MTU Flex for Academics Update for Week of June 22

During the week of June 22, the MTU Flex for Academics Team spent a great deal of time discussing the process that the Registrar’s Office and academic units on campus are using to update the schedule of classes for fall semester. It is already clear that some large, lecture-format courses will be moved to fully remote instruction. At least one faculty member responsible for teaching a large lecture-format course noted that students were more engaged after the course went remote during spring semester. That same instructor indicated that, in a smaller discussion-based class, it seemed that some students who were unwilling or unable to participate in whole-class discussions when the course was face-to-face were much more eager to participate once the course pivoted to remote format. 

Throughout the week, other instructors were considering moving to entirely remote instruction in order to enhance student learning. However, it may be possible to have at least some large, whole-class, face-to-face learning opportunities, and discussions about using unconventional spaces are taking place.

As some courses move to a fully remote format, classroom space is being freed up for use by other courses. The Registrar’s Office has the goal of ensuring that Michigan Tech optimizes the use of classrooms and other instructional spaces so students have as much access to face-to-face instruction as possible. Revision of the fall schedule of classes is proving to be a highly iterative process, and the Flex for Academics group applauds the Registrar’s Office, academic department chairs and deans, and individual faculty for their efforts to create an effective fall semester despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19. 

Assuming that six-foot distancing will be maintained in instructional venues, the capacity of Michigan Tech’s largest classroom, Fisher 135, will be reduced from its current capacity of 476 to a COVID-19 capacity of 74. The Fisher 135 example highlights the challenges the Registrar’s Office staff and others are working to address as they collaboratively plan for fall. The limitations to classroom occupancies necessitate the setting aside of spaces on the main campus for students to use when attending a class “remotely” (meaning they won’t be physically present in the classroom despite being present on campus on a particular day). The MUB Ballrooms and part of the Keweenaw Commons are currently slated for use by remote attendees on an as-needed basis. 

The group discussed the possible need to lengthen the time between classes in order to allow for appropriate physical distancing and potentially increased travel times from one class to another. There is a need to reduce the likelihood that students will be entering and leaving classrooms with only one door at the same time. Having a greater amount of time between classes will allow for a greater gap between the time that some students exit and other students enter. More time between classes will also be useful to those who must travel up and down flights of stairs or use elevators as they move from one class to another. Finally, shortening the duration of classes, even slightly, will reduce the time that any group is clustered together in a confined space. 

The group indicated that any reduction in class time should be used by instructors for some other purpose during the semester, so students still have the same amount of time to engage with each course and its materials. Examples of possible uses of out-of-classroom time include quizzes or exams, facilitated discussions, problem-solving sessions, or flipped-classroom mini-lectures. The current thinking is that 50-minute classes may be shortened to 40 minutes. This means over the course of a semester, a lecture course that meets three times per week would have approximately 30 minutes per week or seven hours over the semester made available for out-of-classroom activities that engage students with the course’s content. 

The group also continued to review the results of recent research related to safety. Michigan Tech’s custom-designed instructional face shields will be provided to all MTU instructors for the fall. The group also learned the University has received a generous donation of face shields from Ford Motor Company and Houghton County Emergency Management, which will be used for other purposes on campus and will greatly augment the supply of those being produced on campus for instructional use. 

Discussions also included guidance from the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) about potentially equipping smaller classrooms with CHATAttach—an audio conferencing system that enables even distribution of microphones and loudspeakers. If you are interested in testing a CHATAttach system, contact the CTL. The CTL will also assist with the proctoring of exams for those who need special accommodation, but notes that the capacity of the University's testing center is diminished due to physical distancing requirements. The use of remote exams is encouraged, and the CTL and IDEA Hub will be working with faculty who have had success giving remote exams to provide some models for others. There will also be an upcoming Teaching Q&A on best practices for conducting remote exams to ensure fairness and security.

There have been some questions regarding the current status of the fall semester calendar and whether it can be modified if conditions warrant. At this time, there are many unknowns about what fall will bring. Although many people thought COVID-19 cases would decline over the summer months, this does not appear to be happening. In fact, the number of cases appears to be rising in some of the warmest parts of the U.S. We collectively know little about what will happen in the next few weeks, let alone what things will be like during the latter part of fall semester in November. For that reason, the provost has recommended we keep our options as open as possible for now, continue to monitor conditions, and develop a schedule for making calendar-related decisions that will allow us to use up-to-date information, while also giving everyone the time they need to plan and implement changes. By retaining flexibility in the fall schedule for as long as possible, we will have the best potential to respond proactively to unexpected events.   

MTU Flex: Self-monitoring – What to Do if You Forget

Editor's Note: A previous Tech Today post introduced the COVID-19 Daily Symptom Monitoring Form and explained how to use it to gain access to campus buildings. This post explains what to do if you forget to submit it.

Fast forward to fall. You wake up late. You have to skip your coffee to get out the door on time. When you arrive on campus, you realize you forgot to submit the COVID-19 Daily Symptom Monitoring Form—which means you’re locked out of your building.

If this happens, don’t worry. You can submit the form right here on campus, and your HuskyCard tap access will be restored quickly (usually within five minutes).

How to Get Access if You Forget
If you have a smartphone and Internet access, you can submit the form on your phone’s browser app. Or, you can submit the form by phone. Call Public Safety and Police Services at 906-487-2216 and ask dispatch to submit the form on your behalf. If you don’t have a cell phone, you can stop by Public Safety and speak to dispatch in person—it’s located in the Widmaier House on MacInnes Drive, just off US-41, west of Wadsworth Hall.

Add a Contact, Bookmark, or Home Screen Icon
A little bit of preparation now can save time and stress later. Save Public Safety and Police Services’ phone number as a contact in your phone. And, make sure to bookmark the MTU Flex Portal in your phone's browser app or save the bookmark as an icon on your phone’s home screen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer helpful instructions on how to do this, depending on your phone model:

No Tech Today Friday

Because it is a University holiday, there will be no Tech Today published or distributed on Friday (July 3) in observance of Independence Day.

Tech Today will resume on Monday (July 6). The deadline for articles published on Monday is noon Thursday (July 2). 

Questions can be emailed to Tech Today.

New MMET Department Chair

The College of Engineering at Michigan Tech announces that John Irwin (MMET) has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology beginning today (July 1).

Irwin is a professor and served as associate chair of the MMET department this past year with Walt Milligan (MSE), who was interim chair during the department's transition from the School of Technology to the College of Engineering.

"I am looking forward to Dr. Irwin's leadership in the department of MMET. This is one of our strongest hands-on programs, graduating strongly qualified, highly sought for graduates," stated College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. "Dr. Irwin's extensive experience with continuous improvement of academic programs through ABET is a strong asset he brings to the department."

Irwin has taught many courses in the MET program. Most recently, courses in Parametric Modeling, Statics and Strength of Materials, Product Design and Development, CAE and FEA Methods, Computer-aided Manufacturing, and Senior Design.

His research interests include problem-based learning methods applied in the areas of CAD/CAM, static and dynamic model simulation, and product and manufacturing work cell verification. Irwin is also an affiliate professor with the Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences, and Director of the Research and Innovation in STEAM Education (RISE) Institute at Michigan Tech.

Irwin earned an AAS in mechanical design engineering technology from Michigan Tech in 1982, a BS in technical education at Ferris State University in 1984, an MS in occupational education at Ferris State University in 1992, and an EdD in curriculum and instruction at Wayne State University in 2005.

Irwin is a former collegiate cross country and track & field letter winner and later competed as a company-sponsored triathlete. Later he continued his athletic interests as a cross country coach for Mott Community College. John continues to run, swim and bike as an activity. Read more on the College of Engineering Blog.

ACT, SAT Waived for Some Applicants

For incoming students next fall, first-year applicants with a cumulative high school GPA of 3.00 or higher will not be required to provide official SAT or ACT scores to receive an admission decision. The domestic application, now available online for spring, summer, and fall 2021 semesters, remains free for all applicants.

The University recognizes that the incoming class of 2021 faced many obstacles, one of which was the postponement or cancellation of spring SAT and ACT examinations, which traditionally trigger the start of the college application process. In Michigan, all high school juniors were scheduled to take the SAT free of charge as part of state assessment testing in April. Due to school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this testing has been postponed until September 23 or October 14—the date of administration to be determined by individual districts.

“Many students wait until they receive their scores before deciding where to apply. The delays in testing would likely push back both the application process and receiving the admission decision until November or December, putting students at a disadvantage for applying for scholarships and federal financial aid,” says Allison Carter, director of admissions operations.

Official SAT or ACT scores will be required for admission purposes for homeschooled students, as well as applicants who have a cumulative high school GPA below 3.00. Additionally, all first-year students who wish to be considered for merit-based scholarships must submit official test scores. Student athletes are required to submit official test scores per NCAA eligibility requirements.

“We’re excited about this change, especially when you consider the access it provides to students who do well academically but may test below their potential due to a variety of factors,” states Carter. “The response from families about this change for 2021 has been very positive. We’ve been able to keep student excitement about Michigan Tech high and the stress associated with the college application process low.”

Applicants will be reviewed individually based on high school academic performance, including courses taken, grades received, and trend in grades relative to their intended major. Test scores will be taken into consideration for those required to submit them or who wish to supplement their application.

Research Excellence Fund Awards Announced

The Vice President for Research Office is pleased to announce the Spring 2020 REF awards and would like to thank the individual REF reviewers and the REF review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

Scholarship and Creativity Grants:

  • Melissa Baird, Social Sciences
  • Laura Connolly, College of Business
  • Libby Meyer, Visual and Performing Arts
  • Christopher Plummer, Visual and Performing Arts
  • M. Bartley Seigel, Humanities

Research Seed Grants

  • Tara Bal, College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
  • Mark Rhodes, Social Sciences

Portage Health Foundation Research Seed Grants

  • Chunxiu (Traci) Yu, Biological Sciences
  • Weihua Zhou, College of Computing

Portage Health Foundation Mid-Career Grant

  • Zhiying (Jenny) Shan, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology

Updated Tables for Estimating GRA Stipends and Tuition

The Vice President for Research Office has updated the tables used for budgeting graduate student stipends and tuition. These rates are to be used immediately in proposal budgets to external sponsors.

The tuition rates per credit differ between the Engineering/Computer Science and Non-Engineering/Computer Science disciplines, so please remember to take this into account when budgeting for one (1) credit.

The updated stipend and tuition tables can be found online.

Julia King Retirement

The Department of Chemical Engineering wished a warm farewell to the esteemed professor, Julia A. King, the Lorna and James Mack Professorship of Continuous Processing, on Tuesday (June 30). After nearly 24 years of dedicated service to Michigan Tech, the Chemical Engineering Department, its students, faculty and staff, King will be setting her sights on a well-deserved retirement.

She has been an exceptional leader and mentor during her tenure at Michigan Tech. Her commitment and enthusiasm to her work, research and instruction will be irreplaceable.

Department Chair Pradeep Agrawal commented, “As director of the Unit Operations Laboratory, she has fostered its growth to become one of the best in the US and the pride of Michigan Tech.”

It is with great fortune for Tech and the Engineering world that she has decided to continue on with future research endeavors. She will be sorely missed and her contributions to the University will not be forgotten. We wish her happiness and success in the next chapter of her life and future endeavors.

Virtual Computing Workshop for Girls grades 6 - 10

The Code Ninjas Workshop for middle school girls is July 13 to Aug. 14. Code Ninjas is for girls interested in programming computers, making websites, and curious about data privacy.

Workshop presenters are Sarah Larkin-Driscoll, a third-year student and Miriam Eikenberry-Ureel, a second-year student. Both are from the Computer Science Department in the College of Computing.

Why do people collect data? How is data collected? What kinds of things can you learn from data? What is wrong with the chart on this flyer? Join us on Zoom to learn about data collection and privacy while building your own website, designing a poll, analyzing collected data, and learning about cryptography.

Join us for a virtual workshop where girls grades 6 - 10 explore, design and program web pages and data analysis programs while tracing how data flows through our daily lives. In the workshop you will:

  • Build your own website
  • Explore how to set and remove cookies
  • Design a survey and learn how polling agencies choose what kinds of questions to ask
  • Write a program to analyze a data set and present a summary
  • Learn about data privacy laws
  • Learn about cryptography and write your own secret code
  • Learn about opportunities and careers in data science, web development, and other computing fields
  • Meet other girls interested in computing

The workshop will take place from 2-4  p.m. Monday - Friday, July 13 - Aug. 14 via Zoom.

  • Week 1: Basics of Data, HTML, & Cookies
  • Week 2: Data Collection
  • Week 3: Data Analysis
  • Week 4: Data Storage & Encryption
  • Week 5: Project Week

Space is limited, so register for this free workshop by July 7. No prior programming experience is necessary. Questions? Contact

This workshop is sponsored by an AspireIT grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and facilitated by the Michigan Technological University Computer Science Department.


Thermal Mattress Control of Sleep Quality

Do you ever suspect that you may be a poor sleeper? Do you have trouble maintaining or falling asleep? A multitude of factors may be impacting your sleep. One of the potential culprits is temperature control at night. Core body temperature dropping at night is essential for sleep efficiency, but when abnormalities in body temperature occur, it can be detrimental to your sleep. Help us to study the effects of a thermal heating and gradual cooling feature within a mattress that may improve sleep quality.

We are currently recruiting participants. The time commitment includes three overnight stays in the MTU Sleep laboratory: one familiarization and two consecutive testing nights.

Please read the attached flyer for additional information regarding the screening process as well as participation.

In the News

Michigan Tech student Paige Fiet has been named the first student liaison to the Board of Directors of IPC, the industry association for printed circuit board and electronics manufacturing service companies. The story was featured in I-Connect700.


Michigan Tech mechanical engineering student Abby Hempy was the subject of the story "Grassroots Motorsports $2,000 Challenge Team," in Chicago Now.

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