By Jim Benemann
FORT COLLINS, Colo (CBS4) – It’s always fun for this journalism grad to visit other departments on the CSU campus. It’s impressive how the school has grown through the years, but continues to feel like a very grounded and friendly place.
Recently I visited the engineering department to see how seniors are preparing for the exciting and challenging world they’ll find when they graduate. Two of the senior projects I saw in development are the Snowflake project and the K-9 Exoskeleton.
The Snowflake will take hi-speed images of falling snowflakes. The moisture content and other characteristics of those flakes will help forecasters predict the strength of winter storms.
The K-9 project the students are fine-tuning will help veterinarians teach dogs that have been through surgery how to relearn how to use their hind legs.
Visitors to the campus will also notice the 25 professional engineers who are working side-by-side the students to show them the skills they’ll need in the “real world.”
“It’s all the tricks you pick up after many decades in the business. It’s the things you won’t find in a textbook, but skills that are vital to making a contribution when the students get hired,” said Richard Toftness, an engineer-in-residence.
CSU’s Engineer-In-Residence program began three years ago, after many engineering and computer science companies told the school the graduates are whip smart, but still not ready to jump right into a job and contribute.
“We’re talking about what are known as the soft skills. Professionalism skills. Being able to write and speak well. Being able to work in diverse groups towards a single business goal. The teamwork piece is huge. That’s what a real business is all about,” said Dr. Thon Maciejewski, Chair of the Engineering Department.
CSU senior Hannah Mikelson is soaking up the professional pointers.
“I think it’s valuable now just to our knowledge base but also what we have to look forward to when we jump into our careers,” Mikelson told CBS4.
Senior Drew Miller is working on that Snowflake Project, that forecasters should be using at the next Winter Olympics in South Korea. Drew appreciates the pro engineers taking their precious time to help the students get ahead.
“It’s not just about solving textbook problems. We’re finding solutions to problems the world needs to know and that’s really cool to be part of.”
Down the road at The University of Colorado Boulder, junior engineering student Jon Wingfield is actually taking his education off-campus. He’s making a contribution to the team at Canvas Technology in Boulder. As a paid intern, Jon is working on the computer that drives the start-up company’s prized creation: a computer and camera-driven cart that it hopes will revolutionize how big warehouses operate. It’s a very exciting place to be, and Jon Wingfield sees a big difference in what he’s learning on the job compared to in the classroom.
“It’s the importance of being able to rely on other people and know that they have their job to do and you have yours. I have a niche, and I have to do my specific task very well. But nothing gets done unless we collaborate on the big picture.”
The professionals at Canvas said it’s imperative that Colorado’s colleges and universities incorporate cutting edge technologies into their classrooms so that their graduates are up-to-speed on what’s being done in the business world even before they get there.