Dear Alumni and Friends of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,
I recently returned from a trip to the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, to discuss some research projects. The department sends a number of students there every summer to participate in research areas such as high-altitude balloons and space structures. During the course of one conversation, I asked one of the lead scientists of a project how University of Idaho engineering graduates perform, and he told me that they rank just as well as graduates from larger institutions. In fact, he said that they prize U-Idaho mechanical engineering graduates because of their excellent hands-on experience in our program; the students understand not only how to design things, but how to build them as well. This hands-on experience is something that is lacking at other schools. I have heard from many other employers in the region that they, too, value our graduates and recognize the quality of the education received.
During a workshop sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a distinguished group of educators and industry leaders met together to determine what the future of engineering education should look like. They produced a document titled Vision 2030, Creating the Future of Mechanical Engineering Education, and in it they recommended that engineering curricula have a “design spine.” A “design spine” is a vertically integrated set of courses that require engineering graduates to take design courses during each of their four years of study.
The curriculum in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Idaho already contains such a set of courses:
- Freshmen take ME 123, Introduction to Mechanical Design, where they participate in a number of design projects.
- During the sophomore year, students take ME 223, where they learn the ins and outs of the design process.
- During the junior year, students take ME 301 and ME 325, Computer Aided Design and Machine Design.
- Finally, the design spine ends with the two-semester capstone senior design sequence. As I visit with the graduating seniors, the vast majority tell me that the best experience they had was in their senior design course.
Although we emphasize design, it is not to say that our students lack knowledge in the basics of engineering. Our students passed the nationwide Fundamentals of Engineering exam at a rate of 93%, much better than the national pass rate, which is around 80%. Our students receive a tremendous education at the University of Idaho.
Please let us know how your experience was at the university. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
John C. Crepeau, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor and Chair
Department of Mechanical Engineering
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