LIFTing Youth: MTU Summer Youth Program finds new partner

Michigan Technological University’s Material Science Summer Youth Program has a new industry partner in Lightweight Interventions For Tomorrow. LIFT is a Detroit-based research and development firm largely sponsored by the U.S. Department of defense. The firm is interested in designing lightweight materials but is also interested in education and outreach.

“There are a lot of manufacturing jobs that are unfilled,” said Joe Steel, Communications Director at LIFT. “… part of our efforts is to encourage students to look at engineering as a profession.”

The partnership was announced in a March 26 post to the LIFT website.

“We have been quite fortunate to have MTU as a LIFT partner over the last 5 years, and are happy to support these programs which are introducing and engaging students to the innovative world of advanced manufacturing,” Hadrian Rori, chief technology officer at LIFT said in the release. “With our home base in Detroit, it is important for us to invest in programs and students here in the Great Lakes State.”

LIFT’s goals make them a natural fit to work with MTU’s already existing infrastructure in material science and pre-college outreach. LIFT and MTU have already worked on other projects since 2013.

“LIFT has new leadership and is working with more small and medium-sized companies. We at MTU are really well positioned to assist them in that because we have contacts with bigger companies as well but also with smaller and medium-sized companies,” said Paul Sanders, associate professor of science and engineering at MTU. “So, we started to partner more intentionally with them.”

The partnership between LIFT and MTU is also a part of a trend towards tighter integration and networking between industry partners and Midwestern universities involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. LIFT is already involved with the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

“It’s exciting to work with another Michigan school,” said Steel. “… MTU is a school up in the U.P. that folks might not think about when they think of engineering schools.”

In addition to partnering on the Summer Youth Program, LIFT is also supporting an enterprise project – hands-on projects that engineering upperclassmen at MTU need to work on to graduate.

“By having that support, we can do a better job,” said Sanders.

The Michigan Tech Summer Youth Program is a 4-week program with two courses, one for 6-8 grade students and one for 9-12 grade students. There are also special events for young women considering going to college in STEM-related fields.

“We have a group of students and take them through a whole bunch of activities that provide them with fun hands-on activities that incorporate a lot of science,” said Edward Laitila, Senior Research Engineer and Adjunct Assistant Professor at MTU. “We like to relate how things occur with something that they are familiar with.”

Projects include blacksmithing and forging workshops, and work with design and 3D printing. One of Laitila’s favorite projects, however, involves making liquid nitrogen ice cream to replicate the complicated process of creating new metals.

“One of the simplest ways to make a metal is to make a liquid and pour it into a mold,” said Laitila. “When we make the material we add different things to get different effects.”

The same is true of liquid nitrogen ice cream, the recipe for which can be altered by different ingredients to change not only its flavor but also other elements like texture.

For more information on the MTU Summer Youth Program, visit For more information LIFT, visit