By Sue Hill (College of Engineering)
Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program was featured in the INFORMS Railway Applications Section 2017 newsletter. INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. The article Railway Education for the 21st Century included an interview with Pasi Lautala (CEE) describing our program’s history and current activities.
Feature Article: Railway Education for the 21st Century
The prize for best student recruiting must go to Michigan Tech, which since 2010 has offered a residential summer rail camp experience to students in the 9th through 12th years (American high school). Michigan Tech is the scrappy underdog of railway education.
How did Michigan Tech become one of the top railway education centers in the United States? It all started with the current program director, Pasi Lautala, who came to Michigan Tech in 1997 as an exchange student from Finland. Faculty members Bill Sproul and Eric Petersen shared a mutual interest in rail, and took an interest in Lautala. In 2002, they invited Lautala back to Michigan Tech to teach some courses in railways and pursue his PhD.
The summer youth program is the jewel of Michigan Tech’s program. Founded in 2010, the program is unique at Michigan Tech, because unlike other youth programs at Michigan Tech, it attracts students from all over the United States (Michigan Tech is otherwise strictly a regional school). At its peak under NuRail funding, the program offered 100% scholarship and enrolled a capacity group of 25 students. Today, without NuRail funding, the program offers 50% scholarship and enrolled 14 students last year.
The industry has to change, it has to modernize.
Director Pasi Lautala says the student body at Michigan Tech is a good match to the railroad industry, because its students are very hands on, engineering focused, and outdoors oriented, “Railroad people need to drive big trucks and shovel snow.”