Break-ing the Rules

Students at STEM festival
Students at STEM festival
Middle school students from North Carolina react to one of the displays by Michigan Tech's Mind Trekkers at a STEM festival in 2018. About 40 Michigan Tech undergraduate and graduate students will volunteer to work the festival again this year during spring break.

Thousands of Michigan Technological University students will be away from campus during spring break, March 8-17. For many it will be an adventure of a lifetime.

For Michigan Tech students, spring break is a time to take the dedication, innovation and tenacity they bring to the classroom to a different venue.

Alternative Spring Break trips can be described as altruistic, academic, athletic and more. Rather than hanging out on a parent's warm couch, Huskies will be hanging drywall for Habitat for Humanity and hitting a hanging curve at Spring Training.

Introducing STEM

Also, Tech students will carry the message of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to thousands of young people. For the eighth straight year, members of the Michigan Tech Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) will travel to Detroit to visit middle and high school students. The 10 NSBE members will encourage students to continue their education past high school and choose a STEM career. In addition to the school visits during the day, the Huskies will host Family Engineering Nights.

The Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers will spread the magic of STEM to students and families “down south.” A group of 13 students, and two Tech staff, will head to South Carolina for the Charleston STEM Festival. They will represent the presenting sponsor of the festival and Mind Trekkers' close corporate partner, Bosch.

Following the STEM Festival, the group will trek a bit further north to, once again, participate in the 2019 Passport to STEM event at Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amanda Jackson, assistant director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Educational Outreach said, “This is a free event open to about 2,500 Charlotte-area sixth and seventh-grade students.”

Jackson said a total of 40 Michigan Tech undergraduate and graduate students have volunteered for the event. “We’ve got a good mix of majors participating,” she said. “In addition to engineering majors, we’ve got psychology, material science, theatre and entertainment technology, computer science, bioinformatics, biochemistry and molecular biology, and kinesiology.” Jackson said the students will also have some time for recreation with zip lines, high ropes and white water rafting on the agenda.

On the slopes and on the river

For some, adventure isn’t something to do on break — it’s the only thing. Michigan Tech’s Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP) is sponsoring a trip to the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Hardy souls will be canoeing and camping on the river. On the way, the group will stop for hiking and a visit to the St. Louis City Museum.

The Snowboard Race Team of Michigan Tech will represent the University at the U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association National Championship in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The 41st annual event will take place Sunday, March 10 through Saturday March 16 at Snow King Mountain.

While there are those who leave Houghton only to look for more snow, other club athletes are looking to get as far away from the white stuff as possible. The Baseball Club at Michigan Tech is heading to Florida for spring training. The team usually plays a handful of games against other university club teams. The team will also catch a few major league Grapefruit League games and spend some quality time on the beach.

Rock on

For the first time, the Geology Club at Michigan Tech is partnering with Tech’s student chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) to travel to Hot Springs National Park and the Ozarks Mountains. Club member Evelyn Jobe said enthusiasm is running high.

“The purpose of the trip is to give students an opportunity to discover geology outside of Michigan," she said. "Many students have been enthusiastic about rock and mineral collecting for many years but have never left Michigan for it. Similarly, many of the required geology classes have outdoor labs that focus on local geology and the field courses offered are also based on local geology. Our goal is to broaden our perspectives on geologic formations and gain experience with different types of landscapes.”

The Tech geologists will camp in Hot Springs National Park for three nights, focusing on the geothermal nature of the area while enjoying the bathhouses of Hot Springs. They are also planning a day trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park to hunt for … you guessed it … diamonds. The final leg of the trip includes Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri and Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in St. Louis, Illinois.

A higher purpose

Several Michigan Tech groups will spend their spring break working for the greater good. His House Christian Fellowship is heading back to Mexico. Traditionally, the fellowship travels to Mexico during break to assist in housing construction. Last year however, the group went to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This year it’s back to Mexico.

A contingent of 18 members of Habitat for Humanity at Michigan Tech are heading to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to volunteer on a local critical repair project. Chelsea Cedarquist of Tech’s Habitat group said they’ll be staying in a church while they hang drywall and complete other miscellaneous projects to make the space more livable.

Cedarquist said this is exactly the kind of trip the group usually takes. “The Michigan Tech chapter of Habitat always does a volunteer-based spring break trip. In the past years, we have traveled to Taos, New Mexico; Willmington, North Carolina; and Tacoma, Washington. These trips are a great way for our members to give back to the communities, explore a new area, learn valuable skills and meet a great group of people.”

A pair of alternative spring breaks are being coordinated through Michigan Tech Student Leadership and Involvement. The University is working with NetWork Volunteers, a local nonprofit organization that connects volunteers in New Orleans. Students will engage in environmental sustainability and neighborhood revitalization projects in “The Big Easy.”

Student Leadership and Involvement is also working with Long Way Home to send a group to San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. The Michigan Tech volunteers will spend the week building an off-the-grid earthquake resistant home for a local family. The home will be built with a variety of green building techniques.

There's no place like home

Finally, for international students who can’t make it home for spring break, International Programs and Services is once again offering a “Keweenaw Stay-Cation,” with Copper Country activities designed with international students in mind.

Whether they’re digging for diamonds or practicing the Golden Rule, our crazy-smart students are expanding the definition of what it means to be a Husky.

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.