Building A Better Engineer

Gary Maul is using the liberal arts environment to build a better engineer.

Maul, professor and chair of the Department of Systems Engineering at Otterbein University, is leading a new program designed to make engineering students more well-rounded.

Maul reports that Otterbein’s new pioneering broad-based training matrix combines the principles of mechanical, electrical and industrial engineering into a program that is more functional than other traditional engineering studies.

“It will be a tech education program in a liberal arts environment where students learn engineering theory along with an emphasis on things like writing, communication, and social and political awareness,’’ said Maul, who has worked in industry and academia for more than four decades.

Engineers are involved with just about everything you use in your daily life from trucks, cars, bridges and the farm equipment that ships and harvests the very vegetables used at the dinner table.

“And just like the real world, Otterbein’s program will feature ‘active learning,’ where students will be given open ended problem-solving exercises and case studies requiring them to learn how to ask good questions, learn how to collect and analyze data, how to define a problem, and then how to plan and execute solutions to the problem with budget and time constraints,’’ said Maul. “They will be taught how to recognize patterns in the data and to solve not just a symptom of the problem, but the core problem itself.’’

Otterbein’s systems engineering program will focus on preparing students to solve real world engineering problems by tackling all aspects of a problem.

“There are no purely mechanical or purely electrical problems, there are just problems. The problems might be a poor design, or a bad or defective material, or a problem with the machine that produced the part or the worker who produced the part incorrectly,’’ according to Maul.

Ultimately, the problem may end up being a cost factor or a sluggish productivity issue. Regardless of the challenge, Maul points out that the new Otterbein skill set will give students the toolkit to quickly grasp and resolve the problem.

Students will work closely with industry, including such giants as Honda and  Worthington Industries. The program, which begins in Fall 2015 with 32 students, also will have an industrial advisory board to help guide program content and courses. Ultimately, the new program will operate in a 60,000-square-foot former Mettler-Toledo industrial site that will be equipped with space for a business incubator, engineering labs, 3D printers and other equipment so essential for successful manufacturing operations. 

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By: Gary Maul
Otterbein University
Professor and Chair of the Department of Systems Engineering