Category Archives: electrical engineering

Steps for Success: Engineering Employment Opportunities

April 16, 2016

Graduation can be an exciting, but scary time for college seniors. As the time grows closer for students to enter the professional world and leave their university days behind, many questions and concerns arise. Did I make the most of my college experience? Will I attend grad school? Accept a full-time job? How will I find employment opportunities? I spent all this time in school…now, what? While these questions come along with difficult decisions, Western Kentucky University does the most that they can do to help students answer these questions. In the WKU Engineering Department, engineering faculty try their best to help students make the most of their college experience and prepare for life after graduation.

While many employment opportunities are available to engineering students, they must also keep in mind that they are entering a competitive field. One of the best ways to secure a job after graduation is to gain some industry experience while still in school. WKU’s Engineering Industrial Partnership Coordinator, Debbie Berry makes sure that students can take advantage of such opportunities.

showcaseOn any given day, Debbie Berry may receive word of three or more job opportunities. She then makes these opportunities known to students—during the 2015-16 academic year alone, she has sent out over 100 emails with employment opportunities for students. These include internships, co-op positions, and part-time or full-time jobs. Since gaining hands-on industry experience is so important for engineering students to make themselves marketable, such job openings are valuable. Past students have interned for companies including General Motors, Logan Aluminum, Pure Power Technologies, Berry Plastics, among many others. And they aren’t just limited to local companies. While regional partnerships are incredibly helpful, WKU students can and have extended their scope to work for national companies. Several Western students have completed one or more internships with NASA.

Over 100 students report their work experiences to the engineering department each year. While not all of the data is available, Ms. Berry would estimate that about 90% of engineering students graduate with an industry work experience under their belt. Much of this is thanks to Western’s Industrial Partnership Program. Connecting the university and currently 14 regional companies, this partnership benefits both the community and students. Companies pay $5000 a year to become an industrial partner and, in return, they get the chance to meet face-to-face with potential interns and employees. The fee helps pay for the industrial partnership program itself, student ambassador scholarships, and many of the networking events the engineering department offers.

expoSome of these events include industry showcases, career fairs, project expositions, resume workshops, and special industry partner-only events. WKU Engineering hosts more than ten showcase events each year, where students can come to learn about different industries and internships they may offer. The department also hosts one Dinnerview event per semester, where industry partners can attend to meet some of WKU’s top engineering students. After getting the chance to network, attendees will eat dinner together, engage in professional development table talks, and have the chance to share resumes. These events are special in that they allow employers to meet face-to-face with potential employees and give students the chance to see what opportunities are out there for them. Not only do students and companies benefit from such events through the Industrial Partnership, but the whole community of Bowling Green is allowed to flourish through increased community interaction and involvement.dinnerview 2

For engineering students looking for internships and jobs, the best thing to do is get involved. Hands-on experiences are some of the most impressive bullet points on a resume. Even if you have not yet completed an internship or co-op, class projects can serve as prime examples of real engineering experience. Skills and qualifications that employers are looking for, such as teamwork, leadership, presentation skills, and knowledge of engineering topics, can also help seal the deal. For engineering students, there are numerous jobs out there, and the Engineering Department is available to help throughout the whole process—from resume editing to providing the skills and connections to land the dream job.

What it’s Like to Work for the Engineering Department: Bryce Aberg’s Experience

March 28, 2016bryce aberg

In a word, Bryce Aberg would describe his position within the engineering department as “baller.” For the past three months, Bryce has worked as a student researcher at Western Kentucky University. Dr. Farhad Ashrafzadeh, a professor of electrical engineering, approached Bryce with the job offer when he had an opening in his lab. Bryce was pleased to take the job and begin researching. The major project of the lab is to improve the energy efficiency of a major company’s clothes dryer. Bryce’s role in this research is to use thermodynamics principles to model the dryer and clothes system. He works alongside another student to develop a mathematical model of the system and compare their simulation results with those of another worker. Using the knowledge he has learned through his engineering classes at Western, Bryce is working to solve a real-world problem. However, through his job, he has learned that “being able to handle people is equally, if not more important, than being able to handle physics,” (Aberg). His position as a student worker is putting both his interpersonal and his engineering skills to the test.

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Bryce’s interest in engineering was fostered early in life. Growing up surrounded by his father’s projects, gadgets, and passion for building things, Bryce has decided to follow his path as an electrical engineer. He will graduate in 2016 as an electrical engineering major, but he has left his mark on WKU’s campus. A member of the Engineering Honor Society Tau Beta Pi, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and a researcher in the physics department, Bryce is quite involved on and off campus. One of his favorite experiences within the engineering department was going to a robotics competition hosted by the IEEE in 2013. Despite all of the serious work involved with his major and his current job, Bryce maintains a sense of humor and would like to share this picture of him on the job:

me on the job



Works Cited:

Aberg, Bryce. Personal Interview. 23 March 2016.

A Guest in EBS: Visiting WKU’s Engineering Department

March 14, 2016


Up on top of the hill at Western Kentucky University lies the Engineering department, which is headquartered in the Engineering and Biological Sciences building. Nestled in between Snell Hall and EST (an academic structure dedicated to science courses), EBS is not often visited by those who do not have class within its walls. However, a trip through its halls gives visitors an interesting glance into the on-goings of the engineering department. I had the opportunity to take this trip, guided by engineering department head Dr. Julie Ellis.

lab photoWalking down the halls, the huge lab located on the bottom floor definitely stands out. The glass walls of this room reach all the way to the top of the building, allowing one to stand on the second floor and watch the activities occurring in the lab. Filled with machinery, on-going projects, and complicated equipment, this lab piques the interest of anyone walking by. On the inside, one can get a closer look at some of the innovative projects WKU engineering students are working on at any given time. During my trip, Dr. Ellis pointed out a large stack of wooden planks. She explained that they were in production as desk modifications for a classroom in the Thompson Complex. A building that holds mostly labs rather than traditional classrooms, the current desks were far too small to be comfortable and useful to students. As a result, engineering faculty Dr. Gordon Smith challenged his students to create some sort of low-budget desk modifications that would help create a better learning environment in these classrooms. Now, his students are working to fix a real-world problem—one that even affects them and their classmates.

I was able to witness several other projects in action, as well. Stopping by a few classrooms, I saw many students busy at work. In one room, students worked on homework while a 3D printer whirred in the background. Eric Weaver, an engineering student, eagerly explained that the printer had been programmed to make small models of the WKU mascot Big Red. Three or four sat out on the table, already completed, while the printer continued the eleven hour process of creating one more softball-sized statue. In the materials lab, a group of students gathered around the concrete canoe, a project that occurs every year for the national concrete canoe competition. Several students sanded the canoe, which had recently been removed from its mold, while another explained the layers of the canoe and the display stand that would be built to go along with it. With regionals approaching in just a few weeks, the team was both nervous and excited to complete their final product.

Engineering & Biological SciencesSeeing engineering students in action helps create an understanding of the department at WKU. Many new students like me may be unaware of what exactly goes on behind the walls of the engineering building. However, after taking a walk around, one can easily see the energy and passion of these students for their field of study. Many students are eager to share about their projects with others, much like their passionate professors, who also love to speak about their courses and the accomplishments of their students. From seeing the construction of the concrete canoe to Dr. Ellis casually mentioning several tennis ball-throwing contraptions in the corner of the room, Western’s engineering department holds many surprises. In the end, one thing is definitely clear—WKU engineering is always up to something! Home to a diverse group of students involved with a variety of projects, WKU Engineering is a busy department with unique assignments occurring at any given moment.



Works Cited:

Engineering Sign. Digital Image. Carris Tech. List of Odgen College of Science and Engineering WKU Images. Web. 20 March 2016.

Engineering Building. Digital Image. WKU Map. Engineering and Biological Sciences. Web. 20 March 2016.

“Geek is Chic”: Women in Science and Engineering Fashion Show

February 29, 2016

fashion show 2


“What’s wrong with being confident?” It was only one of many songs played, but Demi Lovato’s hit seemed to blare louder than the rest at the 2016 Women in Science and Engineering Fashion Show. After all, the chorus carries a theme similar to that of the fashion show itself: be confident, and celebrate who you are! Dubbed with the title “Geek is Chic,” this unique fashion show celebrated the accomplishments and beauty of many women faculty members of Ogden College at Western Kentucky University.

An event like no other, this fashion show took place in the Hardin Planetarium. Floral arrangements were hung, and strings of lights bathed the dark venue in soft light. Spotlights shone onto each model as she made her circle around the planetarium, pausing to twirl and show off her outfit. Models for the fashion show came from the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which promotes women entering the fields of math and science. The program hopes to improve the balance between men and women in STEM fields; currently, 68% in these fields are male. The WISE program partnered with WKU’s Fashion Merchandising department to make the fashion show a reality. The IDFM 432 class of visual merchandising students put on the show—the goal of their class each semester is to plan and hold a fashion show of some sort. This semester yielded a show quite different from any show 3

The models dressed for three different occasions: A Very Busy Day on Campus (the category for casual attire), Testifying to Congress (professional clothing for presenting research), and Gala Wear. Some of the models appeared a bit nervous at first, but by the end of the evening, they were spinning around, whipping off jackets or glasses for a poised look at the crowd, and laughing happily as they paraded around the room. Prior to each model’s appearance, photographs of her family were projected onto the planetarium ceiling, and the audience got the chance to learn a little bit about this diverse group’s interests and accomplishments.

Dressed in a practical yet elegant black and white poncho, Linda Gonzales kicked off the show for the night. The first female faculty member to enter the agriculture department, she has worked there for 28 years and loves her field because it allows her to become closer to achieving her desire to feed the world. Many more impressive women followed her. With a confident spring in her step, fashion show 1Sharon Mutter showed off her pink, knee-length suede skirt. Proud of her scientific journal publications and her research grant, she thinks it is important for women to enter STEM fields because we need intelligent and creative people of both genders to help solve our world’s problems. Similarly, Naomi Rowland thinks that women can be in any field, regardless of stereotypes. Rong Yang, in a black and red dress, was celebrated for her beauty and her PhD in computer science. Julie Ellis, head of the engineering department, loves working with students and is proud of her son, a software engineer for Google. With a navy floral dress and her hands on her hips, Margaret Crowder, professor of geology, said that female voices need to be heard to empower women for society as a whole. Head of the psychological sciences department, Kelly Madole stated that no one is happy until they are in love with their job. It seems that all these women have indeed fallen in love with their jobs and found their place within the male-dominated world of science and engineering.

However, with events like this, the WISE program is working to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields and bring more women into the world of science and engineering. As shown by the fashion show, Ogden College has many impressive women faculty members, who are hoping to inspire other young girls to follow their dreams. If those dreams involve math and science, they don’t want any stereotypes to hold ambitious students back. In addition to inspiring young women, the fashion show also encouraged its models to have their own look and to continue to be confident in show 4 In the end, STEM topics may bring this diverse group together, but it is more than just that. Many similarities ran through the women’s bios throughout the night—their love for serving others, spending time with their families, hearing about the achievements of past students, and simply relaxing at the beach. Though their accomplishments are many, WKU’s women of science and engineering are regular people who share common hobbies and interests with others. And, they are just as beautiful as anyone else. After all, “what is beauty if the brain is empty?”



Works Cited:

Hicks, Sarah. Poster. Digital Image. WKU News. “Geek is Chic” Fashion Show Feb. 29 at Hardin Planetarium, 23 February 2016. Web. 8 March 2016.

Pederson, Miranda. Model. Digital Image. Bowling Green Daily News. Photos: Geek is Chic, 29 February 2016. Web. 8 March 2016.

LEGO Robotics Competition: Episode XVI, Star Wars Edition

February 27, 2016DSC_0729

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…the WKU Engineering LEGO Robotics Competition began! Now an annual event for WKU engineers and the Bowling Green community, Saturday’s occurrence marked the competition’s 16th year of existence. Each year, elementary and middle school-aged students form teams to create their very own robots, using LEGO Mindstorm kits. Their robots are then put to the test, as they go through obstacle courses and complete tasks, all judged by WKU Engineering faculty and students from the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society.

both coursesThis year’s theme brought a new level of excitement to the competition. Students had to take their robots through two Star Wars-themed courses, the first being the Death Star course. In this course, students could choose to either follow a zig-zagged line along a clear path or brave the asteroid belt, where they weren’t restricted to a certain path, but had to dodge obstacles and pop asteroid balloons. Teams had two minutes to try to make it to the center of the course and knock over Darth Vader, thus completing this course’s objective. The second course was the Star Wars (Over the Years) Course, where teams had to send their robots on missions to score points. Again they had two minutes, but in this course, teams tried to complete as many objectives as possible in the allotted time. One team “driver” was responsible for setting the robot in the start zone, sending it out on their mission of choice, and bringing it back to the start zone at the completion of each mission to begin again.

photo 3On February 27, Drake’s Creek Middle School gymnasium opened up for the 2016 competition. Excitement filled the air as students gathered with their teammates to discuss strategy for the day’s competition. Star Wars movies played from a screen in the center of the room, serving as entertainment for the parent-filled bleachers before the event began. Over 150 coaches and parents attended the competition, and 65 students competed on 23 teams. Some teams in official uniforms, others dressed in their best Star Wars attire, all participants were full of energy and enthusiasm. Teams sat on the floor, a few kids choosing to stretch in preparation, others reviewing their programming codes on computers. Soon, the competition began with a quick “May the Force be with you” from WKU’s engineering department head—the Star Wars equivalent of “Play ball!”

Teams gathered around their respective courses, waiting for their turn to pull their robot out of its numbered cardboard box. Most teams chose to travel through the asteroid belt on the first course, popping balloons with pointy objects affixed to the front of their robots. Applause filled the room, as teams experienced both successes and failures. “The Jaguar Awakens” team was eager to share about their experience.

From Natcher Elementary, photo 22 edited“The Jaguar Awakens” team included eight students, a parent volunteer as coach, and one team member’s sibling acting as a mascot. At their school, all students in the Gifted and Talented program are invited to participate in the contest. They worked together to build the robot, starting in January of this year. The team took advantage of the opportunity to practice running the course at WKU prior to the event and had a lot of fun throughout the whole process. They especially enjoyed building and naming the robot, as well as having a team pizza party the night before the competition. Impressive students, these team members are busy at school and in the community—many team members are not only in the GAT program, but they are involved with Beta club, cross country, competitive jump rope, academic team, and more. Like most kids, they love lunch and recess, but they also have high ambitions for the future. The team, like many others, experienced their share of successes and failures throughout the competition.

On their first run, “The Jaguar Awakens” robot managed to pop one asteroid balloon; however, the robot then got off track. Hitting the wall and almost flipping, the team did not make it through to attack photo 26Darth Vader on the Death Star course. After their rocky start, they were able to make a comeback on the second course, touching Anakin for 100 points.

The scoreboard went up halfway through the day (EIT Division winners: Johnson Homeschool team, PE Division winners: Drakes Creek team), but regardless of their places, everyone at the competition had something to learn—and not just the competition participants. WKU engineering students also had an opportunity to learn and give back to the community. By facilitating an event like this, they helped expose younger children to some of their own passions and continued to build a presence for their department in the Bowling Green community. Participating teams learned a great deal about working together and adapting to new situations, as they made adjustments to their robots in between rounds. As one team frantically tried to tweak their robot before their next run, chasing after the robot as it rode right out the door, one team member laughed and said what may accurately explain the positive attitude of the entire competition: “We had the most fun; I don’t care how we placed!” After all, as WKU engineering emphasizes, learning doesn’t come from test scores, but from fun, hands-on experiences.DSC_0723