The ambiguity and complexity of engineering problem-solving stretches students as well; School of Engineering faculty and project sponsors alike appreciate the students’ growth over the two- semester course. “It has been exciting to see the transformation from students who knew nothing about robotics and can quickly be able to adapt that and put it into process,” said Travis Dahlstrom ’09 MBA, a previous project sponsor and senior director of global engineering at Pentair spinoff nVent. As two semesters can be a long time to work on one project, a new requirement of Senior Design Clinic students is a reflection paper to be done after the first semester. In the paper, students need to cover topics ranging from team collaboration to personal growth to how they tapped into learnings from non-engineering courses. “If we don’t force students to take the time to reflect, they don’t necessarily do that on their own, because they get caught up in when the details of their assignments are due, and don’t sit back and think about how all of the pieces connect together,” Ling said. With each year of graduates, the School of Engineering is preparing students to use what they have learned to improve the world.
Students Leo Flentje, Adam Zopf, John Wallace, Alfred Danquah and Michael Hart created a robotic seam welder by adding automation, controls and a user interface to a manual device.
at Collins Aerospace who also is working toward a master’s degree in systems engineering at St. Thomas. “The presentations, timeline, deliverables, etc., are very similar to what happens in industry.” Beyond engineering skills, Senior Design Clinic students learn how to successfully interact with clients, effectively communicate with each other and rely on each other over two semesters. “Students can’t get it done by themselves, especially when there are multiple disciplines,” Ling said. “If a student is an electrical engineer, for instance, they can’t possibly learn all the mechanical engineering that they need to do a full project. They have to do the team dynamic of figuring out how to work together.” Students also need to tap into what they have learned from their non-
engineering courses as part of their St. Thomas liberal arts education. “Engineering is about people. It’s about listening to people, moving people toward common goals, and delivering
products and services for people,” Weinkauf said.
“The need for a liberal arts education is the need to understand humanity and the human condition, which engineers ultimately will serve. Listening, empathic design and understanding the voice of customers and the needs of society manifest in a liberal arts education. If those are absolute requirements of being a great engineer, then you can see the value of a liberal arts education in concert with the technical rigor that you get with an engineering degree.”
St. Thomas Engineer 2021 Page 9
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