Spotlight on Professor Jeff Schott and the Steamboat Minnehaha

May 21, 2020 - Minnesotans love their weekend activities, especially in the spring, summer, and fall. When the weather gets warmer, we like to get outdoors with family and friends and do many of the things Minnesota is famous for: hiking, fishing, bike riding, or going “up north” to the cabin, just to name a few. But since 2010, weekends for chemical engineering professor, Jeffrey Schott, mean something quite different: working on a century-old steamboat on Lake Minnetonka.

Steamboat Minnehaha was originally a part of the Twin Cities’ turn of the century streetcar system, extending its transit service to residents on the lake. With the improvements of roads and the rising interest in automobiles, the “streetcar boats” were scrapped and scuttled (sunk) to the bottom of the lake in 1926. In 1980, Minnehaha was salvaged and restoration work began in 1990, with functioning services restarted in 1996. After taking a few rides on the vessel, Schott learned that all work on the boat was done by volunteers and decided to pitch in. “Hey, you can play with a steam engine on a boat. What’s greater than that?” said Schott. Later, Schott was asked to serve as the director of operations and currently serves as the president of the Museum of Lake Minnetonka, which owns the boat.

For Schott, a knack for improving and fixing things has in many ways defined his career. A Minnesotan for most of his life, Schott graduated from Mounds View High School and would go on to receive his bachelors, masters, and PhD all in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. For 25 years, he worked for several companies outside of Minnesota, including Amoco, Avery, and Sigma Chemical before retiring from industry in order to become a licensed contractor for rehabbing homes. “What can I say? I like making sawdust. I like making and building things because it gives you a real sense of accomplishment.” While he enjoys working with his hands, Schott would eventually feel a call to return to the University in the chemical engineering department as an adjunct professor in August 2001.

After becoming a full time faculty member, he found many projects apart from his teaching that have kept him active. For the past fifteen years, he and a colleague have done all of the maintenance and repair on the equipment in the unit operations laboratory. He also runs nitrogen and liquid nitrogen systems for Amundson Hall. Schott says that the major accomplishment of his career was his participation in the construction of the Gore Annex to Amundson Hall as the department project manager. “This was a 42,000 square foot addition that added six floors of lab space. The project will probably be the final major addition to the building considering the lack of space due to the light rail tracks on Washington Avenue. When (former department head) Frank Bates found out I had a history in construction, he asked me to serve in this role. To have a hand in the planning and building of something that will be here long after I leave is pretty cool.”

Excerpt from article written by Chris Kwapick. Read the full feature by clicking on the link below.

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