McCoy construction to conclude in fall 2014

Lauren Roberts

Alejandro Hernandez, senior in mechanical engineering, works on his senior design project using a hydraulic peck-drill in the McCoy training lab Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Eddie Miller
Alejandro Hernandez, senior in mechanical engineering, works on his senior design project using a hydraulic peck-drill in the McCoy training lab Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Eddie Miller

In the spring of 2012 the $1.6 million expansion of the McCoy School of Engineering was approved. The additions to its building is nearing completion and is expected to finish by the fall. The growth of the major and the need to add engineering programs made it necessary for the school to grow.

Sheldon Wang, chair of the school, said, “Two or three years ago we realized that annual recruitment is getting more attention from the community. The enrollment is going up and we decided to take preemptive action and add a classroom with 75 seats.”

At that time the school was anticipating a freshman class of at most 75 students. They also added two engineering labs. Gene McCoy, Frank Stevens, the Bolin family and other donors to MSU sponsored expansion project. They approved the plan and gave the department the funding to build the additions.

Wang said, “In the fall of 2013, in one semester, we added more than 100 mechanical engineering majors. So in fact that number of 75 is already too low, but we’ll find a way to accommodate all of these students.”

With the addition the engineering department will be able to add more lower level classes in both the fall and spring semesters. It will build flexibility for the mechanical engineering program.

Dania Wilson, senior in mechanical engineering, said, “I’m glad they are expanding the building. It get kind of cramped in the classroom with all of us. I’m sad I won’t get to use the bigger classrooms.”

Recognizing who their students are is an important factor in the need to expand the building to accommodate more students.

Wang said, “We recognize that we have many non-nontraditional students. They do work and some of them have full-time jobs. I think with flexible lower level engineering courses the student can speed up in their degree plan.”

Wilson is from St. Lucia and worked for four years as a engineering technician after she attended community college. She decided to receive an engineering degree and chose Midwestern based on the price and the presence of the Caribbean Students Organization.

Wilson said, “They have this foundation where you feel like you’re at home.”

With added classrooms and labs the department can schedule more classes. That also means that adding more professors will be needed. The department has added one new professor and they are in the process of hiring another professor in the petroleum engineering field. The department employs one professor, five associate professors and two adjunct professors. Besides just increasing enrollment the department is also looking to add more degree programs.

Two years ago the department lost one professor and added two in his place, Yu Guo, assistant professor of engineering, and Jeong Tae Ok, assistant professor of engineering.

Wang said, “We want to [add programs] judiciously. We don’t want to rush into any new degree program. The first step is to get input from the surrounding engineering companies and they us there’s a need for petroleum engineering graduates. We would like to add a petroleum certificate program with six new courses and we hope that a mechanical engineering graduate with a petroleum certificate will be equivalent to a bachelors of science in petroleum engineering.”

The hiring process for the new professor will be completed in a few weeks. Fifty applied and three were selected to visit the school to interview for the position.

The school has success with graduates finding jobs in the petroleum engineering field. Wang said that one of their graduates was hired by Benoit Oil and Gas as a petroleum engineer.

Wang said, “He’s doing fine. Even without training in the petroleum certificate program he’s doing fine with his background in mechanical engineering.”

With the continued growth of the program into the petroleum field may be necessary for the department to expand again.

Wang said, “Some people are asking us about this but we don’t want to be too optimistic we do have 270 students to take care of and we want to first stabilize the operation, get a second accreditation this fall and then we will think about moving on to a master program in mechanical engineering because we do have some feedback from surrounding companies. A lot of people are interested in getting a master of science in mechanical engineering from MSU.”

Adding more minors by working with different departments within the college of science and mathematics is one of the goals of the engineering department.

Nicholas Jaramillo, junior in mechanical engineering, said, “I wanted to major in math but I was told that you can’t do much with math besides teach. I decided to do mechanical engineering because you can apply math and it’s a very tough program mathematically.”

Being able to bring together and use their skills is important to students in the engineering department.

Wilson said, “I like math but I don’t want to just use mathematics I wanted to apply it.”

The department participates in recruiting activities and have a open-door policy that welcomes high schools, teachers and students to come a visit the facilities.

“The key reason for us to attract students is the dedication of the faulty members, the students have access to all professors most of the time during the week.” Wang said, “The professors really care about their students and want them to succeed and they help students professionally. We would like to have this good tradition to continue. I think that growing this degree plan is like growing a tree. It takes years of cultivation to see any fruits.”

The department reaches out to the students and a focus is student-teacher interaction.

Wilson said, “Professors have this open door policy and they are very understanding. We’re a small department so everyone knows everyone. We’re like a family. If any of my friends want to do engineering I would recommend them to MSU.”

Wang said for a bachelor of science degree students don’t have to go to an elite school like Princeton, Harvard or MIT  There are good engineering schools in Texas that have great facilities, wonderful faculty members and affordable tuition.

Wang said, “When students are young it is preferable for them to attend a university like MSU because of the attention they can receive from professors within a friendly environment conducive for studying so they can be well-rounded.” If students really want to they can pursue advanced training in graduate schools that are more research orientated, he added.

Wilson said she wants to do more schooling for a doctorate and if that doesn’t happen she plans to apply for optional practical training which gives engineering work experience for international students.

“I want to get a degree in aerospace engineering because when I was 17 I got my pilot license. I started flying when I was 14,” Jarmillo said. “Engineers are in higher demand versus math. Engineering is like a glorified math degree.”