Students in the Enterprise Program pose for a photo around the Husky Statue.

20 Years of Enterprise

Our Enterprise program heads into its third decade of preparing students for the work they’ll do when they graduate.

Michigan Tech Enterprise teams partner with industries on real projects, make real product breakthroughs, and run real businesses, workflow to cash flow.

A Multitude of Multi-Year Projects

Enterprise students design and build satellites and hybrid electric cars. Develop better hockey blades and roof tiles. Build low-cost alternatives to expensive hardware and software, then share designs with the commons for collaboration and improvement.

More innovations developed by Enterprise students on the 53 teams in its history: easy-to-deploy craft for mass water rescues, and a video to raise awareness about an important addition to NASA's wildfire response platform. Bird-window collision-avoidance systems. Better prosthetics and vaccine-transport carriers.

About the Director

"There's something for everyone," says Enterprise Program Director Rick Berkey. And if the selection of teams, from vehicles to mining, materials, computers, robotics, game development, sustainability and alternative energy, is missing something, students are welcome to propose it.

That's how many of the teams started.

Students with Skin in the Game

Enterprise isn't required. It's a choice. Students who join tend to be as passionate about their area of interest as most Huskies are about broomball. They discover that Enterprise isn't a typical university course—it's representative of the kind of work they'll actually do when they graduate. The business, communication, and practical skills Enterprise adds to their technical capabilities is well known to companies who prefer to hire Huskies—many of whom are involved in Enterprise as advisors, partners, and individual team sponsors.

"The program wouldn't exist without the support of external industry partners."Enterprise Program Director and Professor of Practice Rick Berkey

While faculty and industry advisors, along with business and corporate partners, are integral to program success, Enterprise puts students in the driver's seat—literally, in the case of mobility and transportation teams. Several Enterprises, including Clean Snowmobile Challenge—also celebrating a 20-year milestone—are among the more than 10,000 students annually involved in the SAE International Collegiate Design Series.

Michigan Tech Enterprise students handle the full scope of projects, even if that means making (and learning) from mistakes. "They see the plus side, and the frustrations," says long-time Consumer Product Manufacturing Enterprise co-advisor Tony Rogers, associate professor of chemical engineering.

That ability to independently problem solve is foundational to the program's origins.

How Enterprise Started

Rewind to Michigan Tech's switch from quarters to semesters. The University's restructuring effort was about more than calendar dates; it was an opportunity to provide the richer, real-world learning experiences that the companies who hire Michigan Tech graduates have come to expect. A proposal, "Redesigning Engineering Education with Active Learning and Integration Through the Engineering Enterprise," was funded through a National Science Foundation initiative to create systemic change in engineering education.

The collaborative effort encompassed the College of Engineering (COE), College of Sciences and Arts (CSA), and the College of Business (COB, then known as the School of Business and Economics). Principal investigator was Mark Plichta, currently a professor emeritus, materials science and engineering, and director of the Institute of Materials Processing.

Plichta, regarded as the father of Michigan Tech Enterprise, worked with co-PIs Sheryl Sorby (civil and environmental engineering), Brian Patrick Joyce (COB), Bruce Barna (chemical engineering), and Carl Anderson (mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics).

"While many other institutions have adopted components of the Enterprise model, Michigan Tech's program still stands out as a unique and highly successful model for active, problem-based learning," says Mary Raber. Assistant Dean of Academic Programs at Pavlis Honors College, Raber has fostered the Enterprise program since its inception and previously served as director.

Where Enterprise is Going

Honors Education Redefined

Learn how students forge their own pathways at Pavlis Honors College.

The program's home in Pavlis Honors College expands the program's potential. A base for interdisciplinary education, the college is as unique as Enterprise itself. Pavlis offers the Enhanced Enterprise Experience as one of six pathways on which students craft their own journeys, anchored in the discovery and development of deep self-knowledge.

The personal and professional resources Pavlis offers students—mentors to Makerspace—opens doors to success. Just as Enterprise has been doing for more than two decades.

Making History

Mark Plichta portrait.

1998

Three-year $749,000 National Science Foundation grant kickstarts the project. Principal investigator is current professor emeritus Mark Plichta '74 '79, regarded as the Father of Enterprise.


Students looking at posters at Design Expo.

1999 - 2001

Pilot year with three teams.

First Design Expo, undergraduate showcase of Enterprise and senior capstone projects.


Clean Snowmobile contestants lined up.

2002 - 2003

New 20-credit Enterprise minor is offered. Program grows to 17 Enterprises, 400 students, 19 disciplines—76 percent of teams supported by industries.


Mary Raber portrait.

2006

The new Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies expands Enterprise accessibility to students from all majors. Institute Associate Director Mary Raber, key to Enterprise growth since its inception, serves as the program's director.


Frank Pavlis cutting the ribbon to open the Pavlis Honors College.

2014 - 2015

Pavlis Honors College established, becomes Enterprise home base.


Rick Berkey portrait.

2019 - 2020

Enterprise remains a unique model for multiyear, interdisciplinary, experiential learning under guidance of current director Rick Berkey.


  • $10M
    in lifetime external support
  • 4,821
    Enterprise alumni (and counting!)
  • 91.7%
    graduation rate for Enterprise students
  • 24
    Enterprise teams
  • 1 in 7
    students enrolled in Enterprise
  • 900+
    students (2018 - 2019)
  • 30+
    majors represented

Milestones

A few—of many—Enterprise highlights.

Two students playing a video game.

Students walking next to their supermilage vehicle.
Rick Osentoski/AP Images for Shell

2004

Blue Marble Security Enterprise forms as a Wireless Communications spinoff to engage students in homeland security innovations.

2011

Husky Game Development launches Arcane Brawlers on Xbox Live.

2017

Supermileage Systems wins a technical innovation award at Shell Eco-Marathon Americas.

2019

The first satellite built by Aerospace Enterprise is launched by SpaceX at Cape Canaveral as part of the Department of Defense STP-2 mission.

2020

Clean Snowmobile Challenge also celebrates 20 years; it's one of five Enterprise teams involved in the SAE International Collegiate Design Program that impacts more than 10,000 students annually.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. 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, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.