The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family

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Friday Letter 2015-05-01:
Engineering a Great Experience for Students

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FRIDAY LETTER: Engineering a Great Experience for Students
Dear Friends,

My first visit to a university was when my father took me to an engineering expo at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The experience left a lasting impression. My eyes were opened to a world of innovation, imagination and problem-solving — all available and accessible through higher education. Here were people working on real solutions to real challenges … and I could be one of them. Eventually, I attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, and I did become a STEM graduate.

Today middle- and high-school students from across the Inland Northwest are descending on Moscow in search of similar experiences at the College of Engineering’s 22nd annual Engineering Design EXPO. This year more than 900 students — a cohort three times the size of previous years — have come to our campus to participate in the day’s events. They’ll see firsthand the exciting research and designs created by more than 250 Vandal students collaborating in more than 50 interdisciplinary teams.

Expo serves as the capstone for graduating seniors in the College of Engineering. This year our Vandal engineering students have again been working on amazing projects, everything from improving wastewater systems, to enhancing the rehabilitation of stroke victims, to guiding payloads back from space. In those and many other cases, students work on projects that directly impact industry, searching for new or better solutions to specific challenges. Projects are often further developed for real-world applications.

At the expo, students also practice skills essential in any endeavor: putting an idea out there and effectively communicating its function and value. More than 60 judges representing industry and other professional sectors are on hand to contribute valuable feedback. Their participation and the support of the Micron Foundation, the event’s presenting sponsor, and many other sponsors and partners makes this day possible.

Recently, the UI College of Engineering became the only engineering school in Idaho to join the “Grand Challenges” project. Our school has pledged to do its part to help train 20,000 engineers nationwide who can take on critical goals such as clean energy, advances in medicine and cybersecurity. Today’s Engineering Design EXPO puts us in position to show we’re addressing some of these issues.

But for prospective students, this is an opportunity to see how they can make an impact in the world. If our visiting secondary students are anything like I was at their age, they’ll come away from the day energized about their futures. Not every student will go on to study engineering, of course, but they’ll have a glimpse of the stimulating work that occurs at UI, and they’ll see a campus where they can find their own path forward among friends, dedicated faculty and supportive staff, and abundant opportunities.


Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
President
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