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FLC News

FLC computer engineering degree gets final approval, will begin fall 2017

Dr. Ryan Haaland
Dr. Ryan Haaland
Dr. Don Rabern
Dr. Don Rabern

It’s official. Computer engineering at Fort Lewis College (FLC) is ready to take off. At their August 4 meeting, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education formally approved the creation of the Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree. The new program will begin in fall 2017.

The FLC Department of Physics & Engineering has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. Computer engineering will add to the department’s emphasis on collaboration between the scientists and engineers. The goal is to build a student’s knowledge across disciplines that often don’t work together as much as they could. This exposure to training across the theoretical to the practical allows graduates to adapt quickly to an increasingly complex world.

“Right now, we think that, consistent with our mission as a liberal arts campus, students need to have the ability to move from career field to career field,” says Dr. Ryan Haaland, professor of Physics & Engineering. “At the rate at which technology is changing, at the rate engineers change jobs, it’s entirely possible the job a graduate has in five years doesn’t exist yet. So you don’t want to label somebody as something that limits their opportunity for the future. The computer engineering degree is just another example of giving somebody a solid foundational toolset that allows them to go in many different career directions.”

Learning by doing is a hallmark of the physics & engineering programs at Fort Lewis College. Over the years, the department has gained a reputation for its focus on designing, prototyping and building. Students in the programs have designed and built projects from bridges that can be packed on a horse for use with Hotshot firefighting crews to submersible robotic vehicles to Baja racers.

“Most of the time, most programs around the country will have either a three credit or six credit sequence in senior year devoted to taking everything they’ve learned in the previous three years and putting it to work in some new design, some new product,” says Dr. Don Rabern, professor of Physics & Engineering. “We think that’s insufficient to really prepare them to be a designer, an engineering designer. So we have a three credit course devoted entirely to design in the sophomore year, in the junior year, and then a six credit sequence in the senior year. So as you look at other places and us, we emphasize that design component more and the industry practices that go with it.”

“We make them design, do the analysis to demonstrate that the design is valid, test it, break it, figure out why it broke, then go back and make it better,” says Dr. Haaland. “The maker space mentality, where you just throw a bunch of parts in the room and let the kids have at it and go build something, that’s fine and that’s great for creative things, but that’s not going to make sure the new widget is not going to fall apart, that the bridge is safe to cross, the airplane is safe to board. There’s a vast difference there.”

More information about the Fort Lewis College Computer Engineering degree can be found at www.fortlewis.edu/computer-engineering.  

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