Michigan Technological University: Preparing Students to Create a Sustainable & Reliable Future

(Michigan Technological University is a public research university with a mission to prepare students to understand and safely manage Earth and its resources for the future by creating a just, prosperous, and sustainable world expressed through their entrepreneurial spirit—equal parts of curiosity and grit.)  

STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — with an interdisciplinary and applied approach. STEM is a potentially new educational powerhouse, and when applied properly, this curriculum can make a big difference in how our future leaders see the world, and solve problems. It is an exciting paradigm for giving children the tools to compete in the highly competitive global economy.

By focusing on the interaction of mathematics and science, the STEM education model emphasizes the importance of integrated teaching knowledge for successful transition of the departmentalized model of teaching to an integrated model that promotes innovation. Determined to impart the innovation instinct in today’s learners, Michigan Technological University has developed a number of initiatives that directly promote STEM education, both within the University and in the K-12 community that feeds the University. Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, computer science and social sciences. Michigan Tech is located in the small town of Houghton on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Lake Superior, about 100 miles north of the Wisconsin border on a campus of about 925 acres.

Invent, Design, Code, Create, and Compete at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech researchers examine the factors that affect teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) material. They study the methods that are most effective for teaching scientific and mathematical concepts by working with undergraduate students, pre-service teachers, professional educators, and the general public, with the goal of improving the learning process. Their inventive and smart students team up with the researchers, faculty, mentors, and peers to invent, design, code, create and compete in building a sustainable and reliable future. The university’s mission states, “We prepare students to understand and safely manage Earth and its resources for the future.” Working intuitively towards its mission, Michigan Tech has progressed in various fields such as engineering, science and technology programs, including mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering, informatics, quantum physics, forestry and environmental science.

With Lake Superior in its back yard, Michigan Tech is known for its water research, based in the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). GLRC provides state-of-the-art laboratories to support research on a broad array of topics. Faculty members from many departments across the University’s campus collaborate on interdisciplinary research, ranging from air–water interactions to biogeochemistry to food web relationships. One of the GLRC’s most important functions is to educate the scientists, engineers, technologists, policymakers, and stakeholders of tomorrow about the Great Lakes basin.

The School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science includes a 3,700-acre research forest well-known as Ford Forest. The forest management and sustainability principles that donor Henry Ford began here continue, and expand—from selective cutting, to determining hybridization and gene flow in distinct tree populations. Students come here to learn tree species, geospatial mapping, how to evaluate wildlife habitat and safely operate a chainsaw. One-eighth of their undergraduate programs are completed at the Ford Forest, including a six-week integrated field practicum bringing classes to study and live in the forest in fall or summer.

The Chemical Engineering Department has a 6,500 square foot, multi-story Unit Operations Lab, the largest pilot-scale chemical processing educational facility in the country. The laboratory features 18 bench and pilot-plant-scale unit-operations experiments focused on pumping fundamentals, heat exchange, membrane separation, kinetics, liquid extraction, vacuum drying, and flow measurement, among other chemical processes. Students gain hands-on experience with two fully automated pilot plants: a three-story distillation column (solvent recovery unit) and a two-story batch reactor. This unique facility affords students the opportunity to learn in a real-world chemical-processing work environment providing a practical, hands-on experience.

Together with researchers, faculty, and industry partners, Michigan Tech’s Huskies create the future through research. Michigan Tech’s achievers and athletes are fondly known as Huskies owing to their joyful demeanor, exuberance, friendliness and extreme endurance. Battling the North wind, trudging through 200 inches of snow each winter, and staying late in the lab to discover that one, new piece of the puzzle typifies the hard-work that keeps them motivated. Their mission to create a just, prosperous, and sustainable world is expressed through their entrepreneurial spirit—equal parts curiosity and grit.

Promoting STEM Education for Students to thrive in the Knowledge-based Economy

In this fast-paced era, educational technology is also evolving rapidly. But the foundation of a Michigan Tech education is not going to change. Based on hands-on experience with real-world problems and an interdisciplinary approach to learning and problem-solving, a Michigan Tech education prepares—and is going to continue to prepare—students to succeed in a rapidly changing technological world. The University has developed a number of initiatives to promote interdisciplinary education in their institution’s environment.

Michigan Tech’s signature Enterprise Program, provides interdisciplinary teams of students with experience in working together to solve real-world problems and challenges presented by their industry partners; Senior Design is a platform, that gives senior engineering students opportunities to design a solution to an industry sponsor’s problem; there are co-ops and internships arranged by Michigan Tech’s Career Services. Design Expo is an annual competition where the best student-designed research projects are showcased to the campus and community. Also there’s a Graduate Research Colloquium, where graduate students can present their research; the Pavlis Honors College, which develops leadership and problem-solving skills and self-confidence; the Sustainable Futures Institute, which conducts research and outreach in all aspects of sustainability;  a mobile lab, which brings engineering in-service education to working professionals where they are;  Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships(SURF), which provide opportunities for undergraduates to spend their summers doing paid research with faculty mentors; The Alley, a “makerspace” open to students, staff and faculty where they can tinker, design, invent, create and collaborate; Summer Youth Programs, which give high school students hands-on experience in STEM workshops and MindTrekkers, which takes a rousing science road show to science and engineering festivals all over the country, to engage young people in STEM.

About a Researcher Motivated by the Need to Create a Sustainable Society

Joshua M. Pearce is an academic engineer and a materials scientist at Michigan Tech known for his work on protocrystallinity, photovoltaic technology, open-source-appropriate technology, and open-source hardware including RepRap 3D printers. Joshua was hired as part of a Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative in next-generation energy systems. He has been recognized internationally for his work on low-cost solar energy, as well as open-source 3-D printing. His research has been featured in publications such as USA Today and US News & World Report and broadcast outlets including ABC, NBC, CBS and CBC.  He won the 2017 People’s Choice Award from Opensource.com.

Joshua received his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He then developed the first Sustainability program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and helped develop the Applied Sustainability graduate engineering program while at Queen’s University, Canada. He currently is a Professor cross-appointed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech, where he runs the Open Sustainability Technology Research Group. He is currently on sabbatical as a Fulbright-Aalto University Distinguished Chair (2017-2018).

The Pearce Research Group at Michigan Tech in Open Sustainability Technology focuses on open and applied sustainability, which is the application of science and innovation to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.

Key Highlights of the University

  • Five graduate engineering disciplines ranked in the top 100 in US News & World Report’s most recent Graduate School Rankings. They are biomedical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering and mechanical engineering.
  • Michigan Tech has 477 faculty members and 1,153 staff.
  • Michigan Tech’s student to faculty ratio is 12:1.
  • Nearly 500 employers attend Michigan Tech’s two Career Fairs each year.
  • Michigan Tech’s 19 research centers and institutes conduct research valued at $72.5 million a year.
  • More than half of Michigan Tech first-year students are in the top 20 percent of their high school graduating class.
  • Forbes Magazine ranked Michigan Tech among the top 25 STEM schools in the nation.
  • Money Magazine ranked Michigan Tech among the “Best Colleges for Your Money.” The magazine also ranked Michigan Tech 6th in the nation for early career salaries, averaging $63,400.
  • com ranking Michigan Tech number 1 in the state for mid-career salaries.
  • 94 percent of Michigan Tech graduates find jobs in their fields within 6 months of graduation.
  • A prominent alumnus is Dave House, a longtime Intel executive whose team was responsible for the famous marketing slogan, “Intel Inside.” House has contributed millions to Michigan Tech, endowed several professorships and chaired a successful $200 million capital campaign.

Student Opportunities & Careers

Michigan Tech’s Career Services places a remarkable 94 percent of graduates in jobs in their fields within six months of graduation. Nearly 500 companies come all the way to Houghton for the university’s Fall and Spring Career Fairs, where more than 3,500 students meet employers and explore internships, co-ops, and job opportunities. Michigan Tech participates in Handshake, an app developed by Michigan Tech students which connects employers and potential employees online. Handshake has now spread to hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. Tech also sponsors CareerFEST, a month of special programs surrounding Career Fair, during which various industries such as railroads, automotive and manufacturing are spotlighted.

When students aren’t in class or conducting research, they participate in more than 220 student organizations, music and fine arts, and cultural events including the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s largest multicultural festival, the Parade of Nations. Snowfall averages more than 200 inches a year, making Michigan Tech an outdoors person’s paradise.  In fact, Tech students celebrate their snowy climate with a Winter Carnival every February, building enormous snow statues and competing in wacky games such as ice bowling and human dogsled racing.

Whether it’s the All-Nighter frenzy to complete a Winter Carnival snow statue, or chasing the Northern Lights right outside your dorm, there’s a lot to do at Michigan Technological University.

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