Strategic Planning in Action

Kara McCluskey • College of Engineering

Kara McCluskeyThe College or Engineering's Engineering Technology (ET) department has made it a high priority to ensure all students receive applied learning or a research experience in their engineering technology classes. Kara McCluskey, engineering educator, says this has been accomplished through many different initiatives.

ET students have the option to participate in on-the-job training as energy auditors through the Department of Energy's Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program at WSU. In the ET classes where it fits directly into the curriculum, the audits are a requirement. Other students have chosen to participate for the experience. In addition to the IAC opportunity, the ET department was awarded an National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant to develop sustainable energy systems-based curriculum that will be seamlessly adopted by K-12 and community colleges. Students were offered the opportunity to work on this project with the ET faculty members. The participating students used knowledge from their classes in the ET department to develop curriculum.

The ET department uses service learning as a tool to engage students and allow them to use their knowledge as engineering students as a means to give back to the community. We have used our Renewable Energy Technology (ENGT 360) class as a pilot for including a service learning project. Every semester we have completed a service learning project for a community partner followed by reflection to allow the students to understand how their actions made a positive impact on the community.

The ET Department partners students with industry partners to complete their senior design projects. Students have had the opportunity to work directly with industry to solve an engineering problem. One group of students developed a prototype of a their product design for Bunting Magnetics which ended up being used for production. Other student projects have directly led to employment opportunities after graduation.

Applied learning opportunities like these are crucial to developing well-rounded graduates, McCluskey said.

“Students enjoy the applied learning and are able to make connections between the classroom and the real world which results in them being more engaged,” she said. “In addition, we engage students through student organizations like the Green Group. Students are given the opportunity to meet with other like-minded students and work on a common goal.”

Through the applied learning, students have gained skills that have made them sought after by employers. Local industry has complemented our students on their ability to understand the hands on part of engineering. In addition to providing a greater skill set, the faculty and students are able to form valuable relationships that keep our students engaged. Through service learning and industry projects our students have gained the valuable insight of having a bigger picture of how engineering is applied in the real world.

“I have had the great opportunity to get to really know our students through the service learning projects,” McCluskey said. “We have taken trips to the Sedgwick County Zoo to develop a renewable energy master plan, mentored 2nd grade students at Maize Central Elementary School and developed educational material for the ProKansas Recycle Center. All of these projects provided time to develop relationships that really engage students and create an environment where they want to come to class.”

McCluskey said there were limited resources when developing these opportunities for students due to the small size of the ET department. But this challenge was overcome because the faculty really believed that these opportunities provided our students with a better college experience.

Strategic Planning Champions: Curriculum Committee, Graduate Committee, Executive Council, College and Department T & P Committees, Learning Enhancement Committee, Engineering Student Council and the College Diversity Committee.

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