Student News

The future of autonomous navigation is now roaming the floors of Dunwoody

Check out Software Engineering in Action. By using simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), Software Engineering student Donald Posterick has created a mapping navigation system for the robot he had a hand in designing and building. The robot can be placed anywhere within the map’s boundaries and know its location in seconds with over 98 percent confidence.


Addressing the Engineering Skills Gap

Project-focused, collaborative, and designed for industry

Most U.S. companies project that their engineering department will need to grow over the next five to 10 years. In fact, data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development lists engineering fields as some of the highest growth occupations. Those projections estimate that by 2026 employment openings in software will grow by 23.8 percent, industrial engineering will grow by 10.8 percent, electrical engineering will grow by 10.1 percent, and mechanical engineering will grow by 9.8 percent. In addition to that growth, 10,000 baby boomers are hitting retirement age each day, further adding to the need for more workers to fill those gaps.

At the same time, industry is increasingly looking for a different type of engineer. Today’s engineers need to be collaborators, creative problem-solvers, and innovators who can hit the ground running. They need the ability to take on different roles, depending on the needs of the project. And they need to turn ideas into workable solutions that are competitive in the marketplace.

In short, they need the hands-on, real-world learning that Dunwoody has been known for during the past 105 years.

When Dunwoody started its first four-year engineering degree in 2016, the College decided to create an engineering program designed for the type of engineers industries are looking for.

“As the new dean, I saw an opportunity here to support engineering degrees that are practice-based,” said School of Engineering Dean Bill Hudson. “That also means we can bring engineering to a group of students who will benefit from having a project-focused education that really prepares them for industry and practice.”

Bill Hudson, Dean of the School of Engineering, second from right, talks with Engineering students in the Metrology lab,

It’s a type of education and focus that is often missing from many of the traditional engineering programs that prepare students more for graduate school then they do for industry.

At Dunwoody, engineering students not only focus on projects, they also work across curriculum and departments, which gives them the broadest experience possible. The result is engineers who can look at problems from different perspectives and work with other departments to bring a complex project to completion.

“I enjoy solving problems,” Hudson said. “I enjoy finding technical solutions that meet the needs of different constituencies. And that’s the type of engineer we are educating here at Dunwoody.”

In Demand Degrees

Dunwoody engineering students are already in high demand. During the
2018-19 academic year, the College received numerous job inquires from
companies seeking engineers:

Mechanical Engineering:

  • 151 unique postings from
  • 79 companies

Electrical Engineering:

  • 148 unique postings from
  • 80 companies

Industrial Engineering Technology:

  • 76 unique postings from
  • 41 companies

Software Engineering:

  • 62 unique postings from
  • 43 companies
Industry Partners

Auto program welcomes diesel truck donation

If you were to ask Steve Reinarts, Dean of Dunwoody’s Automotive programs, why he was especially happy last week, he would quickly tell you that the season of giving came early for his department. 

Students looking over engine
Automotive students gathered around the 2012 GMC Sierra ¾ ton diesel pick-up truck donated by Luther Automotive group.

Delivering that gift was Meg Miller, Matt Carlson and Tim Stoesz, representatives from Luther Automotive Group, in the form of a 2012 GMC Sierra ¾ ton diesel pick-up truck­–a wish come true for Reinarts and his faculty. 

While speaking with the students, Stoesz stressed his company’s passion for helping students succeed in Automotive by continuing their strong relationship with Dunwoody.

“The stronger they are, the stronger we are,” he said.

The truck donation is the latest in a well-established partnership to help build career pathways for technicians. Dunwoody currently has nine students who are part of the Luther Tech Trac student sponsorship program. 

Students chosen for this program must prove themselves through their work ethic, and receive a faculty recommendation in order to be considered.  

students in front of diesel truck
Dunwoody Tech Trac program students gather around the the diesel pick-up donated by Luther Automotive group.

The program provides qualified students with up to $4,000 in tuition sponsorship to be used towards completion of an accredited two-year certificate or degree program. It also offers paid, part-time work at one of the Luther Group Dealerships while in school, allowing students to transition to full-time employment once they graduate. 

Automotive Dean receives keys to diesel truck
Tim Stroesz, Luther Automotive group service representative, right, hands Steve Reinarts, left, the keys.

“We want people who want a career, not a job,” Carlson said. 

“It’s the future of our business right here,” said Stoesz. 

Taking turns sitting inside and looking under the hood, students gathered around the diesel truck parked inside the Warren Building, home to the Automotive, Welding, and HVACR programs. 

“The Sierra will go to great use training our students on the latest in diesel technology,” Reinarts said. “It will be implemented fully into the curriculum after the first of the year.”

Student News

Student Spotlight: Benjamin Larsen, Mechanical Engineering

Senior Mechanical Engineering student Benjamin Larsen has many different skills and interests. That’s due, in part, to his childhood in Florida where he was always tinkering with things in his family’s garage or in the woods near his house. But it also reflects growing up in a family with parents and siblings who also have an entrepreneurial spirit and are curious about how the world works.

Benjamin Larsen talks with School of Engineering Dean Bill Hudson in a Mechanical Engineering lab.
Benjamin Larsen talks with School of Engineering Dean Bill Hudson

When he was 10, Larsen moved with his family to Minnesota (where his parents were originally from) and he continued to tinker and began to have ideas for projects he wanted to create. His curiosity was aided by being homeschooled and taking PSEO classes (Postsecondary Enrollment Options) at Anoka Technical College, Normandale, and University of Northwestern. His intention had been to take a year off after graduating from high school, but Dunwoody came up in conversations with family and friends about what he wanted to do so he decided to check out the website. There he saw information about additive manufacturing (3D printing) and decided to visit campus. Larsen ended up enrolling in the Engineering Drafting & Design (MDES) program and then switched to Mechanical Engineering when that degree became available the fall of 2015.

Benjamin Larsen works with other students in Mechanical Engineering lab.
Benjamin Larsen, Mechanical Engineering student in lab

“I knew right away that I wanted to do more than what MDES was offering,” Larsen said. “I wanted to get into data analysis, but also maintain the design and hands-on stuff that MDES offered.”

He also thought Mechanical Engineering would be a good way to add to the portfolio of skills in the family — both of his brothers have a diverse range of skills and interests, including programming, engineering, and architecture.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from a private technical school,” Larsen said. “Very quickly I noticed the small classes, and the fact that a lot of people have jobs and families. There’s a diverse range of ages and backgrounds. I enjoyed it and thought it was very interesting.”

It also gave him a more realistic perspective on what success looks like: “Work ethic is now a lot more important to me than intellect,” he said.

Engineering & Data

As he got further into the Mechanical Engineering program, Larsen discovered that his original instinct about data analysis was correct. In particular, he enjoyed working on a project for his Geometric Dimension & Tolerancing & Measurements class.

“We had to come up with a device that would record data and perform uncertainty analysis. And it had to be as automated as possible,” Larsen said.

He and a classmate built a Computer Measuring Machine. They designed and 3D printed the components to make the measuring device itself. An Arduino microcontroller captured the measurements and fed them to a Raspberry Pi computer, which pushed the data up to a network.

After making sure the data flowed and converted correctly, Larsen then pulled it down to his laptop and used a Python application to plot the data points.

The end result was a device, or rather a system of connected devices, that allowed the group to probe several points on a surface and then graph the points to see how flat the surface being measured actually was. They used a surface plate in the College’s Metrology Lab as a comparison and generated heat maps for other surfaces — tables, carpet, pieces of plywood — to show their variability.

Real-World Experience

The College’s project-centered curriculum works well for Larsen. But he has also not been shy about using his skills beyond Dunwoody’s walls.
Going into his senior year, Larsen has already completed internships with Design Ready Controls, and Graco. He has also done contract design work using the SolidWorks skills he learned in his year as an MDES student and currently has a contract programming magnetic fields for different mechanisms, which he devotes part of his weekends to.

This is in addition to continuing an internship at Boston Scientific where he started out as a tech intern for the batteries manufacturing department, troubleshooting and maintaining equipment. Larsen has now moved more into engineering and is doing design work and prototyping. One of his current projects is to redesign a welder. He’s completed the testing and is now on the validation phase. To speed the project up, Larsen did some CNC training with Productivity Inc. so he can machine the parts himself.

What’s Next

After he graduates next May — along with the other students in the inaugural Mechanical Engineering class — Larsen hopes to land a full-time position with Boston Scientific or perhaps with the company he’s doing the magnetic field programming for.

He’s also considering working part-time on a start-up company with his brother (who is not only a programmer, but does botany) that focuses on improving automation technology for food production.

Larsen has a long-term motive for that option: “I want to get really good at automating food production so I can use that to produce food in space, whether that’s on satellites or planets,” he said. “Space companies are popping up and in the next 5 to 10 years food production in space is going to become more important. The technology is there — it just needs to be developed and tested.”

The first class of Dunwoody’s Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program will graduate in May 2020.

Student News

Pursuing Passions

Pursuing Passions from Dunwoody College on Vimeo.

Keep an eye out for our very own Logan Brandes during the Minnesota Vikings games. He’s a member of the Minnesota Vikings Skol Line and can be seen playing outside U.S. Bank Stadium pre-game as well as during the game. While drumming is a passion of his, so is pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture degree. And he finds a way to bridge both.



From the industry to the classroom

Andrew Hoitink’s career as a Mechanical Engineer has included some fascinating projects – ranging from the virtual to the microscopic. As a lab assistant during College he helped build finite element software used for dynamic contact/impact simulations at the Army High Performance Computing Research Center. And as a Research and Development Engineer for Intel, he developed modules for parts smaller than a strand of hair.

But if you had asked him when he first started his studies at the University of Minnesota if he ever thought that he would one day be teaching Mechanical Engineering, the answer would most likely have been no – especially having spent the first three semesters of his undergraduate career in the Physics department.

After a few conversations with a friend who had already been through the Physics program, Hoitink began to rethink the path that he had initially set out on and decided to reroute into the Mechanical Engineering program.

“Mechanical Engineering was the applied version of Physics,” Hoitink recalls.

Looking back, the switch was a natural fit. Growing up, Hoitink had spent a lot of his time taking apart and reassembling different items throughout his parent’s home in Rosemount.

“They knew that sometimes whatever I took apart might not make it back together, but they saw it as a learning opportunity for me and were never really mad about it,” he said.

It was that sort of support and sense of discovery that gave Hoitink a real appreciation for project-based learning, and part of the reason that he continued his studies at the University of Minnesota to complete not only a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, but his masters and doctorate degrees as well. It was the chance to participate in co-op programs, internships, and the opportunity to work with graduate advisors on projects in the lab that kept Hoitink interested in furthering his education.

On top of all of his studies, one thing that Hoitink said would not change if he had to do it all again would be working as a teaching assistant all throughout graduate school.

“The amount of stuff you learn from teaching others is invaluable,” he said. “You learn 10 times more about that material than you would have studying it on your own. The pressure to know the material really well is really different. It forces you to look at questions from a different angle than you might naturally approach it.”

Andrew Hoitink explains a classroom exercise to a student
Andrew Hoitink explains a classroom exercise to a student.

After a chance meeting with a representative from Intel at a school career fair, Hoitink found ­himself interviewing for a summer internship in Portland to work on simulations for them. He landed the internship, and a year before completing his doctorate, he interviewed for and accepted a full-time position in Arizona. He was hired as a Research and Development Engineer and worked with a group doing accelerated testing for CPU’s as well as development for next generation parts.

Hoitink enjoyed being a part of huge company that focused on making such small, powerful objects.

“You were forced to be multi-disciplinary and your job was to solve problems,” he said.

Hoitink would continue solving problems for Intel for eight years, four years in Arizona and the rest in Portland.

Portland would bring a change of scenery and a chance to work in a different capacity within Intel within a pathfinding group in module development with a focus on making things faster, smaller, and more economical.

But Minnesota has always been home, and Hoitink and his family recently made the trek back to the Twin Cities – which has possibly brought upon the biggest change of scenery yet. A spot back in the classroom.

Hoitink jumped on board this fall at Dunwoody as a Senior Instructor of Mechanical Engineering. With extensive experience in the industry and a deep appreciation for the power and impact that a hands-on learning experience can have, he is excited to be stepping into this new program that is still moldable.

Having had a hand in a lot of interviewing at Intel for incoming hires, Hoitink saw first-hand that just because someone might have a Ph.D. behind their name doesn’t mean that they know how to do everything. At one point he joked that he thought about bringing in a toolbox and some old equipment during interviews to see what those potential hires would do.

As for the students here at Dunwoody, he is excited about their potential and their promise as they develop the skills they need for their future careers and he fully appreciates the opportunity he has been given to help them along the way.

Student News Videos

Secret agent style

Bachelor of Architecture student designs James Bond inspired home

Who hasn’t dreamed of the secret agent life filled with gadgets, a jet-setting lifestyle and an Aston Martin in the garage. Part of that fantasy could be realized thanks to the vision and design skills of Dunwoody Architecture student Austin Rastall and his instructor Kerrik Wessel.

Goldfinger, Goldeneye, The Man with the Golden Gun

Last spring, Wessel, an adjunct instructor in the Bachelor of Architecture program at Dunwoody was approached by Todd Shipman, a realtor with Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty who owns undeveloped land in the South Tyrol Hills neighborhood of Golden Valley. Because it is a steeply graded lot, he needed architectural renderings to help potential buyers envision what the parcel could look like.

Kerrik Wessel, Austin Rastall and Todd Shipman meet at the South Tyrol Hills neighborhood lot.
Kerrik Wessel, Austin Rastall and Todd Shipman meet at the S. Tyrol Hills neighborhood lot.

Wessel agreed to take on the project pro-bono after visiting the site with a couple of conditions. “I wanted it to be fun, and get my students involved,” he said.

Rastall was a student in Wessel’s class last year when the Bond house proposal first surfaced. Wessel knew their style meshed and asked for his help over the summer. 

Wessel, who is also a big fan of James Bond, pitched the idea to use the opening credits of the 2006 film Casino Royale as inspiration for the concept.

Much to his surprise, Shipman agreed. 

“Art and architecture are always inspired by something or someone,” Shipman said. 

Rastall jumped at the opportunity.

Growing up in the East metro, he often talked about building details with friends, and was curious how people interacted with those buildings and structures. At the time he was unaware that he was talking about architecture.

“When I was 5 years-old I told my sister that I was going to build her an apartment building,” he said. “I told my parents that I was going to build them a house.” 

Now in his third year of the program, he knows that Architecture has always been his calling. 

Mystery, Movement, Light, and Shadow

“At school we try to come up with a good story for all of our designs,” Wessel said. “We develop it and come up with a reason for the house.”

The Bond house began with four adjectives: mystery, movement, light, and shadow. Researching set designers intimate with James Bond movies provided direction.  

From there, they landed on the Brutalistic movement of the 1970s, a cold architectural style that used concrete, steel and glass.  

Wessel thought the style was fitting of Bond.“I could see him being brutalistic and also really refined,” he said. They wanted to replicate that in their design of the house. 

The two met weekly over the summer sketching and brainstorming, dreaming of how they could infuse the James Bond essence into their design. Back and forth, they exchanged ideas — initially with Wessel in his old school way of building models giving way to Rastall’s preference of architectural drafting with the computer software, Revitt. 

Kerrik Wessel and Austin Rastall met weekly over the summer to go over ideas.

Details include a hidden, moving concrete wall that pivots to conceal a movie theater room and the utility room. “No one will be able to tell that it is a moving wall because of where the joints are,” Rastall said. “It looks like it was meant to be there naturally.”

Building upon inspiration for James Bond, there are subtle nods to sevens throughout, from built-ins to the basic footprint of the home — two concrete masses that form a seven. There is also a steel staircase and a lot of glass throughout.

“I think it is fun for students to get involved with projects that are really interesting and that have legs like this,” Wessel said. “It is also a good stepping-stone for your career if it comes to fruition.”

The experience has been beneficial for Rastall. “I’ve figured out new ways to problem solve; to come up with new designs for structural areas when something wasn’t working.”

Project-based education is the norm for students at Dunwoody, and the excitement of working on such a project this early in his education is not something he takes lightly.

If someone purchases the land and wants to build Rastall’s design, he will be able to be involved in the build process. 

“It could mean a lot of things for me,” he said. “It could mean a start to a successful career in Architecture, especially if it gets built.” 

Community Outreach

Industrial Engineering Technology students give back to the community

Industrial Engineering students paint the house of a homeowner in need.
Industrial Engineering students paint the house of a homeowner in need

On two recent weekend mornings, Industrial Engineering Technology students in the Ethics & Social Responsibility class loaned their skills to Hearts & Hammers -Twin Cities, an organization that provides home improvement assistance to senior citizens, veterans, and the disabled. 

The experience shows the students the importance of “corporate social responsibility by volunteering in the community,” instructor Karen Tucker said.  “It also allows the students to practice skills such as project planning and project management in preparing for the project.”

Since the work would be done over two weekends, the class split into two crews.

The first crew removed overgrown brush, weeded planting beds, cut grass, and cleaned and prepped the exterior of the house for paint. The second group put protective tape and plastic over the windows and trim of the house and painted the faded yellow home a dark gray.

While the crews worked, homeowner Tim Fairbanks walked around his south Minneapolis property where he has lived for 15 years, keeping a watchful eye, stopping to chat and joke with the students and answer questions about what plants needed to stay and what could be removed.

Industrial Engineering student Nick Mitchell talks with homeowner Tim Fairbanks.
Industrial Engineering student Nick Mitchell talks with homeowner Tim Fairbanks.

Back surgery years ago left the graphic artist with nerve damage and depression. The pain left him unable to cope and manage things like routine yard work.

Watching the students work put a twinkle in his eye.

“When you suffer from depression your home and your environment is something that really affects you, especially when you can’t do things physically,” Fairbanks said. “So, for me, it’s physical help and emotional support. In that regards, it’s more than I could ask for.”

Applied-learning led Tucker to pursue this project for her students.  “At Dunwoody we focus on the ‘do’ in everything we teach,” she said.  “By applying what we are learning about ethics and social responsibility, along with reinforcing other technical and project management aspects of the Industrial Engineering curriculum, we are preparing the whole student to become a responsible member of today’s professional organizations.”

First year Industrial Engineering Technology students Elssie Payan-Burgos and Andriy Mykytyn recognized the group’s actions as a social responsibility.

Elssie Payan-Burgos cleans up the yard with her classmates.

“If you are an engineer, more is expected of you. You care about other people. Giving some time and volunteering is what you are going to be doing,” Payan-Burgos said.

“It is just a few hours of our day,” Mykytyn said. “But I think it will have a big impact on this gentleman in particular.”

Fairbanks watched loads of cut brush being hauled away,

“These were all things that I couldn’t do. And to see it getting done and to have it done is incredible,” he said.