Engineering initiative to train career-ready learners

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LAS CRUCES – The College of Engineering at New Mexico State University has launched a pilot program to help students prepare to enter the workforce with work skills and experience. The Engineering Education Enrichment, e3 Initiative, is an after-school program funded by the National Science Foundation.

The $ 2.1 million grant to the College of Engineering is aimed directly at helping first-generation low-income students succeed in engineering. Led by Antonio “Tony” Garcia, Associate Dean of Academics and Patricia Sullivan, Associate Dean for Outreach and Recruitment at the College of Engineering, the five-year program operates as a partnership between students, faculty members and the industry. It combines teaching techniques focused specifically on independent adult learning with traditional college teaching methods.

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Now in its second year, some 157 students have chosen to participate in the e3 Initiative during the fall semester, said Sara Patricolo, e3 program manager.

“In general, the e3 initiative is a question of opportunity and ownership by students of their education. We want students to recognize the opportunity and choose to participate in this voluntary, fully sponsored initiative that reinforces the importance of lifelong learning, ”said Patricolo.

“E3 is an innovative program unique to NMSU that has been intentionally designed to complement our engineering curriculum with in-demand skills in a variety of emerging fields,” said Sullivan. “The program is further enhanced through the commitment of our industry partners to ensure alignment with the needs of employers, resulting in highly skilled and career-ready engineering graduates.

Students have the opportunity to follow three different paths to develop their professional skills.

Professional certification is an important way to show your capabilities to a potential employer.

“The certification track gives students the opportunity to acquire technical skills or life skills that they believe will make them more marketable to employers and make them more confident as developing professionals. Students choose from over 75 certification options and have the opportunity to suggest courses that reflect their specific interests. To date, providers like Coursera, Harvard Business School, Python Institute, Udemy, among others, have given students access to certification in programming, modeling software, project management, leadership, and more. ”Said Patricolo. “And everything is free for the students. “

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The Entrepreneurship track helps students learn how they can acquire knowledge and skills in a career field that could lead to innovative products and / or their own businesses.

“Students learn to take ideas from proposition to product by developing skills in business planning and strategy, operations and finance. Such training is provided by several of our suppliers as well as the Arrowhead Center at NMSU, ”said Patricolo.

Students on this track can participate in the Crimson Entrepreneurs program at the Arrowhead Center at NMSU, sponsored by the Student Business Accelerator at Studio G-NMSU. Studio G is ranked among the top 20 university business incubators in the world by UBI Global.

“The Design Track sets students’ creativity in motion, asking them to come up with design solutions to real-world challenges. These are hands-on projects where students design food trucks with low carbon footprint or remote blood pressure sensing, for example. Students develop design schedules, use modeling software, prepare budgets for hardware, and work individually or in groups, ”said Patricolo.

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Hands-on design projects allow engineering students to apply their technical knowledge and creativity. The College of Engineering Aggie Innovation Space, recently outfitted with over $ 1 million in design and manufacturing equipment, offers students the opportunity to work with experienced mentors and use cutting-edge technology.

Along the way, students are mentored by industry partners and faculty members.

“Administrators and mentors use a collaborative software platform to interact with students and document their progress. We set milestones for students so they know what is expected, ”said Patricolo. “It’s not related to university semesters. It’s at our pace and we check with them. “

A research team from the College of Arts and Sciences is examining the e3 initiative and how it helps students develop adult learning skills. Students are interviewed at the start and end of the program to determine if the resources engage students and complement the traditional lecture model.

Ultimately, the outcome of this self-directed program is up to the students.

“The opportunity is there. Just as engineering professionals must pursue continuing education and professional development, the e3 initiative gives engineering students the opportunity to identify what may be ‘knowledge gaps’ and take the course or training. they need to better prepare for future employment. They just have to choose it, ”said Patricolo. “The best part of the initiative is that the students leave with a strong sense of personal accomplishment and increased confidence. Their success is our success and we celebrate with them.

To learn more about the e3 Initiative, visit https://engr-outreach.nmsu.edu/e3Initiative.

“EYE ON RESEARCH” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s article was written by Linda Fresques of the College of Engineering. She can be reached at 575-646-7416 or [email protected].

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