BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Becky Bates looked out over a room full of future engineers and challenged them to reflect on their communication skills.
Concern over how these students present themselves to others is just one way Twin Cities Engineering differentiates itself from more traditional programs.
"Twin Cities Engineering is a partnership between the metro area community colleges and Minnesota State Mankato to provide a four year degree in engineering up in the metro area," explained Bates, Chair of Minnesota State University, Mankato's Department of Integrated Engineering.
Students get their basics at community colleges throughout the metro, then attend a two year program based at Normandale Community College's Partnership Center to complete a project-based curriculum to earn their degree.
That was a big selling point for junior Robert Mclean. "Not only am I working through the program, I'm actually doing projects and I'm going to get into work world running."
Twin Cities Engineering is patterned off a program Minnesota State University Mankato runs in Virginia, Minnesota called "Iron Range Engineering."
Bates says employers in that area noticed they were having trouble retaining engineers. They believed a home-grown work force might solve that problem.
"The industry in northern Minnesota really needs engineers who will stick with it," said Bates. "One thing they found is the people who can do it are the people who grew up doing it."
Educators took the opportunity to create a new way of educating engineers, partnering with nationally known engineering educators and employers to create a program based in the Iron Range that gives students hands-on learning as they master engineering concepts.
In the Twin Cities, the program is still project-based, but the target audience is students who are also looking for options other than a four-year university. "Students can have a smaller experience at the community college, and a less expensive experience as well," said Bates.
Students KARE 11 spoke with mentioned the affordability and location among the reasons they chose the program, along with the chance to learn by doing.
"My original plan was to go to the U of M," said junior Ryder Febo. "Once I heard about project based learning and being able to do things more hands on and actually get the experience that engineers need out in the field, I jumped on board this right away."
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved.)