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Calhoun Assists to Train Next Generation of Systems Engineers

September 18, 2020

Calhoun Collaborates With Engineer Researchers to Develop New Curriculum That Trains the Next Generation of Systems Engineers

Program backed by a coalition of researchers and industry to address future digital engineering workforce needs in areas of defense, aerospace and manufacturing.

Researchers from the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have partnered with Calhoun Community College, Huntsville-based Victory Solutions and the newly-created Institute for Digital Engineering Advancement, IDEA, to utilize a $500,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a digital engineering curriculum to educate the next generation of systems engineers. The award represents year one of a five-year grant totaling $9.9 million.

Development and implementation of the Systems Engineering Technology Program, SET, will be led by Auburn Engineering associate professor Greg Harris and assistant professor Greg Purdy, both of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; James Payne, dean of the business and computer information systems division at Calhoun Community College; David Alan Smith, senior vice president of Victory Solutions; and Chris Crumbly, future executive director of IDEA, which will launch in early 2021.

“Our SET curriculum will prepare a workforce of systems engineers equipped with the digital engineering skills necessary to enable future U.S. technology development,” Harris said. “Systems are much more complex today and there is a great demand for systems engineers from organizations such as the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Energy. The SET program will address this demand and establish a workforce pipeline to enable trained systems engineers to make an impact.”

The curriculum will be geared toward a two-year community college degree to appeal to graduating high school students and career transitioning professionals, including returning veterans, and ultimately be applicable toward a higher-level degree. It will feature a strong focus on exposure to various industries with a need for systems engineers and will emphasize internship opportunities for program participants to gain hands-on experience.

“It’s imperative, on both economic and national security grounds, that we identify and achieve efficiency gains in our engineering and product development processes,” Payne said. “People looking to start a technical career in the Huntsville area will find this program to be a promising addition to the opportunities Calhoun already offers. We look forward to building this program from the ground up and establishing it as a nationwide standard.”

Students in the program will have direct access to prominent companies in the aerospace and manufacturing industry in the form of guest lectures and other involvement, including SET partner Victory Solutions.

“We identified a critical U.S. industrial base skill gap: a quickly available workforce trained to support engineers in digital modeling,” Smith said.

Ultimately, the vision of the researchers and industry partners involved in bringing the SET program to fruition is to provide a national collaborative center in the form of the nonprofit IDEA, where best practices and solutions in digital engineering and manufacturing will be identified, shared and recommended.

“IDEA will introduce the SET concept to community college systems across the nation and remain as a subject matter expert to support education and connect organizations with experts, graduates and interns,” Crumbly said.

Harris expects high demand for the program, especially from students in north Alabama.

“Auburn Engineering students are already highly desired by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and NASA. Our industry partners are already talking to us about how they can get involved. I’m excited for the opportunities this will open up for our students,” he said.

About the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University has a long and rich tradition of excellence in engineering education, consistently ranking among the top engineering institutions in the country. Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs.

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