The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recently opened new engineering labs that will give students the real-world skills they need for the workforce. The project is part of a greater vision to draw more students to northeast Wisconsin and meet the region’s demand for engineers.
A $1.5 million investment brought in nearly 100 new pieces of mechanical engineering equipment. The idea is to give students a way to put all their theoretical classroom knowledge to practice.
An open house during Engineering Week celebrated the four new labs and machine shop. It’s all housed at the Brown County STEM Innovation Center.
John Katers, founding Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at UW-Green Bay gave the opening remarks:
“In order to be successful in their education at UW-Green Bay and ultimately in their engineering careers, it is incredibly important for these students to not only be taught by highly qualified faculty and staff, but also to have high-quality equipment and resources available for both instruction and research.”
“These state-of-the-art engineering labs will specifically equip this program’s students with [hands-on] experience, positioning them to add tremendous value to their employers and our economy.”
In the labs, Mechanical Engineering students will get to apply theories of controls and measurement, thermodynamics, fluids, and materials. The experiments are all designed to mimic the types of applications they will see on the job.
Assistant Professor Jagadeep Thota and his students held demonstrations during the open house.
In the materials lab, students used the tensile testing machine to study the strength of various metals. In the fluids lab, a flow channel demonstrated how barriers and other objects alter water flow. Students will also learn on hydraulic benches where they can see how different turbines work.
Professor Thota was in charge of researching and choosing the equipment for these labs. He focused on experiments that would develop skills valuable to employers.
“The STEM area is very much in demand, and the job market is good in the area,” he said. “The equipment allows students to get practical experience for the workforce.”
The program is part of the Richard J. Resch School of Engineering at UW-Green Bay. There is a huge need for engineers in northeast Wisconsin, and the school was founded to meet that demand.
Previously, the university offered a pre-engineering program. Now, students can graduate with their BS in Mechanical Engineering. Partnerships with local technical colleges make it easy for 2-year graduates to transfer to UW-Green Bay and finish their engineering degree.
In just two years, the school has met its five-year enrollment goal, and the Mechanical Engineering program has doubled expectations at nearly 100 declared majors.
As the program grows, students from across the state will be drawn to study at UW-Green Bay. And that will feed into a pipeline of engineers who learn and work in the region.
A hands-on focus isn’t the only unique thing about UW-Green Bay’s program. What’s really exciting is the wholistic approach to reaching the next generation of STEM talent.
The Brown County STEM Innovation Center is a one-of-a-kind facility. It’s located on the college campus, but the space is shared by several organizations, including UW-Extension and 4-H, Brown County, and the non-profit group Einstein Project.
Students of all ages use the building for various STEM groups and events where they’ll get a chance to see these engineering labs.
Kirchner summed up the impact of this when she said, “What young person of Northeastern Wisconsin, or the entire Midwest for that matter, wouldn’t visit hands-on labs like these and at least wonder, ‘Is engineering the right career path for me?‘”
Prospects are high with this ecosystem of STEM talent being developed in Green Bay. It’s a great beginning to an even brighter future.
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