Arizona Technology & Innovation: New Tech Degree

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This fall, ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation will offer the only Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering in Arizona. This new program will help to accelerate and advance the transformation of the manufacturing industry in Arizona and nationwide. Ann McKenna of the College of Technology and Innovation will discuss the new degree.

Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation Looks at a new degree offered next fall at ASU. It's a bachelor of science in manufacturing engineering, and it's based at ASU's college of technology and innovation. Anna McKenna is an associate professor of engineering at the college. And she joins us now. It is good to have you here.

Anna McKenna: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is the focus of this particular degree?

Anna McKenna: So, if we think of manufacturing broadly, it is an integrated system. So that means if you are focusing on product development, you are focusing on the design of that product, how that product gets manufactured and produced, how the product gets distributed. The supply chain. The marketing of the product and the selling of the product. It is very focused on the customer and customer needs in developing from the engineering perspective as well.

Ted Simons: How would that differ from an engineering degree, a standard engineering degree?

Anna McKenna: The focus of manufacturing is on that integrated system where you are focusing on what is the customer need and designing the product around what that need is and then focusing on all aspects of the design, manufacturing of that project. There is much more emphasis on how you get materials and take the materials and the processes to make that project.

Ted Simons: It sounds like creativity is at the forefront here.

Anna McKenna: Creativity is absolutely part of what we emphasize. If we think of the competitive advantage of the United States in general, it is around the design, invention, creativity, adaptability, and so training our engineering students to be comfortable in that.

Ted Simons: Is this something that students had learned piecemeal, a little here and there and coalesced into one degree?

Anna McKenna: That is an excellent way of describing it. That is always maintaining that system focus. So, whatever you are designing, you have to understand how it moves through the system. And thinking of that as a whole.

Ted Simons: Will students have real-world projects to work on each semester? How's it going to work

Anna McKenna: Absolutely. One of the things that is happening nationwide is much more emphasize and renewed focus on making things. And that is evidenced by the do it your self-communities, maker communities, incubators, tech shops where you have fabrication facilities available so that you can take any idea and bring it to -- bring it to realization. We embed that emphasis on applying your learning to make meaningful contributions to real problems that exist in the world. So, we have a curriculum that is project based where students work on projects every semester, starting from the freshman year. It is the idea of taking that knowledge, engineering principles and design principles and applying it to a project.

Ted Simons: And are these projects -- are you working with business and industry on these projects? Are they giving suggestions, assignments, how does that work?

Anna McKenna: At the polytechnic campus, core value engaging in industry, and core value of our department. Community, broadly speaking including in this industry throughout our curriculum. In particular, at senior year it is a culminating project where students work on a two-semester industry-sponsored project where we have engagement with industry. They come to us with a particular product, project, and problem in mind, and we have student teams working closely with industry in understanding what those needs are and developing solutions to that need.

Ted Simons: From a distance, I would question can the school keep up with, let's say, Ted Electronics, I want to build a space ship or something. How close can the school stay abreast of cutting-edge technology that is out there in the real world but may or may not be there on campus? How does that dynamic fit in?

Anna McKenna: So, we have state of the art facilities at the polytechnic campus. We have wonderful set of fabrication abilities that we leverage to support the curriculum. And we are also staying ahead of that cutting-edge technology. We are partnering with the tech shop. We have a lot of new prototyping equipment that we are building into our facility.

Ted Simons: Who is the tech shop?

Anna McKenna: The tech shop is entity -- it originated in the -- in California. It is a -- it's an organization that has basic prototyping facilities, and they engage with anyone who is interested in building something. So it is a model to enable the general public to bring in ideas to reality.

Ted Simons: A prototype model --

Anna McKenna: Yes.

Ted Simons: Interesting. The idea behind the degree, I noticed when I was reading about this, it was to help transform the manufacturing industry in Arizona. How much does it need to be transformed? How far along in the transformation are we?

Anna McKenna: I would say maybe not so much transformation, I think about to paraphrase president Obama in one of the State of the Union addresses last year, if we want to build a blueprint for the American economy that is built to last, it has to be built on manufacturing. So, it is an important -- it is important to the American economy to think about what 21st century manufacturing means and to educate our students to be productive in that field. And so it's a way of making a meaningful curriculum experience for our students so that they can contribute to that -- to the economy.

Ted Simons: And not only the Arizona economy, but the -- you are talking aerospace, high tech, whole nine yards?

Anna McKenna: Yes.

Ted Simons: It sounds fascinating and it sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Anna McKenna: Oh, but it is exciting.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it. Thank you for joining us.

Anna McKenna: You're welcome.

Ann McKenna:College of Technology and Innovation, ASU;

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