Month: October 2022

Michigan Tech + Stellantis: Collaboration and Innovation

Michigan Tech university students standing up and learning in one of the automotive labs at Stellantis.

(Writer’s note: this is a slightly revised, previously published article.)

Opening Up New Educational Pathways for Michigan Tech Students

The main initiatives of the Michigan Tech Global Campus are growing programs, promoting online learning, and raising awareness of Tech’s online offerings. Along with these, though, David Lawrence, Vice-President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, is always searching for additional opportunities. He strives to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between academia and industry. He seeks new educational pathways for all students, whether they are undergraduates or graduates.

Meeting these latter two goals is the main purpose of Stellantis’ PReP. PReP, or the Propulsion System Readiness Engineering Program, is an educational partnership between Michigan Tech and automotive company Stellantis. If you haven’t heard of Stellantis, it is a global company that comprises several European and American-rooted iconic brands. Its brands include, but are not limited to, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, Peugeot, and Ram. Stellantis is also a respected automotive industry leader. It aspires to be “the greatest sustainability mobility tech company” as well as a front runner in advancing technology for the mobility revolution. Several Michigan Tech alumni also work at this innovative organization.

PReP: Preparing Michigan Tech Students for the Mobility Revolution

PReP will benefit both Michigan Tech students and Stellantis. That is, students will acquire automotive systems knowledge, work experience, and applicable skills. The end result: having the necessary tools to transition into a Stellantis position, spring boarding their careers.

This program, targeted at incoming Michigan Tech Junior students, will supplement the last two years of their engineering degrees. That is, on top of their regular program courses, students will take both core (year three) and advanced courses (year four) that focus on vehicle electrification. For instance, some of the core courses in the first semester include Propulsion Architecture, Engine/eMotor, Transmission/Axle, Battery, Fuel economy/Emissions, Power Electronics, and Communication.

Along with attending weekly lectures from Stellantis propulsion experts, students will also get valuable hands-on experience. They will take facility tours, participate in teardowns, and have paid summer and senior-year internships. Through these experiences and mentorships with industry experts, they will develop communication, leadership, and professional skills.

Partnering with an Industry Leader

Michigan Tech’s mission is to strive to

create solutions for society’s challenges by delivering action-based undergraduate and graduate education, discovering new knowledge through research, and launching new technologies through innovation.

Michigan Tech Vision/Mission

Similar to Michigan Tech, Stellantis is also committed to developing advanced technology while promoting sustainability and transparency. Stellantis strives to balance financial and environmental needs. Its Dare Forward initiative (March 2022) further expanded and quantified these goals. That is, the company has pledged to increase its remote workforce, put more battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) on American roads, and reduce its carbon footprint by 50%. In other words, sustainability is not solely a buzzword for Stellantis, but similar to our university’s sustainability promise, part of its ongoing strategic initiatives.

Both Michigan Tech and Stellantis value diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Stellantis’ community of employees spans over six regions and comprises over 170 nationalities. And the company is not stopping here. It is also striving to create a more equitable workplace for women. In fact, by 2030, its goal is having women holding at least 35% of all leadership positions.

Applying to the PReP

The PReP program, which should start in Fall 2023, will be available to a limited number of Michigan Tech students who

  • are enrolled as either electrical or mechanical engineering majors
  • sophomores who have at least two years available in their degree program
  • have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA

Students must commit to participating enthusiastically in the program, attending all the lectures and events, and meeting other rigorous criteria.

Stay tuned for more announcements about eligibility and application.

And while you are here, please extend a big thank-you to the bridge-building and creative thinking of David Lawrence. In his role as Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, Lawrence is not only looking out for Michigan Tech’s online programs, but also the entire university community. When opportunity knocks, Lawrence does his best to be there, making sure our university is right there alongside him.

Engineering and Public Policy: Connections and Opportunities

View of Houghton's Agate Street, which is a mess of mud and rubble, after it was destroyed by the Father's Day Flood.

Houghton’s Agate Street after the Devastating 2018 Father’s Day Flood:

Just One of the Tough Repair Projects Tackled by Engineers

Remembering the Father’s Day Flood

On June 17, 2018, Houghton County experienced torrential rain, which some called a 1000-year event. Seven inches of rain fell in under nine hours. Roads were washed out. The Ripley neighborhood was decimated as a landslide tore downhill, wiping out peoples’ homes. The rain damaged over half of the 160 culverts on the Calumet-Hecla recreational trail. It flooded multiple homes and damaged yards. All in all, the Father’s Day Flood created 60 sinkholes and 150 road washouts. It left behind 42-million-dollar bill for road repair alone. Property damage is still being estimated.

Broken bridge floating in Hancock's  trail system, which was destroyed by the Father's Day flood. This image demonstrates the damage caused by raging waters.

Also destroyed was the Swedetown Gorge, the highlight of the Maasto-Hiihto trail system in Hancock, MI. The rain transformed its gentle stream into a raging river that uprooted trees and tossed boulders. Bridges collapsed, their wooden structures and concrete slabs jutting precariously out of the water. The trail on which people hike, ski, and bike suddenly became unnavigable.

But how to repair this trail? Where to get the money? There were public consultations. There was debate. Typically, people seek funding for recreational trail infrastructure projects through Michigan’s DNR grant programs. However, a lot of money was needed for the Swedetown Gorge Recovery Project. So engineers and project managers decided to take a different tactic. They went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Navigating Policies and Programs

A crucial step for project planners was consulting FEMA’s 217-page Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide. One goal: making the argument that the trail system was a public facility (park) eligible for substantial funding. According to Michael Markham (OHM Advisors), his engineering firm “collected information on all the damaged sites, estimated the cost of repairs, designed, and bid out the project.” The city filed applications and proposed budgets. Because the project took so long to approve, OHM had to collaborate with three separate city managers. Eventually, The Swedetown gorge project got the green flag in late Jan 2021.

As this example demonstrates, engineers waded through several policies at every stage of this project. In other words, public policy knowledge is not solely for those in government and political careers. It is also for engineers.

That is the argument that Dr. Adam Wellstead, director of the Online Certificate in Public Policy, made to the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE). On October 4, 2022, Dr. Wellstead presented at the CEGE department meeting. There, he articulated the connections between public policy and environmental engineering.

Although there is a high demand for policy analysts, he noted that there is even a higher demand for engineering graduates with a policy background. For instance, both state and local governments as well as public policy consulting firms require engineers with public policy skills. In fact, whether they’re planning infrastructure, bridges, or water systems, CEG engineers regularly have to consider local, state, and federal policies. They must conduct risk assessments, consult with publics, and understand the policy process. They must frequently examine issues through a public management lens.

Pursuing Public Policy Online

The Department of Social Science‘s online public policy certificate can help fill the demand for engineers with policy experience. Consisting of three 7-week courses (The Policy Process, Public Management, and the Policy Cycle), this certificate equips graduates with the fundamental skills to work as public policy experts in several fields. Students can also complete it in only two semesters. Along with Dr. Wellstead, the program’s teaching team comprises four other experts with diverse public policy perspectives. They are Angie Carter, Associate Professor of Sociology; Mark Rouleau, Associate Professor; Carolin Sjöholm, Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor; and Shan Zhou, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy.

Regardless of their background, students can add value to their graduate or undergraduate degrees with this certificate. They can tap into the strong demand for policy-related careers. In particular, this program especially appeals to Michigan Tech’s BS and MS students considering employment in government agencies.

Proposing Engineering and Public Policy Programs

With this online public policy certificate, MTU currently joins other respected schools who have similar programs, such as Arizona, Auburn, and Michigan State.

Other prestigious universities also offer engineering and public policy programs (Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern, Delaware). Using these as examples, Wellstead proposed developing a similar program at Michigan Tech. One possibile joint program with CEGE is the Accelerated Environment and Energy Policy MS degree plus Public Policy Certificate option. He also suggested existing programs that would complement public policy, such as the online certificates in water resources modeling, geospatial data science and technology, and structural engineering (hazard analysis). These stackable certificates would allow CEGE students to combine their specific expertise with public policy skills.

Considering Next Steps

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Wellstead answered questions, considered comments, and planned the next steps. Several faculty members brought up additional connections between public policy and CEGE. Others suggested courses for the online public policy certificate, such as program evaluation.

To further analyze program viability and gauge interest, Dr. Wellstead will continue researching comparable programs, meeting with students, and exploring the linkages between public policy and engineering. In doing so, Dr. Wellstead is helping to achieve three of goals of the Michigan Tech Global Campus: promoting online learning; offering in-demand knowledge and skills; and opening up new educational pathways to diverse learners.