Size matters, at least when it comes to creating an engineering college that works for students.
Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Engineering is the smallest in the state, but it has reached a caliber that makes larger institutions pale in comparison.
This month, a team of six Biomedical Engineering seniors will represent FGCU at Coulter College in Seattle, Washington. The college is a two and a half-day program designed to challenge the students to assess a particular clinical need and use creative innovations to present a solution.
This is the first year that an FGCU team will be attending Coulter College, a program which allows only a limited number of university teams to attend each year. FGCU is the only Undergraduate program competing in this Graduate level competition.
The six FGCU students competing are seniors Oscar Castellanos, Shaheen Farhadi, Sandra Guerra, Scott Kelly, Gregory Ramina, and Ariana Suárez. They will be joined by two professors, Chris Geiger and Mollie Venglar. “We are so ready and excited to participate andrepresent FGCU in this event,” Oscar Castellanos said.
According to Robert O’ Neill, the chair of the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering, the secret to the success of a program is its staff. Many universities hire engineering professors primarily to perform research. That is not the case at FGCU. “Part of the hiring process was teaching a mock class…our faculty has had a lot more teacher training than most faculties,” O’Neill said. By hiring professors who are primarily interested in teaching, the College of Engineering has developed student- professor relationships that in turn strengthen the caliber of the program and create more opportunities. “Students are granted a world-class engineering education, but you’re not in a huge class,” Simeon Komisar, the Director of the Environmental Engineering Program, said.
The College of Engineering also routinely participates in the American Society of Civil Engineering’s concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions. The concrete canoe competition challenges students to create a canoe out of concrete that must be able to float on water. The competition requires students to come up with a design themselves, decide on the type of concrete to use and ultimately build it themselves.
The steel bridge competition is designed for students to work within a set of constraints to create a structure can support increasing amounts of weight.
The structure must also be constructed in a way so that it can be taken apart and rebuilt at the competition itself. Students in the environmental engineering program also participate in annual competitions, which are hosted by the Water Environment Association in Orlando. FGCU teams have completed projects such as designing biological treatment systems to treat hazardous waste on campus, and systems to remediate contaminated soil in Collier County.
“There’s a real sense of accomplishment,” Komisar said. “[Students] learn the commitment that it takes to build something and actually get things done.”On top of this sense of accomplishment, engineering students also experience a strong sense of belonging.
Civil engineering major and Senior Eric Raudebaugh understands this feeling of community. “You really feel like you are part of a great group of people,” Raudebaugh said.
“Also, the engineering program very much encourages working as a team to finish the massive amount of work we get. I’ve heard that most other schools with engineering programs, the students are more individual and competitive.” Dr. Komisar expects the future of the College of Engineering to develop its own Masters program and allocate more time for research. FGCU currently only offers undergraduate engineering education.“Learning by doing is a part, we hope, of our teaching style,” Komisar said. “I think everyone really enjoys their time here, faculty and students”.