Fifth Annual YES! Expo Brings "Sport Science," Engineering Experiences to Ford Field

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

It promises to be a very hands-on, button-pushing kind of day. For nearly 15,000 Michigan middle and high school students, the future is coming to Ford Field on Thursday, Nov. 6, and it's a future filled with the excitement of designing things, making things happen, changing the world through engineering and science.

They'll be manipulating robots; operating simulated construction equipment; modulating noise, vibration and harshness in the cockpit of a car; meeting an astronaut; and seeing for themselves just how the mechanics of an underhand softball pitch differ from an overhand baseball pitch.

It's the Fifth Annual YES! Expo (Youth in Science and Engineering), a day of noisy, happy, high-energy activity, when students and teachers get to look, touch and try exhibits mounted by more than 50 corporate sponsors, including household names like Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, General Motors, Marathon Petroleum, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, and less-familiar giants in their fields, including Faurecia, FANUC Robotics, Hemlock Semiconductor, Michigan's Design and Construction Coalition and Yazaki North America.

Twenty-five universities, including YES! Expo founding sponsor Michigan Tech, will also display exhibits designed to get kids excited about educational programs that can prepare them to be engineers and scientists. Michigan Tech exhibits will include Admissions, Summer Youth Program, Super Mileage Enterprise, Sounds Design, Integrated Microsystems Enterprise, High School Enterprise, Surveying, Applied Sensory Psychology, School of Business, Computer Science, Forestry, Clean Snowmobile, Exercise Science & Physics, Nanotechnology, Alternative Fuels Group and Aerospace Engineering. The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences is hosting an Educators Cafe with resources for teachers.

Tech's Super Mileage team is expected to be a big hit at the expo this year. They'll be showcasing a student-designed vehicle that gets 457 miles per gallon.

Nine Tech students and Paul Bergstrom, advisor to the Integrated Microsystem Enterprise, are returning to YES! Expo. They were a highlight of the Michigan Tech display last year. They are bringing a model roller coaster with a point-of-view camera and an accelerometer.

Doug Oppliger and the Utica High School Enterprise team will be demonstrating their robotic underwater vehicle.

Cindy Bir, Detroit's own star of the Emmy Award-winning Fox Sports Network program "Sport Science," will give demonstrations of the forces involved in kicking a soccer ball or football, throwing a baseball or a softball, and how human motion can be captured—using instruments from her biomedical engineering lab at Wayne State University and student volunteers.

"Students in America are falling further and further behind in science and math," Bir observed. "But perhaps we can change this trend, turning them on to science by way of sports, showing them that science can be fun."

NASA astronaut Greg Johnson will talk with students about their possible futures in space, and a Dow Chemical chemist will use student helpers to conduct an experiment using common chemicals to change the temperature of water.

Faurecia, a leader in the design, development and production of a variety of product lines including automotive seating, vehicle interiors, front ends and exhaust systems, will introduce students to the cockpit of a vehicle, where they will discover how engineers tackle tough challenges such as noise, vibration and harshness of the ride.

The expo's goal is to open new doors to the future for Detroit-area students. Since it began in 2004, the YES! Expo has introduced nearly 50,000 young people to the exciting possibilities of careers in engineering, technology and science.

"In our present economy, any hope for the future lies in science, technology and engineering," said Pete Cattelino, who organizes the YES! Expo for Michigan Tech. "We want kids to see for themselves how exciting and rewarding jobs in those fields can be."

Surveys of students who attended past YES! Expos indicate that it's working. More than 85 percent report that their participation in YES! Expo gave them a much better understanding of the work that engineers do. Fully 90 percent said YES! Expo made them think more about continuing their education after graduating from high school, and more than 70 percent said it has made them decide to work harder in school.

Nearly one in four of the high school juniors and seniors who attended the last two YES! Expos contacted Michigan Tech for information about admission, said John Lehman, vice president of enrollment services.

Pilot Program: Airman Getting a Michigan Tech MS from Afghanistan

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

Some Michigan Tech students choose distance learning to avoid scheduling conflicts or to dodge the dreaded eight o'clock roll call. Air Force Captain Kenneth Burgi enrolled in Dennis Wiitanen's power systems analysis course because it's hard getting to class when you are flying 14-hour missions over Afghanistan.

Wiitanen, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, never expected to have a pilot enrolled in EE4221. "It's amazing," he said, "and a little hard for me to get used to."

Burgi is earning an MS in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis on power systems. The typical distance-learning student in this class is an industry employee looking to develop skills for this high-demand field, and many are working toward a certificate in power systems.

Burgi, who got his BS in Electrical Engineering from Tech in 2002, has a different goal. "I hope to apply to Air Force Test Pilot School, arguably one of the most competitive programs in the Air Force," he said. "A master's degree in either electrical engineering or aeronautical engineering is highly desirable."

At the start of his career, Burgi did not aim to be a "Top Gun"-style aviator. If he had, he might have enrolled in Tech's Air Force ROTC program. "Looking back, it might have been a smarter move, but I was not anticipating where I am today," he said. "I was always interested in flying, but my vision was far from perfect."

Thus, he spent his first two years in the Air Force as an acquisition officer in the Air Force Research Laboratory, managing several million dollars in government research contracts and grants. In his spare time, he earned a private pilot's license and, hoping to marry his hobby and his vocation, applied and was selected for pilot training.

He advises fellow four-eyed pilot wannabes not to give up. "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't fly," said Burgi. "Anyone who wants to fly should know the vision requirement is 20/70 correctable to 20/20. You can even get waivers if you outside those parameters, but you do need to be correctable to 20/20."

The Air Force permits the LASIK and PRK surgical procedures, used to fix vision deficits, "but this must be very well documented, and PRK is strongly preferred," he said.

As for distance learning, Burgi couldn't be earning his master's without it. "Flying keeps me busy," he said. "Missions can get long. I've had some that were 24 hours. Right now, I have been running about 14-hour missions with 24 hours off on average."

Figure in eating and sleeping, and there's not much time left over for study. "Time management is obviously crucial," said Burgi. "I feel busy, but all the material online really helps, and Michigan Tech's IT department set up an FTP account so I could download the lectures and watch them offline," a definite plus since his Internet connection isn't fast enough to stream the lecture.

"One of the major advantages is the recorded lectures," he said. "Anytime I need to review something, I have access to the entire lecture; I'm no longer limited to just my notes."

On the minus side, he has no peers to study with and can't drop in to see Wiitanen during office hours. "It can be hard to effectively ask an engineering question via email, but my professor is doing an impressive job replying to all my emails," Burgi said. "This means that sometimes it can take me awhile to really understand what is being taught, but it can be rewarding when I figure something out on my own."

He studies in a 10-by-10-foot room furnished with an air conditioner, a mini-refrigerator and a TV, and while conditions may seem Spartan, he notes, it's far better than a tent.

Whatever his living quarters, "Ken's a great student," said Wiitanen. "He has lots of good insights. He was struggling with one problem, and before I could even get back to him he got back to me with a solution I hadn't even thought of. I asked him if I could use it next year."

A distance-learning master's program may be ideal for older students, he suspects. "I don't think that most kids have enough maturity to earn a bachelor's degree online," Wiitanen said. "It's a perfect fit for a master's degree, or a postgraduate certificate program. Those students are more focused."

Having so many dedicated students has been an unexpected benefit of teaching from a distance, Wiitanen said. "It's been fun. I have a hard time sitting in one place (for the camera) instead of pacing, but I think I'll get the hang of it."

Burgi, meanwhile, expects to keep working on his master's from all over the place. He is scheduled to see his bride in Charleston, S.C., and their two dogs in January, but afterward, he'll be airborne once again.

"Deployment (in a combat zone) is only part of the picture," he explained. "During the months my squadron is not deployed, we are still flying missions throughout the world. I started flying missions in March, and by the end of the year I will have spent six months on the road or deployed."

Next year won't be any different, he added. "I'm anticipating being away from home about 200 days."

Tech Takes Part in World Usability Day: WUD-UP!

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

Usability: it's about making our world work better, making life easier and more "user friendly."

World Usability Day is an annual, international event that has grown considerably since it began in 2005. Events take place in locations across the world: from Germany to Japan, from the Philippines to Iceland. And this year, for the first time, World Usability Day is coming to the Keweenaw.

World Usability Day–UP (WUD-UP) will take place on campus Thursday, Nov. 13. The 2008 theme is Usability in Transportation. At the Tech event, Michigan Tech students will have the opportunity to showcase their work in usability at a poster session podcast by Tim Keirnan, a nationally recognized usability expert and blogger at . A panel of transportation professionals will discuss usability issues in their fields, with an informal reception following for students and community members to meet the panelists.

"Our hope is to raise awareness of usability and user-centered design as a relatively new but fast-growing field," says Karla Kitalong, associate professor of humanities at Tech and member of the WUD-UP planning committee. "We are focusing a great deal on students, to show them how this field fits in with their professional goals, and how important it is for engineers, programmers and other technological professionals to design with the users' needs in mind."

The WUD–UP event begins with the poster session in the Memorial Union Alumni Lounge from 3 to 4 p.m., which provides students with an important opportunity to talk about their work, as well as gain feedback from each other and from those users for whom they will be designing someday. The panel presentation, also in the Alumni Lounge, from 4 to 5:15 p.m., features professionals with real-life experience and insights into important usability issues. A reception with light refreshments will follow to give audience members a chance to interact with the panelists.

"Our panelists represent a wide range of transportation professionals," Kitalong says. "They work in railroad transportation, highway and pavement management, and automobile information technology. We even have two Michigan Tech students who worked on a transportation project in Bolivia."

Panelists include Pasi Lautala, founder and director of Tech's railroad engineering program; Chad Esselink of the Ford Information Technology Division in Dearborn; Tim Colling, assistant director of Michigan's Local Technical Assistance Program; and Elise Cleary and Kari Klaboe, both undergraduate students who worked on a road and storm-water drainage system in Bolivia as part of Michigan Tech's International Senior Design (ISD) program.

This year's World Usability Day–UP event is sponsored by the Department of Humanities, Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI), Michigan Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and For more information, contact Kitalong at or 487-3254. The World Usability Day website is located at .

Name the New Wellness Incentive Program

submitted by the Benefits Office

The TechCommunity Wellness Committee is preparing to introduce a new wellness incentive program in 2009. The details are being worked out and will be available soon. The program will encourage employees to participate in wellness activities and provide incentives at certain progress levels.

We would like to get the campus community involved in our first step toward introducing the program. If you have a creative side and would like to be part of this, we are asking for submissions to name the new incentive program.

If you are interested in submitting a name, please contact or send submissions to Renee Hiller at . The committee will gather all submissions and determine a winner prior to rolling out the program. Please have your submissions in to the Benefits Office by Monday, Nov. 17.

Michigan Tech Preschool Winter Registration Open

submitted by Michigan Tech Preschool

Since 1958, Michigan Tech Preschool has been providing quality, affordable preschool for children ages three to five. The preschool is currently enrolling students for the winter term. Classes begin Nov. 10.

Michigan Tech Preschool offers children a fun place to learn. Classroom activities focus on hands-on learning with opportunities for circle time, independent playtime, one-on-one teacher-directed activities and daily outdoor playtime. The outdoor area features a new playground and expanded play area. The preschool teachers are certified, dedicated and make each child feel special.

Michigan Tech Preschool is a fully licensed, non-profit, cooperative preschool open to all community members. Non-English-speaking children are welcome. To be eligible for enrollment, children must turn three by Dec. 1 and be potty trained. Tuition discounts are available for families living in Daniell Heights.

As the oldest preschool in the Copper Country area, and one of the oldest in the state, Michigan Tech Preschool is proud of its history of excellence in early childhood education. For more information, visit or call Michigan Tech Preschool Registrar Brita Odegard at 482-5193.

Memorial Union Menus

This Week's Specials at The Grill
Monday, Nov. 3
The Mini $3.99 (one egg any style, with bacon or sausage, hash browns and coffee)
Triple Stacker Value Meal $5.50 (includes triple cheeseburger, 20-ounce soda and a small fry; Triple Stacker only, $3.50)

Tuesday, Nov. 4
Farmer's Omelet $3.95 (Fresh-cooked scrambled eggs filled with ham, cheese, peppers, onions and hash browns, served with toast)
Two-Fer-Tuesday $3.99 (two cheeseburgers, a small fry and a 20-ounce soda)

Wednesday, Nov. 5
Breakfast Pizza $3.25
Chicken Chili Crispitos $3 (delicious chicken chili wrapped in a crispy tortilla and served with salsa; two served per order)

Thursday, Nov. 6
Western Omelet (filled with bell peppers, onion and ham), Toast and Coffee $3.95
Roast Beef and Cheddar Croissants $3.50 (Make it a value meal and add a small fry and a 20-ounce soda for $2.50)

Friday, Nov. 7
Blueberry Pancakes $2.95
Chicken Ham and Cheese Sandwich $3 (crispy, golden chicken patty, sliced ham, swiss cheese and honey mustard, served on seeded bun)

This Week's Special at Peppers & Pickles Deli
Buffalo Chicken Subs $3.99
Delicious buffalo chicken breast with your choice of cheese and veggies.

This Week's Specials at Mubsterz Pizza
Pizza Slice and a 20-ounce Fountain Soda $3.99
Two Pizza Slices for Just $5.50
Pizza Slice and two Cheese Sticks $4.95
Pizza Slice and a Small Salad $4.95
Pizza Slice, 20-ounce Fountain Soda and a Small Bowl of Salad $5.50

Union Buffet Served Daily 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Up to one large plate and one small plate or bowl, $6.95
One large plate, $5.95
Entrees a la carte, $3.95
Salads and sides only: Small, $2; Medium, $3.50; Large, $4.95
Daily Menu Available at .

Chicken Caesar Salad
Served Daily, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $4.75