Taylor-Made: Journey to the Center of the Snow Globe


As dawn broke over Valentine’s Day, I got on a bus and rode for nine hours up to Michigan Tech University in Houghton, Michigan. Houghton sits on a river in the Upper Peninsula. MTU’s campus is on a hillside, with a ski hill (Mt. Ripley) right across the river. It’s not NYC up there,

The wintery view from Fischer Hall.
The wintery view from Fischer Hall.
or even Champaign. As we were driving along the main road, a girl from uChicago turned to me and asked, "So where’s downtown?"

"This is downtown," I said.

"Oh noooo," she muttered.

So for all you city kids, Houghton would definitely be a change of scenery—with a ton of snow. There was snow in the surrounding woods that came up to my waist. The fraternities had just had their annual snow-sculpting competition, so I got to see some pretty sweet sculptures. Among them there were ten-foot tall ships, a life-sized outhouse, a hockey rink with bleachers, and the Iron Giant with his outstretched arm extending toward the road (someone stole Hogarth out of his hand, so it looked a little strange). My favorite was a steam engine coming out of a tunnel.

Oh yeah, and while I was there, it snowed.

The MEEM Building at MTU.
The MEEM Building at MTU.

Saturday morning marked the beginning of numerous talks and presentations. One of the speakers I saw, Britta Jost, interviews students who apply to work/intern for Caterpillar. She had some pretty funny "terrible interview" stories. Apparently one uninformed student, when asked why they’re interested in Caterpillar, replied, "My dad said I should apply for this because Caterpillar is great and stuff." Oops. Don’t be that kid when you have your interview. She also gave us a great piece of advice: in almost all interviews you will be asked, "Tell me about yourself." Translated, this means, "Tell me why I should hire you." She very bluntly told us that interviewers are not interested in our families—it seems a lot of people like to open with something like, "I’m a freshman majoring in chemistry, I play soccer, and I have two older sisters." As Britta put it, "That’s great for you, but they don’t care."

Another thing I did was tour the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics building. The MEEM, as everyone calls it, has 11 stories’ worth of labs. I saw some really cool projects in there, like a prosthetic foot that takes its own steps (there’s a similar project here at U of I) and a ship crane that can account for the rolling motion caused by waves.

Hockey is a big deal up there. I went to the game against Alaska Friday night—unfortunately, they lost. On the bright side, all the students got 30% off Domino’s pizza cause MTU scored three goals. In between each period, one student flew a big MTU Huskies RC blimp around the arena. Gotta say, that guy has some great depth perception.

All in all, it was a great conference. The SWE conferences are divided by region—Region H (the Heartland Region) includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In addition to a big group of Northwestern girls, I met people from schools in all of these states. I have no horror stories from this trip. It was really fun and I encourage SWE girls to attend one in the future.

Tech at a glance:

  • Class size = 5,617 undergraduate; 1,359 graduate
    Lots of snow in the U.P.!
    Lots of snow in the U.P.!
  • Average GPA = 3.66
  • MTU’s ME-EM undergraduate program is ranked 22nd nationally among doctoral-granting Mechanical Engineering Departments in the U.S. (courtesy Michigan Tech)
  • The ME-EM Department Chair is Professor Bill Predebon. He’s a cool guy. If you’re ever up there, you should go talk to him.
  • Main sport = hockey (boys only). The MTU Huskies are Division I. Other sports include basketball, cross country, track & field, football, soccer (girls only), tennis, volleyball (girls only), and Nordic skiing.
  • Broomball and skiing are popular activities
  • Everyone calls the Union Building the Mub. This is the only acceptable thing to call it. I learned that the hard way.

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