompanied by an adult). Life jackets are available for all passengers. All must wear closed toe shoes.

“Copper Country residents and visitors are encouraged to learn how scientists study the Great Lakes and which  measurements indicate a healthy lake,” explains Joan Chadde, director of the Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, who has coordinated this program as part of Strawberry Festival since 2006.

“These scientific excursions for the public have been extremely popular. Youth and adults enjoy the opportunity to interact with Great Lakes scientists and get their questions answered,” adds Chadde.

The event is funded by the GM Ride the Waves Program, which puts 600 Copper Country youth and adults on the water each year to learn about the health of the Great Lakes and Lake Superior, and to promote STEM careers. Financial support for the Agassiz at the Strawberry Festival is also provided by the Chassell Lions Club.

For information on Lake Superior Day festivities and the Agassiz in Copper Harbor on Sunday, July 21st, contact Lloyd Wescoat at lwescoat@mtu.edu  or call the Center at: (906) 487-3341. Center for Science& Environmental Outreach

Learn more here:

Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach
Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center
Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative


Assistant Dean Lawrence Sutter Named as a Fellow by ASTM International

Lawrence L. Sutter P.E., Assistant Dean of Research and External Relations, College of Engineering, Michigan Tech
Lawrence L. Sutter P.E., Assistant Dean of Research and External Relations, College of Engineering, Michigan Tech

ASTM International’s committee on concrete and concrete aggregates (C09) has presented its top annual award – the Award of Merit – to Lawrence L. Sutter P.E., assistant dean of research and external relations in the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. The prestigious award, which includes the accompanying title of fellow, is ASTM’s highest recognition for individual contributions to developing standards.

The committee honored Sutter’s meritorious service and respected technical expertise, outstanding leadership and exemplary professionalism, and strong commitment to the pursuit of standards development in the areas of research, petrography, and supplementary cementitious materials. The committee recognized him as being a valuable resource and advocate for the responsible use of sustainable materials in concrete mixtures and as a forward-thinking leader in integrating new and developing technologies into new and existing standards.

An ASTM International member since 2002, Sutter is also a member of the committees on cement (C01), manufactured masonry units (C15), and road and paving materials (D04). He has previously been honored with four Awards of Appreciation from the committee on concrete and concrete aggregates, as well as one from the committee on cement (C01).

In addition to ASTM International, Sutter is a fellow of the American Concrete Institute, and a member of the Transportation Research Board and the National Concrete Consortium. Read the full story here.


Guest Blog: Circumnavigating Lake Superior

Lake Superior. Photo credit: Nathan Fertig

In his guest blog, Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumnus Charles L. Hand ’62 tells the story of his journey around the largest freshwater lake, by surface area, in the world.

Chuck Hand stands at the waterfront on a low bluff
The author, Chuck Hand ’62

On September 10, 2018, via private automobile, I completed circumnavigating Lake Superior. It only took fifty-six years, a fascinating journey of over 1,300 miles. I made this adventure over five decades, in several cars, at numerous times, and with diverse friends and relatives. Come join me exploring this fascinating body of water.

The attraction of the immense Great Lakes is irresistible. During the first eighteen years of my life, I lived within thirty miles of Lake Erie in Tecumseh, in the southeastern corner of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Having a picnic on its shores and swimming in its crystal-clear cool waters was always a treat.

For the next fifteen years, I lived and worked within a mile of the shores, first of Lake Superior, then Lake Michigan. Witnessing gigantic freighters, called “lakers”, transporting their precious cargoes of iron ore, coal, and grain from Duluth at the western tip of Lake Superior to markets in eastern United States and the rest of the world, intrigued me. Riding the ferry carrying railroad cars, automobiles, and other passengers on a four-hour journey across Lake Michigan was a unique pleasure.

As a young lad, my first exposure to Lake Superior was with my parents while on vacation from our home in southeastern Michigan. We traveled across the Straits of Mackinac via car ferry to the Upper Peninsula cities of Sault Saint Marie, Marquette, Houghton, and Copper Harbor. Little did I know this initial excursion would lure me back again and again to the largest surface area freshwater lake in the world.

Vacationland, a car ferry in the Straits of Mackinac, going between Mackinac City and St. Ignace.

In my senior year of high school, I answered a Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Technological University) recruiter’s invitation. He convinced me to spend the next four years of my life at the snow-blanketed engineering monastery in Houghton. Not only was I studying and learning a profession, but was experiencing the Scandinavian heritage of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the death knell of the booming copper mining era, and the lake’s climatic effect as it creates gigantic snow packs.

Photo from the Daily Mining Gazette, August 1958 of a billboard in Houghton that says "Welcome to the Copper Country. You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth."
Photo from the Daily Mining Gazette, August 1958

After graduation in 1962, my chosen profession took me physically, although never emotionally, away from Lake Superior to Milwaukee, Chicago, and finally Southern California. I never forgot my college years in Houghton. Several times I returned to visit my alma mater, sometimes stopping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Agawa Canyon in Ontario, or witnessing the great bulk cargo lakers ply their way through the Soo Locks in the St. Mary’s River. The best way to view this mighty parade of ships is first hand, cruising the St. Mary’s River on the deck of an excursion boat being raised and lowered twenty-one feet between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Since 1957, the Straits of Mackinac could be crossed on one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, between the dunes.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior
Agawa Canyon, Ontario
Agawa Canyon, Ontario
The Indiana Harbor makes its way through the Poe Lock, Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie
Lit up at night is the Mackinac Bridge in the Northern Lights. Photo credit: Jason Gillman
Mackinac Bridge in the Northern Lights. Photo credit: Jason Gillman

Asking to identify my favorite spot is like asking which of my children I love the most, but I will try.

In 1997, while living in Southern California, an opportunity to complete another portion of the circumnavigation adventure occurred. I was selected as a member the staff of the Ninth Canadian National Jamboree, hosted by Scouts Canada. It was scheduled for Thunder Bay, Ontario, but where was Thunder Bay? After some research, I discovered that the city was 100 miles, by water, directly north of Houghton. During the early 1960s it had been two cities, Fort William and Port Arthur, the largest grain shipping ports in the world at that time. With fellow scouting friends, I flew to Minneapolis then carpooled to the Jamboree along the spectacular scenic northwest shore of the lake, by way of Duluth and Grand Portage. My task was to introduce the Scouts to the wonders of the Great Lakes and its commerce. Part of the introduction was boarding a docked laker. After the Jamboree, we ventured eastbound through the forested solitude of the lake’s far north shore, driving through Nipigon and Wawa to the the lake’s eastern tip. Upon reaching Sault Saint Marie, a second major portion of the circumnavigation was complete.

The mighty MV Wigeon tied up at the dock at dawn, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Thunder Bay Shipping
The MV Wigeon at dawn, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Thunder Bay Shipping
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada showing water, cliffs of rocks and green forest
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Joseph Gatto
Lake Nipigon, Ontario

The leg of the circumnavigation adventure between Duluth and Houghton still needed to be completed. During the summer of 2008, my beautiful wife Doris, a native of Milwaukee, and I decided to vacation in areas of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that neither she nor I had ever visited. Again, we flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and headed north. From Duluth at the western tip of Lake Superior with its international harbor, we turned east. After a stop to explore the archipelago called Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, my circumnavigation, upon reaching Houghton, was complete.

Apostle Islands Maritime Cliffs Wisconsin showing red orange cliffs, aqua blue green water, and trees growing from the cliff
Apostle Islands Maritime Cliffs, Wisconsin
first edition book cover of Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling, © 1941, renewed © 1969, Houghton Miffin showing an illustration of a Native American paddling a canoe in the aqua lake with a yellow variegated sky above.
Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling, © 1941, renewed © 1969, Houghton Miffin
“Our famous Canada goose,” photo credit: Municipality of Wawa

Asking to identify my favorite spot is like asking which of my children I love the most, but I will try. There is Houghton and Michigan Technological University, where four years of my life was spent launching a successful career in electrical power engineering. There is Sault Saint Marie and the gigantic Great Lake freighters carrying their cargos to the industrial centers of the United States and the world. There is Nipigon where the imaginary miniature toy canoe in the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea, started its epic journey through all five of the Great Lakes and on into the Saint Lawrence, crossing the Atlantic, culminating its journey along the shores of France. There is Wawa and their memorable, huge Canadian goose guarding the entrance to the city. For scenic beauty, both the north shore and the south shore are exquisitely picturesque, each in their own way.

But, Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton has to be my favorite spot since it had a major positive influence on my entire life. Someday, I hope to return to Lake Superior and complete a second circumnavigation, although this second trek will probably be completed in slightly less time.

Lake Nipigon, Ontario
Orange sunset over Lake Superior on Agawa Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Helena Jacoba
Agawa Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Helena Jacoba
Proton arc, a rare, red type of aurora, over lake Superior. As the name indicates, proton arcs are caused not by electrons but by more massive protons that bombard the Earth's atmosphere following an energetic event on the Sun. Image won second place in the 2015 NOAA Weather in Focus Photo Contest. Photo credit: Ken Williams
Proton arc, a rare type of aurora, over lake Superior, with the yellow city lights of Marquette, Michigan in the distance. Photo credit: Ken Williams
Michigan Technological University looking south over Portage Canal.

Keys to a Unique Nameplate

I’ve just received an amazing gift. A unique, foundry-casting of my name in brass. The Michigan Technological University foundry is one of the few remaining operational university metallurgical facilities where students can work to create 3D positive prints, stamp them into sand, and then pour (with eye protection, fireproof aprons and face shields, tongs, and gloves) orange-hot molten metal into the sand to create metal castings.

I’m near the end of my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. As background, it’s relevant to note that Michigan Tech was founded in 1885 to support the emerging copper and iron mining activities Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. Founded to train the future mining and metallurgical engineers, Michigan Tech through the years has established an incredibly strong reputation for training “can-do” engineers—many who know a bit about metallurgy! But even I was surprised when presented with a personalized nameplate for my office—cast in the MSE foundry using brass recovered from a cache of old university office keys!

My new nameplate.

The university had accumulated a large number of brass keys from locks that were long-ago decommissioned. Looking for an ultimate way to securely dispose of the keys, the university public safety department approached the foundry team to ask if they could be melted and destroyed using the foundry. “Of course,” they replied. Timing is always important. At about that same time, Materials Science and Engineering Chair Steve Kampe had asked the foundry team to make a nameplate for me. I was just starting my new job as Dean, and happened to have my own credentials as a metallurgical engineer. Over the next several weeks, a pattern was 3D printed and the key brass was compositionally modified to facilitate its use as a casting alloy—and the nameplate came to be.

Sam Dlugoss holds a version of the finished nameplate
Sam Dlugoss

The “Dean nameplate project” was led by Sam Dlugoss, a chemical engineering student hired as a co-op employee in the foundry. I am humbled each time I see it as I unlock my office door with my own brass key. I think about the hands of the graduate students, staff, and faculty that are represented in the keys that ultimately were melted into my nameplate—and how these dedicated and aspiring engineers and scientists carried their keys and opened their labs and offices each day for many years, to do the work that has established the reputation we now carry on at Michigan Tech.

Last week, students in the foundry created more nameplates, this time for our College of Engineering Advisory Board Members. In the photos below, the students are working with iron.

A dip type thermocouple probe is used to measure the temperature of the liquid iron before tapping the furnace.
A dip type thermocouple probe is used to measure the temperature of the liquid iron before tapping the furnace.
As the iron is tapped into the ladle, ferrosilicon inoculant is added to the liquid stream. The inoculant provides nucleation sites for creating the proper iron-graphite microstructure in the solidified gray cast iron metal.
As the metal is tapped into the ladle, ferrosilicon inoculant is added to the liquid stream. The inoculant provides nucleation sites for creating the proper iron-graphite microstructure in the solidified gray cast iron metal.
After tapping into the ladle is complete, some sparks fly as the inoculant reacts with the liquid iron.
After tapping into the ladle is complete, some sparks fly as the inoculant reacts with the liquid iron.
The pouring team fills the molds.
The pouring team fills the molds.
 The pouring basin is kept full so that the molten metal quickly fills the mold cavity.
The pouring basin is kept full so that the molten metal quickly fills the mold cavity.
As the pouring team fills the 3rd mold [middle ground], an MSE staff member [foreground] lifts the mold jacket from the 2nd mold, and will transfer it to the waiting 4th mold [background] prior to it being poured. The jacket supports the green sand mold against the hydraulic pressure of the liquid metal entering the mold.
As the pouring team fills the 3rd mold [middle ground], an MSE staff member [foreground] lifts the mold jacket from the 2nd mold, and will transfer it to the waiting 4th mold [background] prior to it being poured. The jacket supports the green sand mold against the hydraulic pressure of the liquid metal entering the mold.
The metal has solidified but the molds are left to cool for a few minutes before the castings are shaken out.
The metal has solidified but the molds are left to cool for a few minutes before the castings are shaken out.
A mold with a casting inside is transported to the shake-out bin.
A mold with a casting inside is transported to the shake-out bin.
The molds are dumped into the shake-out bin where they disintegrate. Because sand is a good insulator the castings are still very hot after shake-out, as evidenced by the still glowing runner section. A few taps with a hammer loosens the sand. This green sand will be reused to make more molds after it is conditioned and remixed with water.
The molds are dumped into the shake-out bin where they disintegrate. Because sand is a good insulator the castings are still very hot after shake-out, as evidenced by the still glowing runner section. A few taps with a hammer loosens the sand. This green sand will be reused to make more molds after it is conditioned and remixed with water.
Once cool, the nameplates will be separated, then buffed and polished.

Now, if you’re interested in metallurgy, and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Engineering Study Abroad: Joshua Turner, ’20, Cergy, France

Growing up, Joshua Turner lived in four different states in the US, and visited over thirty of them. He loved traveling, but the only time he’d ever left the country was at nine months old, on a family trip to Canada. He longed to travel abroad, but finances and time always seemed to get in the way. Until he did a little more research. Turns out, it was entirely doable. Turner is now living his dream in Cergy, France, studying electrical engineering at ENSEA.

First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I enjoy exploring outside—either going to the beach or hiking. I grew up in Houghton, near the Michigan Tech campus. I enjoy snowboarding in the winter, but it’s about the only thing I like about snow. I’m a member of the Ski and Snowboarding Club, and the Triangle Fraternity.

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?
As an electrical engineering student, I always assumed it wouldn’t be possible to take any of the classes I needed while studying abroad. A few friends of mine had traveled abroad, though, and I realized I should try to actually talk with someone, just to find out if it could be possible for me, or not. So I met with Judy Donahue, my ECE academic advisor. Judy recommended I take a look at the French American Exchange (FAME) program at ENSEA,École Nationale Supérieure de l’Electronique et de ses Applications, in Cergy, France. She said I only needed to move around a couple of classes.

The cost was the next biggest concern of mine. I saved most of my money from an internship last summer, and from my on-campus job during the school year. I found out that I only needed to pay my Michigan Tech tuition for the program. All my financial aid and scholarships still applied. The only real extra cost was for the visa and the flight. I set up a budget once I got to France to make sure I’d be able to travel without worrying about running out of money.

Small group of students and faculty at Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France
Spring 2019 Orientation for Study Abroad Students at ENSEA in Cergy, France

What is your academic experience like in Cergy, France?
ENSEA is one of the highest ranked engineering schools in France. It is focused solely on electrical engineering, with fewer than 1,000 full-time students. There are 14 American students in the FAME program. Classes are taught in English by the French professors. My largest engineering class had seven students and my smallest had four students. One class was spent entirely in the lab with both American and French students working together—a very cool experience.

Classes at ENSEA don’t have a set schedule. Each week can be completely different than the next. We check the schedule online regularly. Classes are at fairly consistent times, but it’s not uncommon to have a Monday class, for example, get moved to Wednesday or Thursday. This is sometimes beneficial. If a few of us want to travel over the weekend, we can ask the professor to move a Friday class to another day, earlier in the week.

Why did you choose France?
I was willing to go anywhere that would work with my degree program. Somewhere in Europe was my top choice. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would still choose France. It’s been such an amazing experience and the culture here is so unique and full of history.

Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris with glass pyramid in view
Main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris

What is it like living in Cergy?
Cergy is a suburb of Paris, host to six universities. Almost everyone here is either a student or commutes to Paris for work. Luckily, there is a train in Cergy that can get to the center of Paris in about 40 minutes. I purchased a monthly train pass which includes unlimited access to trains, buses, and metros within the entire Île-de-France region. I go into Paris a few times a week. I started off seeing the big tourist attractions. Then I started visiting less popular parts of Paris, places most tourists don’t have time to see. There are apps which make public transportation really easy to navigate.

In Cergy I stay at the housing provided by the university—an actual apartment. The bedrooms are rather large, and the kitchens are very tiny. It’s a 15 minute walk to ENSEA and a 20 minute walk to the train station. The parks and walking paths can actually be enjoyed in winter, since, unlike Houghton, they’re not covered by 15 ft of snow! We play soccer or basketball at one of the parks after class. Usually some French children will ask to join us—which is always super fun. I found two grocery stores, and shop with no difficulty finding what I was looking for. I’ve become accustomed to having baguettes (which cost less than 1 euro each) as a daily part of my diet.

Joshua Turner and two fellow ECEA students at the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary
At the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary

Have you visited any other cities and countries?
I spend a lot of time experiencing all the different cultures of Europe. Every six weeks of classes are followed by a two-week vacation, so I have four total weeks of vacation. Some of the other students and I planned trips together. We have become really experienced at traveling. On the first break, I visited the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, England, and Scotland. Then on my second break, I went to the south of France to Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, and Monaco. After that, I went to Italy and visited Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Milan. I also took a few weekend trips to Brussels, Strasbourg, and Mont-Saint-Michel. All in all, I will have visited over a dozen countries during this semester—way more than I used to think I’d visit in my entire life!

What is the most challenging part of the experience?
I am used to aiming for A’s and B’s and consider anything less to be disappointing. In France, the grading scale is from 0 to 20. Anything above a 10 is good. Almost no one gets a 20 and if you get a 16 it’s really impressive. Getting used to the grading scale was probably the most difficult academic adjustment for me at first, but after finding out you don’t need a 20—and that understanding the concepts is more important than the grade—it became easier to deal with.

The language barrier is, of course, a big challenge. I barely knew any French when I arrived. Luckily, all students at ENSEA learn English and some are very good at it. Now, near the end of the semester, I am to the point where I can usually get by while in Paris speaking only French. It is a very fulfilling feeling.

Joshua Turner and 3 other students at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

What are your plans for this summer?
Finals end the last week of May. Once those finish I will travel for a week to the UK and Spain before flying back to America. I then have about three weeks to relax at home before flying off to an internship/co-op with Nissan. I return to Michigan Tech in the spring of 2020, just two semesters left before graduation.