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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Mechanical and Materials Engineering Newsletter – Spring 2013

A Growing Program to Meet Engineering Demand

Everett and Bremerton Programs Expand Mechanical Engineering around the State

Graduates posing in a row wearing their caps and gowns.
First graduates of the WSU mechanical engineering program at Olympic College, Bremerton with (l-r) Dean Candis Claiborn and Professors David Bahr and Marvin Pitts.

New programs at Everett Community College and at Olympic College in Bremerton are allowing students around the state to pursue a Washington State University bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

In the past year, a new mechanical engineering program at Everett Community College got underway, and the WSU mechanical engineering program at Olympic College, Bremerton, saw its first 14 students graduate.

“[These programs] are addressing two major concerns for the state by providing more affordable and accessible higher education options for students and more engineers who are critically needed for our economy,” said Bob Olsen, associate dean of undergraduate programs and student services for the WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. “This is another example of how WSU is meeting its land-grant mission to educate our state’s residents in a critical field.”

WSU began offering the bachelor’s degree program at Olympic College (OC) in fall 2010. Developed jointly by OC — a public, two-year community college — and WSU, the program aims to provide a more affordable way for place-bound students to pursue a mechanical engineering degree. The idea for the program initially came from a Kitsap County-based community group and, in 2009, the state legislature provided support for the college to partner with a four-year program. In particular, the group and college officials cited a need for engineers in the region. With more than 2,000 engineers, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is a major employer, and nearly half of its engineers are set to retire by 2018.

“Everybody had different expectations about the program,” said Marvin Pitts, professor and Bremerton’s program coordinator, “and everybody’s expectations have been exceeded.”

Since it got underway, the program has expanded to enroll 20 students per year and has still had to turn away qualified students, says Pitts. All of the 2012 graduates received job offers, and one was accepted into graduate school. This year, 75 percent of the May 2013 graduates received post-graduation engineering job offers before Thanksgiving.

“People out here really want the program to be here, and we’ve gotten a lot of strong support,” said Pitts.

After the Bremerton program saw its first students graduate in the spring, the mechanical engineering program at the Everett Community College campus got underway in the fall with 24 students.

The Everett program came about as part of a state initiative to increase the number of engineering and computer science students and graduates. Earlier this year, WSU and the University of Washington were allocated $3.8 million to address a shortage of Washington state engineers.

The support will result in a more than 30 percent increase in the number of students in WSU’s engineering programs. It will allow the college to enroll 425 new students and to hire 20-25 new faculty members. In addition to the Everett program, the WSU engineering programs in Pullman, Bremerton, and Vancouver will also expand. Approximately two-thirds of the new students will be undergraduates.

The Everett and Bremerton programs include a combination of local faculty with courses originating both from the local and the Pullman campus. Several classes are broadcast via video, and students are required to take some laboratory classes on the Pullman campus during the summers. Olympic College and WSU are also opening an engineering laboratory building on the OC Bremerton campus.

The new laboratories allow the college to increase enrollment in its engineering classes and enables the WSU mechanical engineering students to complete their laboratory courses without leaving Bremerton. There are future plans to do the same in Everett.

Students follow WSU’s semester system and pay WSU tuition rates. Upon graduation, they will have fulfilled WSU mechanical engineering degree requirements.