The National Academy of Engineering has named the Benjamin M. Statler College at West Virginia University as one of 29 programs in the nation that effectively incorporate real-world experiences into engineering education.

The report, Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education, was sponsored by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. in support of the company’s NextGen Engineer Initiative.

“This nation’s prosperity, security and quality of life are direct results of leadership in the engineering achievements that drive society forward,” said Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and a Statler College alumnus. “These programs are strategically preparing students to become the engineers who will tackle the technical and social complexities that lie ahead in the 21st century.”

WVU was recognized for its Projects with Industry and Building Energy Use, which is housed in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The program, which is designed as a capstone design experience for senior mechanical engineering students and is directed by Professor Kenneth Means, is supported by the state’s Division of Energy. The goal of the program is to help West Virginia industries, schools and institutions to become energy efficient and competitive.

The projects deal with a wide variety of topics including energy efficiency, heat recovery, building energy efficiency, manufacturing efficiency and robotics. For example, in the industry section, student teams go into plants and factories to meet with company officials, become acquainted with common problems in the plant and take measurements associated with that problem. The students then spend the remainder of the semester developing designs to resolve the problem. Toward the end of the course, the students write a final report and provide a presentation to the plant managers and engineers.

“The Statler College and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in particular goes to great lengths to provide a rewarding and challenging environment to our students,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean. “The Projects with Industry and Building Energy Use program is just one such example of the impact our faculty and students have not only in the classroom but in the state at large.”

“Simply mastering technical engineering is no longer enough to successfully compete and lead in today’s marketplace,” said Mark Papermaster, AMD’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. “We see first-hand at AMD that our engineers must also be able to solve complex problems, communicate clearly, and collaborate globally. The innovative approaches taken by these leading engineering schools will help prepare our future engineers.”

The best practices outlined in the report include incorporating multidisciplinary team-based projects into curricula to help students develop skills in decision-making, leadership, written and oral communication, organization/time management, cultural awareness and problem-solving. The report identifies frequent impediments to infusing real-world experiences into engineering programs and suggests ideas for overcoming these barriers to program implementation. The most frequent obstacles cited include lack of funding and financial support, faculty workload concerns and challenges encountered with partners.

The NAE’s Real World Engineering Education committee received 95 nominations for inclusion in the report from accredited four-year undergraduate schools with engineering or engineering technology programs. Submissions were reviewed by the committee and judged based on seven factors: program creativity, innovation, attention to diversity (including geographic, institution, racial/ethnic and gender), sustainability plan, assessment of student learning, level of real-world experience and anticipated vs. actual outcomes.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon