Winter 2012/Spring 2013

Diversity/Careers Winter 2012/Spring 2013 Issue

Hispanic engineers
African Americans in IT
Grad degrees in engineering
Co-ops & internships in IT
EE careers
Gov't & defense jobs
UNCF & Gates Scholars
Connecting the dots

Diversity in action
Saluting our Schools
News & Views

National Radio Astronomy Observatory U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Westinghouse Hess

Saluting our Schools

Cal Poly engineers learn by doing

Students working on senior projects and graduate theses partner with major corporations. A lab for assistive technology development helps people with disabilities

The College of Engineering at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) aims to get its undergrad and grad students hands-on project experience. Its "Learn by Doing" motto applies across all engineering disciplines, often bringing specialties together. One recent project involved CubeSats, tiny satellites that weigh less than two kg, but carry scientific, private and government payloads.

"It may seem counterintuitive, but by preparing students for industry, Cal Poly prepares them equally well for graduate programs," says engineering dean Debra Larson, PhD. "Solving open-ended problems, working in teams and innovating, makes students strong technical engineers and innovators who can contribute to new economies."

Cal Poly offers undergraduate programs in computer science and aerospace, biomedical, general, civil, environmental, computer, software, electrical, industrial, manufacturing, materials and mechanical engineering. It offers masters degrees in aerospace, civil and environmental, computer science, electrical, fire protection, industrial and mechanical engineering.

Its MS in engineering with a specialization is available in biochemical engineering, bioengineering, biomedical engineering, integrated technology management, materials engineering and water engineering. It also offers a combined MBA/MS in engineering and engineering management and a combined master of city and regional planning/MS engineering degree in transportation planning.

Cal Poly supports its minorities
Cal Poly has active relationships with community colleges like Allan Hancock College (Santa Maria, CA) and Hartnell College (Salinas, CA) to recruit students into engineering programs. Many Cal Poly undergrads opt for the four-plus-one program, doubling up in their senior year to earn graduate credit and a masters degree.

The Multicultural Engineering Program offers support to educationally disadvantaged students. The program includes orientation classes, as well as a twenty-four-hour study center, tutoring, group study workshops and scholarships. Director Maria Manzano is also advisor to SHPE, NSBE and AISES chapters on campus. She's active in community outreach, working with AISES programs for sixth through twelfth graders to prepare them for university education.

The Engineering Possibilities in College program brings middle and high school students to campus for a weeklong summer camp. Students are chosen from economically disadvantaged, first-generation higher education families and underperforming schools.

California's Proposition 209 prohibits public universities from considering race or ethnicity in admissions decisions.

New dean introduces changes to benefit students
Dean Larson arrived at the College of Engineering in 2011 from Northern Arizona University (NAU, Flagstaff, AZ). She plans to make changes that will create a climate where students feel they belong.

"NAU sensitized me to the concerns and potential issues underrepresented students have as they take on engineering," she says. "It provided me with a fabulous background in understanding what is helpful for our students."

The college has a partnership with the University of California-Santa Barbara that steers Cal Poly graduate students to the UCSB PhD program. Larson hopes to expand pathways for doctoral candidates, starting with the Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA). Such partnerships create relationships between faculty members involved in research projects.

The college's focus on practical expertise attracts corporate participation on industry advisory boards. Senior projects and graduate theses often partner students with companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Cisco and others. Some EE students work on projects involving battery technology. ME students may be involved with solar and wind power projects.

Students get practical experience
CubeSats are Xbox-sized satellites launched by the school's Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD). Student engineers have developed the tubular, spring-loaded mechanism into a standard, reliable and flight-proven deployment system that takes up little space and can be integrated into any launch vehicle.

"The CubeSat project came out of aerospace engineering but crosses disciplines, pulling from electrical engineering and computer science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," Larson explains. "It's very student-focused. They are doing some fantastic things with package and design to make it easy to go on launches."

Cal Poly developed the program in partnership with Stanford University (Stanford, CA). Over sixty universities and high schools now participate.

Lab focuses on technology for the disabled
Quality of Life Plus (QL+) is a nonprofit that funds a Cal Poly laboratory for assistive technology development to help disabled individuals, especially wounded warriors and first responders. Cal Poly is located near popular surfing beaches, and one masters thesis project is developing a prosthetic leg for surfing. A previous team developed a prosthetic leg to use while diving in collaboration with Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS).

"QL+ brings students together in teams to work on projects," Larson says. "It has an undergraduate focus with strong graduate involvement."

Students also get involved with organizations like Engineers Without Borders.

"Students come to us with a passion for hands-on problem solving and being part of a team, club, organization, service," Larson says. "Our students get involved when they walk in the door."


California Polytechnic State University College of Engineering

California Polytechnic State University
College of Engineering


Main campus: San Luis Obispo, CA
Engineering enrollment: 5,000
Graduate & UG tech degrees offered: BS, MS; MBA/MS in engineering and engineering management; master of city and regional planning/MS engineering in transportation planning Ways to matriculate: Full time on campus
Ways to matriculate: Full time on campus

Back to Top

Fannie Mae U.S. Coast Guard Civilian
Philadelphia Gas Works CSX
Office of Naval Research HNTB
NSA Siemens
DRS Technologies Union Pacific
3M Walgreens