By Tina Hilding, College of Engineering and Architecture
First WSU Bremerton engineers will graduate May 5
An engineering class taught in Pullman is broadcast to Olympic
College students. (WSU photo by Tim Marsh)
PULLMAN, Wash. - They haven’t spent time at Ferdinands or the UREC center, and they didn’t sit through many Cougar football games – except those on television.
Having spent little time in Pullman, the first 14 students in Washington State University’s mechanical engineering program at Olympic College, Bremerton, will travel to Pullman this weekend to become WSU engineering graduates.
WSU began offering the unique bachelor’s degree program in fall 2010. Developed jointly by OC and WSU, the program aims to provide a more affordable way for place-bound students in the Bremerton area to pursue a mechanical engineering degree. Olympic College is a public, two-year community college.
"Everybody had different expectations about the program,’’ said Marvin Pitts, professor and program coordinator. "And everybody’s expectations have been exceeded.’’
The idea for the program initially came from a Kitsap County-based community group. In 2009, the state legislature provided support for the college to partner with a four-year program.
In particular, the group and college officials cited a need for engineers in the region. With more than 2,000 engineers, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is a major employer, and nearly half of its engineers are set to retire by 2018.
"People out here really, really want the program to be here, and we’ve gotten a lot of really strong support,’’ said Pitts. "I feel like I’m making a difference.’’
With the program’s launch, WSU hired three faculty members in mechanical engineering. Pitts teaches full-time on the OC campus.
A renovation of Sloan Hall on the Pullman campus made 12 new video classrooms available. Several classes are broadcast from Pullman, so students are able to see and interact with their professors.
"We’re not really local and not really distance delivery – we’re a hybrid,’’ Pitts said. "There’s a lot more personal interaction than a strictly online class, which is important for a lot of students.’’
During the past two summers, this year’s graduates traveled to Pullman for an eight-week, eight credit laboratory class. Some laboratory work is being shifted to Olympic College, as it develops an engineering laboratory on campus.
For their senior design projects, the students worked with local industries.
Pitts attributes the program’s success to cooperation among WSU, Olympic College and the students.
"Both Olympic College and WSU Pullman wanted this to work,’’ he said. "The students were mature enough to realize that glitches would occur, and they were all willing to work in that kind of environment.’’
Many of the students are older and have existing commitments in the area, such as a job or family, which would have made pursuing studies in Pullman challenging.
Colin Kreiger, who will start work as a mechanical engineer at the Boeing Company after graduation, said he joined WSU’s engineering program at Bremerton because he didn’t want to leave the Seattle area. Although he couldn’t physically go to office hours, he found his professors very helpful. Sometimes he was on Skype with them as late as 10 p.m.
"The professors in Pullman did everything they could to make us a part of the class,’’ he said. "The fact that the professors cared about our success was worth a lot to my educational experience.’’
The program is continuing to grow, with 30 applicants for this fall. Prerequisite engineering classes at Olympic College have also seen dramatic growth.
Marvin Pitts, WSU mechanical engineering program at Olympic College, Bremerton, 360-475-7543, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tina Hilding, communications coordinator, WSU College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-5095, email@example.com