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So, you’re interested in designing things that have a purpose, that make people’s lives easier, that accomplish tasks that have never been done before (think: land a man on the moon 50 years ago).

Specifically, you’re interested in applying math and science to create physical objects. You have an idea, you draw it, you make a model, you analyze it, test it, make changes, improve it—you’re an engineer! How do you prepare for this occupation?

You might job shadow or get a part-time job to explore various fields of engineering, then progress on to earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, civil engineering or another specific field with an internship or two along the way. Where can you study engineering?

In the 1990s, members of William Penn’s Applied Technology Division were examining curricular options. What does a small, Quaker-affiliated liberal arts college do to build upon its well-established industrial technology program?

Should it begin to offer an engineering major on campus? If so, in which field(s) of engineering? Build on existing strengths or stretch to diversify and possibly promise more than can realistically be sustained? Partner with another engineering school to provide upper division specialty courses that require extensive laboratory equipment and specialized, niche background by the faculty?

The decision was made to continue doing what we do well (small classes and teaching professors building relationships with individual students) and seek articulation agreements with other universities. Students would take the Penn leadership core/general education courses plus existing WP courses in chemistry, calculus-based mathematics and physics, scientific computing, engineering graphics, materials and manufacturing processes, statics and strength of materials, thermodynamics, electricity and electronics, with actual hands-on labs. Then transfer elsewhere to complete specialized engineering options, earning both a BA from WPU and a BS from the other school.

The first 3 + 2 partnership (three years at WP, two years elsewhere) was established with Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., in 1993. Washington U offered many engineering major options, but as a private university was expensive and many students didn’t see themselves studying in a large city. Only one WP student, See Heu, moved on to study there and, after a decade, that program was dropped.

The second 3 + 2 articulation agreement with Iowa State University’s mechanical engineering department has proven to be more successful. It’s affordable for in-state and out-of-state students, closer to home for Iowans, and Ames is viewed as a hospitable living environment. In 2018 the ISU agreement was expanded to include civil engineering and industrial engineering, as well as mechanical.

The first three WP-ISU 3 + 2 students matriculated at ISU in fall 2000. Matt Armstead and Amanda Willamon completed their BSME’s and accepted engineering jobs in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. After his first year at ISU, Scott Heckart decided to switch focus and become a patent attorney so he transferred his ISU credits back to Penn, graduated with his BA in 2001 and entered Drake University Law School.

Since then, many students have participated in 3 + 2. Zach Johnson, WP cross country and track athlete, completed the 3 + 2 last May, and has stayed on at ISU as a sponsored Ph.D. student, studying and researching in Jonathan Claussen’s nanotechnology lab.

Three local students should receive their BA’s and BSME’s this coming May—Nathan Herz, Luke Siebens and Nate Van Veldhuizen. Their activities included band—marching, pep and jazz; football; internships at Musco and Andersen Corporation. You can combine extracurricular activities with engineering study!

Another possible path to an engineering-type career is through the Engineering Technology emphasis of the Industrial Technology major, 4 years at WPU. This BA degree includes most of the same engineering foundational courses with a little less mathematics, more applied computer science and hands-on industrial tech courses.

However, this degree will not lead to professional engineer licensing, if that is important to you. Brayton Carter of Oskaloosa chose this option, managed to squeeze all the coursework into 3 ½ years and is currently working for Musco.

Over the years, the various William Penn engineering courses have been taught by full-time faculty members Dr. Jim Drost, Dr. Jim Hoeksema, James Smith and Judy Williams, who also teach courses in industrial technology or applied computer science, with excellent help from adjunct instructors Jerry Bottenfield—Clow Valve, and Nathanael Van Ee—Musco.

For the first time this year, WP has a full-time professor dedicated to the core engineering courses. Dr. Sanjiv Sinha came to Oskaloosa after teaching mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech, Wright State, and University of Georgia, as well as consulting and contracting in CAD/CAM, finite element analysis and simulation. His undergraduate degrees are from John Moores University in Liverpool, UK, and his graduate degrees from Syracuse University—Ph.D. in ME, MSME and MSEE. He also completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia in simulation and software development.

Want to find out more? Check out wmpenn.edu/engineering or contact a person to explore options.

For engineering, contact Sanjiv Sinha, Sanjiv.Sinha@wmpenn.edu or Judy Williams, williamsj@wmpenn.edu

For engineering technology, contact James Smith, smithj@wmpenn.edu or Jim Hoeksema, hoeksemaj@wmpenn.edu

For a campus visit, including a chat with one of us and tour our facilities, contact Arianna Davis, Assistant Director of Admissions and Campus Visit Coordinator, davisAr@wmpenn.edu or 641-673-1342.

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