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ODU's Seek, Escobales Receive Fellowship to Create Senior Design Course to Support Metal Building Industry

Old Dominion University engineering faculty members Michael Seek and Nestor Escobales recently received fellowships from the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) to develop a senior design capstone course for ODU engineering students.

Seek, an assistant professor of engineering technology; and Escobales, a lecturer in engineering technology of Old Dominion's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, were selected among six award-winners nationally to help develop a prototype program that will help inform the metal building industry's professional practice. The ODU researchers were selected, along with faculty at Auburn University, Bucknell University, Cleveland State University, the University of South Alabama and the University of Illinois School of Architecture to design an applied research course for senior undergraduate students that will be offered nationwide. Each researcher will receive a $10,000 fellowship from MBMA.

"Even though metal buildings account for approximately half of all nonresidential low-rise construction in the United States, most engineering and architecture students are not introduced to this form of construction as part of their formal education," said Lee Shoemaker, MBMA's director of research and engineering.

"Our intent is to introduce metal building design and construction practices into the curriculum and foster an industry and academic partnership that provides real world experience for undergraduates."

Seek will travel to Ohio this week for an orientation workshop and will tour a nearby Nucor steel plant as part of the trip. When he returns to Norfolk, Seek and Escobales will spend the 2015-16 school year developing the capstone course at Old Dominion, while also making adjustments and improvements to the program based on their experience. The final product created by the researchers nationwide will be a model capstone course program that is a combination of the best ideas created by the grant recipients. The final program will be made available to colleges and universities nationwide in 2017.

"This initiative has the ability to change our industry," said MBMA Chairman Tom Gilligan. "The more we educate future engineers, architects, contractors and planners, the more they will recognize the beneficial attributes of metal building systems techniques."

The American Iron and Steel Institute is partnering with MBMA to fund the fellowship program. Seek has been an assistant professor of civil engineering technology at Old Dominion since 2012. Among his research areas of expertise are steel connection design, and the construction of structures resistant to seismic events such as earthquakes.

Escobales began working at Old Dominion as a lecturer of civil engineering technology in July, 2010. Prior to joining the University, Escobales worked professionally as a structural engineer for nearly 12 years.

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