An experiential education for tomorrow’s engineers

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Have you ever envisioned yourself designing a spacecraft? There’s no need to imagine at the Western Michigan University (WMU) College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Just ask Aerospace Engineering student Octavio Garcia Amaral from Brazil, who is currently in the process of making his dreams a reality.

As an undergraduate at the College’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, he is exploring the arts of designing, developing, testing, and helping produce commercial and military aircraft, spacecraft, surface vehicles, missiles, and other related hardware and systems. But that’s not all — he and his peers are also preparing for potential careers in design and development of hydrofoil ships, deep diving vessels for oceanographic research, automobiles and high-speed rail-type machines.

Its comprehensiveness urged him to dub the programme “one of the best choices for international students here in the United States”; however, his overall student experience at WMU has also influenced his sentiments.

“The department has excellent professors that are respected in the field throughout the country, and they challenge you at the highest level possible,” he says. “Another reason why I believe WMU is an excellent choice is that the University values international students — for example, scholarship options are amazing. As a senior, I am confident that obtaining a bachelor’s degree here will be a huge and essential step in my professional career.”

His programme’s practical nature will ensure this, as it did for the thriving graduates currently working for Boeing Company, Duncan Aviation, Rolls-Royce, and NASA. They all had their first taste of the industry by participating in hands-on projects in WMU’s state-of-the-art laboratories.

Source: Western Michigan University

WMU’s aerospace engineering graduates go on to secure successful and lucrative careers in the field. Source: Western Michigan University

There are also over 30 student organisations accepting registration, such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which creates an aircraft each year for the national AIAA Aircraft Competition; its Design, Build, Fly Competition, which sees students designing and building radio-controlled aircraft to perform specific missions; or the Western Aerospace Launch Initiative (WALI), which is dedicated to designing and launching small satellites, also known as CubeSats.

“Student members of the Initiative learn vital real-world skills in satellite design, systems engineering, flight software design, team engineering, and leadership,” says Associate Professor Kristina Lemmer. It’s little wonder why students from WALI have gone on to work at SpaceX, Nanoracks, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Stryker, and many other elite companies.

Through the College’s cooperative education programme, learners are welcome to prepare for such roles by gaining hands-on experience with a West Michigan company or applying for summer engineering internships either locally or abroad in China, Germany or Korea.

“WMU’s top-notch faculty kept standards high, and they kept asking for more,” reminisces Sudesh Woodiga, a graduate currently working at Ford Motor Company as its Principal Experimental Aerodynamicist.

Source: Western Michigan University

At WMU, students are constantly supported and guided throughout their academic journey. Source: Western Michigan University

Similar outcomes can be achieved through WMU’s Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering (IEE) curriculum, which combines all the benefits of a classic engineering programme with a unique emphasis on entrepreneurial engineering, engineering design, creativity, and innovation. To apply knowledge, students on this route solve real-world problems in a practical business model setting.

The result? Professionals capable of bringing groundbreaking products and services to market, starting their own companies and confidently selling their bright product ideas. Anything is possible with the essential foundation, experience, and understanding in science, mathematics, entrepreneurship, humanities, and engineering this interdisciplinary programme is known for nurturing.

“Because our WMU IEE engineers are immersed in Design Thinking during their entrepreneurial engineering design training, they graduate from the programme with skills to identify opportunities and develop innovative solutions to meet customer needs,” explains Professor Dr. Tycho Fredericks. “This programme empowers students with a set of tools that are adaptable to what their future brings and builds confidence and leadership skills for generations to come.”

Classroom lessons play a pivotal role in this development. Entrepreneurial Engineering I: Cost and Financial Analysis lessons introduce students to effective techniques used to determine the cost of designing, developing, producing and selling a product or service. Entrepreneurial Engineering II: Product and Service Design classes span research, analysis, drawing and prototyping to help students understand human needs. Meanwhile, Entrepreneurial Engineering III: Facilities Planning and Logistics sessions explore how traditional industrial engineering topics such as supply chain management, facility layout and location are relevant to entrepreneurial engineers.

Experiential opportunities for IEE students abound as well. For example, learners can opt to replace one technical elective with an approved industrial internship. After all, this is the signature WMU way, considering 65% of students across the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences have an internship or cooperative education experience before graduating. Hence why 93% of graduates are actively engaged post-graduation.

To become one of them, click here to apply today.

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