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Penn State Berks to offer baccalaureate degree in Mechanical Engineering

student in mechanical engineering lab
Mechanical Engineering

Penn State Berks, the leading engineering college in Berks County, has recently received approval from the University to offer the Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, beginning in the fall semester of 2013. Penn State Berks is one of only four Penn State campuses to offer the B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Penn State Berks will seek accreditation for this degree from ABET, the global leader in accreditation of engineering, engineering technology, computing, and applied science programs.

Mechanical engineering is one of the largest and broadest engineering disciplines, involving the study of mechanics, fluid/thermal systems, and system dynamics. Built on a foundation of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, the mechanical engineering program at Penn State Berks will include both a strong design emphasis and hands-on laboratory experience. Students will learn to use scientific and engineering methods to devise useful products that are safe, reliable, and cost effective.

“This will be the first Mechanical Engineering program in a radius of fifty miles and will fill the needs of students, employers, and several local firms,” explains Dr. Rungun Nathan, Associate Professor of  Engineering and Coordinator for the Mechanical Engineering degree program. “This degree provides an opportunity for our faculty to share their expertise and research experience.”

Studies begin in mathematics, mechanics, and thermodynamics and progress to courses such as machine design, heat transfer, and system dynamics. Students also learn how to apply scientific principles, engineering analysis, and engineering design to solve unstructured problems. In their senior year, students will work in small teams with individual faculty to complete capstone design projects. Some projects will be based on faculty research, advancing students’ basic understanding in Mechanical Engineering.  Through the college’s Learning Factory, industry-sponsorship may be available for some projects, giving students the opportunity to work on “real world” design challenges while completing their education.

Mechanical engineers research, design, test, manufacture, and operate products ranging from automobiles to rocket engines. They have tremendous flexibility, working in every type of industry, in jobs ranging from research and development to manufacturing and operations. Mechanical engineers also work in product design, procurement, technical sales, and management. Graduates enter a wide variety of industries such as health care, energy, military, transportation, consumer products, and sports/recreation. A mechanical engineering education is also an excellent preparation for careers such as technical management, business and patent law, and technical sales.

The degree program will be housed in the college’s new Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. The 60,000-square-feet facility is the largest academic facility at Penn State Berks. Designed to complement the natural beauty and existing architecture of the campus, the three-story structure is as cutting-edge as the learning and discovery that take place within it. A range of sustainability strategies has allowed the building to receive LEED gold-level certification as a “green” facility.

The Gaige Building offers not only the quantity but also the quality of space that the college’s evolving academic programs require, including state-of-the art laboratory space for more sustained and sophisticated investigations.

Above all, the Gaige Building makes it possible for Penn State Berks to deepen partnerships with businesses and communities throughout the region. By providing space for three new and creative initiatives—the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, the Learning Factory, and the Emerging Technologies and Business Intelligence Laboratory—the facility helps to make the campus an even more important leader for growth and innovation.

The roots of Penn State Berks are based in engineering. It all began when two German entrepreneurs, Ferdinand Thun and Henry Janssen, opened Textile Machine Works (TMI) in Reading in 1892. As their business expanded and they opened Narrow Fabric Company and Berkshire Knitting Mills, Thun and Janssen found they needed trained workers, so they started an education program in 1927 called the Educational Department of Textile Machine Works. Penn State instructors helped facilitate the program. In 1933, the school was granted a state charter and renamed the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute (WPI), officially considered the predecessor to Penn State Berks. That same year, Penn State announced that it would give two years' college credit to graduates of the WPI program.

WPI closed its doors in 1958, a victim of the difficult economic times for the textile industry. Since WPI and Penn State had a long and successful relationship, its founders offered the WPI buildings to Penn State for the establishment of an extension center.

The Mechanical Engineering degree will join the college’s fourteen other baccalaureate degree programs, providing a full complement of diverse and varied baccalaureate degree programs to meet the needs of students in the Berks County community and beyond. For more information about the B.S. in Mechanical Engineering program, contact program coordinator Dr. Rungun Nathan at 610-396-6170 or via e-mail at rungun.nathan@psu.edu.

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