School of Engineering Technology will spark collaborations

The creation of the School of Engineering Technology at Purdue University has eliminated administrative barriers and created more opportunities for students and faculty alike.

Housed within the College of Technology, the new school has brought together two departments: mechanical engineering technology and electrical and computer engineering technology. The bachelor’s degrees from each department will be part of the school, and new, collaborative degrees are being planned.

One area that will receive a lot of focus is robotics.

“We still have the core discipline strengths, those things that serve all of our students as they enter the engineering workforce,” said Ken Burbank, Ph.D., head of the School of Engineering Technology. “And now we also can work on degree programs that focus on the areas where these disciplines overlap, such as robotics and mechatronics.”

In fact, a bachelor’s degree that focuses on automation and robotics is the next proposal from the school. The degree will combine the study of embedded controllers, sensors, and instrumentation with mechanics and manufacturing processes to enable graduates to apply automation and robotics to advanced systems. These larger systems range from advanced manufacturing facilities to healthcare and aging in the home.

Team-focused senior projects will provide practical experience to students as they prepare for their engineering careers. The team approach replicates the engineering team atmosphere most graduates will encounter in the workforce, bringing together experts in more than one field to solve a problem.

“This is an opportunity to synthesize the courses they’ve taken,” said Phillip Sanger, professor of electrical engineering technology and coordinator of the senior projects course. “It’s an opportunity to gather all of that knowledge and apply it to an integrative real world experience. The students will also learn lessons in teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, self direction and creative thinking.”

The graduate level will benefit from collaborations as well. Burbank said the school has proposed a master’s degree in engineering technology, which will bring together courses from both disciplines to create a well-rounded, advanced degree. Until the new degree is approved, the school will continue to offer focus areas for the M.S. in Technology degree program.

With a renewed sense of purpose and a plan for expanding enrollment, Burbank is excited for the future of the school.

“There’s a national call for more engineers and more people working in STEM,” he said. “The School of Engineering Technology is part of the college’s response to help address the national need for STEM professionals.”

Burbank’s work to address the potential shortage of STEM professionals does not stop at Purdue University. He is chair-elect of the Engineering Technology Council of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). The group works on the national level to bring more visibility and awareness to the academic disciplines.

To help prospective students and parents understand their options better, the council has adopted the tagline “The degree is engineering technology, the career is engineering.” When he takes over as chair of the council later this year, Burbank will continue work at the national level to help more employers and the public understand the value of an engineering technology education and the contributions of its graduates in the workforce.

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