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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Bremerton Lab Keeps Students Close to Home

New lab will allow engineering students to stay close to home

By Meegan M. Reid
Article reprinted with permission from the Kitsap Sun

BREMERTON – The addition of an engineering lab at Olympic College’s Bremerton campus opens a door for Brian George to get the engineering degree he wants.

George, of Port Orchard, was among dozens Saturday who toured OC’s new lab, which will allow Washington State University students enrolled in the program to get that WSU four-year degree without ever going to Pullman.

Students in the first two classes of the OC-WSU partnership were required to spend eight weeks in the summer doing lab work. Now local students can get the entire degree without the trip and can spread out the lab work.

The new facility has traditional classrooms flanked by a wind tunnel, robots and an internal combustion engine. In the future, it will have a jet engine donated by Boeing.

For George, the new lab means the Bremerton WSU program will be his first choice when he finishes his sophomore year at OC. He spent enough time away from his family the last six years he was in the Air Force, he said. He didn’t want to do it again for eight weeks in Pullman. Without the new lab, George said, he would have first considered engineering programs at the University of Washington or Western Washington University.

It’s exciting to be able to do this 10 minutes from my home,” George said. “I didn’t want to be gone all the time, spending all that time away from family.”

OC’s partnership with Washington State began with its first batch of 14 college juniors in fall 2010. Students taking the WSU program now have the lab they need in OC’s former automotive technology building, across Warren Avenue from the main campus.

In 2009, the Legislature saw offering the four-year degree in Kitsap County as a way to get more students completing engineering degree programs less expensively for the state and for the students.

Mechanical engineering was the second four-year degree offered at OC, following nursing. David Mitchell, OC president, said he expects there will be more four-year programs announced for OC this summer. Mitchell said it was the partnership between the two schools, local employers and local political leaders that made the engineering program possible.

“It’s the best partnership I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

During the first two years, the Legislature allocated slots for 30 engineering students. The second group of 16 students finish this year. Enrollment is now up to the equivalent of 52.8 students, said Jeff Brown, OC engineering faculty member. WSU also offers the four-year engineering program at its campus in Vancouver and at Everett Community College.

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, said the OC-WSU partnership is the model for education of the future. He said the lab is as good as any engineering lab in the country and that local students will be as well-prepared as engineering students anywhere.

Marvin Pitts, WSU mechanical engineering professor and OC program coordinator, said the Bremerton lab will increase the university’s ability to spread out its lab work and allow more time for necessary breaks for maintenance.