Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

Haitian Devastation Impacts Campus

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

The recent earthquake in Haiti has been felt here at Michigan Tech.

At least two students and one faculty member have ties to Haiti, and they have received mixed news: some good, much bad, some the worst.

Roxane Gay, a PhD candidate in the humanities department who has lived in Port au Prince, learned that her parents left Haiti last Sunday, missing the earthquake by just a couple of days. Most of her family survived, but she has lost at least one great uncle.

“His wife is missing,” Gay said. “And the building in which my parents live is flattened. So is the National Palace. In fact most of Port au Prince is destroyed.”

Gay’s father, Michael, is in the construction business and has just completed the Digicell Center, which is one of the few structures still standing. He is rushing back to Haiti this Friday to help move debris with his construction equipment.

The problems in Haiti are myriad, according to Gay: there are no building codes and no real infrastructure: no sewage system, plumbing, or trash removal, “and the roads are not good.”

Thus, rebuilding efforts will be even more complicated. “This is what poverty does,” she says.

“Where do you put the people?” Gay asks. “And the debris? The country is the size of Maryland. They need water, food and hospital care. The good news is, although the control tower is down, the airport can still receive planes.”

Gay gets her news from Haiti via texting and satellite phones. She also gets information via the Facebook page of fellow Michigan Tech Haitian Fredline Ilorme, a graduate student in the civil and environmental engineering department.

Ilorme reports that most of her family is also well, but she is still waiting to hear from some additional family members and friends. Kette Thomas, assistant professor of diverse literature in humanities, also has Haitian ties.

Gay is not hopeful for the future. “There’s not enough money in the world to fix what’s broken,” she says.

However, if people do want to help, she suggests the well-established organizations such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Yéle Haiti, which was established by musician Wyclef Jean and seeks to achieve long-term progress in the country.

“Haitians are resilient people,” Gay says. “My dad is a proud Haitian.”

That’s why Michael Gay is rushing back to help his fellow islanders and others are coming to their aid. There’s much work to be done.

Published in Tech Today

Patrick Martin Leads International Preservation Effort

by John Gagnon, promotional writer

Michigan Tech’s industrial archaeology program, which enjoys worldwide stature, now has even more distinction.

Patrick Martin, chair of Social Sciences, has been named the president of The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), which has a hand in helping identify sites around the world to be added to the United Nations’ World Heritage List–a compilation of natural and cultural places around the world that have “outstanding, universal human value.”

Specifically, TICCIH calls attention to industrial heritage sites, for its charge is to conserve, investigate, document, research, and interpret industry and its material remains.

Martin has been involved with TICCIH for about six years and was the only board member from the US. Members number about 400; they range from Barcelona to Sydney, Cape Town to Taipei, Helsinki to Houghton.

Martin says that Tech will benefit from this association. “This raises our profile,” he says. “More people”–he means students and scholars–“will know about us as we engage on a world stage.” His appointment is for three years. TICCIH holds a world congress every three years. The last one, when Martin was made president, was in September in Freiberg, Germany.

The World Heritage List, which is maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), includes 890 properties in 148 nations. At present, there are no industrial sites in the US on the list, only natural entities like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks and cultural sites like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Industrial heritage is the stuff of railroads, textile mills, and mining. Martin calls the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century “one of the most profound social revolutions in human history.”

“Industry has created the modern world,” Martin says. “The shape of our country, including places like the Copper Country, and many of the relationships between global powers have been heavily influenced by industrialization. It makes us who we are. Why are you and I here? Why is Michigan Tech here? It’s not like we fell out of the sky. All this action going on around us today is because of copper mining in the nineteenth century.”

Industrial heritage sites, then, can be an inspiration and a lesson, he says. “If we don’t understand how we got the way we are, it’s very difficult to map a good path into the future.”

TICCIH was formed about 30 years ago. Most of its activity has been in Europe, which, Martin says, leads the US in industrial preservation efforts. Martin hopes to expand TICCIH’s influence and membership to the US, Africa, and Asia. “We need to be global,” he says. “This will require financial efficiency.”

Accordingly, he has already instituted cost-cutting moves by publishing the quarterly newsletter online and conducting some meetings online.

For years, Michigan Tech, with Martin’s lead, has been the headquarters for the Society for Industrial Archeology. He says of his new duties: “It’ll be interesting and challenging, and it’s a great opportunity.”

As well, he says, the work dovetails with the University’s strategic goal of achieving international engagement.

Published in Tech Today

Tech Unveils Graduate Program at Auto Show

Michigan Tech is one of only two universities invited to exhibit at the North American Auto Show in Detroit this week and next. As part of the EcoXperience Showcase on the lower level of Cobo Center, Michigan Tech will be unveiling a pioneering new graduate program for professional automotive engineers, one that will prepare them to work on the hybrid/electric vehicles of the future. Tech will develop this unique curriculum with a $3-million grant from the US Department of Energy.

Published in Tech Today.

Michigan Tech Trains Automotive Engineers for Hybrid Technologies

Hybrid technology is a primary path for the auto industry to improve fuel economy in its vehicles, but it’s not something most automotive engineers learned in school. Michigan Tech and industry partners are working to fix that by bringing the latest advanced propulsion and battery technology know-how to the engineers in the heartland of the auto industry–Detroit.

With vehicles donated by GM, Tech has teamed up with the Engineering Society of Detroit and industry leaders, including AVL, to offer the graduate-level course in Detroit.

The full story is on the Tech news website.

Final Dispatch from Copenhagen

Graduate student Adam Airoldi and undergraduate Catherine (Cate) Cogger visited Copenhagen during the UN’s international climate change conference. Here is their report.

“Our last day in Copenhagen was devoted to finding the Bella Center, which is located approximately 10 kilometers from the Copenhagen Centrum and is the main conference center of the conference. Here diplomats, world leaders and journalists convene daily to discuss the many issues confronting the global community in relation to climate change, social justice worldwide, and the global market crisis and its pertinence to climatic changes.

“Upon finding the Bella Center, we were a bit disappointed by the facilities. Having expected a site a bit more grandiose, we found the Bella Center to be a large complex of modern buildings located in the “Green Living” sector of Copenhagen. Adjacent to the Bella Center was an apartment complex with the same futuristic look to it; many of the apartments were adorned with banners and placards urging political leaders to take significant and swift action. Although it was Sunday, we did see journalists entering the center as the talks inside continued.

“Being in Copenhagen was certainly an experience that we will remember for a lifetime. We witnessed a variety of different viewpoints concerning climate change, ranging from indigenous perspectives to polar explorers presenting scientific data.

“The general feel in Copenhagen is perhaps less pessimistic than much of the rest of the globe. We have heard from many people not in Copenhagen that they are not hopeful that much will develop out of this conference. Many are doubtful that any concrete resolutions will be reached about the direction the global community should take to mitigate the effects of global warming. In Copenhagen, however, the demonstrations and vigilant hopefulness continue on.

“It is certainly difficult to say what the outcome of these talks will be. The main change may stem from those who were in Copenhagen to simply show support of the cause of curbing global warming. It is uncertain whether or not worldwide policy will develop, but it seems as though those citizens in Copenhagen will bring home a message of conservation, energy efficiency and personal responsibility to their communities, wherever they may be in the world.”

Published in Tech Today

Mining History Comes to Life at Michigan Tech Commencement

Excerpt from Michigan Tech News – read the full article online and see a picture of Cameron Hartnell wearing the hood.

In 1932, a distinguished Michigan mining engineer named Scott Turner received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Michigan Technological University, at that time called the Michigan College of Mining and Technology.  At Michigan Tech’s midyear Commencement on Dec. 12, 2009—77 years later— one of the first recipients of the University’s PhD in industrial heritage and archeology will wear Turner’s historic academic hood to accept his degree.

Climate Change Conference: Graduate Student Dispatch from Copenhagen

Two Tech students are visiting Copenhagen this week during the UN’s international climate change conference. One of them is Adam Airoldi, a graduate student in forest ecology and management. His advisor is Associate Professor Andrew Burton (SFRES). Airoldi is doing research in Norway this semester, collaborating with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, on changes in the alpine tree line around a small copper-mining town in central Norway. Airoldi earned his bachelor’s in forestry in 2008. He is in Copenhagen on a graduate travel grant from the Ecosystem Science Center.

Read his entire report and see pictures from Copenhagen.