Universities develop pipeline of talent

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University, the two largest universities in the Milwaukee area, are hard at work on their own manufacturing industry outreach programs and will launch them in late spring and summer.

The universities are launching the new programs with a two-pronged mission: (1) To help manufacturers overcome challenges related to research and development; and (2) To help influence their course development to better prepare engineering students for the needs of modern manufacturing companies.

“We need to make our students more than commodities,” said Kevin Craig, Ph.D., the Robert G. Greenheck chair in engineering design and a professor of mechanical engineering at Marquette. “They need to be innovative, conceptual and multi-disciplinary so they will differentiate themselves. We need to change the way we educate them so we give them a set of skills to be the new series of engineers our companies desperately need.”

UWM to launch I3

UWM’s new Industrial Innovation Institute (I3), which will open in July, will be overseen by Michael Lovell, the dean of the College of Engineering.

When it opens, the I3 will offer several ways for companies to interface with university students and staff, including:

Student projects, in which a company in which a company is having difficulty with an idea, process or topic. Teams of students, with faculty guidance, will examine the matter and create recommendations.

Faculty consulting, in which a faculty member is asked to look at a company’s operations, solve a problem or help create a new process.

Full research projects, for which graduate and doctorate students are hired.

Specialized curriculum development, in which the institute is asked to create a customized curriculum for continued education for working engineers.

Lovell was hired at UWM in August. He was previously an associate dean at the University of Pittsburgh, where he helped develop a similar outreach program.

“In 2000, we started the Center for Product Innovation to develop products (for industry) and to tie our curriculum to industry needs,” Lovell said. “We developed rapid prototyping, manufacturing and design centers, and we had no idea there was such a need for a university to partner with industry. In the first year we had 150 projects.”

Pittsburgh’s center also helped influence the university’s course offerings, helping it develop engineering curriculum based around the nuclear, power systems and mining industries, Lovell said.

The I3 already has created two specialized curriculum tracts for Milwaukee-area companies, Lovell said. For GE Healthcare, it has created the Edison Fellows Program, which launched last fall. The program has 12 GE employees enrolled in it now  and projects teaching at least 16 of the company’s employees in the fall.

The I3 also is working with Johnson Controls Inc. to develop an energy engineering program for about 250 of its engineers that work in the field.

Both the GE Healthcare and Johnson Controls programs are graduate-level programs. The I3 and UWM anticipate creating additional programs with other manufacturers that have large numbers of engineers in the future, Lovell said.

“Our goal is to be the easiest engineering college in the U.S. to work with for industry,” he said. “We have the base here. We want to partner with the area’s strength.”

The I3 will be built in three phases.

The first phase, which will open in July, will be developed in about 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of UWM’s engineering building. When it opens, the center will feature two design labs, a small rapid prototyping lab and interactive classrooms.

“We’re focusing on world-class CAD,” Lovell said. “We’re also focusing on high-end analysis and characterization equipment, where we can characterize new materials and look at nanotechnologies.”

UWM plans to begin the second phase of the I3 in two years, and Lovell estimates it will cost about $4 million. It will include a large, multi-level addition to the south side of the engineering building. The greatly expanded space will have room for more labs, machinery and interactive classrooms.

The third phase will be built when UWM builds a new engineering campus on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa.

UWM officials are still negotiating with Milwaukee County officials for the purchase of the land where the new campus would be built. When the new campus opens, a second will be built, which will focus on bio-engineering, Lovell said.

“This will be a sister facility where companies can come for engineering expertise in bio-engineering capabilities,” he said.

Marquette new center

Marquette University plans to open a new center where the university can partner with manufacturers on problems related to systems integration, Craig said.

The school is currently working with Price Engineering Co., MAYA Design Inc. and Harbor Research to create the Center of Design & New Business Innovation, which will open later this spring, Craig said.

Price Engineering is a Hartland-based distributor and integration engineering firm. MAYA Design, based in Pittsburgh, is a human-centered design firm dedicated to making existing, complex systems easier and more natural-feeling to operate. Harbor Research, based in San Francisco, is a consulting firm that helps companies develop new products or services.

Many large companies have been able train their engineers to work across disciplines, according to Craig and Tom Price, president of Price Engineering. However, small to medium-sized firms aren’t able to make the same investments.

“We all read about how the ability to make things more complex is growing, and we see that the other side of the cost is coming down dramatically,” Price said. “The ability to push these products into machinery, which may not have been cost-effective before, is now cost effective. We can take these machinery elements and build a lot of intelligence into them. But for many of these companies, how do they get there? And how do they get there affordably?”

Craig said the Center of Design & New Business Innovation will work to connect different types of engineering. As companies submit problems or projects, teams of students from different disciplines will be built to work on them.

“In human-centered needs, there are tremendous technical needs and technical breadth,” Craig said. “You can’t just be a mechanical, electrical or environmental engineer. It’s only in teams that you can solve these types of problems. And you’ve got to at least understand what your other team members do.”

Marquette is planning to build a new engineering building. It does not know when ground will be broken but the facilitiy will likely take several years to complete. In the interim, the Center of Design & New Business Innovation will be housed in temporary space in the college’s Discovery Learning Center.

“This is an urgent need, and we can’t just wait on it,” Craig said. “We will set aside space in the Discovery Learning Center that will be a mini version of what we envision in the new building.”

Price will also create some space in his building in Hartland where he can meet with Marquette officials, MATA, Harbor Research and other companies looking for assistance.

“We have a mezzanine that’s not built out, and we’d be looking at that space to create this creative space where we could do workshops,” Price said. “We may put a program together in late March or April. This is an exciting opportunity – most integrators are self-contained and struggle with the bandwidth of their company to get projects done. By opening this up, we hope we can improve that and get a higher level of services from business strategy to design to implementation.”

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