Program prepares first engineers

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Jason Johnson, bottom left, explains a device that helps evaluate student-designed water wheels for visitors to the Archuleta Engineering Center at Colorado Mesa University on Tuesday. The tour group included University of Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano, top, third from left. Johnson is a junior in a mechanical engineering program that Colorado Mesa offers in a partnership with University of Colorado.

Nine students will earn diplomas in May as part of the first graduating class of the Colorado Mesa University and University of Colorado mechanical engineering partnership program.

Students in the program attend Colorado Mesa University for four years and take courses taught by Colorado Mesa faculty for the first two years. University of Colorado professors who live in Grand Junction teach the last two years of courses in the program.

The first group of graduates will earn a University of Colorado diploma this spring. They have the option to receive that diploma from University of Colorado Regents during Colorado Mesa’s graduation ceremony May 12 at Stocker Stadium and can walk in the University of Colorado’s commencement ceremony May 10 as well. At least three of the graduates will walk at both graduations, according to Colorado Mesa Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Futhey.

Partnership Program Director Tim Brower said he expects 12 students to graduate from the program next year and another 15 to graduate the following year. About 250 students are in the first two years of Colorado Mesa classes that are required to pursue an engineering degree, he said, but not all will make the cut to participate in the partnership program.

University of Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano visited the Archuleta Engineering Center on the Western Colorado Community College campus Tuesday to check the progress of the 4-year-old partnership. He told a small group of students, university employees and community members that collaborations like the mechanical engineering partnership are key in an era when funds for higher-education programming are thin.

“We don’t have the resources for each university to take off on its own and have duplications throughout the state. Because of resources or lack of resources, collegiality is important today,” he said.

DiStefano also presented CU-Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science grants Tuesday to three teams of faculty members and one partnership student.

The student, junior Kelsi Middleton, earned free room and board and a $5,000 stipend to participate in a 10-week research program this summer in Boulder. There, she will work with two CU professors on refining technology in a hand-held air-pollution-detection device that is used in mines.

The CMU and CU mechanical engineering faculty teams earned “seed” grants, which means the grants will pay for development of a concept for six months, at which time the teams will need to apply for other funding to continue their idea. Brower and Jean Hertzberg of Boulder earned a $7,000 grant to work on teaching modules for fluid mechanics; Virginia Ferguson of Boulder and Scott Bevill of Grand Junction earned a $5,000 grant to work on collaborative research and curriculum development; and Francisco Castro of Grand Junction and Boulder’s Jana Milford and Michael Hannigan earned an $8,000 grant to work on an air-pollution-sensing project related to oil and gas development.


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