The first cohort of Mechanical Engineering students began in August 2016, pioneering one of the College’s latest bachelor’s degree offerings.
When Dunwoody College of Technology announced the launch of its Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering last year, it did not want to ignore its hands-on, project-based, and industry-driven educational heritage.
Instead, Mechanical Engineering students were given an experienced instructor from industry; access to state-of-the-art technologies from companies like Carl Zeiss, Haas, MTS, and Stratasys; and a curriculum chalk-full of hands-on learning.
Dunwoody hires from industry for a hands-on education
The College has always developed its programs with the needs of industry in mind–and the Mechanical Engineering degree was no different.
So when it came time to hire an instructor for the program, Dunwoody looked for someone with robust industry experience to design a curriculum that could encourage students to translate theoretical knowledge into real-world practice.
Jonathan Aurand–Dunwoody’s Mechanical Engineering Instructor–fit the bill.
Aurand comes to Dunwoody with an experienced engineering background. He holds a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering. He also worked as an Analysis Manager at HRST, Inc.–an engineering consulting firm providing service and products to the combined cycle and cogeneration industry–for nearly seven years, inspecting units, and creating solutions for design problems.
Aurand has always had an interest in teaching, and Dunwoody’s hands-on approach attracted him to the position.
“Some people are more research-based and don’t have any interest in actually building something,” said Aurand. “And if that’s you, then Dunwoody probably isn’t the best fit.”
The Dunwoody Difference
At Dunwoody, Mechanical Engineering students are not taking two years of general classes before applying to the engineering program. These students are registered for Mechanical Engineering from day one. And all their general theory classes are held alongside their hands-on labs, allowing students to see theory applied in action.
During the first semester, Aurand has prepared in-class, impromptu design challenges for the students.
“I break the students up into three to four groups and lay out an engineering problem. They have to solve the problem using certain design requirements in a certain amount of time,” Aurand said. “They compete against one another to see whose design works best with a specific application in mind.”
The first of these design challenges was just two weeks into the first class. Teams of students were asked to improve on the simple paperclip design to see which group could successfully hold the most sheets of paper together.
“I’m really excited for these challenges,” Sierra Oden, first-year Mechanical Engineering student, said. “We’re doing something besides staring at a whiteboard and listening to a lecture.”
In addition to these smaller design challenges, Aurand will assign a larger project for the end of the semester. He will ask students to design a bridge in SolidWorks and actually build a prototype in the College’s Engineering Materials, Mechanics, and Metrology (M3) Lab. The objective of the project will be to support the greatest load while meeting Aurand’s design specifications.
Aurand’s first-semester curriculum also features field trips to engineering firms around the Twin Cities. And as the program progresses, he will assign collaborative projects that will require Mechanical Engineering students to work with students from other programs from across the College.
Pioneers of the program
The first Mechanical Engineering cohort is made up of 10 students. Four of those students are first-year college students, three transferred in from other colleges or universities, and the remaining three were previous Dunwoody students returning for a bachelor’s degree.
Oden, a 2016 graduate of Park High School in Cottage Grove, wanted to become a pilot until she started working on cars and building ham radios out in the garage with her dad. That’s when she realized she liked to take things apart, learn how they work, and put them back together.
“When I first walked in [Dunwoody’s] machine shop, I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going here’” Oden said. “When I visited other colleges, they maybe had one mill, one CNC machine–just one of everything. And then I walked in here, and there was a class set of mills. And that’s not a thing anywhere else.”
Oden was also the captain of her high school’s robotics build team, where she met Edina High School alum and robotics team member Phoebe Sanders.
Sanders became interested in Mechanical Engineering during her senior year on Edina’s robotics team. She started looking for colleges outside of Minnesota with a goal to get as far away as possible.
In that year, Sanders’s parents encouraged her to attend Dunwoody’s Mechanical Engineering launch event at Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology to get her to start thinking about a backup school closer to home.
“At the launch event, I heard E.J. speak about the program, and I realized that this is all hands-on,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to have to take two years of generals before getting into my major. Why is this not at every school? Why isn’t this part of every program?”
Dunwoody’s School of Engineering
The launch of the bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering was just the first step towards building the College’s School of Engineering.
The Higher Learning Commission recently approved a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, launching in fall 2017. This degree is also being built with the College’s life-long values of hands-on learning, problem-solving, teamwork, and professionalism.
The Mechanical Engineering and Software Engineering degrees will be featured at Dunwoody’s next Open House from 3 to 7 p.m. on November 15, 2016. The $50 application fee is waived for students who decide to apply during the Open House. RSVP to this event at dunwoody.edu/admissions/open-house-rsvp/.