Student Innovation On Display for Board of Trustees

Closeup of tree with snow on branches and leaves
Closeup of tree with snow on branches and leaves
A recent Michigan Tech graduate presented a Senior Design project — a utility corridor in the Straits of Mackinac — for the Board of Trustees at its December 14 meeting.

A recent Michigan Technological University graduate presented the “Strunnel” to the Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on December 14, 2018.

In May 2018, four Michigan Tech students shared their Senior Design project — an underwater utility corridor spanning the Straits of Mackinac — with Michigan law- and policymakers at the State Capitol. Michael Prast, who graduated from the University in May, recreated the presentation today for Board members.

The corridor, a 21-foot-diameter, 4.1-mile tunnel that would house all utility lines that cross the Straits, was the 2018 senior capstone project for 13 civil engineering and three construction management graduates. The students called their design the Strunnel.

Several months after the presentation in Lansing, the State of Michigan and multinational energy corporation Enbridge announced a deal to create a utility corridor under the Straits as part of decommissioning the Straits Pipelines portion of Line 5. The corridor would house a new Line 5 pipeline and other companies’ power lines, telecommunications cables and similar infrastructure. The Michigan Legislature passed and submitted a bill to Governor Rick Snyder authorizing the utility corridor. The governor signed the bill on Wednesday.

“I want to stress how influential this experience was,” Prast said during his presentation. “The University connected us to Lansing and gave us the opportunity to work on a project that was relevant at the time, and now seems to be happening. I can’t tell you how valuable that is as a student.”

In introducing Prast, Board Chair Brenda Ryan relayed a message from State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who said the students’ ideas and research made passing the utility corridor bill easier and a quicker reality. 

In other business, the Board:

  • Awarded Board of Trustees emerita rank to Julie Fream, and emeritus rank to Paul G. Ollila and Terry Woychowski;
  • Recognized and expressed appreciation for Paul Tomasi and Roberta Dessellier, both of whom are retiring after decades of service to Michigan Tech;
  • Granted professor emerita rank to M. Ann Brady, Department of Humanities, and Dana Johnson, School of Business and Economics; and professor emeritus rank to Charles D. Van Karsen, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; and
  • Received reports from the Undergraduate Student Government, Graduate Student Government, Research and Sponsored Programs, and University Senate.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.