Michigan Tech Magazine Spring 2008 Cover

Learning by Doing; Learning Forever

Hands-on learning and lifelong learning have always been the hallmarks of Michigan Tech.

One alumnus from the class of 1964 attributes his success in large part to the “training and rigor” of a Michigan Tech education. “I had a wonderful education,” he says. “I had a head start . . . Nobody was better prepared to understand and solve problems than we were.” The same holds true today.

Tech alumni are uniformly loyal. Tech faculty continue to mentor and lead. Tech students have the advantage of an education that stresses inquiry and innovation.

Alumni, faculty, and students are represented in this issue of the Michigan Tech Magazine.

Bolivian children learn to use cameras, guided by Tech faculty and students who are learning the realities of our world. An alumnus pursues the ancient art of winemaking, gives it the Tech twist, and pays it forward. Students and faculty explore the mechanics and poetry of voice and motion. And many students enroll or remain at Tech for the graduate school experience, extending the boundaries of knowledge while preparing for academe or industry.

The idea is to never stop learning and continue exercising our brains—and maybe staying a bit younger—like when we were at Tech, creating the future.


Glenn D. Mroz ’74, President

Small Views of a Big World

by Jennifer Donovan and Kara Sokol

Kurt Paterson has kids all over the little Honduran village of El Porvenir and more in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Not his own, of course—Paterson’s kids are village children whom the assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering equipped with cameras, to capture a kids’-eye view of their world.

“Kids see the world very differently, and their viewpoint isn’t usually heard,” Paterson explains. “I want to give them a voice and see the world through their eyes.” He is doing that through Kid'sView, a nonprofit organization founded by Paterson that is partnering with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to encourage individuals and groups to sponsor a camera.

In July 2007, Paterson and Michigan Tech’s EWB chapter brought the first six inexpensive, one-time-use cameras to Honduras while they were working on a multi-use facility for an orphanage. Most recently, Paterson and his students took twenty more cameras to Bolivia, where they worked on in-home water treatments.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ready for November harvest.

The Porter Vineyard

Electrical Engineering

From Computers to Cabernet

by John Gagnon

For 1968 alumnus Townsend (Tom) Porter, 2007 was a very good year.This vintner, new to the trade, bottled his first wine that December. Two years in the making, it was a fruitful occasion, for Porter savors wine—from its preparation to its afterglow.

“The culture that surrounds wine is very interesting to me,” he says. “We get together, have dinner, and share wine together. Wine creates a warmth in interpersonal relationships that I find very attractive.”

If he treasures the fellowship, he cannot describe the taste. “English is not very well suited to describe what we smell and taste. You hear all the fancy descriptions for wine—like pencil—box or leather. I’m not a connoisseur. I try to make wine that tastes a particular way, but as you get older, your palate isn’t nearly as good. Younger people have a much better palate, and generally women have a better palate.”

Programs Target Playing Field, Stage, and More

by Kara Sokol

One focuses on stage movement, the other on how the human body moves. So what could theater and exercise science degree programs have in common?

More, it turns out, than meets the eye.

The one-year-old BS in Exercise Science and the new BA in Theater and Electronic Media Performance are opening eyes to new academic and career possibilities at Michigan Tech. Though their subject matter may differ, both programs share a mission: to provide students with discovery-based learning opportunities in Michigan Tech’s practical and innovative educational style.

When the new exercise science degree program launched in fall 2006, Jason Carter, chair of the exercise science, health and physical education department, thought his goal was a lofty one: twenty students enrolled during the first year, with 100 percent growth each academic year thereafter.

Graduate education at Michigan Tech can entail researching virtual robots in virtual environments.

Researching virtual robots in a virtual environment.

Graduate school

Graduate School: Growth is Good

by Dennis Walikainen

Michigan Tech has lofty goals for its graduate educational mission that will improve the overall health of the University, according to Jackie Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School.

“The goal is to have 1,250 graduate students—750 master’s students and 500 PhD students—by 2012,” she says. “And we can do it with the faculty we have, but we will need more resources.”

For one thing, laboratories and equipment are much more expensive now than they were in the past, and at Michigan Tech, that past goes back to 1899 and the first graduate students on campus. “We have bigger needs now, compared to slide rules and transit labs,” Huntoon says, referring to old black-and-white photos of less-complicated times.

Campus Digest

Fortune 500 Companies At Home in Houghton

Two major national corporations are partnering with Michigan Tech to provide hands-on work experience in Houghton. GE Aviation of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is expanding its University Development Center, and Ford Motor Company has opened an information technology development center.

GE Aviation’s center has brought fifty jobs to Houghton, employing up to forty engineering students. Students perform the kinds of work they are studying at the University, in teams led by senior technical specialists and junior graduate engineers. A $1-million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation helped the City of Houghton renovate and expand the Powerhouse building and encouraged GE to choose Houghton as the site for its center.

Ford’s new IT development center recruits students across many disciplines, from computer science and mechanical engineering to business and technology. They do programming development and support for vehicle computer systems and the plant-floor device systems used in manufacturing.