Milligan College holds preview for engineering program, looks toward future projects

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 13, 2017 at 8:57 AM

On Sept. 8, Milligan College held its first free preview day for its engineering program, which has been in existence for a year now.

The preview event allowed prospective students a chance to meet one-on-one with current engineering students, tour the campus and check out the new labs engineering students will have access to.

The program, which was launched at the request of Eastman Chemical Company, is still in its infancy as it looks to gain accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Director Greg Harrell said he’s confident the program will produce quality graduates.

Aside from providing students opportunities to complete internships at Eastman, NN Inc., Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. and TPI Corporation, Harrell said students have already gained hands-on experience through their mechanical and electrical engineering courses, which he described as “strongly grounded in application.”

“Eastman engineers are world class. They’re absolute tops in their field,” he said. “They’re advising us on how to teach, train and build engineers.”

With this hands-on approach, Harrell said he has noticed a lot of progress among students within the first year of the program.

“We are pleased with the progress we’re seeing,” he said. “Students learn very well when they have something tangible in front of them that pertains to what they’re working on. In our 101 class, our freshmen get exposed to power transmission or a gearbox — the ability to transmit power through a electrical device.”

One of the most notable projects engineering students at Milligan have worked on is the progress they have made in hydroelectrical engineering. Harrell said students at Milligan have started working to harness the power of the waterfall on campus to generate clean energy. Harrell said this project works much like a “scaled-down version” of the Watauga Dam.

Students are working on a number of hands-on projects including a hydroelectric water filtration system in Buffalo Creek, a solar-powered air conditioning unit and adapted Power Wheels cars for children with special needs in collaboration with Go Baby Go! Appalachia and local nonprofit AdaptoPlay.

These assignments will set the stage for the students’ senior projects, where they will be helping people in need all over the world, including a village in Kenya that doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. This will be a true test of their abilities as engineers, according to Harrell.

“Not only is this (the waterfall project) a freshmen engineering project, but it’ll also tie into our senior design project,” he said. “It's not (just) going to be a theoretical exercise. We will actually put a system in place that is sustainable and reliable.”

At the preview on Sept. 8, Harrell gave new students a taste of the type of work they will be doing in the labs, such as their hydroelectrical engineering project and lab projects. In general, he said he looks forward to seeing the program grow to produce specialized engineers who are up to the task of working at large enterprises.

“Our view is to train up engineers that would be excellent Eastman engineers or Nuclear Fuel Services engineers — engineers that have definite skills, knowledge and abilities,” Harrell said.

For more information on other preview events at Milligan, visit the school’s website at www.milligan.edu, where visitors can also find out more about what Harrell and the engineering program have been up to.

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