Author: Meg Raasakka

Rachel Reiz : Women in STEM Wednesday

The Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics department is proud to feature students and other community members in Women in STEM Wednesday. This week we take a look into the life of student Rachel Reiz.

Rachel Reiz

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Northville, Michigan

DEGREE | WHAT YEAR?

B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with minors in Mathematical Sciences and Manufacturing, 4th year

WHAT GROUPS ARE YOU INVOLVED IN?

Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Copper Country Robotics, MTU E-Sports (Rainbow 6)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?

I love to be outdoors mountain biking, explore the Keweenaw, play video games, and spend time with friends!

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?

Definitely Gratiot beach, it’s absolutely the best place to watch the sunset, go hunting for yooper lights, and see the stars on a clear night!

PETS / FUN FACTS

I have two cats at home named Squishy and Collie, I’m working on getting a motorcycle, and I played Sousaphone in high school.

Rachel Reiz (right)

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TECH?

I came and visited Tech twice the fall before I came in as a freshman and just fell in love with the campus. Between the scenery and the people here, I had a fantastic time and just knew I had to come. Getting to stay overnight in Wads when I visited as a leading scholar was great too!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?

As I mentioned a bit, I love the people. The friends and peers that I have met and worked with throughout my time at Tech have had such a positive impact on my life. Every professor I’ve talked to has been more than friendly, and the community around Tech is warm and welcoming, even in the darkest of winters.

HOW HAS TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?

Tech has opened my eyes to the multitude of possibilities of what I can do after college. The job fairs have been fantastic for talking to companies about real-world applications of what I’m learning about, and, specifically for mechanical engineering, the wide variety of positions that would work fantastic with my degree.

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?

I’ve loved LEGO for as long as I can remember and knew that I wanted to do LEGO robotics (FLL) as soon as I could. I joined a team in elementary school, setting my sights on the FRC team at my high school, 548, the Robostangs. I joined my freshman year and eventually became the captain of the team, solidifying my love for STEM.

Rachel Reiz controlling the team robot

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Keep following your dreams! As long as you work hard and persevere, you’ll be able to do anything you put your mind to. And buy some Bitcoin.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING STEM?

STEM is definitely a challenge at times, but if you love problem solving and math, it’ll definitely be enjoyable. Go to the career fair your first year and talk to companies you’re interested in as well, discuss what majors they look for if you are unsure, and then you’ll have a better idea of what you might be interested in!

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

I have always loved space, especially the rockets that take people and cargo to space. I’d love to revolutionize space travel through developing new, more efficient rockets to help us explore the Moon, Mars, and the rest of the solar system throughout my lifetime.

If you would like to nominate a student, graduate, or community member for Women in STEM Wednesday, please email Donna Jeno-Amici (djenoami@mtu.edu) or Meg Raasakka (mraasakk@mtu.edu).

Cora Taylor : Women in STEM Wednesday

The Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics department is proud to feature students and other community members in Women in STEM Wednesday. This week we take a look into the life of PhD student, Cora Taylor.

Cora Taylor

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Cora Taylor waterskiing

Charlevoix, Michigan

DEGREE | WHAT YEAR?

B.S. Mechanical Engineering (Dec.2018), M.S. Mechanical Engineering (Dec. 2020), PhD Mechanical Engineering (2nd Year)

WHAT GROUPS ARE YOU INVOLVED IN?

Currently, I am not involved in any on campus groups, but I did recently join the Copper Harbor Trails Club. During my undergraduate I was heavily involved in the Formula SAE team, Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, and Orientation Programs, as well as being a member of MESAC.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?

Mountain biking, waterskiing and working on my boat, downhill skiing, camping, backpacking, cooking and baking. 

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?

Cora Taylor and her dog Bode

Winter: Mount Bohemia, Summer: Copper Harbor and on the Portage Canal

FUN FACTS / PETS / FAVORITE QUOTE

I have a dog named Bode, named after the professional ski racer Bode Miller and Hendrik Wade Bode the inventor of the Bode Plot.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Monroe

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TECH?

I chose Tech for 2 major reasons, which it seems are the same as why a lot of people choose Tech: the quality of engineering degree and the outdoors activities. Having grown up in a small town on the water with easy access to ski hills, I knew I wanted to go to college in a similar place.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?

The community, plain and simple. The Michigan Tech community has always been so welcoming, friendly, and supportive in all of my endeavors on and off campus. I love that I can be across the country, see someone in a Michigan Tech shirt and instantly have a connection.

HOW HAS TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?

STEM really stands  for continuous learning and improvement. Your education in a STEM field doesn’t stop when you graduate. When pursuing a STEM degree you take all of these math and science based classes, but really what you learn is how to problem solve and find solutions through learning methods and procedures.

Cora Taylor – Winer Carnival Queen 2018

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?

My sophomore year, my high school started a FIRST Robotics team. One of my good friends convinced me to join the team as the public relations captain, to make t-shirts, communicate with sponsors, and any other “creative” things the team needed. During our first season, I quickly finished any tasks that I needed to do for the public relations position and started getting into the shop and working on the robot. I realized that I had quite the knack for designing and building, and the following year I was the team’s design captain. This initially sparked my interest in engineering, an interest which was solidified through taking all possible engineering related classes my school offered my junior and senior years.

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Cora Taylor

You ARE smart enough. Throughout my undergraduate degree I was constantly saying to myself that I couldn’t do this because I wasn’t smart enough. It seemed like all of my classmates were so smart and so much more successful than me, but that wasn’t true, many of them were struggling just as I was. Now, during my PhD, I have realized that I am smart enough, and when that self degrading voice comes around, I just keep pushing on.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING STEM?

Do it! Being in a STEM field is so rewarding, yet challenging. Be ready to work hard to solve the problems put in front of you, but just know that when you do solve them there isn’t a better feeling.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

There’s a well known story out there about  a kid walking along a beach filled with washed up starfish, tossing them back in the ocean one by one. Someone walks up to the kid and says “Why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” the kid tosses another starfish into the ocean and responds “Well, I made a difference for that one!” I heard this story a long time ago and it has stuck with me. My goal with my PhD is to become a faculty member. Although it is unlikely that as a faculty member I will change the whole world, I do hope to change some individual worlds.

If you would like to nominate someone for Women in STEM Wednesday, please email Donna Jeno-Amici (djenoami@mtu.edu) or Meg Raasakka (mraasakk@mtu.edu)

Gracie Brownlow : Women in STEM Wednesday

This week the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University proudly presents Women in STEM Wednesday. This week we feature Third year student, Gracie Brownlow.

Gracie Brownlow

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Berlin, WI

DEGREE | WHAT YEAR?

I am a third year with a major in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in manufacturing.

WHAT GROUPS ARE YOU INVOLVED IN?

I volunteer in the Energy-X lab and I work in the ME-EM office.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?

I enjoy crocheting, reading, and going for walks and bike rides.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?

The trails in Copper Harbor and Agate Beach.

FUN FACTS / PETS / FAVORITE QUOTE

I have seen over 40 different rock and alternative bands live.

I have a cat named Lizzy.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Gracie Brownlow

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TECH?

It was Tech or UW-Platteville.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?

I like how Tech isn’t too far from different trails and national parks since it gives students an easy way to go outside and be able to get away from a computer when necessary. It’s also really nice how Tech has a lot of opportunities to further your experience and what you learn.

HOW HAS TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?

Tech has really helped me in expanding my knowledge on what you can do with a STEM degree. Especially with working in the Energy-X lab, I learned that there is far more to being a mechanical engineer than I originally thought. 

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?

Being in robotics in middle and high school was really the start of my interest in STEM. After only a year of designing and building robots, I found that there was nothing like watching something you created come to life and be successful. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into the STEM field but it wasn’t until my high school physics class made me finally decide on going into engineering, although the class led me to civil engineering, I quickly found my way to mechanical engineering at Tech.

Gracie Brownlow

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I would tell myself to be confident in my choices. It was unnecessarily difficult to decide to go to Tech and to go for engineering after being told by multiple people I’d be a good English teacher, and then deciding to change my major after getting to Tech. I was always worried I was making the wrong decision, even though I wasn’t excited to go anywhere else or do anything else. I’m glad to say that I’m really happy with the choices I’ve made since they have done a great deal to get me to where I am today.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING STEM?

Be prepared to put the work in because it is something that you only get out what you put in. For the best experience and education, you have to give your all. I’d also recommend that you get to know professors, especially in classes you enjoyed being in. You never know if they have a research opportunity or if they can help you find your passion in your field.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

I don’t need to change the world by myself but I would like to help in research to help the issue of climate change. Whether that is helping make home appliances run more energy efficient or designing new planet friendly ways to get power, fresh water, or even dispose of waste, I hope that whatever I achieve is able to snowball effect into something bigger for the betterment of people’s livelihood and the planet’s well-being.

If you would like to nominate someone for Women in STEM Wednesday, email Donna Jeno-Amici (djenoami@mtu.edu) or Meg Raasakka (mraasakk@mtu.edu)

NASA LUNABOTICS Mining Competition

The Michigan Technological University Lunabotics team is headed to the Kennedy Space Center in Orsino, Florida to compete in the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition.

Students monitor the robot inside of the Lunar Simulant Sandbox, where fine particles layered on rock mimic the Lunar surface.

Six of the students on the 16-member Lunabotics team advised by Dr. Paul van Susante will display their combined work during a two-day mining event. They will be traveling on Friday, May 20th to compete Monday and Tuesday.

The Lunabotics competition brings university-level students from all around the country to compete in two two-day mining events. Groups 1-25 will compete on Monday and Tuesday, with groups 26-50 competing on Thursday and Friday. The 50 student groups have been working on the fabrication of their lunar vehicles with the goal of mining. Judges will score based on the following eight competition categories: Gravel Mined, Average Data Bandwidth Use, Camera Bandwidth Use, Mining Robot Mass, Energy Consumed, Dust Tolerant Design, Dust Free Operation, and Autonomy.

“I’m super excited for getting to go down to the Kennedy Space Center for the first time and actually compete. We joined the competition 2-3 years ago, but due to Covid, the competition hasn’t taken place in person,” says Timothy Hamilton. Team members Timothy Hamilton, Chuck Carey, Taylor Hammond, Brendan McRoberts, Eric Mossner, and Lunabotics Project Manager Karson Linders, along with Dr. van Susante, will represent Michigan Tech in Florida.

Through the Michigan Tech Enterprise program, they were able to develop their robot in the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab, or PSTDL. Multiplanetary’s Regolith Pursuing Husky, or MuRPHy, is the result of that research. Regolith is the dust-like crushed rock surface that mimics surfaces such as asteroids, Mars, or our closest companion the Moon. Working in the Lunar Simulant Sandbox in the PSTDL, their lunar rover, MuRPHy, starts mining into an automated collection bin that will then dump the mined material behind the robot. Timothy says, “We have scoped out some of the competition and think that we can do well, but it all comes down to how our robot and our competitors perform on the day of competition, so it’d be great if everyone could wish us luck and safe travels!”

Learn more about the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab at: https://huskyworks.space/, https://huskyworks.space/facilities/sandbox

Learn more about Lunabotics at: https://mine.geo.mtu.edu/Lunabotics.html, https://www.nasa.gov/content/lunabotics-information, https://www.facebook.com/Lunabotics.Competition/

Mady VanWieren : Women in STEM Wednesday

The Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics department is proud to feature students and other community members in Women in STEM Wednesday. This week we take a look at Third Year Mechanical-Engineering student, Mady VanWieren.

“Focus on the things that challenge you the most and set your
mind to getting better at them.” Mady VanWieren

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Holland, Michigan

DEGREE / WHAT YEAR?

3rd Year Mechanical Engineering Major

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?

I love running on the trails in Copper Harbor!

FUN FACT

I have an Australian Shepard named Jake

Mady VanWieren backpacking and camping

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?

Run (I’m on the cross country and track teams at tech)
Backpacking & camping

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TECH?
I chose Tech because it is a really good engineering school with really good opportunities, like our career fair. I knew that if I went to Tech I would have lots of opportunities to network and get in touch with potential employers, and learn the skills I need to be successful in my career! I also chose to come to Tech because I would be able to continue my running career.

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?

Since I was a little kid I’ve always been curious about the world around me. I loved to fiddle with things and figure out how they work. I grew up making Rube Goldberg machines and looking at microscope slides with my Dad. I originally got interested in STEM because I got to do these things with him.

Mady VanWieren

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?

My favorite thing about Tech is the mentality of the student body. Classes are tough, but everyone is
happy to be here and working hard. Tech students really embody the phrase “Crazy Smart”.

HOW HAS TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?
Tech has shown me that there is so much more to getting a STEM degree than taking a bunch of math
classes. It has taught me that there are so many different opportunities and paths to take with a STEM degree. This school is mostly engineers, but everyone has such diverse interests and is pursuing unique paths.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING STEM?
STEM is so broad, I would say to find something you’re passionate about. STEM degrees are challenging but rewarding, I have learned so much and am very excited to go out into the world and make a difference.

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You are capable of more than you think. Focus on the things that challenge you the most and set your
mind to getting better at them. You can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it and decide you
are going to do it.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?
My passion is renewable energy. After I graduate I plan to work to make renewable energy
infrastructure more efficient and affordable. I want to help to change how the country produces its
power and I want to help to reach net carbon neutral goals.

Audrey Levanen : Women in STEM Wednesday

The Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics department is proud to feature students and other community members in Women in STEM Wednesday. This week we take a look into the life of Hancock local Audrey Levanen, a third-year student studying Mechanical Engineering.

Audrey Levanen

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?
As a local kid, I had so many opportunities to engage with STEM, most of which were associated with MTU. In elementary school, I always looked forward to Family Science Night – my whole family would come to school and do fun activities (who doesn’t want to dissect owl pellets?!). I think the first time I started seriously thinking about STEM as a career was in 8th grade. A bunch of my classmates and I were excused from school for a day to go to GetWISE (Women In Science and Engineering), a women in STEM event hosted at Tech. The main event was a bridge building competition (my team didn’t win), but the entire day was a lot of fun.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TECH?

I chose Tech because it was close to home and it offered the degree I was initially looking for (engineering management) while most of the other places I was looking at did not. 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?

Other than the people, one thing I really like about Tech is that there’s a way for everyone to get involved on campus with activities they enjoy. There’s over 200 student organizations on campus, which made finding a group of people with common interests a breeze.  I do local K-12 STEM outreach with Engineering Ambassadors, which is a way for me to share with young students some of the STEM experiences I got as a local. I’ve found a supportive community in the Society of Women Engineers, and an enthusiastic crowd of climbers through Ridge Roamers.

if you’re willing to apply yourself and think critically, I truly believe that you’re capable of succeeding! – Audrey Levanen

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?

I enjoy a lot of physical activities like hiking, rock climbing, paddlesports, XC skiing and snowshoeing. I also read quite a bit (I prefer memoirs, personal & professional development, and other nonfiction works, but I’ll read pretty much anything), and I have a lot of houseplants. 

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?

I really like Freda, but anywhere on the shoreline is a good place to be!

HOW HAS TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?

“STEM” covers a vast range of areas and opportunities. One of the biggest impacts MTU has had on my view of STEM is how collaborative it is. Perhaps I’m biased, since I can really only speak from the “E’s” perspective here, but teamwork is a huge part of what engineers do! 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN STUDYING STEM?

Rock on! Studying STEM can be challenging; if you’re willing to apply yourself and think critically, I truly believe that you’re capable of succeeding! And hey, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not expected to know everything. If it weren’t for my classmates and tutors, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I do believe that small things I do every day can impact the lives of those around me. – Audrey Levanen

In an academic sense, I’d tell myself to ask more questions, because struggling alone won’t get me anywhere.

In a non-academic sense, I’d tell myself that it’s okay to go alone. (I used to be intimidated to do things by myself, whether that was going for a walk on the beach or eating at a new restaurant.) 

FUN FACTS / FAVORITE QUOTE

I love Dr. Seuss, I’m a fountain of random information, and I have an affinity for horrible dad jokes. 

“Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.” -Unknown

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

This is a tough one. I guess I don’t really have any desire to be widely known for rocking the world with some big change, but I do believe that small things I do every day can impact the lives of those around me. I fall back on kindness and gratitude – in the grocery store, on the bus, with my friends and family, etc. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not expected to know everything. If it weren’t for my classmates and tutors, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Audrey Levanen

If you would like to nominate someone for Women in STEM Wednesday, email Donna Jeno-Amici (djenoami@mtu.edu) or Meg Raasakka (mraasakk@mtu.edu)

Julia Westfall: Women in STEM Wednesday

The Department of Mechanical Engineering- Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University is proud to present Women in STEM Wednesday! This week we’re featuring 3rd year student Julia Westfall.

DEGREE | WHAT YEAR?
Mechanical Engineering | 3rd Year

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Marysville, Michigan

Julia Westfall at Michigan Tech: “You got this. It’ll be difficult.. but worth it!”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?
I like participating in STEM outreach, planning activities with friends, and doing anything that will get me up and moving!

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA?
Any place where there are waterfalls.

FAVORITE QUOTE
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” – Friedrich Nietzsche

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MICHIGAN TECH?
I heard it was a great school for engineering and Tech sent me birthday cards every year (so I thought I’d apply)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TECH?
The opportunities available to students inside and outside of school. Specifically, for job/internship opportunities and extra curriculars.

HOW HAS MICHIGAN TECH IMPACTED YOUR VIEW OF STEM?
Tech has shown me that with perseverance, determination, and a desire to succeed, anyone can pursue a STEM degree.

WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN STEM?
The problem solving aspect as well as the creativity and design you can incorporate into it. The ability to study something to understand how it works then using that knowledge to redesign it to make it better!

“Stop comparing yourself to your classmates and just keep trying your best,” says Julia Westfall.

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Stop comparing yourself to your classmates and just keep trying your best. I was super scared that I would not be able to keep up with my classmates that came from STEM families or that aced all their AP exams. Doing the best you can do and being persistent in giving it your all can do more for you than you could ever imagine.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO STUDENTS THAT ARE INTERESTED IN
STUDYING STEM?

First—“High five!!”
Then—“You got this. It’ll be difficult.. but worth it!”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?
I just want to provide a sense of encouragement and energy in other people’s lives in hopes of inspiring them to be the best they can be and to pass that theme on for generations to come.

“Tech has shown me that with perseverance, determination, and a desire to succeed, anyone can pursue a STEM degree.”

Julia Westfall