"Our vision is and, has been, to provide a service to both the rail industry and our students," explained Pasi Lautala, director of Michigan Tech's rail transportation program.
says the school is also putting great emphasis on getting its undergraduate students to work on externally-funded real-world problems through its Senior Design and Enterprise programs.
The school has students working with Union Pacific
to develop a sensor system to display the sand level in locomotive traction sand tanks; Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific
to investigate development of intelligent railroad crossing signal maintainer; Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad to repurpose an existing centerbeam rail car for a new life in the rail car fleet; the Michigan Department of Transportation
to develop recommendations for inspection and construction of highway-rail grade crossing surfaces and the Technical Expert Network to provide marketing and system operations information to a client interested in the developing train control market.
These projects involved students from the school's electrical, mechanical and civil engineering programs and also students from its business programs.
says the school believes in hands-on education and is continuously looking for opportunities to partner with the rail industry in projects like these.
"We have excellent relationships with the Class 1 railroads in the U.S. and Canada, as well as with industry consultants, manufacturers and suppliers," Lautala
As the rail workforce ages, the need for bringing in new, highly-qualified personnel is exploding, explains Lautala
says the industry also needs a new breed of employees to handle all of the high-tech communications and systems integration equipment.
"At the same time, our prospective student base is becoming more diverse and is coming from a wider region," he
"Online learning may prove an effective way to provide some of our educational and training requirements.
We piloted a test online rail learning system (http://rail-learning.mtu.edu)/ with the support by the Federal Railroad
Administration this year to help establish a platform where some of that learning might take place."
says Michigan Tech
is exploring some of those opportunities within the NURail consortium