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Spring 2016


Last June I began my term as department chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department. I am excited to serve our students, faculty, staff, alumni, industry partners and the state of Idaho in this role. I am thankful for the thoughtful stewardship of the previous chairs under which I have served for the last 28 years. I appreciate the availability of John Crepeau and Ralph Budwig in freely sharing their advice. I am especially indebted to our outstanding administrative staff (Molly Steiner, Becky Schoenberg and Elaine Queener) who have taught me previously unknown intricacies of U of I systems for admission, course scheduling, financial management, employee record-keeping and accreditation. I’ve visited face to face with over 100 U of I ME alumni during the last six months and, based on your input about the future of the engineering profession, have composed the following vision for design and manufacturing education that I will use to guide our program development efforts.

My educational vision is to cultivate engineers for the future who actively engage with project stakeholders around meaningful engineering projects, resulting in innovative products that can be rapidly prototyped with high speed manufacturing and assembly of parts. This involves bringing together today’s students with professional practitioners in an enriched environment that supports hands-on learning with modern metrology, machining, rapid prototyping, robotic assembly/industrial automation equipment, and instrumentation for electro-mechanical performance testing. Realize this vision by integrating the following five C’s for hands-on project learning:

  • CAPTURE IT: Actively immerse students in design thinking by studying and recreating legacy drawings, parts and mechanisms to discern design intent, taking physical measurements and encoding surface details using a highly-accurate coordinate measuring machine as well as 3D laser scanning equipment, and replicating key geometric/kinematic features in SolidWorks and CATIA.
  • CREATE IT: Design leveraged products using our National Academy of Engineering recognized Capstone Design Program process, leading to next generation solid models, assemblies, drawing and renderings in our IdeaWorks Laboratory (with CATIA, SolidWorks and Rhino).
  • CRAFT IT: Realize prototypes from solid models using state-of-the art material removal processes along with additive manufacturing as well as state-of-the-art electro-mechanical hardware/controls/automation.
  • CHECK IT: Verify the design using metrology, design of experiments, documentation of lessons learned (on our widely-used Mindworks website) and presentation of the final product to the public in our signature Design Expo event.
  • COMMERCIALIZE IT: Proactively interact with a broad spectrum of internal and external stakeholders to assure timely, cost-effective implementation as well as to initiate development of derivative products, seeking to generate maximum value-added through collaboration with colleagues in business, agriculture, natural resources and government agencies.

Modern infrastructure for design and manufacturing education goes hand in hand with sound pedagogy in insuring that our students are adequately prepared for the modern workplace. The Dean’s Letter that you received this past fall contained a wonderful illustration of this in the picture of Russ Porter consulting with current students in front of the Haas CNC Mill. A number of Idaho Engineering Works members were part of the initiative with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory and with NIATT that secured this piece of equipment. The machine is one of our newest and most heavily-used in our shop, yet it is now 15 years old.

This newsletter reports on our brand new laser cutter system that was acquired and brought online in fall 2015 by assistant professor Joel Perry. The laser cell was quickly embraced by our students, well-documented as a by-product of a number of class projects, and there are already many laser-cut prototype pieces around the design suite and in various research laboratories. I envision that this cell will be a centerpiece for many kaizen projects in the upcoming 2016 rendition of our lean manufacturing short course. During my term as chair I will be devoting considerable energy toward acquiring coordinate measuring machine capability, addition of a high-speed mini mill, replacing our 40-year-old manual lathes, and adding laser scanning capability. I invite you to join me in this effort by being a regular contributor to our annual fund, connecting us with engaging capstone project opportunities that generate demand as well as resources for manufacturing innovation, sharing your professional expertise during on-campus visits, and lending a hand in crafting proposals for corporate discounts/matching funds associated with acquisition of new shop equipment.

— Steve Beyerlein
Department Chair





Contact Us

Engineering Physics Building Rm. 324K

Mailing Address:

Mechanical Engineering
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 0902
Moscow, ID 83844-0902

Phone: 208-885-6579

Fax: 208-885-9031