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ODU Engineering Technology Program to be Featured in National Magazine

At a recent management meeting for Prism Magazine, the national publication for the American Society for Engineering Education, editorial staff realized they were giving scant attention to engineering technology, one of the foundational disciplines of engineering education.

In deciding to write a cover story about engineering technology programs around the country, Prism editorial staff soon started planning a trip to Norfolk, and Old Dominion University - one of the earliest institutions to adopt the discipline.

In 1971, Old Dominion created the first engineering technology degree program in Virginia, and one of the first in the country. Today, engineering technology is the largest department in ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, and one of the largest departments in the entire University. It boasts several thousand graduates working skilled jobs in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering technology around the region, and across the country.

During his visit to Norfolk, Mark Matthews, editorial director of ASEE Prism Magazine met with Dean Oktay Baysal; Chair Alok Verma of Engineering Technology, and the program directors for civil, electrical and mechanical engineering technology.

"We've seen a number of things happening with engineering technology that make us want to do a cover story on engineering technology, from returning veterans, to advanced technology," Matthews told department leaders. "Plus, teaching techniques you all have developed are now being recognized in engineering education as a way to attract and keep students."

Verma told Matthews that Old Dominion University's proud history in engineering technology is one of rising to meet challenges and adapting to fill changing needs. He said this forward-focused approach dates to the very beginning of engineering technology education at Old Dominion.

"We have never been afraid to change and adapt," said Verma, who has been at the University since 1981.

Engineering technology education at Old Dominion evolved from the Technical Institute, a three-year associate-degree program that grew out of work done on campus to support the Allied effort in World War II. From 1945 until 1971, the Technical Institute provided certificate training in skills such as heating and air conditioning as well as radio and television electronics.

With the rise of the community college system in the 1960s, enrollment in the Technical Institute sagged, but the skilled instructors were too valuable to lose. Then-Dean Ralph Rotty convinced then-President James Bugg to apply for accreditation of the engineering technology program from the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, arguing there was a need for the hands-on skills provided through engineering technology instruction.

"Within two years, we had the highest percentage increase enrollment in any department on campus. We started to get the word out to other states, and within a couple of years, we were getting students from all over," Bill Stanley, the first chair of Engineering Technology noted in "Built From the Ground Up: The First 50 Years of Engineering at Old Dominion University," a book published in 2013.

Part of Matthews' fact-finding mission for the story on engineering technology education was focused on future needs for the discipline.

In response, Verma said the ongoing evolution of engineering technology at Old Dominion is proof of its ongoing need.

"We are now providing engineering technology education in areas such as marine engineering, alternative energy, sustainable construction, advanced manufacturing and nuclear engineering technology to meet the needs of local industry," Verma said.

Engineering Technology has also been the lead department for Old Dominion's membership with the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a public-private consortium of industry, government and higher education with a goal of creating and supporting skilled trade manufacturers in Virginia.

Old Dominion's Engineering Technology department provides CCAM with expertise in surface engineering and digital manufacturing, both advanced manufacturing concepts with a heavy technological component.

The story about engineering technology will be published in ASEE Prism Magazine later this spring.

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