Engineering Students and Industry Benefit from ERC’s Fluid-Power Scholars Program
The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Minnesota, has developed a Fluid-Power Scholars Program in which the ERC’s supporting companies volunteer to provide summer-long engineering internships to undergraduate engineering students. These companies also provide stipends for room and board during an intensive orientation to fluid power at the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) Fluid Power Institute before the internships begin.
The Fluid-Power Scholars Program is an outstanding example of effective industry/university partnership spawned by ERCs. At every stage and every level, CCEFP corporate supporters worked enthusiastically—first with CCEFP staff and then with the selected students—in creating environments where scholar/interns could effectively apply what they had learned about fluid power in the classroom to hands-on, real-world applications.
Favorable responses to the program’s post-experience survey question, “What did you gain from your internship experiences?” included the following: I gained an immeasurable amount of experience … [I gained] a great understanding of how the engineering process works … The biggest thing I gained was a full-time job! While heartening in themselves, these responses also are representative of a broadly positive assessment of the program—start to finish—from students and industry mentors alike.
To date, 16 Scholars have been engaged in the program’s first two years, 2010 and 2011. (See accompanying figure.) Subsequently, seven of these Scholars have been hired full-time by their internship-host company (a CCEFP-member company), and three Scholars have been hired by other companies with interests in fluid power. Looking at the numbers in another way, 63% of the Scholars are working in the fluid-power field. All 16 of the selected scholars/interns pointed to the strength of the initial two and one-half day program in their evaluations, and several asked that it be longer.
The program was designed jointly by a team of CCEFP staff and members of the Center’s Industrial Advisory Board. CCEFP covers instructional costs, and CCEFP staff recruits student applicants. The companies make their scholar/intern selections based on students’ on-line application materials and subsequent interviews. The fluid-power orientation draws on the teaching expertise of MSOE, one of the Center’s network of seven schools.