By Dr. David Che
In September last year, IWU’s new engineering building, the Don Wood Foundation Hall, was completed and dedicated. The Don Wood Foundation provided a $1.5 million grant to equip IWU’s engineering labs. This investment is being used to purchase state-of-the-art engineering equipment for nine hands-on labs that will educate Indiana Wesleyan University students in their pursuit of engineering excellence. It also benefits the local community when the facility is open for continuing education programs or hosting STEM-related summer camps for local high schoolers. This summer, 10 local high school students participated in IWU’s robotics camp. The students learned robot programming using the five collaborative robots purchased through the grant. They had so much fun programming the robots – one of their projects was to program the robot to dance to their favorite music.
The grant also helped IWU attract students to the engineering program. When prospective students see the brand-new building and its state-of-the-art equipment, they recognize the credibility of the program and the tremendous learning opportunities ahead of them. Currently, we have 43 students enrolled in the program: 5 juniors, 15 sophomores, and 23 first-year students. As Laura Macknick, Executive Director of the Don Wood Foundation, eloquently said, “The IWU engineering program will not only be unique in its design-thinking approach but will also fill the need voiced by local and regional employers to hire homegrown engineering graduates who have a connection to Indiana.” Indiana students represent the vast majority of the incoming engineering first-year class (17 out of 23, or 74%). Our program also attracted a sizeable group of female students (8 out of 43, which is 18.6%).
The grant also enabled curriculum renewal for IWU’s engineering program. EGR 105 (Rapid Prototyping – 3D Printing) was first offered in the spring of 2023 and was welcomed by the IWU student body with great enthusiasm. This was the first time this course was taught at IWU, in the newly equipped Rapid Prototyping Lab. This course introduced students to the fundamentals of rapid prototyping via 3D printing. Students learned how to generate 3D solid models in CAD and then 3D print them. Each had the opportunity to spend five weeks working in teams, assembling and testing the brand-new 3D printers. The hands-on experience has been combined with classroom instruction and culminated in several group projects. One student commented in his end-of-course survey that this was one of the best classes he had ever taken in his four years of study at IWU. This fall, with the support of these 3D printers, we were able to offer the entire Introduction to Engineering class (27 students) the opportunity to learn 3D modeling software (Fusion 360) in the first few weeks of their college career.
With the foundation grant, we were also able to fully equip our machine shop with state-of-the-art metal working machinery. Students take shop classes each semester, learning the fundamental manufacturing skills that will give them success once they enter the job market. One of our engineering majors, Ethan Stewart, did a summer internship with a local manufacturing firm in Wabash, Indiana. He did such an excellent job that the company's owner commented to the engineering faculty that they didn’t know what to do when Ethan returned to school this fall. It is a testimony to the quality of our students and the hands-on learning the Don Wood Foundation has afforded these students at IWU.
Dr. David Che is a professor and the engineering program director at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.
Aligning Opportunities Between Students, Community, and Industry
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