Michigan Tech Magazine Fall 2010 Cover

Portage Lake Bridge

The Portage Lake Bridge celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in June.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Heavy Bridge

by Dennis Walikainen

Three Michigan Tech alumni were on the engineering team that helped build the Portage Lake (don't say "lift") Bridge, which marked its fiftieth anniversary in June. John Michels '51 of Ontonagon was a project engineer and remembers it as "quite a stressful engineering feat, especially erecting the steel."

The civil engineer, who worked with Tom Wiseman '49 and Don Kero '58, says the 2,200-ton center span was assembled on barges in Hancock and floated down the canal, pulled by tug boats. It was like threading a huge needle, with only four inches of clearance at either end of the lift span. The fact that it fit perfectly, including the expansion joints, was a relief to all involved, Michels said.

A crew of about one hundred worked on the bridge each day, including Bernard Gestel of Dollar Bay, who patrolled the waters in his boat to retrieve anything that fell in the water, humans included.

Graduate students Margus Paesalu of Estonia, Abhilash Kantamneni of India, Lei Zhang and Kaixian Yu of China, and Daniel Yeboah of Ghana

Graduate students Margus Paesalu of Estonia, Abhilash Kantamneni of India, Lei Zhang and Kaixian Yu of China, and Daniel Yeboah of Ghana

Research, Gradschool, International Club

Coming to America

by Marcia Goodrich

In 2008, as Kaixian Yu's plane was landing at Houghton County Memorial Airport, his life was taking off. He had been accepted into Michigan Tech's PhD program in mathematical sciences. He was excited about working with his advisor in a field he loved. And, he had studied English for ten years at home in China and passed the language competency test with flying colors.

What could go wrong?

"I couldn't find anywhere to live," says Yu. "We spent five days looking. Then, when we finally found a place, I was trying to set up the cable and Internet, and the people at Charter couldn't understand me."

"It was very difficult," he says quietly. Then he perks up. "Fortunately, people here are really kind and so nice. They understand that English is not your mother language. I'm not so afraid now of making mistakes."

Codie Tucker and friend at the Copper Country Humane Society. Jeremiah Baumann photo

Codie Tucker and a friend at the Copper Country Humane Society

Circle K, Peace Corps

One Good Turn Leads to Another

by Jennifer Donovan

The timing couldn't have been better. It was late afternoon, a crisp hint of fall in the air. As Codie Tucker walked out of the R. L. Smith Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics building, her stomach growled, reminding her that it had been a long time since lunch.

“Have a sub, and come to a Circle K meeting,” a stranger urged, holding out a tantalizing, wax paper-wrapped sandwich. “Sure, why not,” Tucker replied. She had no idea what Circle K was, but she was starving.

Three years and countless community service hours later, Tucker is president of Circle K, a service club of college students affiliated with Kiwanis International. She walks dogs at the Copper Country Humane Society, adopts highways, reads Dr. Seuss books to kids . . . 

Gerard Caneba

Gerard Caneba with his vial of his super-stable foam.

Chemical Engineering

Slick Trick

by Marcia Goodrich

Assume for the sake of argument that you wanted to mop up a really, really big oil spill. Say it’s in a massive body of water teeming with life that abuts hundreds of miles of white-sand beaches and sensitive wetlands. What would you look for in a detergent?

First of all, it should be a super-foamy surfactant, says Gerard Caneba. That foam should be stable, able to hold up its suds in the face of lots of gunk. It should also be really safe, so that fish, turtles, jellyfish, and toddlers wouldn't sicken or die if they were to accidently swallow the stuff.

It would be nice if it were cheap too.

"We're working on something like that," says Caneba, a professor of chemical engineering . . . 

Octave DuTemple

Octave DuTemple

Chemical Engineering

Octave DuTemple

by Marcia Goodrich

If Octave DuTemple were to tell you everything he knew, he'd have to kill you. Fortunately, he's so accustomed to keeping secrets that he'd be hard-pressed to break his silence now.

DuTemple's circuitous and covert career is characterized by second chances, near misses, and ultimata veiled as polite requests. Born in 1920, he was swept from a working-class childhood to Michigan Tech, to the inner reaches of the US nuclear weapons program, and finally to leadership of the American Nuclear Society. In the meantime, he became an accomplished commercial pilot and flight instructor.

DuTemple was born and raised in the small town of Hubbell, where local mining . . .