HOUGHTON - Despite a higher number of research proposals submitted and awards received, Michigan Technological University's research funding was down 20 percent this year.
At Thursday's Board of Control meeting, the university announced the launch of an innovative new initiative to address that issue while also involving the public in a whole new way.
Tech unveiled "Superior Ideas" at superiorideas.org, a crowdfunding site similar to the well-known kickstarter.com, which allows anyone to donate to research projects they consider worthwhile.
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University Vice President for Research David Reed gives a presentation on the Superior Ideas website to the university’s Board of Control Thursday in the Memorial Union Building ballroom. Below is a screenshot of the new website.
"We kind of knew people had heard of Kickstarter and things, but it never really sunk in what that could do for us," said David Reed, vice president for research. "We had somebody engaging with one of these and actually being successful and that's what started us thinking we could do it better."
John Vucetich, associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, raised more than $10,000 to help a wolf-moose study at Isle Royale National Park.
Now, Tech is taking the ideas to the next level with nine other university research projects.
"We don't know exactly where it's going to go," Reed said. "We're very excited about it, and we think it gives us a whole new way to engage with the public and to allow the public to get involved with what's going on at Tech."
Reed initiated the project and brought on Natasha Chopp, research development and marketing manager, to lead a team comprised of web designers and representatives from the Michigan Tech Fund, Enterprise Application Services and accounts receivable.
"I went out and looked at other crowdfunding sites, looked at the research on campus, and I said this has a great appeal to other people. For me it was a lot about the research going on and about getting word out there to the public," said Chopp, a 2006 Tech business alumna. "A lot of researchers are excited."
Included in the nine current projects are a sleep apnea study by Jason Carter, chair of kinesiology and integrative physiology and associate dean of the College of Sciences and Arts; an analysis of infant teardrop nutrition by Adrienne Minerick, associate professor of chemical engineering; and development of safer heart bypass grafts by Feng Zhao, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.
"We'll start with nine and monitor it to see where it goes. We do have some more lined up to go," Chopp said. "We do have a feature on the website where people can submit their idea to us."
While currently limited to Michigan Tech and its research projects, the university has big goals for the crowdfunding site.
"We hope to expand to other universities. We hope to be attracting people from all across the country and all across the world to what's going on here, and to the extent we can help other universities, too," Reed said. "We thought we really had a shot at this and we went for it. Hopefully we become the place nationally where this happens for universities."
In other news during Thursday's quarterly meeting, the Board of Control:
heard an update from Provost Max Seel and Vice President for Student Affairs Les Cook on enrollment numbers, which are down slightly to 6,945 students; and average incoming freshmen ACT scores are up from 26.1 to 26.4.
heard an update on the Fall Career Fair, which attracted 280 companies and led to 4,190 interviews.
approved a five-year capital outlay plan to be submitted to the State of Michigan.
received financial updates from Chief Financial Officer Dan Greenlee, and heard about the university's clean audit from auditor from Steve Peacock with Rehmann Robson.
received an update on the university's "Generations of Discovery" campaign, which has raised $186 million of the $200 million it hopes to raise by next summer.
heard from Undergraduate Student Government President Eli Karttunen and Graduate Student Government President Kevin Cassell, both of whom gave an overview of the organizations' goals for expansion and awareness across campus.
voted to award the Board of Control Silver Medal to Blair Orr, professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, who created and has built Tech's Peace Corps Master's International program into the biggest in the nation.
heard that MindTrekkers, Tech's youth science and engineering program, is partnering with the USA Science & Engineering Festival to produce science road shows across the nation.