Michigan Tech News

Michigan Tech Research Institute Dedication May 17

 

Last Modified 9:44 AM, March 22, 2013

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By Jennifer Donovan

May 10, 2007—

Michigan Technological University will dedicate its Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) Dave House Center in Ann Arbor on May 17. The research institute was purchased from the Altarum Institute by Michigan Tech last year with a gift from the House Family Foundation, established by former Intel executive Dave House, a Michigan Tech alumnus.

During the dedication, trustees of the Michigan Tech Fund, legislators and other invited guests will tour the institute, where research focuses on the development of innovative technology for measuring and analyzing natural and man-made environments. MTRI's 30 scientists and their student interns design and test sensors that can measure water quality, help eliminate traffic congestion and road safety hazards, assess factors contributing to global climate change, and conserve and protect natural resources.

They also develop sensors that can give the military "better eyes and ears," said co-director Nikola Subotic. "We can help them see over hills and into buildings, to keep troops out of harm's way," he explained.

"We are both healers and hunters," co-director Robert Shuchman said of MTRI's varied research.

When Altarum refocused recently on health systems research, the private, non-profit organization decided to sell its environmental and emerging technologies division, based in Ann Arbor. The House Family Foundation gift and Michigan Tech's purchase of the division enabled the high-tech environmental and national security technology research to remain in Michigan, where it continues to grow, providing jobs and educational opportunities.

MTRI's work is funded entirely by research grants and contracts with agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, NASA, the Department Agriculture, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense.

According to David Reed, Michigan Tech vice president for research, who coordinated the acquisition, Michigan Tech is excited about the new doors that MTRI opens. Noted Glenn Mroz, Michigan Tech president: "It increases our capacity to conduct research and provide education in the key fields of engineering, technology and the environment, and it enables us to anchor the commercialization of Michigan university research right here in Michigan where it belongs."

Afternoon tours of MTRI will be followed by a dedication ceremony at which House, Mroz, Reed, Shuchman and Subotic will talk about the Institute's vision and research. Invited guests, including legislators, will then adjourn to a strolling dinner at Weber's Inn.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university of international stature, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forest resources and environmental sciences, computer sciences, technology, business and economics, natural sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.

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TWO EXAMPLES OF MTRI RESEARCH

Bering Glacier Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought

A new system of measuring water melt shows that the Bering Glacier--the largest glacier in North America--is melting at double the rate that scientists thought. The glacier is releasing approximately 30 cubic kilometers of water a year, more than twice the amount of water in the entire Colorado River, said Robert Shuchman, co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI).

"This could potentially change the circulation of coastal currents in the Gulf of Alaska," Shuchman said. Those currents are key factors in tempering climate, redistributing nutrients in the water and providing adequate food for the salmon and marine animals, he explained.

As glaciers melt, sea levels rise, and "sea level rise affects everyone," Shuchman added. "If it continues to rise at this rate, parts of the state of Florida could be under water at the turn of the next century."

The MTRI team, working with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) scientists, designed the sensor that enabled BLM to accurately measure and analyze the melting of this Alaskan glacier. Shuchman and his team, along with BLM and USGS, have been studying the glacier for the past decade with an interdisciplinary team of geologists, oceanographers, botanists, and marine mammal, bird and fish experts.

"Our glacier observations are 10 times better and 10 times less costly than data collected the old way," Shuchman said. Before MTRI developed its autonomous sensor to collect data as it occurs, scientists had to make dangerous and difficult treks to remote regions to measure glacial melting.

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Monitoring Water Quality in Real Time

If you are swimming in a lake or river--or drinking water from it--you want to know about the water quality now, not a week or a month ago.

A small free-floating buoy designed by the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) in Ann Arbor in collaboration with the University of Michigan Marine Hydrodynamic Lab now can provide a simple and inexpensive way to keep constant tabs on water quality. Known as an Automated Lagrangian Water Quality Assessment System (ALWAS), the technology uses a sensor that measures a wide variety of water properties, including temperature, depth, conductivity, saltiness, total dissolved solids, pH or acidity/alkalinity, nitrates, ammonium, chlorides and blue-green algae.

ALWAS takes measurements as often as every 40 seconds and uploads the results to computer software that processes and analyzes the data and can map it using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. The buoy position is determined at each measurement using global position satellites (GPS). The data can be transmitted in real time using wireless technology.

Without ALWAS, water quality must be measured by collecting water samples and sending them to a lab for analysis or by sending expensive equipment out in boats and inserting it into the water to make only point measurements. Either way, "there is a latency in getting useful information out," said Robert Shuchman, co-director of MTRI, who helped design the sensor.

So far, ALWAS has made measurements in Lake Michigan, Lake St. Clair, and the Kalamazoo River. "We would like to create a comprehensive water quality map of the 10,000 lakes and streams in Michigan," Shuchman said.

MTRI is soliciting funding to manufacture 25 ALWAS buoys to deploy with undergraduates and graduate students throughout Michigan. "That way they become an educational tool as well as a water quality monitor," Shuchman noted.

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.