HOUGHTON, Mich. - Students at Michigan Technological University have been awarded a Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) Grant to study the existing mass transit system in Houghton and Hancock, and develop a more sustainable model.
The $50,000 competitive grant goes to Michigan Tech’s Transportation Enterprise and Automotive Computing Enterprise (ACE), which feature teams of students who tackle real-world problems with industry partners and use their Tech education to find practical solutions.
“We consider Michigan Tech to be a valuable partner in our efforts to keep Michigan’s economy strong while delivering on our commitment to social and environmental sustainability around the world,” said Mike Schmidt, director, Education and Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “With this grant, our intent is to help Michigan communities create more sustainable transportation strategies.”
Michigan Tech’s Transportation Enterprise and ACE will partner with representatives from Houghton and Hancock, public transportation experts on the Michigan Tech faculty, an industry advisor and the Western UP Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR).
“One of the city’s goals is to reduce the traffic and parking congestion around the University,” said Houghton City Manager Scott MacInnes. “We are hoping the Enterprise team will find a way to encourage more people to use public transportation and make the transit system as efficient as possible.”
“This generous grant from Ford will help push the community in a more sustainable direction,” said Danielle Terry, a civil engineering student and member of the Transportation Enterprise at Michigan Tech, who worked on the grant proposal. “This project is special because it not only provides a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity, but it also has the potential to affect the whole community in a positive way.”
The Transportation Enterprise will evaluate existing mass transit service, conduct interviews with residents, and design and implement a sustainable model bus system. ACE will identify the needed hardware and create the software necessary to do real-time tracking and scheduling of transit vehicles. The project also includes two solar-powered bus shelters with covered bike parking, a smart-phone app and a schedule board. Alternative-fuel vehicles also will be considered.
“The type of experience these students will gain on this project isn’t usually available even to graduate engineers,” said Eric Morris, an industry consultant to the project and civil engineering alumnus of Michigan Tech. “It will ultimately place them at the top of many hiring managers’ lists.”
This is the second Ford C3 award that Michigan Tech has received. The first, in 2009, supported undergraduates to work with high school students and community partners to expand a home winterization project for low-income elderly residents.
Ford C3 is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that use school resources to address an urgent community need related to the grant's theme: Building Sustainable Communities. Ford C3 requires colleges to create proposals that have significant student input, involvement and leadership from beginning to end. Given this requirement, winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community.
“This project has the potential to produce a genuine change for the better in our community," said George Dewey, associate professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and faculty advisor to the Transportation Enterprise.