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,
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.
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
- 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.