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A Unique Engineering Space in MankatoNovember 9, 2023 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Rob Sleezer is associate professor of integrated engineering at Minnesota State University, and lead for Twin Cities Engineering (TCE), a two-year engineering professional school with a non-traditional approach to the curriculum. That new approach just might turn out more industry-savvy graduates than traditional programs.
Nolan Johnson: Rob, introduce us to Twin Cities Engineering. What do you do there?
Rob Sleezer: TCE is an extended campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato. We are a project-based program which exists in a space at a partner school. That means that we are not only one of the best engineering programs in the state, we are also the least expensive, which is really cool.
What “project-based” engineering means to us is our engineers do their pre-engineering at some other place (anywhere). Some of them might even do it in Mankato. Regardless, they transfer to us because they're moving from that space into our extended campus space. We’ve specifically partnered with Normandale Community College and St. Paul College, where we have lab spaces. When a student engineer joins us as a first semester junior (J1), the first thing we do is put them on the equivalent of a capstone project. We then work to contextualize their design professional and technical learning to that project as best we can.
Johnson: That makes sense to integrate their experiences.
Sleezer: In fact, we are the Department of Integrated Engineering. We integrate across multiple domains and disciplines, in terms of integration of concepts across the business side of things. These are all really important to us. Additionally, what's really cool is that because I have teams that consist of both senior graduating engineers and first semester engineers, there's some mentorship. I have a corporate culture. In my program, admittedly, every year half of my “employees” quit by graduating.
As we discussed earlier, much of this is being addressed in this context. Maybe not perfectly, meaning we're constantly looking to improve, but we do things that make our student engineers question where they're going, what they're doing in terms of the design, and how the math and physics they're learning play into designing things to improve the world and improve the human condition.
To continue reading this interview, which appeared in the November 2023 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.
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