Category: Awards

Professor L. Brad King, Orbion Space Technology team named to Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies 2024” list

Turning dreams into reality is all in a day’s work for Lyon (Brad) King and his entire team at Orbion Space Technology. Case in point: Orbion Space Technology has been named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2024 list. Companies that send satellites into space on a rocket can use Orbion’s thrusters to maneuver them precisely to their final destination.

Dr. King is an experimentalist interested in studying electric space propulsion systems, including Hall-effect thrusters, ion engines, and arcjets. King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Space Systems) with MTU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. As faculty advisor for the Aerospace Enterprise, King works with undergraduate students to provide hands-on aerospace education and experience. Aerospace Enterprise places an emphasis on space mission design and analysis, vehicle integration, systems engineering, and comprehensive ground testing and qualification. The idea for launching Orbion began taking shape here: King and co-founder Jason Sommerville realized they had not only the core technology, but an incredible network of talent in the form of aerospace and Isp Lab alumni to meet an urgent need in the new space economy. King (CEO of Orbion Space Technology) and Makela started the company in 2016.

Products under construction at Orbion Space Technology. The company is based in Houghton, Michigan and several members of the leadership team are graduates of Michigan Technological University’s doctoral program in mechanical engineering. (Image Credit: Orbion Space Technology)

In a previous article, author Cyndi Perkins tells us that “Orbion now employs more than 40 full-time engineers in its Houghton facility, with seven holding PhD degrees. You’ll find Huskies at the helm in several key positions—CTO Sommerville is a 2009 PhD graduate—but the company is more than just an outgrowth of Michigan Tech.”

Other MTU ME-EM alums holding positions with Orbion:

Michigan Tech alums from other programs include Kanwal Rekhi, PhD (MS, Electrical Engineering) and John Rockwell (BS, Business Administration).

The Michigan Tech-Orbion connection brings a wealth of opportunities for students to connect theory with practice. Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise teams have already launched three satellites into space.

Tania Demonte Gonzalez receives Best Presentation Award at INORE’s 2023 European Symposium

Photo of Tania Demonte Gonzalez, who conducts research on wave energy converter nonlinear control.

Tania Demonte Gonzalez (PhD candidate, ME-EM) conducts research on wave energy converter nonlinear control and is part of the graduate student team using MTU Wave, the campus-based wave tank. She was awarded Michigan Tech’s Topping Teaching Fellowship in the Fall of 2022 and is a remote intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado.

Tania recently attended the International Network on Offshore Renewable Energy’s (INORE) 2023 European Symposium, a five-day meeting for researchers specializing in offshore renewable energy. The symposium provides many opportunities for early-stage researchers to come together, learn from one another, and establish new relationships that can greatly benefit their research and career journeys.


As part of the attendee research presentations, Tania gave a talk on “Time-Varying Hydrodynamic Modeling of a Variable Geometry Oscillating Surge Wave Energy Converter” and received one of two Best Presentation Awards. The presentation was a collaboration with NREL’s Dr. Nathan Tom and discussed the methods used to find a time-varying model for variable geometry surge wave energy converters. More details will be available in an upcoming publication.

Congratulations on this achievement, Tania.

Paul van Susante Named to Lou and Herbert Wacker Professorship in Mechanical Engineering

Paul van Susante (ME-EM) recently accepted an endowed appointment as the Lou and Herbert Wacker Professor in Mechanical Engineering. Van Susante joined Michigan Tech in 2012 as a lecturer (a role now called assistant teaching professor) before accepting an appointment as an assistant professor. Not only does Dr. van Susante meet or exceed all the criteria for this professorship, he also has a vested interest in teaching.

This endowed position was established to retain and attract high-quality faculty who are at the top of their profession, can excite students to think beyond classroom material, and who can effectively integrate their research into the classroom.

Involving students in his research is vital to van Susante. He’s been recognized in the Dean’s Teaching Showcase and as one of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics’ (ME-EM’s) Teacher of the Year finalists four times. Paul is also the faculty advisor for the Multiplanetary Innovation Enterprise (MINE) team, solving challenges in the mining industry.

In addition to obtaining over $3 million in funding as a principal investigator, Dr. van Susante leads Michigan Tech’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) team. The lab, also known as HuskyWorks, includes several students who advanced to the final round of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge in both 2022 and 2023. As part of these competitions, researchers from NASA and other robotics companies travel to Michigan Tech to meet with van Susante and his team.

Other projects include:

  • NASA Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR 2020)
  • NASA Breakthrough Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge 2020: “Tethered permanently shaded Region Explorer (T-REX)” –power and communication delivery into PSR
  • NASA Break the Ice Challenge – the latest centennial challenge from NASA designed to develop technologies aiding in the sustained presence on the Moon
  • NASA ESI (Early Stage Innovation) to excavate rock gypsum for water production on Mars
  • NASA GCD MRE – Molten Regolith Electrolysis, or MRE, uses an electric current in a reactor to separate oxygen from lunar dust, also known as regolith. The scope of the project is to provide a regolith feeder and transportation system for the MRE reactor. Research into regolith properties, here on Earth, and in extreme environments like lunar gravity and vacuum are being conducted. Results from these experiments will be vital in choosing and developing these feeder and transportation technologies.
  • HOPLITE (Heavy Onboard Platform for Lunar ISRU and Terrain Excavation) is a modular robotic system built at Michigan Tech that enables the field testing of IDSRU technologies. Many payloads are currently being designed and implemented for lunar applications and there is a need for accurate, reliable, and safe mobility of these payloads during filed testing. Using a large sensor array, fine tuned control and autonomy, HOPLITE is designed to provide a solution to this need.

The success in his research has translated to van Susante publishing 82 papers while at Michigan Tech and giving 37 invited talks. He is currently an associate editor for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Aerospace Engineering.

(reprinted from October 25, 2023 Tech Today.)

Jeff Naber Receives 2023 ASME Internal Combustion Engine Award


Jeffrey D. Naber is the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Award, presented annually by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Naber is the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics’ (ME-EM’s) Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professor in Energy Systems and director of the Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APSRC/APS Labs) at Michigan Technological University. He was honored with the award at the ASME’s 2023 ICE Forward Conference, held Oct. 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The ASME ICE Award recognizes eminent achievement or distinguished contribution over a substantial period of time, which may result from research, innovation or education in advancing the art of engineering in the field of internal combustion engines; or in directing the efforts and accomplishments of those engaged in engineering practice in the design, development, application and operation of internal combustion engines.

Naber, the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2022 Research Award, was nominated for ASME ICE Award recognition by Seong-Young Lee (ME-EM).

By Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

PSTDL Finalists in NASA Watts on the Moon Challenge

Assistant Professor Paul van Susante (ME-EM/MARC) and the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab, aka HuskyWorks, advanced to the “final four” in Phase 2 of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge. Through this challenge, NASA seeks to partner with a broader community of experts to augment its investments in power generation.

The first competition phase started in September 2020 and included 60 eligible teams, from which seven winners were chosen. Winners in each phase receive equal shares of a prize purse, used to fuel the development of ideas for building energy infrastructures on the Moon.

“As we tread new ground in exploration, we’ll need to draw on creativity across the nation. The technologies created through Watts on the Moon are one example, with new perspectives helping us address a crucial technology gap.”

Denise Morris, acting program manager for Centennial Challenges at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Building on previous success, the team will use the current $400,000 prize to refine their Phase 2, Level 3 prototype and test it under a simulated lunar environment (vacuum chamber) at NASA facilities in 2024. Up to two teams at this level will receive awards: The first-place team will be awarded $1 million, and second place will be awarded $500,000. Winners are expected to be announced in September, 2024.

You can learn more about the challenge by visiting NASA’s Watts on the Moon fact sheet. For more details on Dr. van Susante’s lab capabilities, visit the PSTDL’s  Facilities page.

Play Four Teams Advance to Final Level of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge video
Preview image for Four Teams Advance to Final Level of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge video

Four Teams Advance to Final Level of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge

Greg Odegard Receives NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal

Professor Greg Odegard, recipient of the NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Award

Professor Greg Odegard (ME-EM) is the director of the Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) NASA Space Technology Research Institute (STRI), one of the inaugural STRIs funded by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. And now he has received a NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, awarded to nongovernment employees for “notable leadership accomplishments that have significantly influenced the NASA Mission.”

3 gold medals, small, medium and large, imprinted with the word "NASA" and six connected stars, with a set of three striped ribbons, one for each that are light blue, dark blue and gold.
The NASA Outstanding Public Leadership medal, presented to Professor Gregory Odegard on April 26, 2023.

The five-year US-COMP collaboration brings together 22 professors from 11 universities and two industry partners with a range of expertise in molecular modeling, manufacturing, material synthesis and testing.

Odegard’s nomination letter outlines how he harnessed the group’s talents to successfully overcome challenges and make significant progress:

“Dr. Odegard leads by example, exhibiting the NASA core values for safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence and inclusion. He respected the constraints imposed by safety measures taken to protect students during COVID, while finding ways to continue making progress. He embraced the challenges of working with industry, where open sharing of information is tempered by the need to maintain their competitive edge. He walked the fine balance of demonstrating investment payoff for the funder through publications, while respecting intellectual property concerns by the industry members. Dr. Odegard’s openness to change to more effectively serve NASA’s mission needs is exceptional. He led with the courage and humility of leaders who leave an indelible legacy because they are different. His service to the Agency and to the nation deserves recognition.”

Jenn Gustetic, director of NASA Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships, told Odegard the medal is well deserved. “Leading extensive and complex transdisciplinary research across numerous partners is no small feat — and you did so to great effect,” Gustetic said. “I am delighted that the Agency is recognizing your individual leadership contribution in this way, as institutes do not come together well without exceptional leadership.”

Odegard received the medal at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2023. The US-COMP team was also recognized by the agency as a whole for their contributions.

Please join us in congratulating Professor Odegard on this important recognition and achievement.

Sustainable and Resilient Communities Faculty Research Fellowship for Hassan Masoud

Hassan Masoud
Hassan Masoud

The Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience (ISR) is excited to announce its awardees for spring 2023! The ISR supports advancements in curriculum development and research through a series of three awards programs: Curriculum Innovation Awards, Early Career and New Directions Award, and:

Sustainable and Resilient Communities Faculty Research Fellowship

Hassan Masoud (ME-EM/AIM) has been awarded a Sustainable and Resilient Communities Faculty Research Fellowship (typical award range: $12,000-$17,000) that will support a one-course buyout for spring 2024 to provide time to develop research collaborations and proposals on wave energy and other forms of renewable energy, in partnership with internal and external collaborators and the Center for Innovation in Sustainability and Resilience.

If you have questions or would like to ask about a potential future proposal, please reach out to ISR lead Chelsea Schelly at cschelly@mtu.edu.

DoD SMART Scholarship Awardees Noah Baliat and Marcello Guadagno

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship awardees:

  • Noah Baliat
    Baliat is an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering. Baliat will be at the Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico after graduation next year.
  • Marcello Guadagno
    Guadagno is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics under Paul van Susante (ME-EM/MARC). Guadango will be at the Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.
  • Aaron Wildenborg
    Wildenborg is a Ph.D. candidate in physics under Jae Yong Suh (Physics). Wildenborg will be at the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic in South Carolina.

Semifinalists:

  • Erican Santiago, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering under Hyeun Joong Yoon.
  • Kaitlyn Morgenstern, an undergraduate in mathematics.
  • Jonathan Oleson, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics under Susanta Ghosh.
  • Rachel Passeno, an undergraduate in cybersecurity.
  • Trent Betters, an undergraduate in computer science.

The DoD SMART Scholarship is part of the National Defense Education Program and its benefits include full tuition and education-related expenses payment, a stipend of $30,000 to $46,000 per year, summer internships ranging from eight to 12 weeks, health insurance, a miscellaneous allowance of $1,000 per year, mentorship at one of the DoD sponsoring facilities and employment placement at a DoD facility upon degree completion.

The Graduate School is proud of these students for their outstanding scholarship. These awards highlight the quality of students at Michigan Tech, the innovative work they have accomplished, the potential for leadership and impact in science and engineering that the country recognizes in these students, and the incredible role that faculty play in students’ academic success.

If you have students who are interested in receiving writing support for the DoD SMART Scholarship or other graduate funding opportunities, have them contact Sarah Isaacson at sisaacso@mtu.edu.

Hassan Masoud Wins NSF CAREER Award

Hassan Masoud is principal investigator of CFAM, the Complex Fluids and Active Matter Lab.

Hassan Masoud, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University, has won a $520,255 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, “Collective Hydrodynamics of Robotic Swimmers and Surfers at High Reynolds Numbers.”

Dr. Masoud will use his award to examine the hydrodynamics of aquatic robots locomoting in orderly ensembles and identify the collective behaviors that emerge from their flow-mediated interactions.

Dr. Masoud earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and conducted postdoctoral research under the joint supervision of Howard Stone in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and Michael Shelley at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech as an assistant professor in 2017.

CAREER awards, administered under the Faculty Early Career Development Program, are the NSF’s most prestigious form of support and recognition for junior faculty who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

We congratulate Assistant Professor Hassan Masoud on his outstanding accomplishment!

Abstract: Robotic swarms have attracted much attention in recent years due to their vast potential applications. In particular, there has been a growing interest in aquatic robots, either swimming underwater or surfing at the air-water interface. By using large numbers of individuals working in tandem through local communication, a swarm of underwater swimmers or interfacial surfers can augment their collective intelligence while maintaining relatively simplistic designs. Harnessing this unique, joint ability leads to achieving superior functionalities, which makes aquatic robots very appealing for a myriad of practical applications, including surveillance, monitoring of invasive species, tracking weather and sea conditions, pollution management, etc. This project aims to obtain an in-depth understanding of many-body hydrodynamic interactions in the collective motion of robotic swimmers and surfers at high Reynolds numbers. The design of robots chosen for the studies is motivated by species in nature that have mastered their respective terrains. The swimmers mimic the general form of a fish, with the tail flapping providing the thrust, while the surfers take inspiration from water-walking insects. The investigations will be conducted using a synergistic application of high-fidelity numerical simulations and laboratory experiments. Validated simulations allow for exploring an extensive range of flow regimes and combinations of relative positions between the robots. Coupled with reinforcement learning algorithms, they also enable searching for optimal strategies for collective locomotion. The unsteady flows generated by the motion of robots in the experiments will be captured via time-resolved, volumetric particle tracking velocimetry. The fundamental knowledge gained during this project is expected to directly contribute to the design and implementation of future aquatic robots capable of functioning alongside each other with a high degree of coordination, similar to the behaviors exhibited by fish in schools and birds in flocks. The planned research studies in this project are coupled with a range of educational activities that involve outreach to middle and high school students, engagement with the general public, mentorship of community college and graduate students, and curriculum development.

Read more

What Tiny Surfing Robots Teach Us About Surface Tension

Watch

Play Fluid Dynamics: Michigan Tech Researchers Take it to the Tank video
Preview image for Fluid Dynamics: Michigan Tech Researchers Take it to the Tank video

Fluid Dynamics: Michigan Tech Researchers Take it to the Tank

Jonathan Lund Receives the Making a Difference Award for Serving Others

Jonathan Lund
Jonathan Lund

Congratulations to all of our 2022 Making A Difference Award nominees and winners, who were honored at an awards program Jan. 4 in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Senior Capstone Design Training Specialist Jonathan Lund was recognized for serving others.

Jon’s nominator says: Jon is a highly effective—and entertaining—trainer. Students seek him out because he is very friendly and motivated to help them succeed. While it is his job to teach students how to safely operate milling machines, lathes, and other tools, he does it in a way that is engaging and even fun. I can tell you that it is fun to watch him in action. The students appreciate the attention and the care that he provides while explaining the complex procedures for machine operation. Machine shops are full of intimidating equipment, so he tries to make them feel welcome and at ease through encouragement and conversation about their projects.