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07-28-2006

Project Lead the Way Is A Good Fit For Clarkson University's Interdisciplinary Engineering & Management Program

The PLTW courses include: Introduction to Engineering Design, Digital Electronics, Principles of Engineering, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Engineering Design and Development, and in development are Biotechnical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering.

Students participating in PLTW courses are better prepared and tend to be more successful in college engineering programs, especially those like that of Clarkson University's engineering and iE&M programs, stated Michael H. Ensby, director of both Clarkson's iE&M program and the Center for Global Competitiveness. Students with a PLTW background are what we are looking for and are a good fit for the iE&M program because of their previous knowledge of both engineering design and business application.

As proof of his statement, Ensby offers that last year Clarkson was named one of three university grant winners in the prestigious Procter & Gamble (P&G) Fund's annual Curriculum Development Grant Program. Clarkson's successful proposal titled Multidisciplinary Projects Course in Virtual Product Development received a funding from P&G totaling $150,000 over three years, with additional support to the university and in-kind donations. The premise is that the proven success of virtual-prototyping technology, in the form of computer-aided design and engineering (CAD/CAE), in assessing the feasibility of a product at the design level, can be leveraged when combined with virtual reality technology in assessing how the customer experiences a product when making a purchase.

The University is offering a new multidisciplinary projects course as part of the grant project and will provide students the opportunity to experience the Virtual Product Development process. Students involved from across the University will gain a hands-on experience developing new products as a team, working with P&G liaisons, corporate recruiters, the local business community, and other sources. The project will also include student placement in summer internships and seek full-time student placements in positions that make use of their acquired Virtual Product Development skills.

The Clarkson curriculum utilizes cutting-edge technology and software programs such as: Virtual Tools, MIA, 3D Studio Max, Modeling, and AutoCAD, to name a few. In addition to the iE&M organizational strategy and policy capstone course, another capstone course with focus on engineering will be added for students to draw upon their engineering background during their senior year.

The iE&M program is becoming accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and also offers coursework in both business and engineering. Students learn the fundamentals of engineering and technical problem solving as well as gain a background in critical thinking, decision making and communication skills through the business courses. The students who are able to understand the "big picture," where technology and business intersect are encouraged to enter the iE&M program. Coupled with a plan to receive comparable certification from ABET, the engineering accrediting body, Clarkson's iE&M program will stand alone with dual validation.

iE&M students will take the technical and business foundation along with coursework in the major disciplines of math, sciences, management, marketing, humanities and social sciences. They will understand the benefits in the workplace of the interdisciplinary major and get a solid academic foundation, emerging with skills and career versatility that are highly valued in today's complex global economy. Today's companies are looking for dynamic leaders who understand how to cultivate innovation and lead successful project-based teams in a dynamic work environment. Some of these global companies like Pratt & Whitney, Carrier Corporation, Otis Elevators, Gorbel Overhead Crane, Retrotech, and Silicon Power have provided both financial and technical support for the innovative program.

The first-year experience in the iE&M program offers a year-long course in innovation and technical entrepreneurship, including courses specially designed to incorporate former PLTW student backgrounds. Students are challenged to research, develop, build, test and market a product for potential retail sales. The course teaches team building, engineering design, building the widget, testing its product evaluation, and finally the culminating investors presentation. At the end of the year, student groups will present their design, research, and business enterprises to a panel of professional and faculty investors to secure funding for additional research on their product.

According to Ensby, who became iE&M director in 2000, keeping up with the evolving needs of industry is especially important in today's rapidly changing corporate climate. Product innovation and market responsiveness are the keys to success in a global economy. College graduates with knowledge, skills and abilities in both technical problem solving and business decision making will be highly sought after by multinational and start-up companies alike.

The Clarkson iE&M program closely aligns to the goals and interdisciplinary curriculum style of PLTW and is "Preparing Tomorrow's Technical Leaders Today." PLTW has also developed an exciting middle school technology curriculum: Gateway To Technology. This project-based, cutting-edge curriculum is 40 weeks in length and is divided into four 10-week units from the following: Design and Modeling; The Magic of Electrons; The Science of Technology; Automation and Robotics; and three new units in development - Environmental Engineering, Energy and the Environment, and Aerospace Engineering.

In addition to PLTW's goals of increasing the number of engineers and engineering technologists graduating from the education system, the Gateway to Technology program strives to increase interest and awareness of female and minority students in technology and related careers. Over the last 10 years, a combination of 210 high school and middle schools have been certified or recognized for their implementation of PLTW in N.Y. state.

For more information on Clarkson University's interdisciplinary Engineering & Management program, contact Michael Ensby or visit: http://www.clarkson.edu/iem/index.html. For more information about Project Lead the Way, visit: http://www.pltw.org/aindex.htm.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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