Department works to better prepare students for jobs

Engineering students learn math and science concepts for operating a catapult. The Department of Engineering Technology added more classes for students.

The UNA Department of Engineering Technology is adding new opportunities for students.

The Engineering Technology program is a hybrid program of electric and mechanical engineering. The program allows students the chance to use applied engineering earlier in their studies than they would with a traditional engineering route, said Director and Department Chair of Engineering Technology Peter Rim.

“Combining the two disciplines (better prepares) our students with a broad understanding of engineering,” Rim said. “(This) is needed by many employers and allows the students to participate in fields like robotics which are multidisciplinary.”

The program allows students to gain a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Technology. The department started in fall 2016 with about 30 students. The department expects the number of students to double in fall 2017 with the incoming freshman class, Rim said.

Right now, there are no plans to expand the engineering technology department into separate disciplines, but UNA is constantly looking at other disciplines which might be valuable for expansion to meet the needs of students and the community, Rim said.

Acting Chief Financial Officer Evan Thornton said Engineering Technology is a good investment for UNA.

“UNA wants to produce workers who are able to get a job in their field after they get their degree,” Thornton said. “The Engineering Technology department hopefully can produce workers who will satisfy a need seen in places like the Arsenal”

Redstone Arsenal is a military base in Huntsville.

If the department is successful, the state will support the expansion of the program. Thornton said he does not expect the program to profit for a few years, but it provides an opportunity for UNA to grow.

Freshman Justin Similton said he is proud of where the department is.

“We just started the program, but it seems like something that has been here for several years,” Similton said.

The department recently hired a new professor to fill the department’s need for an electrical engineer to satisfy the curriculum requirements, Rim said.

UNA is not announcing the identity of the professor at this time due to current employment, but he or she will begin teaching at UNA next fall. UNA will announce the new hire before fall classes start, Rim said.

The plan is for the Engineering Technology Department to offer all classes in the fall. The department is only offering three classes this semester, Rim said. He hopes all department classes will remain in the same area they are currently in.

“We try to keep all of our classes taught in the Engineering Technology area to foster a sense of community with in the program,” Rim said. “(This) allows students as much access to professors as possible.”

Sophomore Alex Hughes said he chose to attend UNA because of the new program.

“I was originally going to attend Alabama for engineering,” Hughes said. “I was very excited to hear UNA announce the addition of the Engineering Technology program. Because I am a Florence native, I was very happy for the chance to stay close to home.”

Hughes said he looks forward to seeing how the department will grow in his time at UNA.

“(The department) still has a lot to work out, but I can’t wait to see how things turn out,” Hughes said.